Chicagoans are suffering under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s failed leadership in a city plagued by rising crime. Visitors to the city are greeted by a dystopian homeless shelter at O’Hare Airport.
Lightfoot promised to improve the crumbling city by investing “big money in big ideas”. Lightfoot claims more than $400 million in social programs will fight crime at its core.
The rare funding opportunity comes from $1.9 billion received as part of the federal pandemic recovery bill.
The Chicago Recovery Plan states, “In response to the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress appropriated $350 billion in state and local fiscal recovery funds under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARP”) to the City of Chicago for spending from March 2021 through December 2024. $1.887 billion was allocated from the Local Financial Recovery Fund (“LFRF”).
“Through an extensive process of community engagement, consultation and analysis, the City developed an integrated plan designed to drive transformational change called the Chicago Recovery Plan. This plan invests along two main themes:
- Prosperous and Safe Communities: Investing in the prosperity of people and communities and collectively improving community safety
- Equitable Economic Recovery: Investments to build an equitable economic recovery for Chicago neighborhoods and communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
To catalyze and accelerate the impact these key investments will have, the City proposes to issue a $660 million general obligation bond to finance further initiatives.”
Lightfoot directed a large portion of the funding to a new city office, the Community Safety Coordination Center, which aims to address “decades of disinvestment and systemic racism at the root of the problem.”
But according to a recent investigation by the Illinois North Project, the failed promises far outweigh any progress.
A year into a five-year plan the city has spent about 6% of the funds. According to their calculations, it will take until 2038 to spend the funds at current rates.
The plans are beset by a revolving door of programmatic leadership and a woefully slow timeline for some programs to even begin operations.
Any Chicagoan is suffering.
Illinois North Project Report:
But the city has made more promises than actual spending and progress on implementation.
An Illinois North Project investigation found:
- The city spent about 6% of the money — roughly $25 million, according to a liberal estimate — a year on a five-year plan to use a one-time federal windfall and borrow money to reduce violence, city statistics show.
- Many of the city’s programs took months to roll out, while some were slated to begin as late as the end of the year, according to the City Hall report.
- While the city has marketed its initiatives as innovative, several programs have repurposed traditional services as anti-crime efforts. For example, the city has earmarked millions of dollars to build more pickleball courts, rehabilitate and sell vacant lots, and speed up its response to 311 calls.
- In some cases, the city has failed to cite evidence that its programs can work — even when the federal government asks for it. And the Lightfoot administration has shown few clear plans to evaluate the programs. Experts say city officials are missing an opportunity to collect valuable data that could help them decide what’s worth pursuing.
- A key part of Lightfoot’s plan is to fund an array of street outreach groups that specialize in preventing violence.
Some of these teams have little or no experience. In one example, a group initially turned down for city funding still found a way to get cash. The group is run by a man who is subject to an order of protection for holding a gun to his ex-wife’s head and threatening to kill her, records show.
The full report can be read here.