Garbage fee a tough sell for aldermen as mayor aims for broad budget support

Chicago Sun-Times – BY FRAN SPIELMAN

To confront Chicago’s $30 billion pension crisis and eliminate the structural deficit he inherited, Emanuel’s lower-the-boom menu includes a four-year, $588 million property tax increase for police and fire pensions and school construction; a $9.50-a-month garbage collection fee to raise $62 million; $13 million in higher fees for building permits; a $1 million tax on e-cigarettes, and $48 million in fees and surcharges on taxicabs and ride-sharing services that have siphoned business away from them.

If any of the votes are going to be close, it’s the one for the garbage fee and Emanuel understands why.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Health and Environmental Protection, is so concerned about the pressure to privatize refuse collection, he has proposed a protection of sorts and predicted that Emanuel will embrace the idea: an “enterprise fund” for the Department of Streets and Sanitation similar to the water and aviation funds.

That would segregate funds generated by garbage collection and pave the way for city crews to compete with private scavenger services for the right to pick up trash at multi-unit residential buildings.

“It makes it politically palatable because it preserves jobs. The big concern that everybody has is that this is a first step toward privatization of garbage,” Cardenas said.

“You encapsulate the money in an enterprise fund and it keeps everybody in check. It also paves the way for these folks to start bidding for some of these private scavenger routes. If you want to opt into city service, let us know and you start paying. You grow the pot.”

A second term is almost certain to be Emanuel’s last. That gives him the freedom to make the tough choices and hope to go down in history as the mayor who saved Chicago.

Aldermen don’t have that luxury. Most of them need and want their jobs and have every intention of running for re-election.

Still, O’Shea said, “I will not cast my vote based on a fear of political retribution. I will cast my vote on what I think is best for the city of Chicago, what I think is best to protect the pensions of those who have done their job and paid into pensions while trying to make sure that we do not cut city services and we continue services at the level people in my community expect and deserve.”    read more……