Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The odds on Emanuel's budget

Posted By on 11.08.11 at 08:00 AM

Yesterday we discussed President Obama's odds for reelection, as calculated by the noted statistician Nate Silver. Now local bookies are weighing in on the chances of Rahm Emanuel getting his budget through the City Council with only minor changes. The council's finance and budget committees gave their approval yesterday "without a word of dissent," Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman noted. A full council vote is scheduled for November 16.

The bookies considered the deep cuts Emanuel has proposed—including the closing of mental health clinics, other reductions in public health, and the elimination of the Department of Environment—as well as measures of independent thinking among current aldermen, the mayor's inexperience in city government, and historical trends. Combining these elements, the bookies say the chances of budget approval are approximately 100 percent, with a zero percent margin of error.

"We used a highly sophisticated mathematical model," one bookie told me, "which boiled down to the fact that the City Council always approves the mayor's budget with hardly any changes." The bookie spoke on the condition of anonymity because he's very shy. "Chicago aldermen consider it rude to mess with a mayor's budget," he said.

The bookie noted one exception to the historical trend: when Harold Washington was mayor in the mid-1980s, the council fought him tooth and nail over the budget. "I can't put my finger on it," the bookie said, "but there was something different about Harold."

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