Logan Square Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa told an audience at The Hideout Tuesday that he could not support Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s budget. He called its taxes on regular Chicagoans “business as usual.”
Ramirez-Rosa, alderman for the 35th Ward, spoke at this month’s “First Tuesdays with Mick and Ben,” a monthly political talk show. Ramirez-Rosa joined 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore, who argued in favor of the mayor’s budget.
Taxes Burden Working Class
An engaged and vocal crowd cheered Ramirez-Rosa’s description of the budget as “nickel-and-diming” working-class Chicagoans.
“For years, we’ve asked working-class Chicagoans to pay more and corporations to pay less,” he said. Working Chicago families’ taxes rose by an average of $1,700 under Emanuel, the alderman noted.
The guests and hosts spoke on The Hideout’s (1354 W. Wabansia Ave.) bulb-lit stage, in front of a Chicago flag. The beer pints sloshing in various audience members’ hands helped keep the event less formal than your typical political gathering. Ben Joravsky, of Chicago Reader and WCPT, and Mick Dumke, formerly of the Reader and now with ProPublica, host the recurring event, usually with two political guests.
The budget’s taxes, Ramirez-Rosa said, will burden regular, working-class Chicagoans. He cited measures like a 28-percent increase to the 911 phone tax and a 51-cent increase on the ride-share tax. Meanwhile, big businesses get corporate welfare, he said.
Moore said the budget eliminates structural deficits, in which the city spent more than it took in. “This budget here is a lot more honest,” he said. “It’s got a lot more money for schools.” He added that the ride-share tax would bring in badly needed money for public transportation.
The Logan Square alderman said he’d like to see the budget enact proposals from the 11-member progressive caucus. Those ideas include a “corporate head tax” that would charge large businesses a fee per every employee, a commercial leasing fee on corporations renting space in downtown Chicago and a municipal bank.
Moore, an alderman in Rogers Park, acknowledged that Ramirez-Rosa had stirred the crowd. But city officials need to be practical, he said.
“There’s engaging in lofty rhetoric … and then there’s what we have to do as responsible elected officials and deal with things as they are now,” he said.
The head tax, Moore said, would harm businesses like the Heartland Cafe in his ward. The Rogers Park institution would meet the 50-employee threshold Ramirez-Rosa proposed for the tax and owe about $6,600 in extra tax, Moore said.
“I know they’ve struggled in the past, and I don’t know if that’s enough to put them under or not,” he said. “But it sure is a heck of a burden to put on a … small business.”
The leasing fee and public bank, Moore said, sound great. But Chicago does not have the authority to implement those measures.
Host Joravsky told Moore that “We will never get anywhere if we just dismiss all these ideas out of hand.” Joravsky also asked Moore, in a (mostly) good-natured barb, to be quiet for one minute so the host could talk.
Amazon in Chicago?
The event also touched on the city’s proposed $2.25 billion incentive package meant to lure Amazon.com Inc. to the Windy City. Moore said the city needed to make the offer to have a shot at the 50,000 jobs Amazon promises.
Ramirez-Rosa argued that such corporate welfare rarely works as advertised.
“Major studies have shown that they do not deliver the jobs they promise,” he said.
Even if those 50,000 jobs did materialize, Ramirez-Rosa said, they wouldn’t go to struggling, working-class Chicagoans. The city could head down the same path of hyper-gentrification as Seattle and Silicon Valley, he warned.
“First Tuesdays with Mick and Ben” will take December off and return Jan. 2, 2018. It starts at 6:30 p.m., goes for about an hour, and then opens up to angry questions from the audience.