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PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
6:48pm
Thu Oct 24, 2013

Breaking Down Emanuel's 2014 Chicago Budget

Although Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed 2014 budget unveiled Wednesday includes no increases on property, sales and gas taxes, some aldermen say the plan relies too heavily on hiking other fees and fines to help reduce the city's $339 million deficit. Progress Illinois provides an overview of the mayor's budget plan.

Quick Hit
by
7:25pm
Fri Oct 18, 2013

Op-Ed: City Council Progressive Reform Caucus Calls For Action On Chicago's Pension Crisis

The Chicago City Council Progressive Reform Caucus released the following statement on Friday calling on the mayor and council members to face up to the city's pension crisis. 

Chicago’s thousands of employees keep their promise to our city. But will our city keep its promise to them? This is the question the city council and the mayor must face. 

There is plenty of talk about a looming pension crisis. But this is a manufactured crisis. It is the result of decades of failure on the part of city leaders to meet longstanding fiscal obligations. It represents a failure to make timely, regular and full payments into the city’s 7 pension funds. And it is a failure arising from mismanagement and possible corruption in the oversight of those funds.

The city’s past strategy has been to delay payments to the fund to keep that cash available for other expenses. However, the longer you delay, the deeper the hole you dig. 

Neither the present city council nor the mayor created this situation. Nor is this backlog of pension fund payments the fault of any of the city employees or the unions or professional organizations that represent them. 

Pensions are contractually agreed upon obligations. The city of Chicago as an employer is bound to make its regularly scheduled contributions. They are supposed to be on an equal priority basis to any other obligations such as making payroll or paying the city’s other bills. So while neither the unions nor the mayor nor the  council created the problem, it falls to all to arrive at a just solution. 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
1:25pm
Fri Oct 11, 2013

State Sen. Lightford: Flurry Of Charter School Bills Expected In Upcoming Legislative Sessions

At an education forum in Oak Park Wednesday, State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) said she plans to introduce legislation to help stop the Illinois State Charter Commission's "hidden agenda" of expanding charter schools across the state.

The Illinois legislature set up this special charter governing body back in 2011. The commission has autonomy from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the power to override local school boards if they reject applications from charter companies looking to open schools in their communities. A number of education activists have blasted the commission, saying its sole purpose is to override these charter denials.

"This independent authorizer, they've hired a lobbyist that has a salary, and there's a hidden agenda," Lightford said at the forum, held at Oak Park's Percy Julian Middle School. "(School) funding would come away from you and go directly into this situation, and I think it's something we all should be very mindful of."

Lightford said she would introduce a bill at some point during next year's legislative session that would get rid of the commission's override powers and give charter authorizing responsibility back to ISBE.

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