Have you ever gone to a party or event and enjoyed yourself so much that later on, when talking to others about the same event, you are shocked to learn that so much other stuff occurred at the same time? Stuff you weren't even aware of? For example, I was reminiscing about a previous family reunion with my cousin when he told me of some things that occurred during the party.
I was shocked that I had been completely unaware of some of the drama others had pulled while I sat in a corner enjoying myself with other relatives, completely oblivious to our surroundings. I feel that this is the same thing that happened Tuesday with many of us in Chicago. There is so much euphoria over President Barack Obama's inauguration that we are blinded to some of the things our local politicians have been up to-like with our mayor and his city council. They recently voted to make us, the taxpayers, liable for the 2016 Olympic bid and all the costs associated with it.
Those costs will include added police protection, streets and sanitation maintenance, and who knows what other services. This is the same city that just told you it didn't have enough money to plow snowy side streets until someone whispered in the mayor's ear and reminded him that former mayor Michael Bilandic lost a re-election bid because of snow. So, after promising that his desire wouldn't affect the average taxpayer's pocketbook, our current mayor and his aldermen have now placed us on the hook for the cost of his Olympic dream. Costs from overruns that will surely come from the 2016 Olympics the majority of us never told him we wanted in the first place.
Over the past decade, the mayor has privatized everything he could, claiming it would save the taxpayers money. The schools lost cafeteria workers as food handling was outsourced to his suburban buddies. Still, the budget increased. The mayor has leased the Skyway, all the city's parking garages, destroyed Meigs Field and leased Midway airport. Most recently, he's leased the city's parking meters and still the budget has a shortfall.
But as the mayor has deemed his legacy incomplete without an Olympic event, amazingly, there is money to be found for it. Money hidden away in TIF (tax increment financing) funds that can legally be transferred from one city parcel to the next if they are linked. Most of those links are done by drawing a "TIF" line down the middle of the street. So TIF monies paid in Austin are transferred to TIF districts downtown.
One bit of good news is something that didn't happen. In a desperate move to find any new source of revenue that he could tax, the mayor lost his bid to levy your satellite dishes. Apparently, the federal government is not too keen on allowing cities to tax broadcast satellite services. Yeah! But had he been successful, you would have received a new tax bill owed to the city for 9 percent of your satellite cable bill. This is one of the few times your mayor failed to dig deeper into your pockets to take your last dime, and maybe even some of the lint coating in it as well.
Even our beloved county board finds itself in the news. Those commissioners just last year voted to make our sales taxes the highest in the country. Meanwhile, they make $85,000 a year in salary for a job that's more part time than that of an alderman. And they have a sweet little perk-an additional $1200 a month to cover out-of-pocket expenses.
But guess what? They barely document what they use that money for, but when given the chance recently to show some frugality with our tax dollars, they avoided that responsibility by failing to pass a county board motion to abolish the perk. Ain't they sweet? Should we be sensitive to how we are taxed? Hell yeah we should. I recently bought one single hex nut at Home Depot to replace a missing bolt on my snow-blower. The hexnut cost six cents. Then the register added a penny for sales tax.
Yes, the Barack Obama inauguration party is fun and we enjoyed ourselves. But don't party so hard that you're not paying attention to the separate parties our mayor and country board commissioners are having. They are all up for reelection soon-the county board in 2010 and the mayor and aldermen the following year. Let us take Barack Obama's message of change and apply it to them.
Then we'll have the last laugh at the party.
BILLION DOLLAR WINNER - THE NOVEL
7 years ago