• Erin Hegarty
    AUG 17, 2021

    Budget that invests in South, West sides would ‘lift the city in its entirety,’ Black Caucus chair says

    Members of the Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus during an October 2019 news conference [Alex Nitkin/The Daily Line]

    Chicago’s Aldermanic Black Caucus will look to the city’s 2022 budget to prioritize bringing more resources and regional development to the city’s South and West sides, according to the group’s leader. 

    Ald. Jason Ervin (28), who chairs the Black Caucus, told The Daily Line on Monday that investing in communities on the city’s South and West sides would help to “lift the city in its entirety” as areas of the city are under-resourced when it comes to youth investments and infrastructure.  

    While the City Council is in the middle of its August recess, Mayor Lori Lightfoot last week announced as part of the budget forecast that the city is facing a $733 million budget shortfall heading into 2022.   

    Related: Chicago faces $733 million budget shortfall heading into 2022 budget, Lightfoot announces  

    Lightfoot last week said she plans to introduce her 2022 “recovery” budget proposal on Sept. 15, but Leaders of the City Council’s major caucuses are gearing up to ensure their priorities are included in the city’s 2022 spending plan as Chicago’s budget season is scheduled to begin in September, one month ahead of the city’s typical schedule.    


    Unlike last year, the city has more than one year of experience with the pandemic and is weighing how to spend a financial windfall from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which some aldermen and community activists have said should have been allocated earlier this year.  

    Chicago residents and communities need investments that will improve their lives and futures in the long term, not just immediately, Ervin told The Daily Line.   

    Ervin said the Black Caucus will look to American Rescue Plan funding “as a way to help bring resources” to communities that are “really in serious need of assistance.”  

    Ervin said the Black Caucus also wants to emphasize working with Chicago Public Schools on “sustainable community schools” as a way to offer “additional wraparound resources that would help children.”  

    Additionally, regional infrastructure and development projects on the South and West sides would help lift those neighborhoods and Chicago as a whole. “As the South and West sides are lifted, it lifts the city in its entirety,” Ervin said.  

    He gave senior housing as one example of a development the Black Caucus could advocate for. Ervin said there is a “huge need among the senior population” on the Near South Side, which he said lacks facilities for seniors.  

    The American Rescue Plan funding is a unique opportunity “we don’t want to miss” and the city has to “make investments in the future of our city,” Ervin said.  

    “I think we have to definitely work on our internal finances and also make some investments that are going to impact the future of the city, especially around our youth and bringing vitality back to communities,” he said.  

    Ervin said he was not surprised when Lightfoot said last week that she will propose a 2022 budget that increases funding for the police department. “We are coming off of record retirement and other things” and the city needs to be concerned about having an adequately staffed department, he said.  

    “I think we need to invest money in all places” and ensure a “robust public safety as well as systems that will help families,” Ervin said. “We need to make sure our police department has the resources it needs to address issues, but at the same time we want to make sure family supports and wrap-around services are available for families or individuals as well.”  

    While the city has a smaller budget hole to fill this year compared to last year’s $1.2 billion shortfall, plus $1.9 billion in federal stimulus dollars, every budget presents its own challenges.  

    “No budget is easy,” Ervin said. “There are a lot of issues at stake here,” and aldermen will need to be “a little more diligent in our work” to ensure the city is helping residents most in need.  

    Lightfoot’s 2021 “pandemic” spending plan (O2020-5216) was narrowly approved with a 29-21 vote, and a corresponding $94 million property tax increase (O2020-5747) was approved with a 28-22 vote.    

    The city earlier this month hosted three “budget engagement forums,” which were billed as events for city officials to gather residents’ input on what they want to see the city prioritizing in its budget.  

    Aldermen and leaders of the city’s various departments are expected to weigh in on the mayor’s budget proposal after Lightfoot introduces her spending plan in September.

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