On Monday evening, nearly 100 people turned up at a meeting in Chicago to discuss the proposed property tax increase and budget cuts. At the meeting, local alderman Deb Mell refused to honor a campaign pledge during which she said that she would not increase taxes. Instead, she indicated that she was carefully 'weighing her options' and 'was not afraid to make hard decisions.' This should come as no surprise to local community residents, as Mell has voted with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, 100% of the time.
Community residents, however, were staunchly opposed to the increase. In fact, a quick survey of the room did not indicate any support whatsoever. Students from the local high school, Roosevelt, complained that the loss of teachers meant that they would not be able to take AP (Advanced Placement) classes necessary to get into better colleges. It was also pointed out that the condition of the interior of the school was in bad shape, with the floor needing to be replaced. One teacher expressed frustration with politicians in Chicago who blame their counterparts in the state government in Illinois and vice -versa. The latest round of budget cuts come on top of previous layoffs of teachers over the summer. This time, those teachers affected the most, were teachers of ELL/ESL (English Language Learners and English as a Second Language) students.
Community residents, including those who belong to the Green Party and Working Families United, a joint effort between the CTU (Chicago Teachers Union) and the SEIU (Servce Employees International Union), discussed a number of alternatives to austerity measures and regressive tax increases on working people at the meeting. Sean O'Torain, who also writes for Facts for Working People, mentioned that a Financial Transactions Tax on high frequency traders who trade on the Chicago Board of Trade exchange, would generate between $10-$12 billion per year and eliminate the need for a property tax increase. Others mentioned the possibility of a suburban commuter tax and alternative minimum taxes on real estate developers. And, of course, this does not take into consideration the revenue which could be generated by legalizing marijuana, a measure which has received considerable support in the Illinois State Legislature, but is currently being held up by Governor Rauner, who refuses to pass legislation unless it is accompanied by significant reductions in the standard of living of many working people, especially government employees.
So where do we go from here. If the both the city and state governments refuse to consider alternative means of generating revenue and impose austerity measures, it will be necessary to launch a campaign not to pay the property tax, perhaps around the slogan, "Can't Pay, Won't Pay." Alternatively, we could suggest a recall of Emanuel or Rauner to raise awareness of how the issue will negatively impact working people and provide insights into how to change the situation confronting us.
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