UPDATE: Gary Chico already doing Chicago a big favor, even before he becomes mayor.

UPDATE: Oops, I missed it. Rahm Emanuel has proposed something good for the city. (See UPDATE at bottom of post) 
While Rahm Emanuel is out raising campaign money from Hollywood pals for his run for Chicago mayor, another candidate, Gery Chico is doing something important: Trying to ensure that the billions that flowed into the city treasury from the Chicago Skyway and parking meter deals is left.
Thanks to raids on these revenues by Mayor Richard M. Daley and his toady aldermen to bail out the city's budget, only a sliver of the money remains.
  • The city got $1.15 billion two years ago for leasing the parking meters out to a private company for 75 years. Of that $1.15 billion, only $76 million remains.
  • The 99-year Skyway deal in 2004 brought in $1.82 billion, but only $500 million remains.
Stunning. The money was supposed to be a rainy day fund for emergencies and unforeseen events. Instead, it has been pissed away on exactly what it wasn't supposed to be used for: routinely closing the huge deficits in the city's annual budget run up by Daley. 
Daley should be ashamed. Instead leaving the city on a sound financial basis when he retires next year, he has dragged the city into quicksand. 
Chico probably will be accused of a engaging in a stunt for introducing a "citizen ordinance" to the City Council, where it has as much change of passage as a continuation of our current fall-like weather into February. So be it. But at least it demonstrates that someone's mind is at work. Maybe in all his running around, staging meaningless PR events for the media, Emmanuel also could put his mind to work on real issues.
Here's the Chico press release: 

Chico urges action on parking meter money

Citizen ordinance would guard against misuse of long-term reserves 

CHICAGO: As Chicago received yet another bond rating downgrade this week, Gery Chico filed a citizen ordinance aimed at protecting the city's long-term reserve funds and helping to restore the city's bond rating.

 

The "Chicago Taxpayer & Credit Protection Ordinance" would prohibit the City from using long-term reserves to balance the budget. The raiding of Chicago's reserve funds has been cited by all rating agencies as a key contributor to the downgrade of Chicago's bond rating.

 

"In 2008, our city missed the mark when it agreed to the parking meter deal. To add insult to injury, we barely have anything left to show for it," Chico said. "Putting the city on the path to fiscal responsibility starts with protecting our long-term reserve funds. We must act now."

 

Chico's ordinance would establish two irrevocable trusts to hold the remaining $500 million Chicago Skyway reserve and the expected $76 million parking meter reserve intact. The trusts would protect taxpayer money. 

 

All interest accrued from the Chicago Skyway trust would be used to pay city operating expenses. Current interest accrued from the parking meter trust would be used to replenish the fund until it reaches its original amount of $400 million. 

 

The ordinance sets a new standard for accountability, calling for the City to set aside $16 million each budget year for the next 20 years, or until the parking meter trust is restored to the minimum reserve level of $400 million, the original amount promised for long-term reserves.

 

"Even in tough times, we must make good on our promises to the people we represent," Chico said. 

 

Chico confronted similar structural deficits and low bond ratings when he served as president of Chicago Public Schools. He initiated broad reforms that transformed a $1.3 billion deficit into a $336 million surplus and achieved more than 12 bond rating increases.


###

UPDATE: Emanuel has proposed reducing Chicago's "head tax" on each employee, one of the greatest disincentives for job creation in the city. 

Emanuel, according to this story, said "he would make up the reduced revenue by putting in place 'more effective government, smarter regulatory oversight, using technology in a better way, and ending subsidies to finally eliminate the head tax that's unnecessary for the city of Chicago.'"

By the way, Chicago would eliminate the head tax "in one fell swoop, rather than phasing it out."

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  • The question I had a couple of years ago, when the city was supposedly sitting on the Skyway funds is what the reserve funds are for, anyway.

    They, of course, should not be blown in one year, when they are supposed to last 75, but part of the idea for these "concessions" was to get the revenue up front. If there were a plan, such as in Indiana, to invest them in infrastructure, that would be one thing, but all that appears to be expressed here is that they either be spent, or, under Chico's theory, be kept in perpetuity.

    In that reserves are supposed to be against hard times, I would assume, based on what various officials have said about tax collections, that hard times are here.

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