SSA #43 Tax Levy — and a Two-Minute Meeting

SSA #43, the Special Services Area taxing district that adds an extra 1.5% property tax levy to real estate on Devon from Kedzie to Damen and on Western from Granville to Arthur, received City Council approval for its 2017 levy on November 15, 2016.

By law, there was to be a public meeting about the increase before the budget was approved, but I was unable to uncover any evidence of either the notice or the meeting so I e-mailed the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce for the meeting date and the name of the paper(s) where the notice was published. I have yet to receive a response, the Chamber no doubt busy planning its next business-building children’s event.

However, on Monday, November 28, Chamber personnel posted the “Minutes” of a purported “Community Meeting Regarding the Budget Levy Increase” allegedly held on October 27.  According to these “Minutes,” “Meeting was called to order at 6:10 p.m. No community members attended and no questions were presented. Meeting was adjourned at 6:12 p.m.”  The alderman is listed as present.

Interestingly, the Minutes of the SSA’s October 27 regular meeting were also posted on November 28. That meeting was also “called to order at 6:10 p.m.” but not adjourned until 6:56 p.m. So it appear that the two meetings were held simultaneously. I’m sure this will be corrected. The devil is always in the details.

Still no word on where the legally-required notices for the legally-required meeting  were published. This sure seems like  yet another example of the contempt the powers-that-be have for neighborhood residents and the concept of transparency in government.

The meeting was also attended by Mike Parella, who was otherwise unidentified and whose presence was unexplained.There is a Project Coordinator with the City’s Department of Planning & Development by the same name. Maybe he was there to witness the neighborhood’s indifference to the alderman’s way of doing business. Maybe the lack of community presence was taken as confidence in her vision.  Or maybe the dismal state of the neighborhood’s main shopping district has been noticed by City honchos who are finally helping the alderman with her six-years-in-the-making-and-yet-to-be-released “spirited economic development plan.” Let’s hope so. Residents have been unable to connect with her on the issue.

The SSA’s budget is stated in the ordinance (SO2016-7364), which can be found by searching the City Clerk’s Web site. It’s a lengthy document, and contains two separate applications and budgets, one for the Chamber and the other for the new “sole service provider,” the Rogers Park Business Alliance. The ordinance was amended to make the Business Alliance rather than the Chamber the service provider.

Note how the monies are budgeted.

Most of it (more than $270,000) goes to “Public Way Aesthetics,” the primary job apparently being cleaning-up after the litterers, spitters, and food-tossers who shop on Devon and don’t care about dirtying the neighborhood.

Rice Computer Services is to be paid $4,000 for repair and maintenance of the Big Belly trashcans.

“Customer attraction” is budgeted at $54,000; less than half that sum ($25,000) is earmarked for “Safety Programs,” and only $12,000 will be invested in business development. Mixed-up priorities?

“Sustainability and Public Places” gets $8,000. Perhaps that will result in an investment in signage, such as “No Spitting” or “No Parking in Bus Lanes” or “Parking in Crosswalks Prohibited.”  Perhaps the presence of uniformed police or Revenue Department personnel writing tickets would also be effective deterrents.

No 50th Ward businesses landed service contracts. Instead, two of the six subcontractors listed by the Business Alliance are from outside Chicago, and one is in Maryland. Three are from other neighborhoods. Why hire a $16,000 accountant from Skokie when there are many accountants in the Ward? No local businesses can make street banners (to be provided by a company in Blue Island at a cost of $10,000) or provide landscaping and holiday decorations ($25,000 to a business in Rockville, Maryland)?

Of course, there has to be a consultant, paid $30,000; at least the business is in the City, as is the $20,000 snow shoveler and the $4,000 auditor; the latter is located in Edgewater.

All fees are estimated.

Stealth taxes. Secret, two-minute meetings. Services from vendors outside the Ward.

The Silverstein way.

 

The Water-Sewer Tax

In this week’s newsletter the alderman says that her vote for the Mayor’s new water-sewer tax was “…necessary to prevent bankruptcy of the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund (MEABF) and finally put it on a path to solvency.”

What she doesn’t say is that several independent analyses all came to the same conclusion: the City will need another $300 million by 2023 just for this one pension fund. Nor does she say that the bill passed without Council debate in a lopsided 40-10 vote.

The tax kicks in next year, raising the average water and sewer bill to $53 per year. It goes up every year after that: to $115 in 2018, $180 for 2019, and $225 in 2020.

The pension fund would run out of money in 10 years without the tax.  However, after the Council’s Progressive Caucus demanded specifics on the plan, the City finally admitted that the new tax will hold off bankruptcy for only seven years. This is solvency?

