Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.
Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.
More cloudy skies and a high near 54 degrees are in the forecast for this afternoon. Tonight will be rainy, with a low around 47 degrees. Tomorrow, things will clear up; we’ll see some sunshine and a high near 59 degrees before more rain at the end of the week.
Lightfoot’s ‘pandemic’ budget: 500 layoffs, $94 million property tax hike
Yesterday, aldermen were briefed on what Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the “impossible choices” necessary to balance Chicago’s “pandemic budget.” Key changes would include:
- Raising Chicago’s nickel-a-gallon tax on gasoline to 8 cents and imposing a $94 million property tax increase that will cost the owner of a home valued at $250,000 an extra $56 a year.
- Eliminating 1,000 vacant city jobs, 450 of them police officers, and laying off up to 500 city employees, but delaying the pink slips until March to give the new Congress a chance to ride to the rescue.
- Refinancing $500 million in city debt and raiding Chicago’s $900 million in reserves, but only by $30 million to avoid another drop in Chicago’s already shaky bond rating.
- Declaring a record $350 million tax increment financing surplus to generate a $189 million windfall for the Chicago Public Schools, but snatching back $55 million of that money by shifting pension and crossing guard costs from the city to CPS.
- Requiring thousands of city employees who don’t belong to unions to take five unpaid furlough days.
Lightfoot is scheduled to deliver her 2021 budget address tomorrow in an otherwise empty City Council chambers.
A property tax increase was her “last resort.” Layoffs and furlough days were “second-to-last.” Yet she is resorting to both those options to plug the gap without federal help.
A year ago, Lightfoot avoided raising property taxes by balancing her first budget with one-time revenues. As easy a vote as it was, 11 aldermen voted against a budget they claimed, “woefully underfunds mental health services, relies on property taxes and gives the wealthiest corporations a pass.”
Now, Ald. Gilbert Villegas, the mayor’s floor leader, has the formidable task of delivering 26 votes for a property tax increase at a time of extraordinary hardship for homeowners and business owners alike.
The budget also includes a 20% increase — to 9%, up from 7.5% — in the tax on computer leases and cloud service.
“If property taxes is not something they can support, then I would welcome them to bring some recommendations that we can talk about and see if we can get votes on that,” Villegas said.
“We’re not getting any help from D.C. We’re not getting any help from Springfield. This is a go-it-alone budget for a city we were elected to represent. These are the levers we have. This is what’s being proposed by the mayor. Ultimately, my colleagues will either support it or not support it.”
Read Fran Spielman’s full report here.
More news you need
- Indoor service will be back off the menu for bars and restaurants in Will, Kankakee, Kane and DuPage counties by the end of the week as COVID-19 testing positivity rates shoot up statewide. Other regions are also flirting with a state intervention.
- The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced this week it will cancel spring break while delaying the start of the spring semester next year due to COVID-19. While classes will begin later, students who will attend in-person classes are required to return early for on-campus COVID testing.
- Federal officials are investigating the city after Southeast Side residents said their civil rights were violated by a long pattern of environmental racism. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has “opened a complaint,” which names Mayor Lori Lightfoot and others.
- Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is ramping up her attacks on her Republican challenger’s record in a new ad that started airing today — just as a new GOP poll shows the Democratic incumbent losing ground. The incumbent prosecutor’s ad argues that former Cook County Judge Pat O’Brien is “pure Trump.”
- The Near West Side offices of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 have been closed because of the coronavirus “until further notice.” FOP president John Catanzara declined to say who or how many people have tested positive.
- Amazon is hiring to fill 1,500 full and part-time positions in the Chicago area for its new grocery store concept. Amazon Fresh is opening four stores in Naperville, Bloomingdale, Oak Lawn and Schaumburg.
A bright one
Attorneys create free, virtual clinic to give immigrant Asian business owners legal help
Years after Erica Yang immigrated to the United States, she can still remember how she felt as a teenager in a new country.
“The feeling of vulnerability and anxiety and what it feels like to be an outsider,” said Yang, who came to the U.S. from China. “I still remember that feeling when I was in high school.”
Those memories are why Yang, a commercial finance attorney at the Katten Muchin Rosenman law firm, recently co-founded a free, virtual legal clinic for those in Chicago’s Asian community whose primary language isn’t English.
Lawyers Helping Our Community, under the umbrella of the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, launched in June to help Chinatown businesses with civil issues like evictions and insurance claims.
Yang, 29, thought of the idea for the clinic when in-person appointments at many pro bono legal clinics were halting due to the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, she was hearing that business owners in the Chinatown area were struggling to stay afloat.
The clinic, which includes about 60 volunteer attorneys and law students, has worked with about 30 clients so far.
Read more of Elvia Malagón’s story here.
From the press box
After years of failing to contend for a Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks leveled with fans today in announcing a new youth-oriented direction for the franchise.“I’m not afraid to call it a rebuild,” GM Stan Bowman said while discussing the team’s plans with reporters.
And the Bears added an interesting name to their practice squad this afternoon: former Notre Dame star Manti Te’o. The veteran linebacker appeared in three games with the Saints last year.
Your daily question ☕
What’s your favorite Chicago building, and why?
Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.
Yesterday, we asked you: What do you think of the news that Chicago is now in a “second surge,” and that coronavirus restrictions could soon be tightened again? Here’s what some of you said…
“If it needs to be done, we do it. Money is never more important than human lives.” — Michelle Hrad
“For those of us on the frontlines, it’s all just one giant surge with no end in sight.” — Monica Maalouf
“I’m extremely concerned that CPS wants to bring children and staff back when we’re in a second surge.” — Dana Marie Miroballi
“I think that maybe the city shouldn’t have loosened restrictions on bars and restaurants. It sends the wrong message as well as being an avenue for the virus to spread.” — Mark Simons
“Give us another stimulus, add that 600 back to unemployment and I’m fine with it.” — Jessica Muniz
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