Alderman on pensions and property tax
42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly began a well-attended May 4 Town Hall meeting in the Sullivan Ballroom of the Loews Hotel by addressing several resident concerns that were delivered to him prior to the event.
Clutching a huge stack of pre-submitted questionnaires, he remarked that, “some of these questions are loaded questions and we could probably spend the entire evening answering just one of them.”
Then he proceeded to respond to the most common topics with frank, informative, and frequently nonpartisan positions on issues that continue to make headlines far outside of Chicago.
In regard to the city’s knack for funding pensions with property taxes, he echoed an opinion shared by many frustrated homeowners.
“How are we managing our pension liabilities and the contracts that were negotiated over the last forty years?” he asked. “I would argue not very well.”
He blamed much of the fiscal predicament on a budgetary bait and switch that was engineered by “politicians long before me.”
“Rather than award cost of living increases on a regular basis or step-up pay increases,” he explained, “they decided to kick the can down the road and promised all sorts of sweet pension deals that taxpayers today can’t afford.”
Although a reform based on “shared sacrifice” was proposed by the city and a majority of its labor partners in 2014, he said, a handful of labor partners rejected the compromise and ultimately killed the deal after challenging it in the Illinois Supreme Court.
“The court made it very clear,” he continued. “These are contracts.”
The latest effort to help solve the problem came by way of a record-breaking $600 million property tax increase that the city council approved last fall. Alderman Reilly as well as Alderman Brian Hopkins, whose 2nd Ward includes portions of Streeterville and the Gold Coast, voted against it.
The city is currently investigating ways to provide some form of relief to homeowners, but the Alderman predicted that none of them are likely to apply to “any of us downtown.”
“I’m not sure that it will even pass the state legislature,” he added.
“Springfield hasn’t passed a state budget in two years and I’m not sure there’s a great prospect of that happening this spring despite everything you’re reading in the newspapers.”
Besides potentially short-changing Chicago homeowners, the state’s procrastination also impacts how social services are paid, if at all.
“Unfortunately,” continued the Alderman, “we have a Governor who has decided to put a social agenda ahead of balancing our budget.”
Concluding the topic, he advised, “the bad news is that, no matter what, the solution is going to involve more revenue from us.”
The remainder of the Alderman’s remarks included his opposition to the city’s well-intended but poorly executed ordinance requiring new residential properties to be built with affordable housing units, the need for more police officers, and his refusal to rezone areas within the 42nd Ward “by willy-nilly picking winners and losers.”
The meeting continued with a panel discussion featuring representatives from the Chicago Police Department, Navy Pier, and others. It was inorganized by the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR).
— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer