Mayor Lightfoot defends proposed property tax hike and more in one-on-one interview

Chicago News

CHICAGO — For a city facing numerous challenges, Mayor Lightfoot’s most pressing concern remains the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent weeks, Lightfoot has warned people need to protect themselves from the virus even at home with friends and family.

“It’s inside of that home bubble where we’ve got to constantly keep drilling into people, limit the number,” Mayor Lightfoot said. “Wear your mask and really don’t invite anybody who isn’t an essential into your home.”

City Council budget hearings are now underway with the aldermen taking a close look at Lightfoot’s plan to address the city’s $1.2 billion shortfall. 

The mayor is proposing a $94 million property tax increase plus a property tax escalator going forward.

“Our hope is that by adding a measure of stability and doing what’s necessary around property taxes, not avoiding it entirely for years and years and years and then coming in and giving some whoppingly large property tax increase.” Mayor Lightfoot said. “We’re gonna do what I think a lot of property tax owners want. They want predictability and stability.”

The mayor’s budget also includes millions raised from “enhanced fine enforcement,” speeding tickets and like. It caught many by surprise because Lightfoot has railed against what she calls the city’s addition to fines and fees.

“The speed camera issue I think is distinct from some of the other fines and fees because people choose to speed or they do not,” Mayor Lightfoot said.

The mayor and school officials are plotting a course forward for CPS’ second semester. But the Chicago Teachers Union, wanting more say in return to classroom conditions, has filed an unfair labor practice suit.

“The teachers absolutely have to be part of the solution, but unfortunately the CTU fights us at every turn,” Mayor Lightfoot said. “Obviously, there are going to be some teachers who say ‘I’m older, I’ve got an underlying condition, I would love to continue teaching but I can’t do it in-person’ and we obviously understand that, but you don’t know that until you engage with them and that’s what CPS is embarked in the process of doing.”

Over the weekend, Chicago police were called to the home of former police superintendent Eddie Johnson for a domestic incident. Lightfoot says she’s not talked to Johnson since she fired him last year.

“I think this whole saga is really quite sad,” Mayor Lightfoot said. “I hope that if he is struggling, that he reaches out to people in his circle that love him.”

Lightfoot’s also responded to allegations made by Johnson’s former police driver, Cynthia Donald, that the former top cop sexually abused her and the mayor knew about it.

“I think that over the course of this litigation you’re going to find out a lot more that would put her allegations into some context,” Mayor Lightfoot said. “Of course Eddie Johnson never told that he was sexually assaulting and abusing her.”

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