Chicago will emerge from the recession and secure its economic future through a combination of job creation and better managing government, Mayor Richard M. Daley said today.
“I am determined to do everything that's needed to turn our economy around and get people back to work. At the same time, I will not rest until we've done more to restructure government, do more with less and make it more accountable to our city's taxpayers,” the Mayor said in a speech before the Commercial Club of Chicago held at the Chicago Club, 81 E. Van Buren St.
Daley also repeated his call for reform of the City’s pension system, which he said “isn't working for our city's budget or our city's taxpayers.”
The Mayor said it has been a difficult two years for the City and the nation. Far too many families continue to lose their jobs and struggle to pay their bills, businesses are restructuring and in government, revenues are slowing while the cost of government -- driven by the cost of personnel -- continues to grow.
“Still, we will get through these tough times. Government must do all it can to recruit new businesses, which will bring new, good-paying jobs to Chicago.
And government can support the efforts of every business in Chicago to grow and better compete in the new economy,” Daley said.
The Mayor summarized some of the many steps the City has taken over the past two years to help reshape the economy with a clear focus on creating the jobs and expanding the businesses of tomorrow. They include:
Daley said the City is also taking a comprehensive, long-term view of the critical issues of workforce training and development.
“Instead of looking separately at our city's job training programs, our public schools and our City Colleges, we're trying to coordinate each of these resources so that we have the greatest impact on our efforts to train and retrain our workers for the jobs of the future,” he said.
Specifically, Chicago has:
Getting people back to work and creating new jobs -- not just replacing those that have already been lost – is a big challenge. But it’s not the only big challenge and it’s not the only big responsibility we have,” Daley said.
“As Mayor, I have a responsibility to make sure that City government provides the services that the people of Chicago need, but at a cost they can afford.”
Toward that goal, he said the City has made hundreds of management improvements over the years aimed at controlling and cutting spending so that tax increases are the last resort.
Daley called the pension issue “one of the most daunting budget challenges we face.”
He said the City’s growing structural budget deficit is the direct result of the increasing cost of personnel -- health care, salaries, but especially public employee pensions.
“It’s my sense that people across the nation -- and in Chicago -- are angry at what they see as a system that puts pensions for government bureaucrats ahead of taxpayers’ needs,” he said.
The Mayor said he has asked his staff to review how the City can reform its pension system, including addressing the issue of “double-dipping” and the frustration that average people feel over it.
Soon, a pension commission that Daley appointed two years ago will release its recommendations.
“I don't know whether I'll agree or disagree with their ideas. But, what I know is this. It's time to reform a system that isn't working for our city's budget or our city's taxpayers -- or for some of our employees, for that matter,” he said.
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