Every year the City of Chicago hosts three budget hearings. That is the one time per year that your Mayor Richard M. Daley must come before the people and hear their comments on the city’s budget.
This year’s budget meeting for the West Side was held a week ago Tuesday. I arrived about 6 p.m. and registered to speak. I learned my lesson from last year and didn’t mention this newspaper. Although I was one of the first to arrive last year, I was one of the last called.
When I got to the meeting, mayoral candidate Bill “Dock” Walls was already there. He had registered before me. Now one of the things the city does at the budget hearings is to fill up the place with city workers. The mayor and all his city commissioners sit at a long table. But in the back of the room are deputy commissioners who, as soon as you finish your testimony, descend on you to get more information.
In the audience are lots of other city workers who take up seats to make sure the meeting looks well attended. I say this because the major media (TV, radio, and daily newspapers) don’t announce and report on the budget hearings so city residents can know about it and attend. Plus the budget hearing is the kind of hearing that if one million people showed up to speak, the mayor would have to stay and hear from each and every one of them. So you know what the game plan is.
The hearings started at 7. The hearings always offer someone to sign for the hearing-impaired or translate it into Spanish. I was about the ninth person called to testify. I brought up several issues to the mayor. The first thing I wanted to know was when was the last time he had driven a car in the City of Chicago? His response was that it’s been a long time. Therefore, it’s safe to assume in all the years he’s been mayor, he hasn’t had to drive. He’s been chauffeured everywhere. So he hasn’t experienced the pain of $3-a-gallon gasoline and trying to get from Point A to Point B without encountering lights that don’t all go green at once so traffic can move. Or the pain of watching as aldermen place stop signs on busy streets, (Cicero and Van Buren for example) which causes a traffic backlog.
I also mentioned that my car has been hit by folks who shouldn’t be driving. They didn’t have a driver’s license. They don’t have insurance. But they did have a city sticker in their windshield. My question was this: “Why doesn’t the city ask to see a driver’s license before selling a sticker?”
Guess what? No one answered that or spoke with me about it later!
I also spoke about the ability of the city to use the dumpster task force to close down restaurants but ignore the corn carts that are starting to proliferate up and down Laramie. In fact, to those of you who buy from those carts, where do those people use the bathroom and wash their hands and how can you use mayonnaise that’s been sitting in the hot sun?
Lastly, I mentioned to the mayor that parking at the budget hearings is always difficult. I suggested to him that in the future, all of them should come to the hearings by catching the CTA. What better way to show support for public transportation than the mayor himself using it? Again that idea wasn’t one that anyone spoke with me about later.
The hearings went on well past 9 p.m. I wanted to hear what Bill “Dock” Walls had to say, so I stayed. They finally called Dock’s name at 9:30 p.m., even though he had registered before me. That is the city’s method of making sure those who will bring up issues are heard by the fewest number of people.
The last budget hearing was held last Thursday at the South Shore Cultural Center. Dock again arrived and registered to speak. The Cultural Center hearing was filled to capacity with black folks who are fed up with not getting anything in return for the taxes we pay. At the two other budget hearing meetings, the mayor demonstrated a lot of arrogance toward people when they brought up their issues. Dock had also brought out many of his supporters, so the tension was in the air.
At a little past 8, they called “Guillermo Paredes” to speak. Bill “Dock” Walls stood up and walked to the mike. A flash of anger went across Mayor Daley’s face. Daley, police superintendent Cline and budget director Volpe all immediately went into conference. A couple of burly undercover cops in suits tried to block Dock. But Dock told them they had called his name-albeit in Spanish!
Dock’s first words to the mayor were a question to the audience. “What does ‘Paredes’ mean?” he asked. “Walls,” we responded. “What does ‘Guillermo’ translate to?” he asked. “William,” we shouted.
“Mayor Daley, my name translated into Spanish is Guillermo Paredes,” Dock said. Our mayor was none too pleased. I’m sure that the Spanish translator who didn’t catch the meaning of the name will be in hot water. Dock spoke eloquently for 15 minutes on all aspects of the budget. From the trucking scandal, to the hiring scandals, to the lack of economic development of the neighborhoods while half a billion dollars was spent on Millennium Park. Bill did a fantastic job of castigating Daley’s record.
This Sunday, we can talk more about the budget hearings, or whatever you want, beginning at 9 p.m. Call 605-772-3200 (this is long distance so use your cell) and enter this Access code: 806598#. For cellphone users, this is just like a local call using your nighttime minutes.