Chicago, IL – Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has proposed a budget plan that includes eliminating over 600 positions within the city’s police department as part of an effort to offset the unprecedented $1.2 billion shortfall anticipated for next year.
Lightfoot said that eliminating 1,921 vacant positions within city government would save a total of $106 million, WBBM reported.
Over half of the jobs she plans to slash would be tied to the Chicago Police Department (CPD), which would see a loss of 614 positions under the proposed $12.8 million budget plan the mayor unveiled on Wednesday.
Her proposal included 350 citywide layoffs, but Lightfoot said she would hold off on letting anyone go until she knows whether or not there will be a new federal COVID-19 stimulus package that might provide funding to local and state governments, WBBM reported.
“We will continue to advocate vociferously for such a stimulus,” she said. “This economic downturn has had a bipartisan impact and there must be a bipartisan solution. So, Congress, do your job, don’t leave us cities and towns all across this country high and dry. Do your job that we sent you there to do.”
Lightfoot said that if the need for layoff comes to fruition, they won’t be affecting the police department, WBBM reported.
“If we cut current jobs, we would be compelled to cut the youngest, most diverse, and well-trained officers in the department, and that is not in anyone’s interest,” she said.
The mayor’s budget plan would require all non-union city employees to take five days of unpaid leave next year.
“I will lead by example and take those five furlough days myself,” Lightfoot noted, according to WBBM.
The mayor also proposed hiking residents’ property taxes by $94 million and raising the gas tax by three cents per gallon, WBBM reported.
“For the average Chicago home valued at $250,000, you will pay just $56 additional dollars for the whole year,” Lightfoot said during her budget address at City Hall on Wednesday. “That’s right, just $56 new dollars per year.”
According to Lightfoot, Chicago has experienced a 48.5 percent decrease in gas taxes, a 35 percent drop in sales tax revenue, a nearly 50 percent loss in amusement and transportation taxes, and a 77.5 percent drop in hotel tax revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, WBBM reported.
She said the city must make “shared sacrifices” to offset the shortfall.
Lightfoot also refused to cave to demands that she defund CPD, and said during the address that law enforcement officers are “not the enemy,” the Chicago Sun Times reported.
“In this moment in Chicago we cannot responsibly enact any policies that make communities less safe,” the mayor said, according to WBBM. “Yes, I agree that the police cannot be the first and only responders on every call for help from our residents. That is precisely why in 2021, we will launch a pilot program borne of real research from subject matter experts that looks at a co-responder model that starts the process of building the infrastructure for alternative means of response.”
Lightfoot warned that the “co-responder model” will not be a “magic wand,” and that it will take time to build and test “on the streets,” the Chicago Sun Times reported.
The mayor also said that it is time to openly acknowledge the “complicit role” law enforcement agencies have played in “brutally enforcing racist, Jim Crow laws, depriving Black and Brown people” of their “full rights as citizens,” according to the paper.
“In breaking down these barriers, we must also continue to closely scrutinize all policing practices and policies to eliminate any and all bias,” Lightfoot added.
Dismantling the police department is not an essential component in being committed to establishing “bias-free policing,” she said.
The mayor further noted that Chicago police have been shot, stabbed, suffered broken limbs, been hit with fireworks, and have been targeted in various other attacks, including 10 officers being “struck by bullets” so far this year alone, the Chicago Sun Times reported.
“Our police officers are not our enemies. They are someone’s son’s or daughter, husband or wife, brother or sister,” Lightfoot said. “They are as complicated and imperfect as all of us…They are our neighbors and an important part of who we are as Chicagoans.”