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Emanuel to town hall crowd: Insults don’t solve deficits

Mayor Rahm Emanuel holds town hall meeting Malcom X College 1900 W. Van Buren address city's 2012 budget Wednesday August

Mayor Rahm Emanuel holds a town hall meeting at Malcom X College, 1900 W. Van Buren, to address the city's 2012 budget Wednesday, August 31, 2011, in Chicago. John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 4, 2011 7:58PM

Hosting his second town hall meeting this week, Mayor Emanuel took heat from a testy audience that questioned some of his early decisions on a night he sought ideas to plug the city’s $635.7 million shortfall in the 2012 budget.

“I want ideas, not insults,” Emanuel said, before things got started at the auditorium inside Malcolm X College on the West Side Wednesday. “I want people to be constructive and not just complain. Insults don’t solve $635 million deficits.”

The mayor got heckled by a largely pro-union audience for his decision to lay off 71 city traffic aides. Emanuel said he didn’t “relish” having to make the decision.

“But traffic is still moving downtown, people are still crossing the street,” he said.

Ed Hershey, a Lindblom High School teacher, asked Emanuel how he proposed to pay for a longer school day — one of the mayor’s favorite ideas — when school janitors are already being laid off, and “when we don’t have money for Kleenex in my school.”

Emanuel was booed when he mentioned his proposal to give 2 percent pay raises to elementary school teachers to compensate for a longer school day. “There are school systems in Detroit that literally cut salaries. I’m talking about actual extra money ...,” Emanuel said in response.

Alexis Pierce, a 12-year-old from the West Side, asked the mayor what he planned to do to get rid of all of the liquor stores she has to pass walking to school. Emanuel talked of his plans to bring grocery stores to underserved areas to eliminate food deserts, so that people don’t have to buy food at a liquor store.

“It’s crack heads, dope heads, all sitting around the liquor store, and no alderman is changing that,” Pierce said of her treacherous walk to school each day.

Emanuel is set to introduce his final budget in October.

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