Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled his first budget today, tackling a $635 million deficit, and the city’s visitors and drivers are among those who would pay more.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel/Micki Maynard

The mayor had vowed not to raise property taxes or the city’s sales tax. But the budget, which the mayor outlined to city council, includes a proposal to raise the city’s hotel tax by 1 percent, or about $1.78 to the average visitor.

Although the increase itself isn’t likely to deter many visitors, Chicago has seen tourism drop, especially among people who come in from the suburbs for the day.

They may not be happy with another one of the mayor’s proposals: a $2 a day, week day congestion tax at garages downtown and in the city’s River North neighborhood.

Emanuel’s budget also takes aim at the city’s drivers, who are required to purchase a registration sticker. The price of a sticker for trucks and sport utilities would rise to $134 a year, from $120, although the price for a small car would remain at $75.

Anyone who is caught driving while intoxicated would see their fine double, while Emanuel also proposes doubling the fine for driving with an illegal weapon. 

Two other proposals are receiving attention in Chicago. One would combine the city’s police and fire headquarters, making Chicago the first mayor city in the country to do so, he said. The mayor has already announced plans to put 1,100 officers back on the street from desk jobs.

And, Emanuel is proposing an increase in residents’ water bills, which he said would be equal to the cost of five cups of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. (Assuming he means the 20 ounce cup, which sells for $1.95, that would be about $9.75 extra a year.) Even so, Emanuel said rates in Chicago would be the lowest among major cities in the Great Lakes.

Do you live in Chicago? What are your views on the mayor’s budget proposal?


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Mixed Midwest real estate news. Home sale prices in Michigan increased significantly over the past three months, according to a new report from Clear Capitol. “Michigan overall is actually up even more so than the Midwest Region,” said Alex Villacorta, a Clear Capitol spokesperson. Villacorta tells Michigan Radio that prices are up 8.5 percent on a quarter-over-quarter basis, but cautions prices could decline by more than 3 percent in Michigan this winter. Elsewhere in the region, distressed sales in northeast Ohio pushed the decline in area home prices to almost double the national rate, according to Crain’s Cleveland. Prices in the Cleveland area fell 7.9 percent in August compared to a year earlier.

2. Milwaukee streetcar’s street fight continues. Two Milwaukee alderman asked Congress to kill a streetcar line in the city by giving its $54.9 million in federal funds to the cash-strapped city bus system. The alderman and opponents of the streetcar line, said Wednesday that the city could not afford to operate the streetcar. Their efforts face long odds, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. House rules may ban such a financial shift, and the city’s council has already voted to start final engineering on the $64.6 million streetcar project.

3. Closer confines in Chicago. The Chicago Sun-Times reports today the Chicago Police Department will have some company in its headquarters. The Chicago Fire Department is moving in late next month as part of cost cutting ordered by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a source tells the newspaper. Moving boxes have already arrived, and the fire department will abandon its lease on two floors at 10 W. 35th Street. “Everyone hopes everyone will get along,” the source tells The Sun-Times.


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has introduced a measure to repeal the city’s head tax on company employees. And he says the proposed repeal is why Ford is agreeing to create 1,100 more jobs in the Windy City.

 Photo by Slobodan Stojkovic via Flickrobs in his city.

Chicago charges $4 per person per month to companies with 50 or more employees in the city. The mayor, who proposed the repeal to city council this week, calls it a “job killer,” according to our partner station WBEZ.

He said the proposed repeal, which would reduce city revenue by $23 million, is already making the city more attractive to companies like Ford.

As part of a new contract with the United Auto Workers, the company is pledging to add 12,000 jobs nationwide. Government officials said earlier this week that the company would add 1,100 jobs at the Chicago Assembly Plant, and possibly 900 more at a stamping plant.

Workers are voting on the contract now.

The proposed repeal “has been a significant piece in our ability to win those jobs at that Ford plant and add a third shift in the Ford plant in the city of Chicago,” the mayor said.

Currently, Ford employs 3,500 people at its Chicago plants. Removing the head tax would save the company $168,000 a year at those factories. If Ford were to add the additional 2,00 jobs, it would not have to pay an additional $96,000 annually.

Meanwhile, Ford might get even more help from the state of Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reported today company officials are in talks with Gov. Pat Quinn’s office about an incentive package. The governor declined to be specific, saying the negotiations are continuing.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. UAW nears Ford deal. Local leaders in the United Auto Workers union have been called to Detroit for a Tuesday meeting, a “strong sign” that a contract has been reached with Ford Motor Co., according to the Associated Press. A UAW spokesperson said Monday that no deal has been finalized, although the union is hoping it will have one to present at tomorrow’s meeting. The four-year deal is expected to be more lucrative than the one UAW workers reached with General Motors last week, and include profit sharing instead of annual wage increases.

