Rahm Emanuel

Chicago Property Taxes Hiked As School Budget Passed

There are so many new and increased fees, fines, and taxes being proposed and implemented around the Chicagoland area these days, it’s hard to keep track of all of them. But here’s one Chicago tax hike that’s just been approved that’s making local headlines. Juan Perez, Jr., reported on the Chicago Tribune website last night:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school board on Wednesday unanimously approved a budget that relies heavily on borrowed money and the hope of a nearly $500 million bailout from a stalemated Springfield, with the specter of disruptive cuts in January if that help fails to materialize.

The $5.7 billion spending plan contains another property tax hike — an estimated $19-a-year increase for the owner of a $250,000 home — as well as teacher and staff layoffs. The Chicago Board of Education also prepared to go to Wall Street to issue $1 billion in bonds and agreed to spend $475,000 so an accounting firm can monitor a cash flow problem so acute that Chicago Public Schools mulled skipping a massive teacher pension payment at the end of June…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

My old neighbors on the city’s Northwest Side, in their single family homes that are selling just south of the $350K-mark on average these days, probably aren’t too thrilled to hear about this latest tax hike.

Oh, but it gets “better.” Perez added:

To help patch over a budget gap the district said exceeds $1.1 billion, CPS raised its property taxes to the maximum amount allowed under state law. But CPS may not be done — [Chicago Public Schools chief Forrest] Claypool has floated the idea of restoring a property tax levy dedicated to teacher pensions that would generate an estimated $170 million

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Keep in mind this is just the school’s portion of the Chicago property owner’s tax bill we’re talking about here.

Once again, a couple of bucks here, a couple of bucks there, and all these new and increased fees, fines, and taxes from various levels of government will have Chicago taxpayers going bonkers soon enough.

And Illinois taxpayers- note that bit about:

The hope of a nearly $500 million bailout from a stalemated Springfield…

You too could be on the hook for this debacle.

Head on over to the Chicago Tribune website here to get the full story on this latest tax hike.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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My Thoughts On Chicago’s Financial Crisis

I know I’ve been blogging a lot about Chicago/Cook County/Illinois lately. Which should come as no surprise to regular Survival And Prosperity readers considering I’ve talked about how I was born on the West Side, was raised around that area, and lived on the Northwest Side until I moved to the northwest suburbs two years ago.

Both the Chicagoland area and Illinois have been on my mind a lot recently. I fear we’re on the verge of some major upheaval stemming from decades of fiscal mismanagement by policymakers from both sides of the political aisle (some might think this blog only targets Democrats- over the years I’ve demonstrated everyone’s “fair game”). And by verge, I mean in the coming weeks. Focusing on Chicago today, what might kick it off (regular observers have witnessed the crisis growing for some time now)? I suspect the following. From the Chicago Tribune website back on July 31:

At a news conference this week, the mayor would not rule out a politically unpopular property tax hike, saying he’ll wait to show his hand until September, when he rolls out “a full budget with all parts in there.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

A good portion of the coming pain is going to be felt by the Chicago taxpayer. What kind of “pain” am I talking about? That which I’ve been blogging about for a couple of years now- new/higher fees, fines, and taxes, coupled with reduced government services. Last night’s post about potential revenue generators Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council are mulling over (hat tip Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times) should give Chicagoans a better picture of what’s headed their way (a property tax hike and garbage collection fee look likely). Concerning cutbacks in government services, I think that’s already begun. For example, the manpower shortage in the Chicago Police Department (hat tip Second City Cop) that’s existed for some years now. Down the road, I predict the average Chicago taxpayer will find it increasingly difficult to afford living in the city, let alone doing it safely as local government struggles to provide effective, efficient services to constituents.

Now, it’s bad enough Chicago/Cook County/Illinois are in real financial trouble. But then there’s the legitimate concern of a slowing economy/recession being right around the corner, never mind that coming financial crash I started blogging about back on Memorial Day Weekend 2007.

So what’s a Chicago taxpayer to do? This former Chicago resident picked up and left the city limits in 2013. Concerned about future tax and public safety liabilities, my girlfriend and I reluctantly departed our “suburb in the city” and moved into a house in a not-too-far away authentic suburb. Granted, we’ll still be on the hook for county and state problems, but it’s what makes sense for us in the short-term.

As much as I blast Chicago on Survival And Prosperity (“tough love”), I’m not convinced the city’s going to go “belly-up.” I think there’s a good chance it could be run by something similar to the Emergency Financial Control Board in New York City from 1975 until 1986 (talked about here back in April), but even a setback like that won’t be the end of the “City By The Lake,” just like it wasn’t for the “Big Apple.” I do predict city life is going to get real hairy once the “balloon goes up,” but I think that will be the case in a lot of urban areas nationwide.

