Some Chicago aldermen, small business owners and retail lobbyists want Mayor Rahm Emanuel to reconsider his tobacco tax proposal, saying the plan would adversely affect local businesses and neighborhoods, including those already impacted by black-market sales of "loosie" cigarettes.
But a coalition of health organizations is firing back, calling on the city council to "reject the tobacco industry's rhetoric and to pass a strong tobacco control ordinance."
Debate rages on over Emanuel's proposal to increase the smoking age in Chicago from 18 to 21 and impose a $6 million tax on non-cigarette tobacco products, with the revenue going in part toward Chicago Public Schools orientation programs. The plan is aimed at preventing "young people from picking up smoking, while investing in their education," according to the administration.
Although a tax increment financing (TIF) surplus resolution has stalled in the Chicago City Council, one alderman says the fight to redirect such funds to the cash-crunched school system continues.
Ald. John Arena (45th), with the council's Progressive Reform Caucus, spoke about the TIF surplus resolution during a Tuesday evening education forum on Chicago's Northwest Side. Chicago Jobs with Justice hosted the event at Irving Park Baptist Church, 4401 W. Irving Park Road.
Just hours earlier, Budget Committee Chairwoman Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) used a procedural move to delay consideration of the TIF surplus ordinance -- which is backed by 34 aldermen -- by sending it to the Finance Committee.
"It's not done," Arena said of the TIF resolution, introduced by progressive Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th). Progressive Reform Caucus members are working with "some other folks to try to modify the resolution" in an effort to "get a [TIF] sweep done within the next month or two," Arena told the crowd.
Chicago aldermen and community groups are pressing for city council action on a resolution in support of directing tax increment financing (TIF) surplus funds to the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools.
One day after Chicago Public Schools officials announced $100 million in proposed budget cuts, the Chicago Teachers Union closed its Bank of America account on Wednesday in protest over the controversial interest rate swap agreements held between the bank and school district.
CTU says cash-strapped CPS, which is facing a $480 million budget hole this fiscal year, has lost more than $502 million to "predatory" swap deals with financial institutions, including Bank of America. According to the union, Bank of America has collected $77 million in profits off of its interest rate swaps with CPS.
"What we hope is that our withdrawal of funds will spark people all over this city, all over this state and all over the country to start withdrawing funds from Bank of America until they give back some of the ill-gotten gains they've made off the backs of our students," CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said outside the Bank of America at 135 S. LaSalle St.
Chicago's Progressive Reform Caucus wants the Emanuel administration to "delay or abandon" its proposal to use roughly $100 million in borrowed money to pay termination penalties for interest-rate swap agreements.
The caucus opposes the "Emanuel administration's plan to voluntarily pay massive interest-rate swap termination penalties" because it could result in "windfall profits for big banks" and cost "taxpayers more over the next few decades," Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said during a press conference at City Hall on Tuesday.
The interest-rate swap agreements in question, held between the city and financial institutions, date back to former Mayor Richard M. Daley's administration. The $100 million in swap termination payments is part of a $2 billion borrowing package set to go before the Chicago City Council on Wednesday.
"The administration has said we're getting out of these risky deals, but what we're getting out of this deal is an irresponsible financial move by the administration," Waguespack said. "We need to stop this plan, abandon it today, and not move forward on behalf of taxpayers."