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2nd Ward Alderman Talks About His Budget “No” Vote

It has been more than two weeks since the City Council approved Mayor Richard M. Daley’s $6.1 billion budget, but the questions about Chicago’s fiscal future will only get tougher, according to Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd).

From the Skyway to the controversial parking meter lease, the city has sold assests while looking for other possible revenue streams — even the city’s public water system. Fioretti worries these may be signs of a larger issue within the city.

“What rabbit will they pull out of the hat next?” he wondered. “Is there even anything left in the hat?”

Earlier this month, Fioretti joined Ald. Thomas Tunney (44th) and Ald. Thomas Allen (38th) and voted against the 2010 budget in a 38-12 vote — one of the largest “no” votes of the Daley administration.

Mayor Daley challenged the aldermen to come up with alternatives to fill the $525 million budget gap. However, Fioretti said the offer was largely political.

“I don’t think [the Mayor] was listening. We still had a month to finalize the budget; he could have looked at our ideas,” Fioretti said.

Those ideas included borrowing less, suspending the city’s $35 million property tax assistance fund “if only for a year,” cutting waste and inefficiency, plus dipping into the city’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund that is used for business development.

Fioretti also voted against the budget his first year in office in 2007, saying his constituents couldn’t afford the proposed tax hikes.

Now with the 2010 budget, although it has no new taxes or fines, he said he voted “no” because the budget “relies too heavily on borrowing with no detailed plan on how to pay any of it back.”

Fioretti said he was concerned because the city had already exhausted most of the $1 billion parking meter lease in the first year of the 75-year deal.

“This budget was a stopgap measure,” Fioretti explained. “I was surprised when I saw unemployment went down; they must have missed some numbers because we have people coming in here looking for jobs all the time.”

“Our ward represents the City of Chicago, we’re so diverse in everything we do,” he said of the roughly 80,000 residents that live in the bustling South Loop corridor — businessmen, students and families.

“We see the problems, and we try and stay ahead. If you can stay ahead and anticipate, you can be ahead of the game.”

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