City Council passes $1.1 billion COVID-19 spending plan

Chicago News

CHICAGO — Chicago’s City Council passed Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $1.1 billion COVID-19 spending plan Wednesday, despite pushback from aldermen concerned the money will go towards policing.

“We have a choice here as a city: we can ensure that every single one of these dollars goes towards real relief, or we can leave the door open for this money to go towards policing,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward).

During the virtual city council meeting, Lightfoot’s $1.1 billion proposal got the green light but not before some debate about where that money would go.

Several aldermen wanted the mayor to promise that none of the money would go towards funding the police department. Although Lightfoot said it’s not earmarked for policing, there’s no guarantee that won’t change.

“Unfortunately, absent the commitment that this money will not go towards racist policing, I have to stand with the tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans who have said, ‘not one more cent to racist policing,’” Ramirez-Rosa said.

The nine votes against the spending plan weren’t nearly enough to derail the mayor’s proposal, and she didn’t seem concerned about the pushback.

“Obviously, today an overwhelming majority of members of City Council voted in favor of the funding plan that we put forward and we move on,” Lightfoot said.

The spending package includes a big chunk of change to help cover the city’s public health response to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

“My concern and my no vote stems from the $330 million that essentially we’re putting into a black box marked, ‘ongoing COVID-19 expenses’,” Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st Ward) said. 

The money would also be used to set up housing and workforce programs to help people who have lost jobs due to the crisis, and sets aside $40 million to respond to a potential resurgence of the virus. 

“There are all kinds of opinions whether it’s enough money or not enough money; I think we have to exercise a considerable amount of prudence because clearly we don’t know what the future will bring, but we are deeply concerned about the prospect of a resurgence of COVID-19,” Lightfoot said.

Aldermen from the Black and Progressive caucuses also teamed up for a proposal to terminate a $33 million contract that puts police officers in CPS and reinvest in mental and behavioral health services.

Mayor Lightfoot previously dismissed the idea, saying having officers in schools is necessary. The proposal was  moved into committee for consideration Wednesday, but its political future remains unclear.

There’s been another push for police reform with the Civilian Police Accountability Council ordinance, which would give the community control of the police department.

It’s gaining support among aldermen, but the mayor supports a competing plan that keeps many of existing systems in place.

Mayor Lightfoot was originally scheduled to speak about the results of the meeting during a press conference Wednesday afternoon, but the in-person appearance was abruptly changed to a conference call.

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