That’s my two cents on Chicago’s financial crisis- for now. Chicago readers of this blog- what are you planning to do about the crisis? Or, what are you already doing? Maybe you don’t think a crisis exists? Please share your thoughts or experiences in the “Comments” section of this post, as I’d really like to talk more about this going forward.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein)

Source:

Dardick, Hal. “Emanuel needs $754M more to make ends meet.” Chicago Tribune. 31 July 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-rahm-emanuel-chicago-budget-shortfall-met-0801-20150731-story.html). 21 Aug. 2015.

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Chicago Requires $754 Million In New Revenue, Cuts To Balance Books

For a couple of years now, regular readers of Survival And Prosperity have witnessed me blog about higher fees/fines/taxes and reduced government services as Chicago’s financial reckoning day draws closer.

I fear the pace of all this is about to pick up.

Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website late Friday afternoon:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel must come up with at least $754 million in new revenue and budget cuts to balance the city’s books, according to preliminary 2016 budget estimates the administration released Friday.

A little less than half — $328 million — would cover increased payments to the police and fire pension funds that Emanuel and aldermen did not account for in this year’s budget. That number could be even higher if the mayor doesn’t get the pension relief he’s seeking from Springfield.

In addition, City Hall must figure out how to close a projected $426 million hole in next year’s budget, an annual financial analysis showed. The shortfall comes as Emanuel has been borrowing at high interest rates to keep the city afloat.

Unlike previous years, Emanuel is not taking a property tax increase off the table. At a news conference this week, the mayor would not rule out a politically unpopular property tax hike, saying he’ll wait to show his hand until September, when he rolls out “a full budget with all parts in there.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Chicago property owners are probably hoping for an endless summer- considering what could be in store for them next month.

A significant property tax hike in and of itself might not be enough to make Chicagoans think about moving out of the city. However, sustained pressure on household finances from all applicable fees, fines, and taxes could do it, particularly if government services (public safety comes to mind here) steadily erode.

You can read the entire piece on the Tribune website here (registration required).

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Judge Rules Chicago’s Pension Reform Legislation Unconstitutional

Here’s the latest on Chicago’s public pension crisis. Hal Dardick and Rick Pearson reported on the Chicago Tribune website last night:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration said it will appeal a Cook County judge’s decision Friday that ruled unconstitutional a state law reducing municipal worker pension benefits in exchange for a city guarantee to fix their underfunded retirement systems.

The 35-page ruling by Judge Rita Novak, slapping down the city’s arguments point by point, could have wide-ranging effects if upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court. Her decision appeared to also discredit efforts at the state and Cook County levels to try to curb pension benefits to rein in growing costs that threaten funding for government services.

The issue of underfunded pensions, and how to restore their financial health, is crucial for the city and its taxpayers. The city workers and laborers funds at issue in Friday’s ruling are more than $8 billion short of what’s needed to meet obligations — and are at risk of going broke within 13 years — after many years of low investment returns fueled by recession and inadequate funding.

Without reducing benefits paid to retired workers, or requiring current workers to pay more, taxpayers could eventually be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars more in annual payments to those city funds — before the even worse-funded police and fire retirement accounts are factored into the taxing equation

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Chicagoans- let that last line from Dardick and Pearson sink in real good:

“Taxpayers could eventually be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars more in annual payments to those city funds — before the even worse-funded police and fire retirement accounts are factored into the taxing equation…”

And the City’s response to the ruling? Mayor Emanuel’s Press Office countered Friday:

Statement of City of Chicago Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton on SB1922

“While we are disappointed by the trial court’s ruling, we have always recognized that this matter will ultimately be resolved by the Illinois Supreme Court. We now look forward to having our arguments heard there. We continue to strongly believe that the City’s pension reform legislation, unlike the State legislation held unconstitutional this past spring, does not diminish or impair pension benefits, but rather preserves and protects them. This law not only rescues the municipal and laborer pension funds from certain insolvency, but ensures that, over time, they will be fully funded and the 61,000 affected City workers and retirees will receive the pensions they were promised.”

As to the City of Chicago’s credit rating possibly getting whacked after the decision? Timothy W. Martin reported on The Wall Street Journal website Friday afternoon:

Moody’s said Friday’s ruling had no effect on Chicago’s bond grade. But rival Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, which currently has an investment-grade rating for the city, said that “regardless of the ultimate outcome” of Mr. Emanuel’s pension law, it “will likely lower” its Chicago rating in the next six months, unless city leaders chart out a solution to address its pension problems.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Like I’ve been saying for a couple years now, that proverbial brick wall keeps approaching for Chicago.

Since City Hall can’t get its affairs in order, Chicagoans might want to look at straightening out theirs if they intend to stick around for the long haul.

Sources:

Dardick, Hal and Pearson, Rick. “Judge finds city’s changes to pension funds unconstitutional.” Chicago Tribune. 24 July 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-chicago-pension-ruling-met-20150724-story.html). 25 July 2015.

