Chicago, October 12, 2011. The City of Chicago just released a breakdown of Mayor Emanuel’s major cost-cutting proposals for 2012. The cuts, listed below, are still open to debate. What do you think?
The list is taken verbatim from the press release issued by the Mayor’s press office.
A small increase of approximately $1.78 will put Chicago on an equal level with other major cities like Los Angeles and New York City and it will help increase revenue that supports tourism, not deters it. With the anticipated 5-7% increase in hotel occupancies due to the next year’s G8 and NATO summits, as well as several other major conventions and conferences in Chicago, the City does not foresee a decrease in tourism revenue as a result of this modest increase.
In 2010, Chicago hosted 39 million domestic and overseas visitors, including 28 million domestic leisure travelers, 10 million domestic business travelers and 1 million overseas visitors. The contribution to our local economy and the jobs created and maintained by their visit to our city is essential. In fact, the tourism industry supports 125,000 jobs in the city. To avoid eliminating any of the events that millions of people from around the world come to see, we will impose this small fee – one that will put us on par with Los Angeles and New York City – on those visitors who stay in Chicago’s hotels.
Traffic costs the region $7.3 billion a year – nearly double previous estimates – in lost time, fuel and environmental damages. Our streets are crowded, roads in need of repair and pollution created by drivers is unhealthy for Chicagoans. Suburban drivers who use city services and infrastructure need to help pay for the costs. The congestion fee is an incentive for drivers to take public transportation or pay more to park downtown. Evidence shows that a small increase in parking fees like this leads to a decline in the use of automobiles for transportation, which reduces congestion, pollution, and the need for road maintenance. The City will use revenue from the congestion fee to rebuild two of the busiest “L” stations in the downtown area and build a new bus rapid transit system in the downtown area. The Metropolitan Planning Council and Inspector General have endorsed congestion pricing.
Grid System for Garbage Collection.
We owe it to our residents to deliver services in the most efficient and cost effective manner possible. Chicago’s ward-based garbage system is obsolete and other cities offer the same service at substantially less cost because it’s done on a grid. We are the only major city that is not on a grid system and it is unacceptable that collecting garbage in Chicago costs $110 more than it does in Los Angeles. A grid system will not eliminate superintendents who will continue to ensure quality service delivery for Chicagoans, and it will allow the city to use the achieved savings to potentially expand recycling across the city.
Declaring a TIF surplus.
The Mayor’s Office acknowledges the consensus around declaring a surplus to ensure taxpayer dollars are invested in the city rather than sitting in savings accounts. As the Mayor’s staff develops performance metrics to target specific districts for surplus, they have been urged by aldermen, and budget watchdogs like the Civic Federation, the Inspector General and others to declare a surplus in 2012 and put those unencumbered funds to use for Chicagoans. In the short term, the City will take the TIF Task Force’s recommendation to conservatively declare a surplus of 20 percent of uncommitted funds while a more comprehensive, long-term evaluation system is put in place.
Reduction in Library Hours.
While many other cities across the country are shuttering libraries in these tough economic times, Chicago will keep all of its libraries open by reducing service hours across the board. Despite reducing the weekly hours, all of the programs and services Chicagoans use at the libraries will remain intact.
Coordinating Public Safety.
The Chicago Police Department has significantly reduced high-level bureaucracy through a reorganization of top-level staff that created a streamlined command staff structure that is more efficient, works smarter, and saved one million taxpayer dollars. The Department is going to do a similar consolidation at the district and area levels to ensure that we are getting the most out of every single officer, every single resource, and serving every single community and resident. Additionally the Fire Department Headquarters will merged with Police Department Headquarters to further strengthen the collaboration between these critical first responders. Having Fire and Police together will allow for daily interactions and coordinated planning that will help identify overlaps, and facilitate a more efficient division of administration responsibilities.