OCT 26, 2021
Lightfoot’s budget proposal to face full council vote with support of previously critical aldermen
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s 2022 budget proposal is set for a final vote Wednesday.
The City Council is set Wednesday to take its final vote on a freshly amended version of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposed 2022 budget, potentially setting next year’s spending plan one month ahead of the city’s normal schedule.
Lightfoot’s budget-related ordinances were included on Monday’s City Council agenda, but Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), who chairs the City Council’s finance committee, and Ald. Pat Dowell (3), who chairs the budget committee, moved to delay a vote on the $16.7 billion spending plan until Wednesday — a routine procedural delay.
- Key committee sends Lightfoot’s proposed spending plan to full City Council with wide-ranging support
- Aldermen give initial OK to property tax hike, borrowing proposal to fund Chicago Recovery Plan
Aldermen instead will vote on next year’s spending plan during the Wednesday City Council meeting set to begin a 10 a.m.
The mayor’s proposed 2022 budget includes a nearly $77 million property tax hike (O2021-4759), which while less than last year’s $94 million levy increase, includes a $23 million automatic inflation-related increase. The levy hike also includes $25 million to help to pay down debt for last year’s capital bond and $28.6 million from expired tax-increment financing districts and new development added to the tax rolls.
“No” votes on the tax hike proposal during a finance committee meeting came from Ald. Brian Hopkins (2), Ald. Anthony Beale (9), Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11), Ald. Marty Quinn (13), Ald. Ed Burke (14), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15), Ald. Matt O’Shea (19), Ald. Silvana Tabares (23), Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36), Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38), Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) and Ald. Debra Silverstein (50).
A majority of those who voted against the increase this year also voted “no” during the final City Council vote on last year’s $94 million levy hike, with new “no” votes coming this year from Villegas, who last year served as Lightfoot’s floor leader, and from Sposato. Last year’s property tax hike passed with the narrowest margin among budget-related ordinances, with a 28-22 vote.
Proposed spending plan
Next year’s budget proposal is unlike any other in recent history, with the infusion of $1.9 billion in federal American Rescue Plan dollars. Lightfoot in September unveiled her proposal to spend the stimulus funds, along with $660 million in borrowing, as the Chicago Recovery Plan.
In addition to bolstering funding for violence prevention, affordable housing and growing the city’s tree canopy, Lightfoot’s recovery plan sets up a new $31.5 million guaranteed basic income pilot program.
The first-of-its-kind citywide program would send 5,000 households $500 per month for 12 months with a focus on “very low-income residents who have been economically hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a spokesperson for the city’s Office of Budget and Management.
The guaranteed basic income proposal incorporated in Lightfoot’s budget plan mirrors an ordinance (O2021-1564) Villegas proposed earlier this year but did not make it to a committee vote, largely due to pushback from leaders of the Aldermanic Black Caucus who said reparations should take precedence over the guaranteed basic income.
Lightfoot’s proposed budget recommendations (O2021-4238) passed out of the budget committee last week with a 27-5 vote. Quinn, O’Shea, Tabares, Sposato and Reilly all voted “no” on the spending recommendations and did not explain their votes last week.
During Friday’s budget committee meeting, multiple aldermen who for the past few months have been critical of the spending proposal gave their support to the plan on Friday, including Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), who chairs the City Council’s Democratic Socialist Caucus and is also a member of the Progressive Caucus and the Latino Caucus.
Ramirez-Rosa addressed how quickly the budget items were approved by the committee and said, “the speed at which it passed reflects countless hours of work behind the scenes between aldermen, departments, mayoral staff, working hard to move forward a budget that we believe will move forward interests of our communities.”
While Ramirez-Rosa also said there is “so much more investment that our communities need” and “there's no one budget that's going to deliver the justice...socially and economically that our communities need,” he noted there has “been a lot of progress in this budget.”
Ald. Sophia King (4), who chairs the City Council Progressive Reform Caucus also lent her support to the spending plan last week.
Proposed changes that made it into the plan include the creation of a new City Council subcommittee that would be tasked with reviewing Lightfoot’s Chicago Recovery Plan initiatives and spending. Plans for the subcommittee are outlined under Lightfoot’s proposed management ordinance (O2021-4785), which was approved unanimously last week.
The 14-member oversight subcommittee of the budget committee would examine the city’s “progress toward equitable goals, and potential course corrections, as necessary,” according to city documents.
