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Alderman proposes 15-day furlough for elected officials to generate $375K for protective gear, supplies for first-responders

The proposal by Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) would require elected officials, including the mayor, to work without pay for 15 days.

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th)
Ald. Ray Lopez (15th)
Sun-Times file photo

Chicago’s 53 elected officials — including Mayor Lori Lightfoot — should forfeit their pay for 15 days to generate $374,642 to purchase protective gear and other supplies for first-responders on the front-lines on the war against the coronavirus, an alderman suggested Friday.

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), one of Lightfoot’s most outspoken City Council critics, said the pandemic requires the mayor, city clerk, treasurer and 50 aldermen to “lead by example.”

With $6.5 million set aside annually for Chicago’s elected officials, the 15-day furlough would generate just $374,642.

But Lopez argued that in a crisis like this, “Every dollar matters.” He wants to re-direct the savings to the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications to purchase supplies for police officers, firefighters, nurses and other first-responders.

“It would show the city that the elected officials ... are willing to make a sacrifice to help put as much money into the kitty as possible to get the resources on the street that people need,” Lopez told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“We’re trying to get hand sanitizers, masks and things of that nature to our first-responders. You can never have enough in a pandemic situation. I would rather be wrong and have more money than be right and have not enough.”

If the furlough suggestion is more than a publicity stunt, Lopez was asked why he’s not offering to forfeit his public salary for even longer than 15 days.

“If you have two unpaid days a week for the next seven weeks, that’s pretty much how long the closures” are likely to last, the alderman said.

Millionaire businessman Willie Wilson has made an even more generous offer to help protect first-responders who have privately complained they are being put at risk because there is not enough protective gear to go around.

Lopez isn’t the first alderman to make cost-saving suggestions during a crisis that has turned downtown Chicago into a ghost town and sent city revenues into a nosedive.

Earlier this week, nine progressive aldermen proposed a property tax abatement for “at least 120 days” after restaurants and small businesses are allowed to open; a state payroll tax cut; a moratorium on business and license fee collections; and an emergency fund to provide low-interest loans and grants to businesses and employees impacted by the virtual shutdown.

Lightfoot created the $100 million fund to provide low-interest loans for small businesses. But she argued that while she is open to all suggestions, the way to offer them was not by press release or tweet.