Rahm Emanuel assures: No plan to charge non-profits property tax
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com April 28, 2011 1:02PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel on Thursday ruled out raising anybody’s taxes as he tried to put out a political firestorm touched off by his response to a question about stripping nonprofits of their cherished property tax exemptions.
“I said in the campaign I’m not raising taxes. I thought I was being clear, so I’ll take responsibility for that. I’m not,” Emanuel said.
“What I thought I said — and if I didn’t make it clear, let me try to be clear and underline it — I was trying to make a bigger ... philosophical point: Reform and change comes to everybody. Nobody in the mayor’s office, at City Council [or] institutions are in a reform- or change-free zone.”
Emanuel campaigned on a promise to turn off the free water spigot to hospitals, churches, universities and other nonprofits. But he hinted earlier this week that the call for shared sacrifice may not stop there.
During a discussion at the Goodman Theater Wednesday about the importance of the arts, Emanuel was asked whether he would follow the lead of other struggling big cities — by forcing nonprofits to pay property taxes.
The mayor-elect did not answer the question directly. But the “philosophy” he articulated sent shockwaves through the Goodman audience of arts administrators, funders and patrons.
“There’s a lot of good nonprofits and charitables. But they get a benefit on the tax side. And given the changes I’ve got to make and given the sacrifices I’m gonna ask from everybody, nobody is in a sacrifice-free zone. I love you all. You’re really important. But, you’re not more important than anybody else,” he said.
On Thursday, the mayor-elect took responsibility for the confusion and said he was merely trying to make a larger point about the need for “everybody to give a little so nobody has to sacrifice too much.”
“As a former dancer, I care about the arts and culture. My wife has a master’s degree in medieval art history. … But even because I have a personal connection, it is not immune from the needs of reform and change because the financial situation of the city is dire,” Emanuel said.