Mayor vows to con­front pen­sion cri­sis ‘be­fore the end of the year’

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - —Fran Spielman

Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed Fri­day to con­front Chicago’s sky­rock­et­ing pen­sion pay­ments “be­fore the end of the year,” but he re­fused to say whether the so­lu­tion he seeks will in­clude $10 bil­lion in pen­sion bor­row­ing.

“I’ve never been pa­tient. I have a sense of ur­gency to get work done. And I have a moral com­mit­ment — both to the pub­lic and to my suc­ces­sor — to leave the city bet­ter off and in a stronger po­si­tion than the day I walked in,” the mayor said.

“We’ve al­ways con­fronted chal­lenges re­gard­less of po­lit­i­cal risk . ... I’m a mayor for all eight years, not 7½. ... I’m gonna deal first with the bud­get. I will, be­fore the end of the year, ad­dress the is­sue of pen­sions.”

Un­der re­peated ques­tion­ing, Emanuel re­fused to say whether he would re­visit the $10 bil­lion bor­row­ing, even though the po­ten­tial sav­ings has been di­min­ished by ris­ing in­ter­est rates.

Nor would he say whether there is a vi­able al­ter­na­tive that would min­i­mize the need for an­other pun­ish­ing round of post-elec­tion tax in­creases.

“I’m gonna ad­dress the is­sue of pen­sions, and you’ll just have to wait for that,” he said, play­ing it coy.

Emanuel’s lame-duck sta­tus has em­bold­ened al­der­men who have taken a series of tough votes just to be­gin to solve Chicago’s $28 bil­lion pen­sion cri­sis.

Chicago tax­pay­ers have al­ready en­dured a pa­rade of prop­erty tax in­creases for po­lice, fire and teacher pen­sions, two in­creases in the monthly tax tacked onto tele­phone bills and a 29.5 per­cent sur­charge on wa­ter and sewer bills.

It’s not clear whether Emanuel still has the juice to push the pen­sion bor­row­ing through the City Coun­cil.

Even his own Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer Ca­role Brown ac­knowl­edged this week that, “Your po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal changes when you’re not run­ning for re-elec­tion.”

But dur­ing Fri­day’s in­ter­view, Emanuel bris­tled at the sug­ges­tion that his lame-duck sta­tus has di­min­ished his abil­ity to fin­ish the job he started.

“The first test [af­ter he an­nounced he wasn’t run­ning] was a vote I had on e-cig­a­rettes. And we passed it in 24 hours over­whelm­ingly,” the mayor said.

“I be­lieve this bud­get will pass. We’ve never not passed a bud­get, ob­vi­ously. And never had to strug­gle. In 7½ years, never lost a vote. So I don’t buy that” claim that his po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal has di­min­ished.

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