Trust Either Candidate On Chicago Property Taxes?

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© Thinkstock

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Long and bitter experience has taught me that there are two things you never trust politicians to talk truthfully about: their future electoral plans and whether they’re going to raise taxes.

In some ways, I can’t blame them.

Democratic presidential hopeful Walter Mondale once famously declared that, unlike his opponent, he would tell voters the truth before the election. Mondale ended up getting crushed by Ronald Reagan. Closer to home, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dawn Clark Netsch proposed a swap of higher income taxes for lower property taxes. GOP incumbent Jim Edgar ridiculed the idea, routed her at the polls and proposed the very same thing a couple of years later. And all of this was before the tea party came to life.

So what is a Chicago voter to make of the statements from the mayoral candidates as the April 7 election nears?

Like how incumbent Rahm Emanuel will get Springfield to authorize a Chicago casino, pony up a bundle for teacher pensions and maybe widen the state’s sales tax. Or how rival Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is going to tax expensive jewelry, yachts and furs—big money there—and count on performing his own Springfield magic: a graduated income tax hike that Pat Quinn couldn’t pass.

As for a property tax hike? Both hate-hate-hate it. But I think we know better.

First, let’s start with the obvious: No matter how much some folks want to deny it, the city faces staggering financial problems. One rating agency moved the city to just above junk status the other day, a $550 million police and fire pension cliff is nearing, and Chicago bonds are selling at a widening discount.

Emanuel has made strides in the right direction and made some difficult spending decisions. But instead of cutting more or raising taxes even higher, he has played for time. He is using borrowed money at a time of historically low interest rates in hopes of jump-starting the city’s economy and raising revenue.

Has he been perfect? Absolutely not. He hasn’t borrowed as much as predecessor Richard M. Daley, but he has borrowed a ton. Is he better than Garcia? Absolutely yes.

Two reasons: One, Emanuel has proven he’s willing to sit down with public employees unions, take some political heat and cut a pension deal that reduces benefits—an action critical to balancing the books. He already has done deals with two of the city’s four pension funds, potentially setting a pattern for firefighters, cops and teachers. But Garcia has strongly suggested that anyone already on the payroll ought to be held harmless. And the teachers union, his most critical backer, has vehemently opposed any cuts.

Two, unlike Emanuel, Garcia would dig the financial hole deeper. All of those promises he has made—hiring 1,000 new cops, instantly shutting down red-light cameras, reopening mental health clinics, etc.—would cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year that we don’t have.

Ergo, after we see what each man can get out of Gov. Bruce Rauner—Emanuel’s list looks far more likely to me than Garcia’s—we’re back to the one revenue source that is absolutely within the control of the city: the property tax.

I can hear the screaming already. But for those who are upset, I would point you to a recent study by the Civic Federation about how, relative to property values, Chicago homeowners pay a third less than those who live in Evanston, barely half of what they get charged in Schaumburg or Oak Park, and half or less of what homeowners are dinged in Elgin, Aurora, Buffalo Grove and Joliet.

Either Chicago property taxes are going up, at least somewhat, or the city is going down. It’s that simple.

Keep that in mind, voters, as you head to the polls.


It is always best to remember that they hold these elections in April. The first day of the month has been set aside for what they think of the electorate. And this year is special for me.

Chicago's Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

Chicago’s Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

This will be the one where I get to watch as the folks who penned this Manifesto above eat lots and lots of crow. These so-called ‘activists‘ (what the heck is that anyway) will arrive at the polls having been able to fleece the city’s residents of badly needly money for schools that instead went into creating ‘bicycle lanes‘ some to the tune of $0.5M while they watched some 50 schools shuttered.

Now the really galling thing is that these same idiots are arguing with one another over the 50 schools and whether they can trust one candidate or another to rape the neighborhoods again for more money to keep them happy as they blithely pedal along streets where their special lanes are covered with pretty green paint and PVC bollards.

And shame on the citizens of Chicago for not taking this stupidity ‘head on‘. Their schools are not going to be re-opened and the same asses who got the lanes that nobody (who lives on the West or South Side) uses on their way to the jobs they don’t have (excepting the special few from Hyde Park and Oak Park).

There will be both a property tax increase and some sort of income tax increase along with it to pay for all this ‘must have‘ stuff that no one is using. Riding through Hyde Park right now along 55th Street is pretty sad. In most places the green paint has long since peeled. And believe it or not some good soul managed to plow up the stupid hardly eco-friendly PVC bollards.

In fact in many areas of the city that I personally ride the evidence of these crappy pieces of road furniture are gone or going. Good riddance!

And the knuckleheads who continue to attend the MBAC will of course still be blathering about this or that plan that they object to. But frankly folks, it won’t make much difference. You are going to pay more for everything going forward. And your mass transit fares are going to creep up faster.

And sooner or later someone is going to ‘grow a pair‘ and force you into transportation compliance by assuring that you are licensed and in compliance with laws that govern all the rest of us.

Now that announcement is a photo-op I would gladly attend.