It turns out the people of Chicago don’t have a tidy answer to solving the city’s $838 million budget gap, much less the steep incremental increase in additional pension payments expected to reach $989 million a year by 2023.

Ald. Pat Dowell, chairman of the City Council’s budget committee, acknowledged the public is short on answers. I caught up with Dowell on Wednesday at the South Shore Cultural Center, on the way out of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s final budget town hall.

“There were not a lot of thoughtful ways to gain revenue, just ways to raise expenses,” Dowell said. “Clearly, people are not wanting to see an increase in property taxes, or fines and fees,” she added.

The lack of breakthrough ideas from the public is hardly a surprise. Most people are not experts in municipal finance. They don’t know where to find the soft spots in a budget, or structure a whiz-bang solution to a long-term financial problem.

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David Greising is the president and chief executive of the Better Government Association, joining the BGA in 2018. For nearly a century, the BGA has fought for honest and effective government through investigative journalism and policy advocacy.

Greising’s career started at the City News Bureau of Chicago, with stops at the Chicago Sun-Times, Business Week magazine, the Chicago Tribune and Reuters. He was a co-founder of the Chicago News Cooperative and worked briefly as a consultant to World Business Chicago. Today, Greising writes on government issues in regular columns for the Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business.

Under Greising’s leadership, the BGA has played a key role in uncovering public corruption amidst the wide-ranging federal probe, starting with an in-depth report about Ald. Ed Burke’s conflicts of interest before the federal charges against Burke. The BGA also has exposed waste and fraud at O’Hare and the proliferation of corruption and poverty into Dolton, Lyons and other Chicago suburbs. The BGA’s policy team has led calls for ethics reform in Chicago’s City Council and in state government.