The oversight body would be chaired by Dowell, and Ald. Matt Martin (47) would serve as vice chair. Martin had worked with Ald. Daniel La Spata (1) and Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20) to push for the subcommittee, he told The Daily Line.
But while Lightfoot’s budget proposal has garnered support from multiple aldermen who were initially critical of her office’s decision to incorporate federal stimulus dollars into the budget instead of rolling the cash out right away, Lightfoot’s negotiation with the City Council’s Latino Caucus was more contentious as leaders doubled-down on their effort to work racial parity into the budget.
Villegas earlier this month filed a resolution (R2021-1077) calling for the creation of a “Hispanic Inclusion Plan” to push the city closer to racial parity among city employees, particularly those in top leadership positions.
The resolution was filed days after the caucus held a contentious meeting with Lightfoot, in which the mayor rejected a 10-part list of demands the caucus put in front of her.
Members of the Latino Caucus have also used committee confirmations of Lightfoot’s various appointments to advocate for more Latino representation among city ranks and voted against an O'Hare Airport concession agreement, saying city aviation officials were not doing enough to attract Latino firms to get involved.
- O’Hare concession agreement clears divided committee as Latino aldermen question its ‘parity’ and ‘equity’
At the same time, the 20-member Aldermanic Black Caucus had pushed Lightfoot to redirect her proposed $31.5 million guaranteed income pilot toward boosting anti-violence outreach efforts.
“There are plenty of opportunity areas in the budget, a lot of which is largely undefined — the definition has not been fully baked as of yet,” Ald. Jason Ervin (28) told The Daily Line last week, citing the guaranteed income plan as an example. “There are opportunities to move in a direction we think is beneficial for communities on the South and West Side.”
And organizers are planning at least one rally outside City Hall Wednesday morning in a final effort to demand more dollars be invested mental health, affordable housing and homelessness instead of the Chicago Police Department and so-called “big banks.”
The Chicago Budget Coalition — composed of progressive labor unions, community organizations and elected officials — is planning to begin its rally at 8:30 a.m. outside City Hall.
“While there are commitments in this budget that would not have been possible without years of organizing, the [rally] is aimed at calling attention to the vast array of public services still needed for communities to survive while hundreds of millions of dollars are siphoned off to big banks and the police,” according to a news release from the coalition.
“This citywide coalition will not stop fighting until we defund the police, tax the rich and use that money to reopen every public mental health clinic, end homelessness, provide clean water, safe neighborhoods, good schools and more. It is past time we build a city where ALL Chicagoans can thrive,” the news release closes.
Additional items set for approval on Wednesday include:
A2021-157 — Lightfoot’s appointment of Luis Gutierrez, founder and CEO of the immigration legal services group Latinos Progresando, to the Chicago Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. Gutierrez is not related to the former Chicago congressman of the same name.
O2021-4066 — Sale of eight city-owned parcels at 6411-13 S. Cicero Ave. in the 13th Ward to GW Property Group for the development of a drive-thru Starbucks. The lot was appraised this year at $1.6 million but the city bumped down its sale price to $825,000 after discovering “environmental contamination…due to prior usage,” according to briefing materials. The site had previously been home to a used car sales lot but has sat vacant for years, Quinn said during a housing committee meeting. The city had sold the property to Culver's, but the restaurant chain "walked away" upon finding contamination, he said.
O2021-4132 — An ordinance authorizing the Department of Housing to issue $3 million in federally backed Multi-Family Program Funds to Chicago House and Social Service Agency so it can acquire and renovate a 13-unit affordable building at 1650 W. 63rd St. in the 15th Ward. The building was previously operated as Clara's Place by the late Clara Kirk, who was known as the "Mother of Englewood" for the transitional housing facilities that she established and operated, according to Kara Breems, financial planning analyst with the city’s housing department.
O2021-4195 — An ordinance granting developers R2 Companies and Blue Star Properties Class L historic tax credits to transform the Morton Salt shed at 1357 N. Elston Ave. in the 27th Ward. into a 4,000-ticket theater. The plan to remake the four-acre salt shed site while keeping the iconic exterior structure intact has steadily marched through a series of city approvals this year, including by achieving historic landmark status so that the “Morton Salt” logo and umbrella girl illustration remain to greet concertgoers. The plan also calls to add restaurants and 61,000 square feet of office space to the site.
All additional items included in The Daily Line’s coverage of the housing and economic development committee meetings are also up for approval.
Meetings & Agendas