Martin, Timothy W. “Chicago’s Pension Overhaul Plan Tossed Out by Judge.” The Wall Street Journal. 24 July 2015. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/judge-rules-2014-law-to-reduce-chicago-pension-shortfall-unconstitutional-1437754525). 25 July 2015.

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Crain’s Chicago Business: City’s Rising Fees, Fines, And Taxes Look To Continue

Chicago readers of Survival And Prosperity might want to read two articles that recently appeared on the Crain’s Chicago Business website concerning rising fees, fines, and taxes in the city. In a piece entitled “Chicago’s expanding appetite for new taxes,” Thomas A. Corfman wrote Saturday:

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel has held the line on property taxes, revenue from other local taxes has climbed nearly 20 percent since he took office.

A strengthening economy explains much of the surge. But Emanuel has fueled the growth by raising taxes on things such as cable TV and parking…

Keep in mind that “line on property taxes” may soon be breached. Significantly. Corfman added:

While property tax revenue has fluctuated slightly since 2011 after accounting for new construction, that’s likely to end soon. The badly undercapitalized police and firefighter pension funds are supposed to receive a state-mandated $550 million payment next year. Property taxes will likely account for the bulk of the increase, says Ald. Roderick Sawyer of the South Side’s 6th Ward

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

This comes on the heels of another Corfman article entitled, “How much could Chicago pension payments jack up your property bill? Try 30%”. He wrote on July 4:

Even as Mayor Rahm Emanuel warns about a property tax hike of up to $250 million for the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools, another big wave of increases likely is coming to rescue the pensions of police officers and firefighters.

A massive payment due to those retirement plans next year could drive up Chicago property taxes by more than 30 percent, according to a Crain’s analysis. And if the current logjam in Springfield continues, it could be a lot worse

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

As I wouldn’t steal Crain’s thunder, you can read Corfman’s July 18 article here and his July 4 piece here.

And as always, my intention is not to scare Chicago residents/businesses by blogging about such material. Rather, as a former Chicagoan this is something I feel my former neighbors should be made aware of, especially if they plan on staying in the “Windy City.”

Got to figure out some way to keep ahead of those rising fees, fines, and taxes and eroding public services.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Chicago Tribune: ‘Chicagoans Should Consider A Modest Property Tax Increase Inevitable’

Coming on the heels of last Thursday’s post and an earlier one about Chicago-area property/other taxes was an article by Chicago Tribune business columnist Melissa Harris entitled “Chicago isn’t Detroit- and it’s not going bankrupt.”

In the June 20 piece, Harris attempted to argue exactly what the title says (critics are panning it as “Machine”/union propaganda). But what interested me were statements like this:

More revenue will be required soon, most likely in the form of a property tax increase.

Not only is Chicago’s property tax rate lower than those in many suburbs, Chicago’s effective property tax rate ranked 49th out of the 50 largest cities in each state, according to 2009 U.S. Census data…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

And this:

Chicagoans should consider a modest property tax increase inevitable, though how much of an increase it will be could be affected by Moody’s decision, which made it more expensive for Chicago to borrow money…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

If one believes claims the Chicago news media routinely carries Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s water, increased tax hike chatter and growing comparisons of the city to other municipalities by the local press could be sending a strong signal to Chicagoans that they’ll be required to bust out their wallets shortly.

You can read the rest of that column on the Chicago Tribune website here (registration required)

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Property Tax Blues For Chicago, North Suburban Homeowners

While Chicagoland was preoccupied with the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup victory parade Thursday, the Cook County Clerk’s office released the following:

Cook County Clerk David Orr released the 2014 property tax rates for the county’s more than 1,400 taxing agencies on Thursday, the final step in the tax process before bills are mailed out. The average homeowner in the city of Chicago and the northern suburbs will see their tax bill increase slightly, while the average homeowner in the southern suburbs will see a slight reduction in their tax bill.

In the south suburbs residential tax bills will on average be 1.0 percent lower. In north suburbs there will be an average increase of 2.4 percent, and most Chicago homeowners can expect an increase in their bill of 2.8 percent.

For the average single family home, this will translate to a decrease of $51.33 for south suburban homeowners, an increase of $155.49 for north suburban homeowners, and a property tax bill that is $89.44 higher than last year’s for Chicago homeowners…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

By the way, that $89 plus change property tax increase is based on an “average home with market value of $199,000″ in Chicago. Good luck finding a decent-sized family home that cheap in my old neighborhood on the northwest side of the city.

