CALUMET CITY | The City Council is likely to approve a municipal budget this week that doubles the amount of money the city provides to groups such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The increase from $5,000 to $10,000 annually for each group’s local chapters was proposed by Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush.
Qualkinbush said she put the increase in her budget proposal because she thinks the two groups are worthwhile to the community, and she has heard both organizations are having financial trouble.
“I think it’s a reasonable thing to do,” Qualkinbush said. “The council can do something different if it wishes.”
Final approval will come when the City Council votes on an appropriations ordinance at a special meeting Wednesday.
But 3rd Ward Alderman Thaddeus Jones tried Monday to have the increase undone. He made a motion during a Finance Committee session to restore the municipal funding for the two groups back to $5,000. But it failed by a 4-3 vote. Jones, along with 4th Ward Alderman Ramonde Williams and 7th Ward Alderman Antoine Collins, were the opponents.
Jones said he fears this will result in other groups, along with local businesses, approaching the City Council in the future to ask for money.
“Every organization will come forth to ask for help,” Jones said. “How do we justify giving this but not helping other businesses in Calumet City?”
Collins said he supported Jones because he thinks the increase is inappropriate at a time when he thinks city government should be watching its spending carefully.
“There is so much waste in this budget, it doesn’t make sense,” he said, while declining to elaborate on what parts of the municipal budget he considers wasteful.
But 5th Ward Alderman Roger Munda — who was among the four City Council members who backed the additional funding — was particularly critical of Jones’ actions because he thinks they come across as being critical of the veterans groups.
“The VFW and American Legion should not be spoken of in that manner,” Munda said. “I advise we do make the (increase), because they protected our rights and our freedoms.”
Jones said he appreciates the contributions of military veterans, but said he wasn’t convinced that city government should be giving funding increases to the groups.
“It’s our responsibility to give (the VFW and American Legion) money?” he asked.
Munda said the veterans groups were different than other local businesses.
“I’ll justify my choice to help the groups when (business owners) pick up a weapon to defend our rights,” he said.