By Emily Gray Brosious
Originally published at The Red Line Project
Nov. 2, 2013
Chicago residents and aldermen of the Progressive Reform Caucus gathered Wednesday night for a town hall meeting to air public concerns before next month’s city council vote on the 2014 budget proposal.
“We’re talking to different constituencies, trying to figure out what the needs of the people in this city are,” Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) told the nearly packed room at the United Electrical Workers Hall in West Town, “in part, because the mayor decided he did not want to have public meetings.”
Waguespack presented four equitable-budget ordinances the caucus wants Emanuel to include in the 2014 city budget.
The proposed measures call to expand corporate tax obligations and redirect Tax Increment Financing surpluses to public schools, libraries and other public bodies. It would also allocate $50 million toward 1,000 more police officers on the streets and $2.2 million toward reopening six shuttered mental health clinics in the city.
“We as a progressive caucus have drawn a line,” Waguespack said. “These are the kind of issues that we need to start talking about, that we can no longer ignore.”
After official opening statements, residents took turns at the microphone. One by one, they shared personal and neighborhood concerns with the aldermen.
Community members had harsh words for Emanuel, likening his leadership to that of Napoleon and Nero. Speakers accused the mayor of putting the welfare of the “one percent” before the welfare of the public majority.
Cuts to public schools, mental health clinics and police officers came under repeated fire from residents and caucus members.
The mayor’s push to privatize Chicago schools and health clinics were points of heavy contention as well.
Caucus members listened to public concerns but did not respond to any individual requests during Wednesday’s meeting. Still, city residents expressed gratitude for the opportunity to be heard.
“It is indicative of the voice of working and middle class families seeking economic justice,” Reverend Rankin of the 34th Ward said, thanking the caucus.
In a closing statement, Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) apologized for himself and his colleagues who voted yes on Emanuel’s last budget proposal.
“We thought we’d give a chance to somebody that came in to this town that was going to bring in all the contacts, all the clout, all the cash,” Fioretti said, “and look what we’ve got – a corporate city, not a city of communities, not a city of the people …We need to change the way this city does business.”