That being said, even a low three figure dollar increase in property taxes would likely be welcomed around my old stomping grounds compared to what could be coming down the line. John Byrne reported on the Chicago Tribune website this afternoon:

The threat of much steeper property tax hikes looms in Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to find enough money to make police and fire pension payments set to balloon next year, and CPS faces a $1 billion budget hole driven by pension shortfalls of its own…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You can read the entire press release on the Cook County Clerk’s website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Byrne, John. “Chicago property taxes to rise $90 on average.” Chicago Tribune. 18 June 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-cook-county-property-tax-rates-met-0619-20150618-story.html). 18 June 2015.

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Thursday, June 18th, 2015 Education, Entitlements, Government, Housing, Taxes No Comments

Chicago, The Taxman Cometh

“Amid comparisons to ‘shuffling the deck chairs’ on the Titanic, the City Council’s Finance Committee agreed Monday to add another $1.1 billion to the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers…”

Chicago Sun-Times website, June 15, 2015

While Chicagoans celebrate the Stanley Cup, City Hall is mulling over which taxes of theirs to hike. Derrick Blakley reported on the CBS 2 (Chicago) website before the weekend:

With a huge budget deficit ahead, Chicago city government is desperately searching for new income.

Now, Mayor Rahm Emanuel may be seriously considering an income tax

Emanuel isn’t specifically talking income tax yet. But one of his strongest city council allies, 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore, is speaking up.

“In my ideal scenario, it would be a graduated income tax that would be pegged at peoples’ ability to pay,” he says.
Some of the biggest U.S. cities already tax wages, including New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, San Francisco and Denver.

The tax that would also strike suburbanites who work in the city, Moore says.

The concept drew support Thursday from other mayoral allies who want to avoid a property tax hike…

Last year, the mayor rejected a city income tax. Not Thursday…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board also picked up on Mayor Emanuel’s silence on the city income tax issue, writing Friday on the paper’s web site:

In a major break from the past, Mayor Rahm Emanuel did not immediately shoot it down…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The Board added:

Might a Chicago income tax have bad, unintended consequences? Of course. And we’re by no means endorsing the idea here. But so might all the other taxes Chicago needs to consider: a commuter tax, a modest financial transaction, the broadening of the sale tax to cover more services, closing some tax-increment financing districts, congestion pricing and a pay-as-you-go garbage fee, to name some of the biggies.

Each revenue-generator should be vetted and priced out publicly, and the results should be explained far and wide so that the City Council and every Chicagoan come to accept two realities. One is the sheer size of Chicago’s financial crisis. The second is that no single solution will cut it. The pain has to be spread as widely as possible. The question then becomes: Which ingredients, in what proportions, make for the best stew — or at least the one that goes down easiest?

We have long said that raising property taxes — the city’s most stable revenue source, and one of the few it controls directly — is inevitable. But if property taxes are raised too much, both for Chicago and the school system, the city we know and love will cease to exist. An already dwindling middle class will flee.

A property tax hike should only be part of that bigger stew…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Testing the waters? Conditioning Chicagoans for inevitable tax hikes?

All I know is this. Higher fees/fines/taxes. Reduced government benefits/services. That’s what I see coming down the pipeline for not only Chicago but the rest of the nation in due time.

Prepare accordingly.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Blakley, Derrick. “Chicago Eyes A City Income Tax On Residents, Suburbanites Who Work Here” CBS 2. 11 June 2015. (http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2015/06/11/chicago-eyes-a-city-income-tax-on-residents-suburbanites-who-work-here/). 16 June 2015.

Editorial Board. “Editorial: Mixing up a stew of Chicago revenue solutions.” Chicago Sun-Times. 12 June 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/opinion/7/71/685251/editorial-16). 16 June 2015.

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Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 Debt Crisis, Fiscal Policy, Government, Taxes No Comments

Chicago Warned By Moody’s About Pension Liabilities

In early April, Standard & Poor’s warned the City of Chicago:

If the city doesn’t find structural solutions, a downgrade of more than one notch is possible.

In our view, if the city fails to articulate and implement a plan by the end of 2015 to sustainably fund its pension contributions, or if it substantially draws down its reserves to fund the contributions, we will likely lower the rating.

Now Moody’s has fired a shot across the city’s bow in 2015. From their Global Credit Research unit on Friday:

Chicago’s (Baa2 negative) pension plans face an uncertain future. Statutes that govern the city’s pension funding requirements have come under legal and political fire, particularly during the last year, as pensioners, politicians, taxpayers and investors have questioned the laws’ constitutionality and affordability, Moody’s Investors Service says in a new report.

Regardless of the ultimate answers, one outcome is certain: Chicago’s unfunded pension liabilities and ongoing pension costs will grow significantly, forcing city officials to make difficult decisions for years to come.

If current laws stand, Chicago’s annual pension contributions are projected to increase by 135% in 2016; by an average annual rate of 8% in 2017-21; and by an average annual rate of 3% in 2022-26.