2. Emanuel hosts airline leaders. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will hold a summit today with airline executives. He will discuss what kinds of improvements they’d like to see in Chicago’s workforce and infrastructure to maintain the city’s status as a transportation leader. United Air Lines and Boeing are based in Chicago, and American Airlines uses O’Hare as one of its major hubs. “I do not want to just sit on that lead. I want to build it,” Emanuel said last week. The CEOs of United, American, Boeing and electronic-booking agent Orbitz, as well as government officals, are expected to be in attendance.

3. Chicago native wins Nobel Prize. Bruce A. Beutler, a genetics professor born and educated in Chicago, is one of three winners of the Nobel Prize for Medicine. The prizes were announced Monday. Buetler was born in Chicago and earned his medical degree from the University of Chicago in 1981. He currently works at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif, where officials credit his groundbreaking work in immunology for the prize. “I awoke in the night, looked at my cell phone and saw that I had a message that said, ‘Nobel Prize,’” Beutler told the San Diego Union-Tribune.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. UAW contract with GM nears approval. Late Tuesday night, it appeared members of the United Auto Workers had inched closer to ratifying a four-year contract agreement with General Motors. As voting neared a close, at least 18 major locals supported the deal while three had opposed it, according to the Detroit News.  GM CEO Dan Akerson will host a conference call with Wall Street analysts to discuss the deal this afternoon. Talks at Ford continue, while discussions with Chrysler “continue to lag,” according to the newspaper.

2. SB5 opponents link law to Jim Crow. We Are Ohio, the organized labor coalition seeking to repeal Senate Bill 5, is airing a radio ad in six urban markets that says Gov. John Kasich has led Ohio back to America’s Jim Crow past.  A portion of the ad states, that Kasich and other politicians “have passed two laws to take us back to the days of Jim Crow,” passing laws that make it more difficult for minorities to vote. In addition to SB5, a law that weakens collective-bargaining rights of public employees, the ad targets House Bill 194. Republican leaders tell The Columbus Dispatch the ad is race baiting. Democrats disagree. “It’s harsh wording, but it’s not necessarily inaccurate,” an Ohio State professor tells the newspaper.

3. Rahm rejects key budget-trimming ideas. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel responded to a watchdog report that offered ideas on how to trim the city’s budget deficit by saying that suggestions to raise income, sales and property taxes are “off the table.” He also rejected the possibility of turning Lake Shore Drive into toll road. Emanuel said some of the other of 63 suggestions are “promising” and will receive “serious consideration,” according to our partner station WBEZ. This is the second year in which the inspector general has produced a budget options report.


MacArthur Geniuses: The Midwest abounds with geniuses, at least where the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is concerned. The Chicago-based foundation awarded three of its $500,000 genius grants to women faculty members at the University of Michigan, and another to Chicago architect Jeanne Gang. You can read the list, and see an interview with Gang here.

Chicago River Development: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he is eager to reverse the

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel/Micki Maynard

impression that many visitors and residents have of the Chicago River. So, he’s planning to invest in recreational facilities up and down the river, starting with new boathouses. There will be new launches for paddlers, as well as picnic areas and concession stands.

Say Nice Things About Union Members: This fall, Ohio voters will consider whether to repeal Senate Bill 5, which curbed the collective bargaining ability of unionized state workers. Opponents of the repeal effort still want to see that ability cut, but they’re trying a novel tactic: saying nice things about union members. Here’s the story from our partner station ideastream in Cleveland.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Goodbye Cleveland, hello Chicago. A Cleveland-area steelmaker could receive more than $1 million in financial incentives to move its headquarters to downtown Chicago, Crain’s Chicago Business reported this morning. JMC Steel Group Inc. could bring 50 new employees in the move. Chicago’s Community Development Commission will hear a proposal to provide $1.1 million in incentives Tuesday. Crain’s writes the approval would “represent another victory for Mayor Rahm Emanuel,” who has touted several job victories since taking office.

2. Ford faces UAW strike. A Wednesday deadline looms on contract talks between United Auto Workers officials and Detroit automakers, although representatives on both sides say the discussions could be extended. UAW president Bob King tells our partner station Michigan Radio that a strike is not a “goal” of the talks, but others believe a strike could happen at Ford. Gary Walkowicz, a bargaining committeeman, says union members deserve to receive cost-of-living adjustments surrendered during the recession.

