Alderman Gardiner votes against Chicago budget, says he’s worried about migrant crisis spending, future property tax hikes
by BRIAN NADIG
Alderman James Gardiner (45th) was the lone Northwest Side alderperson to vote against Mayor Johnson’s $16.77 billion budget plan for 2024, due in large part to concerns over migrant-related expenses.
Gardiner said that the the city is spending about $361 million on the migrant crisis in 2023 and an estimated $150 million in the next six months and a similar amount after that. He added that while next year’s budget does not include a property tax increase, it’s inevitable that one will be coming as soon as 2025.
“I will bet anyone in this room my entire next year’s salary that the following year we will guarantee have a property tax increase. You can only order steak so long in the restaurant before the bill will come and that bill is coming.
“We will pay it in 2025 and we will pay it 2026. We obviously won’t pay it in 2027 because that’s an election year,” Gardiner said at the City Council’s Nov. 15 meeting, where the budget was approved by a 41-8 vote. “I will be the fiscally responsible one saying this is a problem and we need to pump the brakes.”
Gardiner said that in addition to the new arrivals, the city has a large number of other unhoused and needy individuals, including veterans, that deserve more attention than they are receiving.
“There’s many people in the city — Black, Brown and dare I even say White — who can … use those funds,” Gardiner said.
He added, “One thing my parents taught me is you have to take care … of your family first, before you start taking care of other people and I think that applies here.”
“I have a big heart just like everybody in this room. I don’t feel good when I see individuals sleeping outside of our police stations (or) begging for money at every other corner. … We need to pump the brakes and take a bigger look at this.”
Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said that while he has concerns about the amount of money being spent on the migrant crisis, he feels the budget is overall a good one, including its allocation for an additional staffer for each alderperson. He added that those funds will be especially useful for those alderpersons who do not chair committee, which come with a separate staffing allocation.
Sposato said that he expects the city will spend more than than the budgeted amount for migrants and that he hopes the funds will at a minimum get the migrants off the floors of police stations and into more suitable housing.
The budget also includes $500,000 for a subcommittee that will look into the city paying reparations to descendants of enslaved Americans.