Mayor Rahm Emanuel has urged Gov. Bruce Rauner to reverse his “immediate freeze” of state funding for Chicago parks.
The mayor — who’s running a tight runoff race against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia — joined a rally on Sunday to protest the $28 million funding cuts. He defended city projects, saying the governor must restore the funding and bring resources back to the city.
“When the Gov. Rauner said, ‘We’re going to have shared sacrifice,’ I didn’t realize he meant women and children and families first,” Emanuel told a crowd of about 70 people, including Chicago Parks District CEO Michael Kelly, activist Conrad Worrill and several aldermen.
The funding freeze affects 27 projects and 25 parks across the city, according to the mayor’s office. Among the projects in jeopardy is the acquisition of the former “Magid Glove” factory, needed to complete the West Side’s Bloomingdale Trail.
The cuts also affect the construction of an indoor track facility in Pullman’s Gately Park, where the rally was held.
“You cannot balance the state’s budget on the backs of our neighborhoods, our families and our children,” Emanuel said. “Gov. Rauner, do not balance your budget on the backs of the children of Chicago — keep your hands off their dreams.”
Worrill, who thanked the mayor for supporting the indoor track project, also had a message for the governor.
“Take your hands off,” he said.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced the funding freeze last Thursday. The cut comes one month after several grants that fund social programs also saw their funding frozen.
The governor’s office responded to the rally Sunday evening saying that “while both state childcare programs and state prisons are running out of money because of the broken budget Governor Rauner inherited, the Chicago Park District is sitting on reserves of $308 million. The governor continues to takes steps to solve the fiscal mess he inherited and remains committed to working with legislators on a responsible solution.”