Chicagoans continue to suffer under the failed leadership of Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a city infested with rising crime. Visitors to the city are greeted at O’Hare airport by a dystopian homeless shelter.
Lightfoot promised improvements in the crumbling city through investing “big money in big ideas.” Big money to the tune of more than $400 million for social programs that Lightfoot claims will battle crime at its roots.
The rare funding opportunity came from set asides from the $1.9 billion received as part of the federal pandemic recovery bill.
The Chicago Recovery Plan states, “In response to the negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, Congress appropriated $350 billion to the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARP”). The City of Chicago was allocated $1.887 billion from the Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (“LFRF”) for expenditures incurred March 2021 thru December 2024.
“Through an extensive process of community engagement, consultation and analysis, the City developed an integrated plan designed to drive transformational change called the Chicago Recovery Plan. This plan invests along two main themes:
Thriving and Safe Communities: investments in the well-being of people and communities to allow them to thrive and collectively improve community safety
Equitable Economic Recovery: investments to create an equitable economic recovery for Chicago’s neighborhoods and the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
In order to catalyze and accelerate the impact that these core investments will have, the City has proposed to issue a general obligation bond of $660 million to fund further initiatives.”
Lightfoot directed a large portion of the funds to a new city office, the Community Safety Coordination Center, aimed at addressing “decades of disinvestment and systemic racism at the root of the problem.”
But according to a recent investigation by the Illinois Answers Project, the failed promises far outweigh any progress.
The city has spent only about 6% of the funds after a year into a five-year plan. According to their calculations, it will take the city until 2038 to spend the funds at the current rate.
The plans have been besieged by a revolving door of programmatic leadership and a woefully slow timeline for some programs to even begin operation.
Any Chicagoans continue to suffer.
But when it comes to the city’s actual spending and execution, there have been more promises than progress.
An Illinois Answers Project investigation found:
The city had spent about 6% of the money — roughly $25 million, by a generous estimate — a year into the five-year plan to use a one-time federal windfall and borrowed money to reduce violence, city figures show.
Many of the city’s programs took months to launch, while a few had yet to start by the end of the year, City Hall reported.
While the city has marketed its initiatives as innovative, several programs involve traditional services recast as anti-crime efforts. The city, for instance, has earmarked tens of millions of dollars to create more pickleball courts, rehab and sell vacant lots and speed up its response to 311 calls.
In some cases, the city failed to cite evidence that its programs could work — even when the federal government has asked for it. And the Lightfoot administration has shown few clear plans to evaluate the programs. Experts say city officials are missing a chance to collect valuable data that could help them decide what’s worth continuing.
A key part of Lightfoot’s plan is funding an array of street outreach groups that specialize in interrupting violence.
Some of those groups have little or no experience. In one instance, a group initially rejected for city funding still found ways to get cash. The group is run by a man subject to an order of protection for putting a gun to his ex-wife’s head and threatening to kill her, records show.