Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Wednesday October 21st, 2015, 5:05pm

As Chicago Budget Vote Looms, Emanuel Drops 3-1-1 Privatization Plan

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel dropped his budget proposal to privatize the city's 3-1-1 non-emergency operations on Wednesday, following pushback from 36 aldermen.

Members of the council's Progressive Reform Caucus were among the aldermen who urged Emanuel against outsourcing 3-1-1 operations.

"The progressive caucus vocally opposed the proposal since day one, as we knew that these privatization deals diminish the quality of service to our communities and the job security, wages and working conditions of so many public employees across the city," Progressive Reform Caucus member Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) said in a statement. "It is time to focus on investing in upgrading the system and shoring up good, local jobs for Chicagoans at 3-1-1."

Emanuel decided to table the 3-1-1 privatization plan on Wednesday, the same day the Chicago City Council moved to defer and publish his overall 2016 budget proposal, including a $588 million property tax increase for police and fire pensions and school construction. Other items in the mayor's proposed budget include fee hikes on garbage collection, e-cigarettes and taxi and ride-hailing services.

In a statement issued after Wednesday's city council meeting, the Grassroots Collaborative, a coalition of 12 membership-based organizations in Illinois, criticized Emanuel's budget for not including more progressive revenue options.

"Chicago's current fiscal problems boil down to the fact that Mayor Emanuel refuses to pass equitable structural reforms, that force Wall Street and LaSalle Street to pay their fair share," stated Grassroots Collaborative Executive Director Amisha Patel. "We need greater budget leadership out of the City Council. There are numerous solutions to this financial mess that don't involve squeezing more money out of the neighborhoods and families least able to pay - we need to sue the banks, end the clout deals that allow downtown corporations to cheat the city out of millions in taxes, and a property tax increase with protections for working families."

Aldermen are expected to vote on the mayor's proposed budget and revenue package next Wednesday. Tweaks could be made to the budget proposal before it goes up for a vote.

Some aldermen are pushing for additional regulations on Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing drivers.

Under a budget amendment proposed by Ald. John Arena (45th) on Wednesday, ride-hailing drivers would have to obtain a chauffeur's license in exchange for access to O'Hare and Midway Airports as well as Navy Pier and McCormick Place.

In addition to the proposed fee hikes on ride-hailing and taxi trips, Emanuel's budget plan would give ride-hailing companies access to those high-traffic areas, with the city getting $5 for every pick up and drop off. For taxis, fares would increase by 15 percent.

Cabdrivers oppose the idea of opening up the airports to ride-hailing drivers, saying such a move would significantly hurt their bottom line. Cabbies have been pressing the city to impose the same regulations on ride-hailing companies as the taxi industry.

Another proposed budget amendment from Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) would mandate that all ride-hailing cars have Illinois license plates. The Finance and License Committees could take up the ride-hailing proposals in a joint meeting next week.

Also during Wednesday's council meeting, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) introduced a stormwater tax proposal. The ordinance would establish a Chicago "stormwater stress user fee" for eligible residential and non-residential properties.

"Stormwater," according to the ordinance, "is the only major infrastructure system in the city that is currently not paid for through user fees."

The ordinance directs the city's water management department to set the billing rate for a stormwater stress user fee. The fee would begin in 2017 under the ordinance.

Fees for residential and non-residential properties would be calculated based on their annual storm management costs to the city and their respective impervious surface areas. Under the ordinance, the city's water management department would develop a program through which property owners could apply for credits to offset part their assessed stormwater user fee. 

In other news, a city council vote on the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art has been pushed back to next week at the earliest, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. A vote on the museum, proposed for the city's lakefront on parking lots near Soldier Field, had been expected on Wednesday. The vote is reportedly being delayed so the city and Chicago Bears can work out concerns over the loss of tailgating spaces. 

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