Oak Park trustee calls Chicago mayoral candidate's annexation plan 'embarrassing'
The annexation scheme suggested by former police superintendent turned Chicago mayoral candidate Garry McCarthy would amount to theft and isn't going to happen, a trustee from one of the targeted suburbs said during a recent interview.
"You don't fix your household's finances by stealing from your neighbors," Oak Park Trustee Deno J. Andrews said during a West Cook News telephone interview. "His idea is to go and hijack the assets of neighboring communities to fix their financial problems, and I think that's an embarrassing nonstarter."
The idea, in addition to having "close to zero" chances of happening, ignores just how much like Chicago are those suburban communities McCarthy suggested be annexed, Andrews said.
"Where it falls apart is that Oak Park has its problems, too," Andrews said. "We're a high-tax, high-service community. If Oak Park were to be annexed, that won't make Oak Park's expenses go away. You can't just take over a municipality and expect to have all the tax assets from that community to fix Chicago's problems. We have pension obligations, too, in Oak Park. We have surmounting debt, too, in Oak Park. These things are ubiquitous among all municipalities. So it won't make Chicago's problems any better, we're not in a great financial position either."
McCarthy, the former Chicago Police Department Superintendent fired in December 2015 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, apparently ballooned the idea of annexing suburban communities, including Oak Park, during a talk with Chicago Sun-Times editors. The annexations would be a way to shore up the larger city's fiscal issues, including an expected $1 billion increase in pension payments, the Sun-Times reported earlier this week.
"We really need to talk about annexation," the Sun-Times quoted McCarthy to have said during an endorsement session before the newspaper's editorial board. "Nobody wants to talk about it. It's a political football. [But] we've lost population. I could tell you how we could scoop up almost 160,000 people in a heartbeat.”
Then McCarthy talked about it, the Sun-Times reported.
"Annexation will give us the ability to combine municipal services, which will be cost savings, and at the same time expand our tax base," McCarthy said. "The incentive for them is I could name like six or seven jurisdictions that have higher composite taxes than we pay here."
It's difficult to take McCarthy's suggestion seriously, Andrews said.
"I haven't even begun to think about how it would affect Oak Park because I think the chances of that actually happening are so close to zero that it's almost not even worth thinking about," Andrews told West Cook News. "There's no way these communities are going to bow down and be annexed by Chicago so that we can become part of the city's fiscal problems."
Chicagoans would be far better off if the city learned to live within its means, spend less and pay down its debt, Andrews said.
"The formula is so basic but nobody is willing to make the hard decision to cut spending," he said.
That formula too often collides with political reality, Andrews said.
"The solution isn't hard," he said. "What's hard is having the leadership to make the difficult speeches to tell people that we can no longer afford to do all that we do."