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Lightfoot sets time and place for speech outlining $1B-plus shortfall and path forward

Lori Lightfoot will deliver a “State of the City” address outlining the magnitude of the budget shortfall she inherited from Rahm Emanuel at 6 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Harold Washington Library.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot presides over the June City Council meeting.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot presides over the June City Council meeting.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot will talk about Chicago’s $1 billion-plus budget shortfall — and the painful round of tax increases and budget cuts that may be required to erase it — at 6 p.m. Aug. 29 in a speech that will be carried live on “all major local TV and radio newscasts,” City Hall said Friday.

As most Chicagoans are getting ready to celebrate Labor Day weekend, Lightfoot will stand before an audience of movers and shakers at the Harold Washington Library and deliver a “State of the City” address outlining the magnitude of the shortfall she inherited from former Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

She will also articulate the cost-cutting steps she already has or is prepared to take to demonstrate to Chicago taxpayers who have already paid a $2 billion price, just to help Emanuel chip away at the city’s pension crisis that, as she put it, “We understand the pain and the burden they have been facing with taxes.”

“I get it. I hear it everywhere I go — particularly around property taxes. And I’m very mindful of that,” Lightfoot said.

“But the reality is — given the gap that we’re gonna face next year, given the pension payments that are demanded — we are gonna have to look for additional revenue sources. There’s no question about that.”

The high-stakes address will also be livestreamed on the city’s website and social media channels, along with Spanish translation.

Seeking public buy-in for the painful solutions ahead, the Lightfoot administration will host four “targeted” budget town hall meetings across the city. One will include a “youth-focused budget discussion.”

Emanuel and former Mayor Richard M. Daley also hosted public hearings on the city’s preliminary budget that frequently turned into public gripe sessions.

Three of the town hall meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays on Sept. 4 at the Corpernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave.; Sept. 19 at Southeast United Methodist Youth and Community Center, 11731 S. Avenue O; and Sept. 25 at Lindblom Math and Science Academy, 6130 S. Wolcott Ave.

The fourth town hall will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at Roberto Clemente Community Academy, 1147 N. Western Ave.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that Lightfoot would disclose a shortfall that tops $1 billion.

On Friday, the mayor reiterated that she needs help from the Illinois General Assembly to deliver something more than a “one-time fix.” But she refused to say what kind of help she would seek except to rule out a longer path to 90% funding of city pensions.

“Some people say, ‘We can’t do a Chicago bailout.’ But the reality is, Chicago’s 80% of the economy of this state. We are the driver of the economics in the Upper Midwest. So, investing in Chicago, investing in our kids, helping us address some of our financial needs is investing in the state,” Lightfoot said.

To give the town hall meetings a “framework” and determine the spending priorities of everyday Chicagoans, City Hall will be launching a public survey at www.chicago.gov/2020budget.