God bless Ben Joravsky.
All summer long, in press conferences and at public hearings, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s budget refrain remained the same: no more accounting gimmicks and no new taxes.
“We have been doing smoke and mirrors on the budget and avoided taking control of our own future as a city,” he said at a public budget hearing in Englewood in August. “That moment of reckoning is here.”
But the mayor who vowed to bring honesty to the budgeting process continues to rely on one of the oldest tricks of them all: the water/sewer fund sleight of hand.
That’s the one where the mayor says he’s jacking up your water and sewer bill to pay for infrastructure and environmental protection—but then diverts millions of dollars a year to finance other city operations that have little direct connection to water, sewers, or protecting the lake.
In this case, Emanuel is proposing to double water and sewer fees over the next decade, an eventual increase of about $500 a year for the average household. Yet how much of that money will actually make it to the water and sewer system is hard to determine, since, despite Emanuel’s promises of transparency, his first budget obscures what’s being diverted.
A conservative estimate is that the mayor’s 2012 budget will siphon off at least $70 million in water and sewer fees to cover other city spending, according to our analysis of budget documents and interviews with current and former city officials.
via Chicago Reader.
Another amazing piece from the Reader. A must read.