This tax will hit the most vulnerable Chicagoans hard. With rents escalating due to the property tax hike, other everyday needs like laundry services will also cost more. For example, residents who use Laundromats can expect to pay about forty cents more per load, according to published reports. And those increases will be in place long before the new tax kicks in as Laundromat owners seek to recoup costs from the property tax hike. Neighbors of mine are moving after being hit with a $700 per month rent increase. Yes, $700 per month–$1,600 for a two-bedroom apartment. Granted, the previous rent was on the low side, but $700?

Chicago is rapidly becoming too expensive for average folks. The cost of corruption is killing us.

 

North Side Police Accountability Reform Meeting

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) has announced that the City Council’s North Side Police Accountability Subcommittee that he chairs is holding its only North Side meeting next Tuesday, August 9, at 6:30 p.m. at Senn High School, 5900 North Glenwood (at Thorndale).

To quote from Moore’s announcement:

“This is one of five public hearings to be held across the City of Chicago in August to gather public input regarding proposals to replace the Independent Police Review Authority with a new civilian investigative agency and create a Public Safety Auditor to audit the Police Department and investigate allegations of misconduct within the Department.  Both reforms were recommended by the Police Accountability Task Force. For a copy of  the task force report and a list of the Task Force’s recommendations, click here.”

“These community hearings follow a series of hearings held at City Hall and are intended to solicit input from community residents who are unable to attend daytime hearings at City Hall. I urge you to attend this hearing, as the input offered at this and the other four community hearings will inform the City Council’s decisions on the important goals of reforming the police accountability process and assuring the public that any instance of police misconduct will be thoroughly and independently investigated.”

“A separate engagement community engagement process, led by neighborhood-based community organizations, will soon be held on a proposal to establish a Community Safety Oversight Board. This is another reform recommended by the Police Accountability Task Force and would be designed to give community residents a role in overseeing law enforcement.”

The other hearings will be held at the following times and locations:

  • Thursday, August 11, 6:30 p.m., Little Village Lawndale High School, 3120 S. Kostner
  • Tuesday, August 16, 6:30 p.m., Westinghouse College Prep, 3223 W. Franklin
  • Monday, August 22, 6:30 p.m., North Grand High School, 4338 W. Wabansia

Moore notes that several North Side aldermen are expected to attend, including Ald. Harry Osterman (48th); the meeting is being held in Osterman’s ward. No word on whether Ald. Silverstein will be there. The event was not mentioned in her newsletter today, although she had room for three pictures of herself at Ward events. Her attendance is unlikely unless she cancels her property tax seminar scheduled for the same night for property owners North of Devon.

Simpson Report on Chicago City Council

Former alderman Dick Simpson and his team at UIC’s Department of Political Science have released a new report on the more independent relationship between the City Council and the Mayor. Entitled “A More Active City Council, Chicago City Council Report #8, June 17, 2015 – April 13, 2016,” the report examines 32 divided Council votes during that timeframe.

Not surprisingly, 28% of the alderman supported the Mayor 90-100% of the time, with another nine supporting him 80-90% of the time. Ald. Silverstein ranks in the next tier, supporting the Mayor 75% of the time. This is a big change from Simpson’s previous City Council study, which reported that, from June 2011 to November 15, 2014, Silverstein voted for the Mayor’s initiatives 98% of the time.  [See “Rahm Emanuel’s Rubber Stamp City Council, Chicago City Council Report #7, June 8, 2011 – November 15, 2014.”]

The report concludes that, “the city council is still a rubber stamp, but a weaker, less reliable rubber stamp” than it had been. That’s mixed news for the voters, but a sure sign that Emanuel is permanently weakened by various scandals and citywide violence.

And the aldermen know it.

 

 

 

Update: TIF Funds, School Deficits, and the Alderman

The alderman announced in yesterday’s ward newsletter that she has signed on as a co-sponsor of this resolution.

She will be joining the 17 original co-sponsors who presented the resolution to the City Council on January 13.

Supporters believe that surplus TIF funds (more than one billion dollars at this writing) should be used to help balance the CPS budget deficit.

 

 

Poll: Term Limits for Aldermen?

I’m also wondering if we should have term limits for aldermen. What do you think?

Poll results will be reported March 10.

[I lost my first poll, about the election, when I tried to move it and a post to another page. They both disappeared. I promise not to do that again.]

 

Poll: Does the City Need 50 Aldermen?

I’ve been wondering if it’s time to have a serious debate about the number of aldermen in Chicago. Given the ongoing budget crisis, do we really need 50 wards? Would administration of city services be improved if we had only 25 wards?  How much would taxpayers save in administrative costs if we had to support only 25 ward offices? What are the trade-offs?

The Better Government Association studied this question in depth and published a provocative report in December 2010. Read its report here.

What do you think?  Poll results will be reported March 10.

[I lost my first poll, about the election, when I tried to move it and another post to another page. Both disappeared. I promise not to do that again.]