If you live in Chicago, you know all about the “Rahm tax” – the record $600 million property tax increase Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he needs shore up police and fire pensions, which account for most of the city’s unfunded liability.
But I bet you haven’t heard about the other financial shoe to drop: the massive multi-billion dollar judgment against the City of Chicago courtesy of Rahm’s deal with Uber.
You haven’t heard about it because the Chicago media is burying the story.
Recently, U.S. District Judge Sharon Coleman concluded that the differences in the rules that apply to taxis versus ride-sharing services in Chicago “appear utterly arbitrary” and could violate equal protection.
In allowing the taxi industry’s lawsuit to move forward, Coleman cited differences across the board – including background checks, drug tests, insurance, annual fees, unregulated fares and vehicle age, maintenance and inspection which “are far more onerous” for taxi drivers than for ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft.
The City of Chicago sets the cab industry’s meter rates but Uber and Lyft set their own rates. Why? Taxi drivers must have a chauffeur’s license yet ride share drivers do not. The taxi industry must purchase new vehicles annually for safety reasons but not ride share companies.
From police background checks and steep insurance requirements to the cost of purchasing a taxi medallion – at last auction $360,000 per medallion – one could easily argue that the City of Chicago is picking the winners and losers in the livery marketplace and the winner it has picked is Uber.
Now Rahm and his aldermanic pals are trying to put the last nail in the taxi coffin by allowing ride-share companies airport pickups and drop-offs – once the exclusive domain of the cab industry – without chauffeur licenses. Uber and Lyft would only pay 2 cents additional per ride for the massive chunk of this business and not be held to the same strict regulatory standards as taxis.
Again, the question is why is Rahm going out of his way to help ride-share companies and put Chicago taxpayers again at risk with this court judgment?
The answer is money. Lots of money. His brother’s Ari’s money to be specific. Rahm’s little brother, Ari, was an early Uber investor and has already made millions off his investment. Once Uber goes public, Ari could make billions.
If the Chicago taxi industry wins in court on equal protection grounds, which it seems likely to do, there’s no harm to Rahm or his family’s finances. As a public official, Rahm’s not liable for his actions. There’s no risk, only reward. Rahm and his family win. But Chicago taxpayers will lose again. We will foot the bill for this. They will line their pockets. Chicagoans will be on the hook for the harm done to this industry by Rahm and his cronies.
How dumb do they think we must be?
This Wednesday, the Chicago City Council will vote on Rahm’s $600 million property tax increase. They will also vote on whether to let rideshare companies like Uber have airport access.
Emanuel has called on the city’s 50 alderman to pass his massive tax hike plan on October 28th or face “dire” consequences. Yet, there are no budget cuts in sight for the Mayor and his aldermanic allies, who hold a council majority.
So how “dire” can it be if Mayor Rahm Emanuel refuses to cut his own budget or that of the City Council?
Even the Chicago Tribune, which twice endorsed Rahm for re-election, has finally noticed: In Rahm’s $7.8 billion budget, the City Council, city treasurer and 15 other departments – including the Mayor’s own office – all will receive increases in raises and personnel.
Emanuel’s general fund debt is growing even fast than it did under Mayor Richard M. Daley. Rahm’s risky “scoop and toss” scheme means taxpayers will be on the hook for millions in additional interest payments.
Didn’t Rahm just claim in the primary that he was the good guy that would save homeowners from higher property taxes and that Jesus “Chuy” Garcia was the bad guy? He was lying and every reporter in the Chicago media knew it. Governor Rauner – Rahm’s BFF – and Sen. Mark Kirk, who both endorsed Rahm for re-election knew it.
If this doesn’t give you buyer’s remorse, nothing will.
So Chicago, are you just going to sit there and let Rahm, his paid-for aldermen, and his Uber pals make millions while you get soaked?
Pick up the phone. Call your aldermen.
Do something already.