The 2016 increase alone equals a significant 15% of the city’s 2013 operating revenue, Moody’s says in “Chicago’s Pension Forecast — Tough Choices Now or Tougher Choices Later.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Touch Choices Now or Tougher Choices Later.” That pretty much sums up the situation not only in the “Windy City,” but in the state of Illinois as well.

Blame Emanuel? Blame Rauner? Whatever. As is if these guys have been around long enough to help put Chicagoans and Illinoisans in their respective financial messes.

You can read the rest of the Moody’s news release on their website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Standard & Poor’s Warns Chicago ‘Downgrade Of More Than One Notch Is Possible’

Not too much talk about the following last week in the Chicago-area news. From Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Helen Samuelson over on S&P’s Global Credit Portal website on April 9:

CHICAGO (Standard & Poor’s) April 9, 2015–After months of campaigning and uncertainty, Chicago (A+/Negative general obligation debt rating) can get back to the business of running itself. As such, we expect Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attention to be focused on the city’s budget challenges, namely its ballooning pension obligation.

During the course of the election — and particularly during the runoff — Mayor Emanuel avoided addressing the possibility of property tax increases to help pay for these pension obligations.

“Following Tuesday’s vote, in order to maintain its current rating, we expect the administration to address the pension and budget challenges head on by providing solutions that will support the city’s credit strengths in the near and far term,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Helen Samuelson.

Our ‘A+’ rating is predicated on Chicago’s ability to make the changes necessary to address its budget gap and pension problem. However, even with this ability, to ensure long-term stability Chicago still needs to demonstrate its willingness to make difficult choices that address its budget issues.

Otherwise, the ‘A+’ rating could be severely pressured. Our negative rating outlook reflects the city’s fiscal pressures. If the city doesn’t find structural solutions, a downgrade of more than one notch is possible.

In our view, if the city fails to articulate and implement a plan by the end of 2015 to sustainably fund its pension contributions, or if it substantially draws down its reserves to fund the contributions, we will likely lower the rating. This is regardless of whatever relief the state legislature may or may not provide. We will likely affirm the rating and revise the outlook to stable if Chicago is able to successfully absorb its higher pension costs while maintaining balanced budgetary performance and reserves at or near their current level…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

To date, a different credit rating agency- Moody’s- has been making the most noise about the City of Chicago’s financial woes. Yvette Shields reported on The Bond Buyer website on April 6:

The city has suffered a steep credit rating slide and further credit deterioration is threatened.

Chicago’s GO ratings range from a low of Baa2 — two notches above speculative grade — from Moody’s to a high of A-plus from Standard & Poor’s…

“A-plus.” That may not be the case at year end.

You can read that entire Standard & Poor’s piece on the Global Credit Portal here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Shields, Yvette. “Big Stakes as Market Awaits Chicago’s Mayoral Pick.” The Bond Buyer. 6 Apr. 2015. (http://www.bondbuyer.com/news/regionalnews/big-stakes-as-market-awaits-chicagos-mayoral-pick-1071986-1.html). 16 Apr. 2015.

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Thursday, April 16th, 2015 Credit, Debt Crisis, Entitlements, Government, Taxes No Comments

Chicago To Be Run By Emergency Financial Control Board Within 2 Years?

Last Wednesday, I reminded Survival And Prosperity readers (local ones in particular) that Chicago- upon reelecting Rahm Emanuel as Mayor- remains in serious financial trouble. From that post:

As Rahm Emanuel enters his second term as Mayor of Chicago, I feel that proverbial brick wall is still fast-approaching.

Perhaps the best Chicagoans can hope for at this point is a controlled crash landing.

I know one thing. If I were still living in the city, I’d be preparing for the coming carnage…

Some readers might feel I was being a little too “sensational” with that statement. Therefore, I’d like to offer up the following for your consideration. Reuters’ Megan Davies and Karen Pierog reported on April 8:

Chicago has not seen the population losses Detroit did and its business and commercial real estate markets remain healthy, but its current circumstances are more dire than any other major American city today, with aggregate debt of $21.4 billion, up 60 percent since 2004.

Although Chicago’s situation isn’t bad enough yet to warrant a bankruptcy filing, that threat is out there if it fails to tackle its problems.

“People say Chicago’s not Detroit,” said Tom Metzold, a senior portfolio advisor at investment manager Eaton Vance. “Not right now. Chicago is Detroit ten years from now. I don’t care how economically strong your economy is. They don’t have a printing press. You can only tax so much.”

Metzold estimated the odds of a Chapter 9 bankruptcy in the next five years are “virtually zero” but said in the next 10 years that could rise to 25 percent if it fails to act

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

In case readers are wondering, Metzold’s s “Street cred” includes serving as VP and Co-Director of Municipal Investments at Eaton Vance (one of the oldest investment management firms in the U.S.- established 1924), and as its Portfolio Manager since 1991.

