Rahm’s power move on Airbnb ordinance shows who’s the boss in City Hall

Rahm’s power move on Airbnb ordinance shows who’s the boss in City Hall

Despite calls for more time, the mayor flexed his muscle to increase taxes on short-term Airbnb rentals to over 21 percent.

Continuing to flex his muscle over City Council, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed through his amended version of an Airbnb ordinance that would increase taxes on short-term rentals to 21 percent.

Emanuel first introduced the measure Jan. 13. He delivered his amended version of the ordinance with just minutes left in the May 18 meeting of the Joint Committee on Housing and Real Estate and the Committee on License and Consumer Protection.

This gave aldermen no time to review changes to the ordinance, and despite the calls to delay from both aldermen and interested parties, the mayor forced through the ordinance, which passed on a 17-9 vote.

The short-term rental ordinance, dubbed the “Airbnb ordinance,” would impose an additional 4 percent surcharge on short-term rentals on top of Chicago’s 17.4 percent hotel tax. Additionally, this ordinance would track rental hosts by requiring the housing platform to submit a list of the addresses of hosts in a particular ward.

After hours of testimony May 17, Alderman Joe Moore, 49th Ward, and Alderman Emma Mitts, 37th Ward, the chairmen of the governing committees, postponed a full vote in City Council.

The mayor is up against some vocal opposition. Many aldermen, including Alderman Michele Smith, 43rd Ward, and Alderman Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward, feel the mayor’s new restrictions don’t go far enough. They want to delay a vote on his revised ordinance to provide more time to consider all options.

Chicago was created to be a strong-council, weak-mayor system, and yet it has long been said that the aldermen are “weak” and a “rubber-stamp.” Many have called for the Council to retake its position of power. Despite the rumors about aldermen smelling blood in the water around the weakened mayor, this ordinance serves as a reminder of who is really in charge at City Hall.

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