Ward Room
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Aldermen Wringing Hands Over City Budget

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Alds. Brenden Reilly, Bob Fiorreti, Carrie Austin, Nick Sposato remark on Wednesday's budget vote.

Several Chicago aldermen say they're undecided as to how they'll vote Wednesday when Mayor Rahm Emanuel's budget proposal comes up.

"I haven't made a decision on what I'm going to do on the budget," said Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) on Tuesday. "I'm going through the last changes. I'm looking at every line in the budget tonight. I'm going to prepare my remarks."

Early Wednesday he acknowledged the budget would likely pass but again emphasized reservations.

Approximately 385 people could be laid off as of Jan. 1 and 2,159 vacant positions wouldn't be replaced as part of the mayor's plan to close a $636 million dollar deficit in next year's budget.

Ald. Nick Sposato (36th) a former Chicago firefighter, said he's most concerned about proposed cuts to first responders and the number of call-takers in the 911 center. The budget also calls for closing three police districts: Wood, Belmont, and Prairie.

"I just think they're spreading them out too thin and they're just going to be too short and we're just opening ourselves up for lawsuits," he said.

He added:

"This is kind of like an air traffic-controller-type job. These people could be working 60, 70 hours a week, burnout could take effect and they're not going to be -- I mean, they'll do their best; I'm not knocking the call-takers -- but when you're working 60, 70 hours a week it could be a little tough on them and an error or a 30 second wait to get to somebody for a heart attack or a fire could be an eternity."

Still, he said he thinks Emanuel's first budget as mayor will pass with flying colors.

"I think it's going to get through no problem, I'm just undecided on which way I'm going to vote," he said.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) also expressed confidence the budget will pass as-is.

"I think a lot of consensus-building has been going on the last several days. While no one's celebrating the budget we have to pass on Wednesday, I think everyone acknowledges it's an honest accounting of where the city stands today.

Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) said she'll vote to pass the budget and offered advice for her colleagues who were still sitting on the fence.

"This is still a living document. Don't think of it as the end of the world," she said. "Whatever it is that we do now or agree upon, if there's still some issues that they have we can always come back and try to amend whatever it is they have concerns for."

Although 28 aldermen signed a petition weeks ago upset with cuts to libraries and three police districts closing, the mayor has made changes to those cuts and it’s expected the City Council will approve the budget easily.

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