Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Chicago: Don't Pay the Property Tax Increase! No to Budget Cuts!!

Rahm Emanuel declares war on teachers and the poor
As I discussed in an earlier piece, there was a meeting last week held by the local alderman Deb Mell to discuss Mayor Emanuel's proposed property tax increase and budget cuts. At this meeting, Mell heard from angry residents, working people and students who were obviously opposed to these measures. Mell, a staunch ally of the Mayor, refused to commit to honoring a campaign pledge not to raise property taxes, instead claiming that she was weighing her options before making a decision.

A second meeting was organized by Working Families United, a joint effort of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), later in the week. Working Families United was created ostensibly to provide an "independent political organization" of working people in the 33rd ward (Albany Park) and other neighborhoods in Chicago. In reality, it has run and endorsed candidates who also are members of the Democratic Party.

Albany Park is the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the U.S. Over 35 different languages are spoken at the local high school. It is a rich neighborhood of working people who are from immigrant backgrounds.

The second meeting was comprised mainly of local activists who wanted to have a discussion which explored alternatives to the property tax increase in order to generate revenue for the city. Facts for Working People blogger and Green Party member Sean O'Torain made a case for a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT). The FTT, a small sales tax on high frequency commodities traders at the Chicago Board of Trade would generate between $10-$12 billion. When combined with other taxes, such as one on marijuana, if it were to be legalized, and a suburban commuter tax, the city would not have to resort to draconian austerity measures like threatening to lay off up to 5,000 teachers and imposing the $550 million property tax increase.

While there was some support for this measure among audience members, there was also opposition. One well-known, local school teacher and parent argued that while the FTT was a good idea, direct action in the form of a non-payment campaign organized against the property tax increase, would expose students to a possible confrontation with the police. As a result, they argued to increase efforts to lobby politicians. When the final votes were tallied, the majority of members decided not to support a non-payment campaign.

This is a tremendous mistake and more than likely will result in the property tax increase and austerity measures being implemented. In any case, we don't give up that easily and will continue to look for support for the approach outlined above, particularly among those who feel inspired to confront the 1% and their political representatives. Much appreciation to Sean for not only attending the meeting, but making the argument for the FTT and the non-payment campaign, despite being in a somewhat hostile environment and feeling under the weather.

No comments: