An Independent Voice in City Hall
Today, we are facing mountains of crushing debt that accumulated over decades, while our City Council failed to ask serious questions about bonds and borrowing, pension funding, taxes and the privatization of city services. It’s time for a real change.
The people of Chicago deserve a City Council that will work closely with the Mayor, whoever that is, to make our government work more effectively for you. But, we also deserve a council that will operate as a co-equal of the executive branch and conduct its own informed debate and analysis to make big decisions. As your Alderman, I will ask my colleagues to start flexing their legislative muscle by holding their own budget hearings and presenting their own report to the public on the city’s financial position.
Responsible, Accountable City Budgeting
Chicago can’t afford anymore spend-now-pay-later City budgets. When it comes to decisions about long-term borrowing, our City Council needs to take a strong, proactive approach. It makes sense to issue bonds for expensive, large-scale infrastructure projects that will provide benefits to Chicagoans for years to come. But borrowing and bonding for everyday expenses is not sound fiscal policy. Too often we have nickel and dimed taxpayers with incremental short-term solutions, like bad bond deals or parking meter privatization deals, that only exacerbate the problem in the long-run. If the City’s annual operating budget cannot cover normal expenses, such as new trash and recycling bins, we need to find a better way to manage our expenses – or simply do without. As your Alderman, I will take a holistic approach and ask my colleagues to undertake an in-depth examination of all our options at once, so short-term year-to-year solutions become a thing of the past.
City Council’s Independent Budget Office
I am encouraged that the City Council now has an independent budget office (the City Council Office of Financial Analysis) to analyze the Mayor’s financial proposals. As your Alderman, I will insist that this new office must be staffed by finance professionals who have extensive experience in drafting and managing large, complex transactions and budgets. With expert advice from its own staff, the City Council will be prepped with knowledge and tools necessary to oversee City Hall’s fiscal decision-making and budget management.
Solving the Pension Crisis
I am deeply troubled by the current state of public employee pension funds. I believe that our state Constitution’s pension protection clause protects the pensions of our public employees. And, I think we have a responsibility to keep our public pension funds healthy and secure.
Unfortunately, after decades of failing to fund those pension systems at responsible levels, the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois are now trying to reduce the pension benefits that were promised to public employees under binding contracts. The massive holes in our public pension systems represent self-inflicted wounds by elected officials who refused to make hard budgetary choices after decades of over-spending.
It is wrong to scapegoat hard-working public employees in order to justify cutting their pension benefits. By claiming that public pension benefits are over-generous and undeserved, elected officials are pitting public employees against the citizens they serve. We cannot get out of this mess by misleading taxpayers and insulting the professionalism of hard-working teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other city employees. As your Alderman, I will work to find ways to shore up public employee pensions and pay those workers what we owe them.