Several weeks ago, I attended Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s version of a budget hearing. In the past under the Daley administration, there would be three hearings; one on the South Side; one on the West Side and one on the Northwest Side.
Rahm didn’t feel the need to have three hearings. So he held one at Kennedy King and the other at Malcolm X. The lure to get people to come to the hearing was tantalizing. The mayor and the city wanted to hear from the residents how to save money.
At first I was impressed that he had chosen Malcolm X. Why? Because first and foremost Malcolm X has quite a bit of free parking. It also has a large stadium-seating auditorium that would allow people to see and hear from the people who wanted to speak at the hearing.
When I got there and was able to park immediately without circling the block for hours on end, I was in a very chipper mood. But when I walked into the auditorium, I became confused. Why? Because there was the mayor but he was on a television screen. Huh? Was this a déjà vu moment back to the campaign where we only saw and heard from Rahm via television and seldom in person?
I took a seat and began to ask around about where was our new mayor? Well, in a stroke of genius or a case of yellow streak up his back, our mayor found a room that, from what I saw on TV, could only hold about 50 people. It was a wag-the-dog moment. Why the room almost looked crowded until you noticed there were only four rows of chairs on all three sides. And many of those seats were filled with seniors who didn’t have a single hard-hitting comment or question for the mayor.
As I sat in a stupor and listened, very few ideas were offered that would either save the city money or make the city money. And since I didn’t get the opportunity to make my suggestions to the mayor in person, I guess I’ll do it via this column.
I want the city stickers to glow in the dark. I then want a city-wide mandate that says no one is permitted to park on any city street between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. without a sticker. Guests and visitors can go to the 24-hour currency exchange and purchase a one-night sticker. Well, imagine the city coffers if all those drivers who live in Chicago but have stickers from Bellwood, Maywood and other suburbs have to pony up money for a temporary Chicago sticker? Or those workers who park for free on Chicago streets.
Next, it is time for the city to seriously address the issue of “illegal conversions.” That is where unscrupulous landlords subdivide a single family home into as many as six apartments. That means additional garbage being generated as well as overcrowding in the local schools. It is a scourge on the block and the city needs to seriously look into fining those who do it, as well as making them pay to have a water meter installed. The city also needs to take a stance against building owners who have illegally changed the heating system from one centralized unit to individual-room heaters.
The city needs to lower our sales tax at Christmas by half. I know the goal is to get more money, not lower a tax, but if Chicago lowered sales taxes for Christmas, how many suburbanites could we lure to shop in the city and not at Woodfield, Old Orchard, River Oaks or North Riverside Mall? Everyone wants to dine at The Walnut Room in Macy’s. Everyone wants to see the windows downtown and on Michigan Avenue. Who hasn’t had a photo taken of themselves sliding down the Picasso when it’s covered in snow? Or standing in front of The Bean at Millennium Park?
Additional tax revenues need to come from folks who want to pay it voluntarily and not by overburdening the citizenry.
Next, is the city truly getting its tax revenue from all these mom-and-pop stores, service station stores and liquor stores that never seem to charge a sales tax when it comes to chips and pop?
Lastly, it is time to call a halt to traffic circles and the flowerpots down the middle of the street. They are truly a big waste of money as well as a danger to drivers.
If any of you readers have suggestions for ways the city can save money, share it by sending us an email or snail-mail.