I refuse to set foot in the city of Chicago. Even if it means having to endure a decade long yearning to gaze upon that Wrigley Field ivy, I won’t do it. That’s how serious I am. I may miss the Lyric and long to see Mr. Muti and his crew, but they, the Planetarium and the Field Museum will just have to get along without me.
My aversion to the “City that Works” started with the installation of 200 , most of which have seen their yellow light times reduced to the legal three-second minimum—or less! It continued with privatized street parking rates that make the most hardened loan shark blush, and it ended with a 10.25 percent sales tax, the highest in the nation.
The only force on the planet that can make me break this solemn vow is my lovely wife, who scares me even more than red-light cameras. She likes visiting the Shedd once a year. But beyond that, as long as Chicago sees suburbanites as , they won’t see one thin dime of my hard earned money.
But the truth is, these Second City suburban shakedown attempts are nothing new. Since the days of the first Mayor Daley, unsatisfied with the financial havoc they’ve wreaked upon their own city, Chicago aldermen have been coming up with crazy schemes to try us for years.
Even the normally staid Harold Washington oversaw a 50 percent harbor boat mooring surtax just to put the squeeze what he saw as sleazy suburbanites.
But of all the cockamamie schemes they’ve managed to come up with, the one that just came out of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office has to take the Frango mint. His particular stroke of genius was to propose a 1 percent income tax on folks who work in the city, but don’t live there.
Ferguson claims this “commuter tax” would bring in about $300 million a year.
To no one's surprise, not only did Alderman Leslie Hairston like the idea, but she actually had the nerve to say this: “We pay tolls to get into other suburbs. I guess membership has its privileges.”
Forget the fact the second sentence makes absolutely no sense, but I can’t remember the last time an I-88 toll taker told me, “If you’re heading into Chicago, it’s on us!”
Not to be outdone, Alderman Pat Dowell added: “I think a commuter tax is sensible … People that live outside the city and work in the city utilize our streets, our transportation systems … Perhaps there’s a price to be put on that,” according to the Chicago Tribune and other sources.
Apparently, in his world, those miserly commuters brown bag it, they all manage to find free parking, they never shop at nearby stores and only enjoy that fine Lake Michigan water at downtown bars. And don’t those businesses already pay city taxes?
Now I know why the late great Mike Royko referred to them as “aldercreatures” and “alderboobs.”
In his report, Ferguson admitted a similar Philadelphia tax had “caused businesses to leave.” Ya think? Though they wouldn’t have to worry about it in the short run, this tax would make it that much more difficult for Chicago employers to compete for top candidates. The smart people live in the suburbs for a reason.
In the end, this commuter tax idea is a perfect example of what I call “.” Though this deadly fiscal syndrome affects all levels of government, it exacts its greatest toll on city councils and school boards.
The municipal mindset starts with an entitlement mentality that goads council creatures into frequent and furious declarations like, “we’re losing sales tax to the Internet,” as if their mere existence is enough to justify any tithe they concoct.
And when the serfs have the nerve to complain, then they act like immature teenagers by stomping their feet and saying things like “Everybody else is doing it!”—as if that ever justifies the tax-revenue lust in their larcenous hearts.
And finally, with their backs up against the wall, they’ll try to weasel of out of any backlash by claiming, “We’re not nearly as bad as (fill-in-the-most-expedient-blank.)” Throw in a healthy dash of shortsightedness and you have yourself a commuter-tax proposal.
You see, in those warped aldermanic minds, it’s the perfect solution to all their $636 million budgetary shortfall problems: Tax the folks who can’t vote you out of office!
Ah! But the hitch in their taxation-without-representation giddyap is that they’d have to get the Illinois General Assembly to go along with them. Because commuters can send those folks packing, this absurdity will never fly.
I wouldn’t be foolish enough to hold my breath waiting for any Chicago alderman to finally understand that, by actually making an effort to attract suburbanites, they might spend more money in Chicago, which means more revenue. Uh uh! In their deluded minds, it’s far better to aggravate the crap out of ‘em.
If by some bizarre twist of fate this commuter tax does come to pass, it might behoove our Second City bosses to remember that, while 600,000 suburbanites commute into Chicago every day, 300,000 Chicagoans make the reverse trip.
So if they ever do charge us that 1 percent, I say we hit them right back with a 10 percent commuter tax of our own! Not only would that solve some of our budget problems, but it just might keep those aldermen in Chicago where they belong.