Rahm Emanuel has only been in office since May, but today he scored his first major political victory. Chicago’s city council voted 50-0 in favor of a budget plan that calls for fee increases, layoffs and major changes in the way the city does business.
That isn’t to say all the aldermen liked it. During two hours of debate, there were complaints about aspects of the plan that will close libraries and close six mental health clinics.
But there also was praise for Emanuel for working closely with city council members on his proposal to address a $635 million deficit. Ed Burke, considered the city’s most powerful alderman, said the budget process was the most cooperative he had seen in 42 years.
While he was working on the plan, Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff, said he was no longer going to “kick the can down the road” on the city’s problems — a veiled reference to his predecessor, and political mentor, Richard M. Daley. (I looked at Emanuel and Daley in this story for Atlantic Cities last month.)
In Wednesday’s debate, Alderman Richard Mell told the mayor, “It’s obvious that when you we’re a kid, you never learned the game of kick the can. Everybody felt the pain. The only way you are going to make the gain is to feel the pain.”
Visitors will be among those feeling the pain. As we reported last month, Emanuel’s proposal includes higher taxes at downtown parking garages and at hotels. People who purchase the city’s car registration stickers also will be paying more.
But Emanuel already has convinced city council to eliminate a head tax on companies with 50 of more employees in the city, a move he says is why Ford is adding more jobs at its Chicago plants.