Daley Will Tap Parking Meter Fund to Sew Up Budget - NBC Chicago

Daley Will Tap Parking Meter Fund to Sew Up Budget



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    Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley says he won't raise taxes.

    Let's just call him Donnie Parko.

    Playing off his unpopular parking meter scheme, Mayor Daley announced today that he will spend $370 million from the city's parking meter lease  to plug a $520 million budget gap.

    Laying out  his 2010 budget proposal before City Council, Daley said he would also cut $114 million in spending to avoid raising taxes and cutting more services.

    The mayor couched his decision with a comparison of Chicago's economy to that of the Great Depression.

    "With so many people struggling, this isn't the time to ask them to pay more," Daley said before the City Council.

    Daley also wants to cut 220 vacant jobs and require that nonunion city employees take 24 unpaid furlough days in 2010.

    Daley says no new taxes have been proposed, and he says he's providing a $35 million property tax relief program. His reticence to raise taxes is a new wrinkle for Daley. He's raised taxes many times before.

    But his decision to tap into the funds from the controversial parking meter revenue has raised some eyebrows.

    “I had hoped to avoid this and I understand that some may have problems with it, but as mayor, I have the responsibility to provide the services that people need, especially now during these tough times when they demand more from government and not less,” Daley said.

    "Now is not the time to burden people with higher taxes or the elimination of essential city services,” Daley added. “So I believe it is responsible to borrow from the reserves.”

    Some aldermen decry the move as basically wasting the parking meter deal.

    "If the parking meter money is depleted within five years, then what happens for the next 70 years of that contract?" asked Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, one of five aldermen who voted against the meter lease.

    “That was intended for us to generate additional revenue through interest,” Alderman Manuel Flores said. “You are selling off that asset. You are throwing that asset away.”

    Daley is also throwing away festivals.

    The Mayor's Office of Special Events said it plans to cut Chicago's Outdoor Film Festival, the Criterion Bike Race and the Mayor's Youth Soccer Event.  A day will be shaved from Jazz Fest, and Country Music Fest, Celtic Fest and Viva Latin will move likely move from Grant Park to Millennium Park

    Venetian Night, the lakefront boat parade and fireworks show started under his father's watch more than 50 years ago, will also have its budget slashed.

    The event was almost canceled last year, but Red Bull stepped in as a corporate sponsor.  Without a sponsor slated for 2010, the event is again on the chopping block because the city can't afford the $100,000 for fireworks and the $200,000 police fees.