Flannery Fired Up: Chicago's massive budget shortfall; Departure of Dorothy Brown

This edition of Flannery Fired Up focuses first on Mayor Lori Lightfoot's call for Chicagoans to join her in a "conversation" about taxes and spending. The mayor Thursday night unveiled her estimate that City Hall faces an $838 million shortfall in next year's budget. It came during a widely televised State of the City speech in which she also recited what she's done during her first 100 days in office.

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi praised his ally the mayor for committing to four meetings with the public during September. The first is planned for next Wednesday at the Copernicus Center on West Lawrence Avenue on the Northwest Side. Without offering any key details, Lightfoot has talked of imposing a new tax on the sale of any home for more than $500,000. She's also considering a new fee on vehicles entering a so-far unspecified chronic "congestion" zone.

For his part, Kaegi is vowing to try again to persuade the General Assembly to pass a proposal that would reform the way the assessor's office determines the value of big commercial properties, especially Downtown. One side- effect of the reform would likely be to reduce the tax appeals business of politically-connected law firms. Among them, a law firm whose partners include Michael Madigan, longtime speaker of the Illinois House. Madigan said last spring that he had recused himself from any involvement with Kaegi's proposal. Kaegi claims he had more than enough votes for it to pass in the House. But in the final hours of the spring session, Kaegi was told his proposal would not be called for a final vote. 

Also appearing, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown. Following the federal conviction of her top deputy, Beena Patel, for lying to agents investigating alleged job-selling in Brown's office, she is not seeking re-election. When Brown steps down next year, she will have served 20 years. Brown said reaching age 65 and becoming eligible for a full County pension was a factor in her decision. Asked directly if she ever did sell jobs in her office, Brown indignantly denied it.

Two experts from the University of Chicago's renowned Crime Lab also join us: Kim Smith, trained as an economist, and Sean Malinowski, who retired after 25 years on the Los Angeles Police Department.  Malinowski, a former Chief of Detectives in Los Angeles, has been working closely with top officers of the Chicago Police Department on ways to reduce shootings and killings here. Malinowski noted that L.A., with a population nearly 50% larger than Chicago, once saw more than a thousand killings a year. Homicides totaled 251 last year in L.A.

The crime lab experts discuss possible reasons behind Chicago's own dramatic declines in violence over the last two years. After a huge spike in killings in 2016, there's been a steady downward trend. Through this August, killings are down 38% compared to 2016 and are about where they were in 2015, prior to release of a video showing the shooting of Laquan McDonald.