Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivered her 2022 budget address during Monday’s City Council meeting, unveiling plans to help close a $733 million budget gap fueled largely by economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, she said.
Read her full address below.
SECTION 1: INTRODUCTION
There are many truths about this City that I know. I know these truths from travelling the neighborhoods, walking the streets, and seeing and hearing from residents firsthand. Whether on the North Side in neighborhoods like Belmont Cragin or Portage Park, or the lower Southeast Side in Hegewisch or East Chicago; the West side in East or West Garfield Park, Austin or North Lawndale; downtown in the loop or in Streeterville; or the Southwest Side in Pilsen or Little Village, or the South Side in neighborhoods spanning from Hyde Park to Woodlawn and South Shore, to Roseland, Englewood, and so many neighborhoods in between. I know that our people, Chicagoans, are tough and resilient. Chicagoans are proud of who they are, their families, and their heritage—whether that history began here in this city or our country or some distant land. And no one should ever doubt our grit and determination. And I also know, that in this particular time, there are other inescapable truths. Our people are also hurting and in need of continued support and healing.
A recent survey found:
• 27 percent of Chicago adults lost healthcare during the pandemic.
• 33 percent of employed adults had reduced hours or lost pay. • 28 percent of Chicagoans experienced food insecurity during the pandemic—and that percentage for Black and Brown adults was far, far worse.
• And 17 percent of adult Chicagoans reported experiencing severe psychological distress during the pandemic with significant numbers of adults feeling isolated, nervous, and hopeless.
Yes, this most recent chapter of our Chicago history has been brutal, marked by too many stories of hardship, pain and even death. Ushered in by the insidious reach of a global pandemic, first of its kind in 100 years, which brought with it a pandemic-sized economic meltdown, civic unrest, and unacceptable levels of violence. But we must be honest and recognize that the fault lines revealed during the pandemic were actually decades in the making, borne of persistent, intentional acts dating back to our earliest days as a union and compounded and refined over time. Life expectancy gaps of 15 years or more between Black and white people, did not happen by chance. Lack of access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, which spawned the underlying medical vulnerabilities exposed and exploited during the pandemic, was not an accident of history. Lack of opportunity in jobs and education is not the fault of those victimized, and certainly not the natural order of things.
Similarly, gender-based violence that has escalated to epidemic proportions in these last few years, are the result of us turning away from the cold reality that violence at home spills into the streets, as traumatized and victimized children of today can be tomorrow’s violent adults. Rampant, unchecked opioid and heroin use that leaves some areas of our city looking like a scene from the Walking Dead— don’t tell me that just rose up organically.
There is a long list, with its origins and roots traceable to systemic racism, failure to invest in people and places and none of this has happened by accident. They are two sides of the same coin and designed and forged to benefit some, off the backs of others. This is intentional and must be changed.
The costs have been and continue to be unacceptably high. The pre-pandemic murmurs of anger and frustration, of pain and suffering that have trapped too many in despair and denied generations the ability to realize their God-given potential—those murmurs are now a loud chorus, a chorus that demands our attention. Yes, that chorus sounds some discordant notes, but in the yearning for something different, something better, those uplifted voices are also singing a sweet song of hope about the future and what is possible if we listen to the will of the people. A consistent refrain that I have heard is that we must be equally intentional in righting these historic wrongs.
First and foremost, we must be intentional on behalf of our children. We must show up for our children, from cradle to graduation so that they are set up for success in their life’s journeys regardless of the circumstances into which they are born. We must be intentionally on the side of our most vulnerable residents—seniors, the homeless, the addicted, the jobless—as we have enough riches in this city to extend a hand to our brothers and sisters, our neighbors who need us. We must also be intentionally on the side of our working families. The daily struggle of so many need not be a given. It’s a trap that saps people of their ability to lift their heads high, to feel like their work has value. Saying that we believe in the dignity of work is meaningless if that work cannot sustain a life and is in an environment that is patently unfair to the workers. We must do more for our working families. And we must keep working intentionally and persistently to eradicate poverty, and create economic opportunities for people to sustain a good life and pass on wealth to the next generation.
In this historic moment, where we stand on the precipice of our new normal, the destiny that we will create for ourselves and future generations, we must commit ourselves to being intentional—but in a very different way than in our past. Our new intentionality must include forging a new pact with each other and the people we serve. As leaders must commit to a new set of truths—starting with the truth that equity and inclusion must be at the center of all of our work, and that in our post-pandemic recovery, no one, not anyone can be left behind. But in order for these truths to be self-evident, to become an intrinsic part of our destiny, so that we can make real our new declaration of truth and liberation, we must find common ground. We must be unified in our path forward. Unity—an obvious point, but often difficult to achieve, particularly in these times.
Scripture provides valuable lessons and solutions. The Old Testament tells us that Moses gathered the Israelites together before they finally reached the Promised Land, after a 40-year, grueling set of trials. Their struggles seem not unlike what we have endured over these last 18 months— hunger, plagues, and death. Moses told the assembled masses that they were doomed to repeat this harrowing test until a new generation arose—one that was united through their faith in God and shared belief that they could attain the Promised Land. Should they remain united through their faith, as Moses said, they would be blessed in a multitude of ways. Should they falter in their faith, however, they would be doomed to repeat…