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Winter 2014 Is A Budget Buster At City Hall

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 13, 2014 3:10PM

Photo credit:pauldavidy

This winter, with its oscillating periods of heavy snowfalls and deep freezes, has more than made up for the previous two mild winters. In 2014, "Mild Winter" is merely a Goose Island beer brand. The winter has also wreaked havoc on the city's budget.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel must have anticipated another one of those mild winters because the city has already spent $25 million on snow removal. That's $4.5 million over what was allotted for the service in Emanuel's 2014 budget. Where has the extra money come from? A $6 million motor fuel tax fund normally reserved for repairing potholes and paving streets. This is what is known as "robbing from Peter to pay Paul" and reminiscent of the creative budgeting that marked Richard M. Daley's final years as mayor.

With warmer weather on the way and Chicago's streets—already pockmarked with potholes like a teen with a bad case of acne—bracing for more potholes Emanuel will have little choice but to ask City Council (which is really more of a "we're doing this" given the rubber stamp he enjoys with aldermen) to approve more funding for snow removal. (Or he can let Mother Nature do what she did after January's first round of polar vortex and let the weather do what Streets and San couldn't: clear the streets of snow.)

Emanuel spokesperson Kelley Quinn told the Sun-Times the mayor will do whatever is necessary to ensure the "streets will remain plowed and passable."

“We will not let the city grind to a halt," Quinn added.

A look at the extended weather forecast sees highs in the 50s in store for next weekend, making pothole patching even more imperative. The Sun-Times cited sources who said the mayor is working to replenish the motor fuel tax fund so he isn't caught with his proverbial pants down once again.

Quinn reminded everyone this winter has been the worst since the Blizzard of 1979 and, while the weather is out of our control, drawing comparisons to Michael Bilandic will not help Emanuel at this point.