3. Obama will speak in Ohio. President Obama will continue the campaign for his $447 billion jobs bill in Columbus, Ohio, today. He’ll emphasize part of his proposal that marks $25 billion for school building and renovation while speaking at Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School. It’s part of Obama’s plan to fight for the American Jobs Act on the turf of his Republican counterparts. The Ohio visit, in House Speaker John Boehner’s home state, comes four days after Obama visited House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s district in Richmond, Va.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Goodbye Cleveland, hello Chicago. A Cleveland-area steelmaker could receive more than $1 million in financial incentives to move its headquarters to downtown Chicago, Crain’s Chicago Business reported this morning. JMC Steel Group Inc. could bring 50 new employees in the move. Chicago’s Community Development Commission will hear a proposal to provide $1.1 million in incentives Tuesday. Crain’s writes the approval would “represent another victory for Mayor Rahm Emanuel,” who has touted several job victories since taking office.

2. Ford faces UAW strike. A Wednesday deadline looms on contract talks between United Auto Workers officials and Detroit automakers, although representatives on both sides say the discussions could be extended. UAW president Bob King tells our partner station Michigan Radio that a strike is not a “goal” of the talks, but others believe a strike could happen at Ford. Gary Walkowicz, a bargaining committeeman, says union members deserve to receive cost-of-living adjustments surrendered during the recession.

3. Obama will speak in Ohio. President Obama will continue the campaign for his $447 billion jobs bill in Columbus, Ohio, today. He’ll emphasize part of his proposal that marks $25 billion for school building and renovation while speaking at Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School. It’s part of Obama’s plan to fight for the American Jobs Act on the turf of his Republican counterparts. The Ohio visit, in House Speaker John Boehner’s home state, comes four days after Obama visited House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s district in Richmond, Va.


Rahm Emanuel reached the 100-day milestone of his tenure as mayor of Chicago earlier this week. All week, our partner station WBEZ has examined the early accomplishments and shortfalls of the Emanuel administration. Using his own 72-page transition report as a checklist, WBEZ graded his progress. Here are some highlights:

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel meets with WBEZ's Alison Cuddy during a recent talk. Photo courtesy Micki Maynard.

  • Goal: Structural changes totaling $75 million savings in 2011 budget. Progress: Complete. Emanuel cut $75 million from the budget on his first day in office.
  • Goal: End revolving door between government service and lobbying. Progress: Complete. Emanuel signed an executive order banning mayoral appointees from lobbying former colleagues for two years.
  • Goal: Develop data-collection plan regarding gun usage and crime, develop plan for use and dissemination of data. Progress: Partially achieved. On day 99, Emanuel announced completion of a gun report that includes data for guns recovered by Chicago Police Department, but has not provided copies of the report.
  • Goal: Develop plan for retaining and recruiting high-performing school principles. Progress: In August, Emanuel announced creation of a strategic plan and establishment of financial pool for merit raises and report cards for Chicago Public School principles.

How has Emanuel done so far? WBEZ asked his competitors for the job.

  • Miguel Del Valle, a former city clerk and mayoral candidate doesn’t like the concept of a 100-day evaluation. “I don’t think it’s a benchmark that should be used at all,” he said. “It takes time.”
  • “He has surpassed by expectations,” said Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, another mayoral candidate. “I did not expect him to get out in the neighborhoods like he has, and talk to the people, because he shied away from all the forums.”

Richard Daley served 22 years as mayor of Chicago. Rahm Emanuel has held the position for all of 100 days. It would, at first glance, appear to be an insufficient amount time to measure the effectiveness of the new mayor. But Emanuel’s not shy about claiming a few early achievements.

There has already been, “a paradigm shift of revolutionary proportions,” he said Wednesday night, regarding an agreement with some Chicago workers to have public employees compete with private-sector peers to perform service at lower costs.

That’s not all. Emanuel has hired a new police superintendent and new schools chief, and announced jobs for a region that carries a 10 percent unemployment rate, according to our partner station WBEZ, which hosted a summit of Emanuel and key advisors to mark the 100-day milestone. He says he’s added 750 police officers to street beats.

Still, a projected $600-million budget deficit looms next fiscal year, and Emanuel has only begun to address deeper questions about jobs, education and crime. “There’s no real meal cooked,” Roosevelt University political analyst Paul Green told WBEZ. “It’s going to take time.”

Other notable moments from the WBEZ event:

  • Emanuel said Chicago students would not get ahead if the city continued to provide what he called the shortest school day of any major city. He said teachers would receive a 2 percent raise in exchange for a 90-minute addition to school days.
  • He aims to cut the number of Chicago residents living in food deserts, approximately 400,000, in half. “We’ll begin to make a dent on the public health piece of this, which is people having the opportunity to have access to fresh fruits, vegetables and meats in their area,” he told WBEZ.