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Citizens Unleash Their Fury Upon Emanuel At City's First Budget Hearing

By aaroncynic in News on Sep 1, 2015 3:47PM

Hundreds turned out to Malcolm X college last night for the first of three public budget hearings, mostly to give Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel an earful on service cuts, Dyett High School, and his manner of governing.

Almost immediately, Emanuel and other city officials were met with chants of “We want a people’s budget” and “banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” the Sun-Times reports. According to the Chicago Tribune, Emanuel had to wait until the end of the meeting to give remarks, after an angry crowd got angrier over time limits announced by the moderator.

With the city facing a near $800 million budget hole, the Emanuel administration said it wanted to “ensure the budget represents a collaborative process and reflects input from residents across the city,” when it announced the hearings. That collaborative process though, was contrasted by a heavy police presence, metal detectors, and a standard PR answer to one of the biggest questions of the evening—all of which were documented by attendees on social media, including one attendee who caught a man somberly refusing to shake Emanuel's hand.

"We've got two people who went in the hospital and one who just left. They're hungry, and you don't have enough guts or integrity to even see them," said Frances Banks, of the Dyett hunger strikers, who now in their 15th day, are demanding the South Side school once slated for closure be turned into a leadership and green technology school. The crowd interrupted the proceedings multiple times to demand Emanuel and other officials meet with the group, and eventually, he agreed to a short private meeting afterwards.

In a statement after the meeting, spokesperson Kelley Quinn said:

“The mayor appreciates there are strong feelings about Dyett, and he understands there is a desire for a quick resolution about its future, however what’s most important is the right decision. CPS is engaged in a thorough review of Dyett, and while they are closer to a decision, they continue to weigh all the factors at play in an effort to achieve the best outcome possible — one that will ensure a strong Bronzeville and a strong future for our children.”

Jitu Brown, an organizer and participant in the strike was less than pleased with the Mayor’s non-committal nature, and that the strike would continue. “The community has spoken on this, but the mayor said, 'If you give us a little more time, we'll come up with a resolution.' But there was no commitment,” he told the Tribune. “And we explained to him that we're going to continue this hunger strike until we win and the community wins."

In addition to demanding Emanuel hear and act on the concerns of the community surrounding Dyett, other attendees took aim at a host of issues including a lack of jobs in neighborhoods, his cozy relationship with large corporations and banks and the mismanagement of TIFs.

“Where is our money,” asked Tom Tresser, of the TIF Illumination Project, a group that’s researched and demanded reform to Tax Increment Financing for a number of years.