City Hall prepared for disruptions Monday night in Mayor Emanuel’s first of three town hall meetings to discuss the city’s budget, and that is exactly what they got.
With key city department heads and staff present, it was all part of the mayor's re-election pledge to listen to residents, but many in the crowd could not contain their frustration.
“My child just got bus services cut,” expressed one distressed parent. “I own my house, my taxes went up so my mortgage went up. I can’t even pull out of my garage my streets are so raggedy.”
Before the meeting began many even refused to accept the mayor’s handshake.
Despite several layers of security to even reach the Malcolm X College gymnasium at 1900 West Van Buren Street, and almost 10 minutes of admonishments to be polite, the first public hearing on the 2016 budget was at times as out of control as the financial crisis appears.
“Every year we ask for our basic rights and services,” one attendee argued.
As always, the mayor's challenge is to somehow manage the needs and wants with the must-haves.
“Removing of extracurricular programs like art like physical education does nothing to teach our children,” said another frustrated parent.
The mayor listened to all of the backlash, sometimes uncomfortably.
Public pressure led to a second, private meeting with schools CEO Forrest Claypool on the hunger strikers from Dyett High School pushing for a new building instead of a closed one.
“I want to thank you all for participating,” Mayor Emanuel said. “Thank you for your ideas, those of you who came to talk about budget and as I mentioned Forrest will be meeting to talk about Dyett and I will be joining him there.”
Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool said the fate of Dyett High School is still under discussion.
Mayor Emanuel committed to following up with money saving ideas involving things such as street lights, but the overriding budget challenge remains the pension debt and the hope that Springfield will pass reform.
The next meetings are to be held Sept. 2 at South Shore Cultural Center (7059 South South Shore Drive) and Sept. 3 at Wright College (4300 North Narragansett Avenue).
Both are meetings are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m., but doors will open at 5:30 p.m. They are open to all interested residents. Emanuel will present the 2016 budget to City Council on Sept. 22.
Emanuel said the meetings are "to discuss the City's current budget outlook and solicit savings, reform and revenue ideas from residents to assist in the preparation of the 2016 budget."
Residents can voice their ideas at the town hall meetings or via social media using the hashtag #ChiBudget2016.