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Meter Made for 2011

  How many times during the past year have we heard Mayor Richard Daley say that Chicago would be a different place if his administration had not raised over a billion dollars with its controversial sale of the city's parking meter system?

  Without the extra cash,the Mayor says, the choice would be simple:  A tax increase or a reduction in the frequency of essential services such as trash pick-up, street cleaning and snow removal, and like in some other big American cities, layoffs of police and firefighters.

  Then there's the other difference the meter sale has made.

  The Mayor would not have at his disposal a multi-million dollar "kitty" to hand out goodies to potential voters in the 2011 city election.   Daley is officially undecided about 2011, but if he does run for an unprecedented seventh term, he's putting the parking meter "reserve" fund to good political use.

  Monday, hizzoner announced that the city would use $25 million dollars of the meter proceeds to underwrite a program to help unemployed, middle class workers re-train for technology-based careers.   The trainees, who average 42 years old, will be paid a $450 weekly stipend.  The mayor hopes the program eventually will enroll 30,000 unemployed Chicagoans.

   "You worked. You paid your taxes",  Daley told the first Career Tech class, "But, you don’t fit into all the poverty programs. And you don’t fit into all the rich programs. You’re like in limbo... . . . You’re very good workers."

   They also sound like Chicagoans who are very likely to be voters next February.

    Remember that the Mayor's 2010 budget set aside $35 million of parking meter sale proceeds for use in his Property Tax Relief Program.  That's the one (Precinct7, February 18th) in which homeowners who make less than $200,000 a year may apply for refunds of up to $200.

  Let's see, that's $60 million dollars suddenly available from strained city coffers to help soothe the agitated souls of thousands of recession-weary Chicagoans. 

  Barely nine months before the city elections.

  This guy is good.




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