Not as “optimistic” about Chicago’s financial future is Joe Mysak, Editor of Bloomberg Brief. He warned in an April 8 commentary:

I’m not a betting man. If I were, I’d bet that Chicago is going to be run by an Emergency Financial Control Board, or something like it, within two years, the same as New York City back in 1975 (and until 1986)…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Mysak, who’s been covering the municipal bond market since 1981, pointed out the city’s abysmal Moody’s credit rating (“one step from the basement of investment grade”) and wrote:

So a cut to junk may well be in the cards, and with it diminished and eventually lack of access to capital. Chicago has already creatively used, and some would say abused, the municipal market to subsidize city operations…

When the banks no longer want to lend to Chicago is presumably when the state of Illinois would come in, offering cash, loan guarantees, intercession with the federal government and whatever else the city needs in exchange for external management via an Emergency Financial Control Board…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The author of the Encyclopedia of Municipal Bonds signed-off with:

Two years. That’s how long I give the city of Chicago. Good luck, Rahm.

Good luck Chicago…

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Davies, Megan and Pierog, Karen. “Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel confronts fiscal nightmare as he begins second term.” Reuters. 8 Apr. 2015. (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/04/chicago-mayor-rahm-emanuel-confronts-fiscal-nightmare-as-he-begins-second-term/). 12 Apr. 2015.

Mysak, Joe. “Next Stop for Chicago: Emergency Financial Control Board.” Bloomberg Brief. 8 Apr. 2015. (http://newsletters.briefs.bloomberg.com/document/3fz176niqylzjr6oax/commentary). 12 Apr. 2015.

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Afterthoughts: Chicago’s 2015 Mayoral Election

In case you hadn’t heard, Rahm Emanuel remains Mayor of Chicago after defeating Jesús “Chuy” García yesterday in a run-off election 55.7 percent to 44.3 percent with 98.7% of precincts reporting.

Here are some of my thoughts regarding the 2015 mayoral election in Chicago:

1. The fact that “Chuy,” a Cook County commissioner who was born in Durango, Mexico, forced Mayor Emanuel into a first-ever run-off election for the position signaled two things. One, a number of Chicago voters aren’t too happy with the way the “Rahmfather” is running the city. And two, Chicago’s Hispanics continue to flex their growing political muscle. Natasha Korecki reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website back on March 15:

According to census data from 2010, Hispanics make up just shy of 29 percent of the city’s population- but they account for only 13 to 15 percent of the electorate. (Garcia’s campaign says that number was at about 16 percent on Feb. 24.)

Should trends hold, I envision Latinos making significant gains with that percentage. Korecki added:

“The Hispanic population is the fastest-growing segment of the early-childhood population,” says Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, an Emanuel supporter. “Latinos make up 47 percent of students in CPS,. It’s a very significant population…

Last December, the U.S. Census Bureau forecasted that Hispanics will comprise 25 percent of the U.S. population within the next 30 years- up from approximately 17 percent right now.

At risk of sounding like “Captain Obvious” here, I’m thinking Chicago’s future will be a much more Latino one. Particularly as city government is concerned.

(Editor’s note: Back in the fall of 1988 I told my high school Spanish teacher I wanted to learn the language because I thought it would “come in handy” someday. Has it ever.)

2. After being forced into a run-off, the Rahm camp realized he’s rubbed a number of Chicagoans the wrong way. Which led to commercials like this:


“New Rahm Emanuel Ad: ‘I Can Rub People The Wrong Way’”
YouTube Video

So now that he’s won the run-off, what’s Mayor Emanuel “tune” now? Rick Pearson and Bill Ruthhart reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

After finishing a salad and bowl of matzo ball soup, Emanuel was asked what he learned from the runoff and whether he would, in fact, be a more inclusive mayor in his second term.

Emanuel responded by confidently saying the feedback he’d gotten from voters during the campaign would serve as his “North Star.” Asked by the Tribune if that meant he would take a different approach to running the city, Emanuel instead deflected the question by telling the reporter: “You’ll evaluate that, and my guess is you’ll tell me on a 24-hour basis.”

Pressed again on whether he had heard the voters and would change his often brusque style, Emanuel responded with just one word:

“Yeah.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Yeah. I don’t know about you, but the impression I get from that response is- something tells me old habits might be particularly hard to break with this one.

I can’t help but wonder if dead fish aren’t already on their way…

3. Chicago’s “financial reckoning day” is still fast approaching. And I don’t think it matters who’s in charge, as I believe we’re too far along in the deterioration and the required political will to do something about it just isn’t there. Still. I read a “funny” comment on the popular Chicago police blog Second City Cop earlier today. From a Tuesday night post:

Anonymous said…

Blah blah blah. The city will not go.bankrupt. We are third in the country for tourists, we have numerous international and national companies world headquarters plus we have a 100s of millions in tif funds. Commie chuy was a police hater that had no plan for this city. Rahm ain’t no picnic either but next to chuy he was a genius.

