Guest Post by Jim Borman: lengthening the payments, paying more interest, kicking Chicago's money can down the road

I'm personally not going to critize Mayor Rahm anymore for a while. Maybe I'll poke a little fun when the mood strikes.   He won, he's the mayor.  And that's that.  Democracy…prevails.

But that doesn't mean, my friend and South Loop neighbor Jim Borman can't do the honors.  And Jim makes a good point in the following guest post:  is Chicago like one of those families who lives on high interest credit cards, paying little principal, lots of interest and kicking the family financial mess down the road.  And over the river. And through the woods.   Where it will all end up, who knows?

by Jim Borman

While researching classic comedy films, I came across one of the most well-known tag lines of Oliver Hardy who said “That’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”  I felt that I’d just pulled the clip from the Think Tank of Mayor Emanuel who was working with his staff to resolve the ongoing budget and pension crisis in the city of Chicago.

As related in today’s Chicago Tribune, the mayor proposes lengthening the payments to make the crisis more palatable.  Let’s look at this from a personal perspective.  As we are daily inundated with credit card applications, we can either choose to throw away the incessant marketing pieces from the credit card companies or open another new credit card with additional card limits.

We can choose, if we are able, to pay off our credit card bills as they come each month.  If so, we’ll pay no interest on our monthly credit.  The credit card companies won’t like that decision because that’s how they make their money.  In fact, they hope we will build up a huge amount of credit so they can charge us usurious interest that might even lead us to read the fine print of the application to learn how much we’re being charged for their gracious services.

Is Chicago choosing the same path as a city?  Will lengthening the time of the payments result, in the long run, in huge interest payments for a longer period of time?  How much interest will the citizens of Chicago pay by extending the debt on a longer term basis?  Is this “another nice mess we’re getting into?”

Speaking of messes, how about the icing on the cake to resolve this crisis?  The Tribune again reminds us that  the mayor has favored the construction of a casino for a long time.  Not to mention the numerous opportunities for Chicago’s well-known “fair and open bidding” on all sorts of planning, construction, and management processes.  Folks are talking about how to get revenues immediately into the city’s coffers.  What’s the plan?  According to the Tribune, there’s talk about opening a few places to gamble in hotels or other facilities.

Is the mayor’s vision to turn Chicago into the “Las Vegas of the Midwest?”

Where did the bailout idea of gambling come from?  Who decided that it was prudent to initiate lotteries and land-based casinos--pulling money out of the pockets of those less able to afford the losses--to resolve budget deficits?  Is gambling a substitute for traditional revenue generation through taxes and bonds and wise and prudent expenditures of taxpayer dollars?

Has Chicago looked at the regional economic impact of building a land-based casino on our neighbors in economically ravaged Gary, Indiana?  Has Mayor Emanuel consulted with Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson to inquire if Gary casino revenues would be simply shifted from northern Indiana to downtown Chicago?  Has anyone talked about long-term economic development proposals that might increase jobs in neighborhoods without stealing from Peter in Gary to pay Paul in Illinois?

No question that Chicago is in a fiscal mess.  With one week left in the battle for dollars in Springfield, it appears that backroom deals are going to occur no matter what the citizens want.  Those who already benefit from income inequality here and beyond appear ready and willing to increase their 1 percent status at the expense of the rest of us.  That is, unless Governor Rauner chooses the Minnesota policies pushed by Target magnate Governor Bruce Dayton, taxing those who most can afford it.  In Minnesota, those policies resulted in a “drop in unemployment, a budget surplus, and a better environment for business.”

Yes, I heard you--when hell freezes over.

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