Aldermen Send Budget Concerns to Rahm

A letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed by 28 of 50 city council members outlines several key concerns about the proposed 2012 city budget.

Cutting library funding, consolidating 12 mental health clinics into six, reducing graffiti removal crews and trimming $10 million from public safety operations at the city's 911 call center are at the top of the list.

"We all recognize the dire fiscal situation the city is in, but we cannot cut the services that the working men and women of Chicago rely upon," said Ald. Nicholas Sposato, who delivered the letter Tuesday with Aldermen John Arena and Scott Waguespack. "We must not sacrifice public safety to fill a budget gap."

In the letter, the group requests a chance to sit down with Emanuel's budget staff to discuss alternatives following a series of budget hearings.

"People in Chicago are struggling to make ends meet right now and we cannot balance a budget by reaching into their pockets while at the same time eliminating jobs," said Arena, pointing to a proposed increase in city sticker fees for heavier vehicles.

This isn't the first criticism of Emanuel's inaugural budget, delivered last month to the city council. City Clerk Susana Mendoza also decried a hike in city sticker costs, and the parking industry rallied this week against a proposed $2 weekday congestion fee in downtown lots and garages.

Emanuel in previous months publicly asked for ideas to trim back a hulking Chicago deficit. An Inspector General's report suggested higher taxes and even a toll on Lake Shore Driver, both of which Emanuel turned down.

"A budget is about priorities," Emanuel said during his budget speech last month, "and this budget is an opportunity to get it right." The mayor pointed to the last several budgets, all in the red, during former Mayor Richard Daley's reign and said it's time for Chicago to ignore politics and buckle down.

Waguespack, in a statement, didn't necessarily disagree but said certain services must be left alone.

"The city financial situation needs to fixed," Waguespack said, "and to have so many of my colleagues working together to help craft a budget that addresses the financial needs of the city while still providing services to the residents is significant." 

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