Now consider what the National Journal’s John B. Judis reported on March 30:

Chicago is facing a truly grave set of problems– problems that are essentially more extreme versions of the challenges confronting city governments across the country.

The quandaries begin with Chicago’s dramatic social divide. To an even greater extent than is the case in, say, New York or Philadelphia, Chicago has become two entirely separate cities. One is a bustling metropolis that includes the Loop, Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile, and the Gold Coast, as well as the city’s well-to-do, working-class, and upwardly mobile immigrant neighborhoods. The other Chicago consists of impoverished neighborhoods on the far South and West Sides, primarily populated by African-Americans. These places have remained beyond the reach of the city’s recovery from the Great Recession.

Meanwhile, even as it grapples with this extreme gap, Chicago is suffering from a severe fiscal crisis. Like plenty of other municipalities, Chicago lacks the revenue to pay its bills, particularly its pension obligations to city workers. According to a 2013 Pew report, 61 other U.S. cities face similar difficulties, but Chicago’s situation is one of the worst. “Voters must realize we are facing the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression,” says Roosevelt University’s Paul Green, the doyen of Chicago political experts. “If something doesn’t happen, the city is beyond the abyss.”

Those problems aren’t really Emanuel’s fault, but his efforts to fix them over the past four years haven’t yielded especially good results. For his part, Garcia—who has been at the forefront of Latino politics in Chicago for four decades and who has a history of bucking Chicago’s political establishment—has run a campaign long on general populist criticism of the incumbent, but short on credible ideas about what he would do differently.

All of which means that this election won’t yield much of a mandate for dramatic solutions to Chicago’s twin crises

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Translated: Probably doesn’t matter who won the election, because Chicago looks to “lose” with either at the helm.

Once again, the economic situation appears too far gone at this point, and the political will to truly get the city’s finances back on track just isn’t there.

I hope Judis is wrong. And I hope I’m wrong here.

But the numbers are looking pretty atrocious right now.

As much as I’d like to side with “Anonymous,” as Rahm Emanuel enters his second term as Mayor of Chicago, I feel that proverbial brick wall is still fast-approaching.

Perhaps the best Chicagoans can hope for at this point is a controlled crash landing.

I know one thing. If I were still living in the city, I’d be preparing for the coming carnage.

More on that topic soon.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Korecki, Natasha. “Getting Hispanics to the polls in Chicago mayor’s race no slam dunk for Chuy.” Chicago Sun-Times. 15 Mar. 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/7/71/438985/getting-hispanics-polls-chicago-mayors-race-slam-dunk-chuy). 8 Apr. 2015.

Pearson, Rick and Ruthhart, Bill. “’Second chance.’ Emanuel says he’s ‘humbled’ by victory.” Chicago Tribune. 8 Apr. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-chicago-mayoral-election-20150407-story.html#page=1). 8 Apr. 2015.

SCC. “Mixed Bag.” Second City Cop. 7 Apr. 2015. (http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com/2015/04/mixed-bag.html). 8 Apr. 2015.

Judis, John B. “Broken city: Rahm Emanuel and the unraveling of Chicago.” National Journal. 30 Mar. 2015. (https://www.yahoo.com/politics/broken-city-rahm-emanuel-and-the-unraveling-of-115037357316.html). 8 Apr. 2015.

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Chicago City Council Budget Chair On Property Tax Hike: ‘I Believe We Can Truly Say That It Will Happen’

Back when I was an aide to U.S. Senator Paul Simon of Illinois, there was one cardinal rule to be followed when communicating with constituents:

Good news comes from Paul, bad news comes from his assistants.

With that in mind, last night my girlfriend and I were watching the Chicago news on TV when the following story appeared. From the WGN Web Desk this morning:

A Chicago property tax hike could be on the way.

That wasn’t announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

It was said by an alderman who is trying to help him get reelected.

Several of Emanuel’s allies held a press conference Monday to question how challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia would pay for the promises he’s making on the campaign trail.

That’s when 34th Ward Alderman Carrie Austin, the City Council budget chairman, said property tax increases may be needed to cover Emanuel’s spending plans.

“I believe we can truly say that it will happen, but it’s all in the ‘how much,’” said Austin. “Nothing is off the table, and I think we should be honest with the people to let them know that everything is being considered.”

(Editor: Bold added for emphasis)

Considering the event was organized to attack mayoral challenger Jesús “Chuy” Garcia and this City Council routinely carries water for Emanuel, I initially thought “The Rahmfather” was trying to kill two birds with one stone here- blast “Chuy” and have Alderman Austin start conditioning Chicagoans for the looming property tax hike I’ve been warning about for some time now on this blog.

Good news Rahm. Bad news City Council budget chairman.

