Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled her proposed $ 16 billion municipal budget this week. Now city council deliberations are underway on the budget plan, which has surprised some alders with its progressive leaning.
“Our ultimate goal with this recovery and resilience budget is to reclaim and develop Chicago into a safer, stronger and more prosperous city in which people can put down roots to raise families, start businesses and improve their lives. “said Lightfoot.
The mayor made it clear that the budget contained no cuts in services, no layoffs and no new taxes, but $ 2 billion in the budget comes from a one-time federal stimulus, leading some to wonder how these programs will be. funded in the future.
“You see a lot of social spending here, less taxes, but when it comes to political spending, the problem you often have is that it comes back years later with someone having to pay for it. So this is something that we are really watching with this budget going forward, ”said Brandon pope, presenter and reporter for CW26. “If we get all these big progressive ideas, is it going to fall on the taxpayers later? “
One of these progressive programs is a Basic Income Pilot, which sets aside $ 30 million to give 5,000 low-income families $ 500 per month for one year. The idea has been implemented in other cities and towns across the country, but Chicago is said to be the largest such pilot in America to date.
“I think if Chicago really cares about the poorest and most vulnerable people in this city, this will become permanent,” said Adam rhodes, social justice reporter for the Chicago Reader.
But the Block Club reporter Jamie Nesbitt Golden don’t think the program is likely to last beyond its first year.
“While we have a record number of progressive board members, we have a lot of old school people who aren’t really convinced by the issue. So I think it’s kind of a wait and see, but I don’t think it’s going to hold up, ”she said.
“I think it’s really interesting that they decided to make it a one-year pilot because it’s really hard to draw conclusions about a program of this size and with this kind of mission in just one. an “, added Carlos ballesteros, reporter for Injustice Watch. “A lot of families, I think in previous pilots, have shown that for some people it might only seem like $ 500 a month. But if you are that family that receives it and needs it, that’s a lot. “
The budget also proposes to increase funding for affordable housing projects by $ 240 million, but it remains to be seen whether the city will continue to rely on private developers to add housing units, as has been the recent practice.
“When I cover affordable housing stories, I really don’t hear much about [Chicago Housing Authority.] It’s usually a private developer who comes into the community and offers you to build luxury homes and set aside a certain percentage for affordable housing, ”said Nesbitt Golden.
But Chicago’s affordable housing shortage isn’t just about funding, Nesbitt Golden points out, it’s also about whether current residents in communities targeted by affordable housing projects want them there.
“When I spoke to residents, they were concerned that affordable housing attracts some people who might not respect the community… a lot of conversations about it mirror those in the North. “
How the $ 52 million added to support mental health initiatives will be spent is not yet clear. Nestor Flores of the Pilsen Wellness Center says that before the city commits any more money to mental health programs, it must first assess how past funds have been spent.
“[Do] do actual community members know about these programs? Do they participate in these programs? And we have to hear their voices, ”said Flores. “I would also ask the community, hey, have you heard of these funds allocated in the budget and what is it for you?” And I guarantee you’ll get different answers and some people … shrugging their shoulders and thinking, well, that doesn’t really serve me … And that’s where the gap is.
Video: Our “Chicago Tonight: Voices Crossover” Journalist Roundtable on Mayor’s Budget 2022 continues, moderated by Brandis Friedman. (Produced by Erica Gunderson).
Pope suggests that communities hope additional funds would bring back mental health services lost under a previous administration.
“The big demand for most of these communities is to restore the mental health clinics that were closed years ago under the administration of Rahm Emanuel,” he said. “It is no coincidence that the neighborhoods where there is the most violence are where these mental health clinics have been withdrawn. Instead, you’ve seen dollars transferred more money to law enforcement… and that’s not what citizens are asking for at all, ”Pope said.
A notable portion of the budget actually increases police spending, adding $ 189 million to the Chicago Police Department coffers for a total of about $ 1.9 billion. While much of the new funding is intended to cover contractually mandatory retroactive pay increases for the police, Todd Belcore, executive director of Social Change, says the budget demonstrates Mayor Lightfoot’s dependence on the police. as a solution to the city’s violent crime problem.
“When you show me your budget, you also show your priorities. And right now, our priorities are to say that the police are their primary vehicle for resolving issues of violence and public safety in our community. We would expect and hope that … in Chicago, more money will be invested in frontline efforts and strategies that truly address violence, public safety and ensure people can overcome the obstacles that often lead to violence. crime, ”Belcore said.
Asiaha Butler, President and CEO of Greater Englewood Residents Association (RAGE) says she would also like to see the city try different approaches to reducing violent crime beyond adding police.
“What I just don’t see is an innovation in the budget. Seems to be kind of the same status quo… It’s ShotSpotter technology and probably other technologies that need to be evaluated… I just think it’s one of those budgets that you need to think really hard about before you go. ‘go in for a raise,’ said Butler.
Pope agrees that the budget confirms Mayor Lightfoot’s priorities.
“An 11% increase sends the message that Lightfoot believes policing, lack of policing resources and strengthening is the answer to fixing public safety. But she also made the same statement that we must learn from history and not make mistakes from the past. Well, increasing police spending is a mistake of the past. Police spending… tripled in Chicago in 1964, according to Injustice Watch. And yet, public safety has not improved. In fact, we still have the problems that we have had for decades. So at some point you have to look at different solutions and learn from history, ”Pope said.
Nesbitt Golden says in her discussions with residents of the areas she covers, opinion is far from monolithic about the value of the police in tackling violent crime.
“You have … progressive activists who … think that [more police funding] does not really address the root causes. But then you have other longtime owners… who think that means they’ll have more police protection if they get more foot patrols and that’s the kind of thing they are worried about. There’s been kind of a rise in crime and places here and there and they want that safety, ”said Nesbitt Golden.
But she also points out that none of the funds allocated to the police protect witnesses of crime whom the police urge to speak out.
“We’re asking people to step in and say something and if they see something and they don’t get the protection they need to feel safe. And I think there has to be a time when the DPC addresses this issue, ”said Nesbitt Golden.
“I think there has been so much overwhelming police violence this year that for a lot of people… any increase in the police budget is unacceptable,” Rhodes said. And I think there is probably going to be a defense from the police department, from the city that these are contractual obligations.
Ballesteros says that no matter what the budget comes up with, Mayor Lightfoot appears to be trying to follow a nice political line.
“She tries to give a ‘communities first’ tone, but also a tone of public security police, tough on crime. And it’s hard to get these things to work at the same time. But I will say that this budget reflects more of what many expected of her when she ran for mayor, much more progressive causes. So it will be interesting to see how exactly that plays out if passed, ”Ballesteros said.
And, he says, however she walks that line, Lightfoot should be up for a battle.
“There is always a big fight in the city council. Everything is a big fight in the City Council.