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Rethink budget for cops, raise taxes on wealthy — and spend more on working families, progressive aldermen say

Mayor Lightfoot is set to discuss the city’s $1 billion budget deficit Thursday night at her “State of the City” address.

Aldermen speak at a City Hall press conference Wednesday.
Aldermen speak at a City Hall press conference Wednesday.
Syd Stone/Sun-Times

Progressive aldermen Wednesday called on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to prioritize working families as the city heads into budget negotiations for 2020.

Lightfoot is set to outline the magnitude of the budget shortfall she inherited from former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, estimated at $1 billion, at her “State of the City” address Thursday evening.

At a City Hall press conference Wednesday with seven progressive aldermen, Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th) promised to work with Lightfoot and the rest of the City Council to address the budget deficit and increase funding for public services — by changing budget priorities and increasing taxes on the wealthy.

“Working class Chicagoans need a budget that taxes the rich and powerful corporations to pay their fair share,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “ ... The time has come to tax the rich instead of continue to rely on fines, fees, and regressive taxes that have pushed out Chicago’s black and brown families out of our city.”

Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) said the city needs to prioritize helping working families and providing services like mental health care.

“If there’s billions of dollars for Lincoln Yards and money to entice Amazon to come here, there’s money that can be put back into our mental health systems,” Garza said. “We need mental health facilities across Chicago, and it can’t just keep going to wealthy developers.”

Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd) said budget negotiations must include constituents and community stakeholders. He said aldermen will talk with community members and bring their demands to the negotiation process.

One solution the aldermen suggested was reallocating money in the budget from policing to other public services.

“When we’re looking at a budget where 41 percent is going to policing, I think it’s a responsible measure to look and see how that money is spent,” said Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th). “We want to change the environment and culture of what’s going on, and pumping more money into a problem that’s already been 41 percent of our budget is not the way to do it.”

Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) said she is hopeful Lightfoot will follow up on campaign promises of not balancing the budget on low income and working families, but would like to see her be more transparent.

“She needs to make good on her promises like we have,” Taylor said. “ ... It’s not easy, it’s some give and take, but we’re tired of being disenfranchised. So this is an opportunity to make Chicago for the many.”

Editor’s note: This article was updated to properly attribute a statement to Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th).