But then I thought more about how Rahm obviously realizes talk of tax hikes is one of the “third-rails” of politics- particularly before a runoff election that’s only a few weeks away (April 7) and where “Chuy” is not too far behind in the various polls.

Plus there’s this from Hal Dardick about the incident on the Chicago Tribune website yesterday:

Austin, known for speaking off the cuff, quickly tried to qualify her property tax hike comment, saying she meant only that “everything is on the table.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Maybe this wasn’t orchestrated by Rahm?

Oh well. Smooth move or gaffe, I see it as yet more evidence of a property tax hike being just around the corner.

Plan accordingly.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

“Mayor Emanuel Ally: Property tax hike likely.” WGN News Desk. 10 Mar. 2015. (http://wgntv.com/2015/03/10/mayor-emanuel-ally-property-tax-hike-likely/). 10 Mar. 2015.

Dardick, Hal. “Emanuel ally: Property tax hike likely in second term.” Chicago Tribune. 9 Mar. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/chi-emanuel-ally-says-property-tax-likely-in-second-term-20150309-story.html). 10 Mar. 2015.

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Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 Debt Crisis, Fiscal Policy, Government, Taxes No Comments

Chicago Reader: Did Rahm Emanuel Deliver On Public Safety Campaign Promises?

The Chicago Reader has done a terrific job lately of keeping a tab on public safety in Chicago. And yesterday, the Reader website ran an article entitled “Did Rahm live up to his campaign promises on public safety?” Mick Dumke wrote:

During his first campaign for mayor four years ago, Rahm Emanuel kept talking about police.

He noted as often as he could that his uncle had been a cop on Chicago’s north side. He boasted of his role in crafting the Clinton administration’s 1994 crime bill that funded the hiring of 100,000 police officers nationwide.
And, as the centerpiece of his public safety plan, he vowed to find the money to add 1,000 more officers to Chicago’s force. He said this would prevent crime and improve relationships with the community.

“Police officers will become a presence in the neighborhood rather than only available in response to emergency,” he said.

But within weeks of taking office, Emanuel stopped talking about hiring cops. Instead, over the course of his first term, the number of officers on the force dropped from about 10,900 to 10,600. And the mayor responded to violent crime not by investing in community policing but by calling for stricter gun laws and blaming legislators who balked.

The result after four years: crime totals have fallen, as they have across the country. But Chicago still has more violent crime per capita than New York or Los Angeles, with an average of seven people shot every day…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

A real insightful piece, which can be read in its entirety on the Chicago Reader website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 Credit, Government, Gun Rights, Public Safety No Comments

Chicago On Track For Fewest Murders In Nearly 50 Years, But Concerns About Crime Grow

As each year draws to a close, the Chicago media routinely compares the city’s crime numbers to years past. At the end of 2014, the talk is all about the murders- or lack thereof. Michael Lansu reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website this morning:

Chicago could record its lowest murder total in nearly five decades for the second consecutive calendar year, despite an increase in shootings in 2014.

Chicago Police reported 390 murders through Dec. 20… There have been at least 10 additional homicides and one fatal police shooting since then…

The numbers represent a 2 to 4 percent decrease in killings from 2013, and a 19 to 20 percent decrease from the unusually high 2012, when there were 504 murders. It would be fewest killings in any year since the 397 slayings in 1965…

“While the data shows Chicago has seen the fewest murders and lowest crime rate in decades, the ultimate measure of our success is how our residents feel in their communities,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “The ultimate measure of our success is how our residents feel in their communities…”

So how do Chicago residents “feel” in their communities?

David Heinzmann and Rick Pearson analyzed the results of an August 2014 Chicago Tribune poll of 800 registered Chicago voters and wrote on the Tribune website on August 16:

Concern about crime was represented by an increase in the percentage of voters who said they consider their neighborhood less safe since Emanuel became mayor. A total of 27 percent of voters said they considered themselves to be less safe where they live, compared with 20 percent a year earlier. The percentage of those who said their neighborhood was the same as before Emanuel dropped from 68 percent to 61 percent

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

It’s possible such sentiment has changed in the four-and-a-half months since that survey. But I doubt it considering the regular reports of city-related crime these days on the local evening news and elsewhere.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Lansu, Michael. “Chicago’s 2014 murder total on track for another low, but shootings rise.” Chicago Sun-Times. 27 Dec. 2014. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/crime/7/71/237495/behind-line-chicagos-2014-murder-track-another-low). 27 Dec. 2014.

Heinzmann, David and Pearson, Rick. “Emanuel hounded by crime issue.” Chicago Tribune. 16 Aug. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-rahm-emanuel-crime-met-0817-20140817-story.html#page=1). 27 Dec. 2014.

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Sunday, December 28th, 2014 Crime, Government, Public Safety, Self-Defense No Comments


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