City Budget Preview 
CAPs Meeting and Garden Party Tonight
Dear Neighbor,

For the next few newsletters we will look at the fiscal challenges facing our city as we approach budget season in City Council.
At the core, our primary unresolved issue is the City's staffing -  salary and benefit costs, including health care, overtime and work and disciplinary rules.
Personnel cost 80% of the city's budget. 
90%  of our workforce is unionized, including fire, police, and most other municipal employees.   Almost all the labor contracts expired on  June 30, 2017.   New agreements are not yet in place and the old contracts, negotiated in 2007, must be modernized and reformed.  
The  Better Government Association  recently published a guide to the negotiations, noting that the ten-year contracts resulted in wage and benefit increases that exceed inflation and are higher than prevailing wages in many comparable jobs.  The media has reported on the impact of these contracts; here is a recent Chicago Sun-Times article on salaries.
The City's Inspector General released a report critiquing many provisions of the collective bargaining agreements and calling for reform of health care costs and disciplinary procedures, among others.
Mayor Emanuel recently commented to investors that, "As we negotiate the new contracts, I expect ... to see savings in wages and benefits, health care and other places that are key to the City of Chicago's future." Click here for the full DNAinfo article.  Municipal employees are reportedly close to a deal that would increase health care premiums, but we have received no official word as of yet.
In the private sector, labor union contracts are settled through a negotiation process.  If negotiating fails, unions may decide to strike.  Once a strike occurs, the impasse is often resolved through further negotiations.  
However, City contracts are quite different. Police, fire, and other municipal employees, excluding public school teachers, are prohibited from striking by either State law or agreement.  If talks break down, the parties go to mandatory, binding arbitration.  There is no appealing an arbitrator's ruling, though the decision can be rejected by City Council. To my knowledge, this has never happened in the history of City Council.
In the past, contract negotiations and arbitration have taken several years.  For example, the 2007 police contract was not finalized until 2010, when the arbitrator awarded police a 10% wage increase during the first five years of the contract. 
The Chicago Reader has an excellent summary of the type of arbitration used in our contracts, called "interest arbitration." Read the article here.  
It is very difficult to produce ground-breaking changes through interest arbitration. To disrupt the status quo, the city will bear a high burden that demands proof of a compelling need for the suggested changes. 

While negotiations are underway, the current contracts remain in place.  It is hard to imagine that the police and fire unions would willingly enter into contracts without  arbitration. However, I believe an engaged public striving for real change can help drive these discussions.

As a result of past budgets, our pension liabilities are being addressed. We have reversed the questionable financial practice of "scoop and toss," in which debt is restructured to postpone costs to the future, but at greater expense.

We have made strides in tackling chronic  municipal  workforce absenteeism. I was proud to  spearhead  the fight to cut absenteeism and will provide more details about it in a future newsletter.
This year, the stakes are high as we continue to grapple with the financial stability of our city. In the next installment, we will take a closer look at police contracts.

North & Kingsbury Lane Reductions Until September 18

People's Gas is in the process of replacing a large gas main by North Avenue and Kingsbury Street.   There will be partial lane closures on North Avenue until Monday, September 18 and  additional lane closures and limited access between Kingsbury Street and Willow Street until November 2017 .

Reminder: Upcoming CAPS Meeting

Attend your local Beat meetings to stay informed about crime in your area. Click here to locate your Beat. 

18th District:
  • 1811, 1812, 1813 Beat Meeting -
    TONIGHT, Thursday, September 14 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., St. James Lutheran Church, located at 2101 N. Fremont Street.

Additionally, be sure to take preventative measures in order to stay safe:
  • Make sure that your windows and doors are locked securely when leaving your home;
  • When you are at home with your doors open, always keep your screen doors locked;
  • Close garage door completely when not in use and unattended;
  • Build relationships with your neighbors, getting to know who lives on your block can help you identify strangers who loiter in the neighborhood;
  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
"An Evening in the Garden" with Neighbors TONIGHT

Join the  Lincoln Central Association  in saluting volunteers and 
neighbors at their 4th Annual Evening in the Garden event  
Thursday, September 14
from 6:00  p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The event will take place at Fire Station Park, located at the corner of Larrabee and Armitage Avenue, directly behind Engine 22 Station.

Click here for more information. Hope to see you there!

Coffee with Commander Bauer

Have a cup of coffee with Paul Bauer, the  Commander of the 18th District, 
next Wednesday, September 20 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.  at Eva's Cafe, located at 1447 N. Sedgwick Street.

Click here for more information and for a full calendar of 18th District events. 

Celebrate St. Pauls Oktoberfest Next Weekend
Oktoberfest returns to Saint Pauls United Church of Christ on Saturday, September 23.

Come out and enjoy live music, authentic German food and beverages, and games for all ages.  This event is open to the public, family friendly, and admission is free! 
Click here  for more information o r you may contact the church office by calling 773-348-3829.

Become a Member of the Gold Coast Neighbors Association!

Current and prospective members are invited for beverages and  appetizers, courtesy of Hopsmith Tavern , to learn about the Gold Coast  Neighbors Association at their Autumn Membership Event on Monday, September 25 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  at Hopsmith Tavern, located at 15 W. Division Street.

Send an  email t o the GCNA membership team or click  here  f or more information.

Push for Parkland for  Chicagoans

As mentioned in a previous newsletter, City Planners will build approximately 22,000 new residential units within  the newly rezoned North Branch Industrial Corridor. Yet, there are no plans for meaningful open land to serve this new community, in addition to the 300,000 residents that currently reside in the area surrounding the corridor.

Our fight continues for a much needed park with more than 2300 people signing the online petition demanding 15 acres of contiguous land in the North Branch Industrial Corridor. 

If you have not done so already, please sign our online petition and circulate print copies among neighbors and be sure to watch for it at upcoming community events and block parties! 

See you in the neighborhood,

Michele Signature

Michele Smith
Alderman, 43rd Ward 

43rd Ward Office Hours: M 9 AM - 7 PM, T-F 9 AM - 6 PM 
 2523 N Halsted | 773-348-9500||