Council support for Emanuel tax hikes shows city’s geographic, racial divides

By John Byrne and Bill Ruthhart  – Chicago Tribune

As Mayor Rahm Emanuel prepares to ask the City Council for a series of tax increases both big and small, he’s finding that support from aldermen in many cases is breaking down along Chicago’s economic, geographic and racial divides.

City Council members representing the South and West Sides are more comfortable with the idea of voting for a record property tax hike than a new garbage pickup fee. The homes in those wards tend to be worth less, so the property tax bite would be smaller, and Emanuel is trying to get Springfield to shield people whose homes are worth less than $250,000 from the effects. A garbage fee, on the other hand, could mean $11 a month out of every homeowner’s pocket.

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The dynamic is the opposite for aldermen in more affluent parts of the city. Homes tend to be more valuable downtown and on the North Side, so a property tax hike hits harder, and taxpayers there would not be afforded as much protection under Emanuel’s plan. A garbage fee doesn’t cut as deep, and many residents live in high-rises that already pay private waste haulers.

For Emanuel, the differing political perspectives require a balancing act as he tries to collect the 26 votes for approval. The mayor needs the property tax to make a massive increase in police and firefighter pension payments, but he also wants the garbage fee to help close a year-to-year budget gap. Adjusting the size of each tax hike could prove key. read more……