I stood up today and delivered the 2021 budget forecast for the City of Chicago. It was my solemn duty to report that one year after taking on a historic budget shortfall, the impact of COVID has once again created a new fiscal challenge for our city. This time around, the projected gap for our upcoming budget is expected to be $1.2 billion.
We’re looking at a number of solutions to deal with this shortfall, which is overwhelmingly driven by the projected loss of revenue due to the pandemic. We’ll continue to implement structural changes to spend more efficiently and effectively, but we’ll also look to our state and federal partners for support.
We’ll be having conversations across the city in the coming weeks to discuss the budget and our proposed solutions. But it is also important that we not lose sight of the moment that we are in.
Our young people are calling upon us in this moment to acknowledge the present day damage originating hundreds of years after America’s original sin of slavery, which spawned a cancer that metastasized into segregation, discrimination and cut short lives and left potential unrealized because we still have failed to forge that more perfect union.
We are also here together staring into our future while trying to address the on-going violence that rocks parts of our city and more recently, looting—all of which renders too many of our residents fearful and insecure about their physical safety and too many businesses, already hard hit by COVID-19 related shutdowns, despairing anew about their path forward.
We cannot talk about our fiscal health divorced from this moment in history.
I have said before and I believe it now that even in the face of this fiscal crisis, we should not and indeed cannot abandon our values. The challenges that we face require us to lean into our values of equity and inclusion. What this time demands is that we come together as neighbors, casting aside the divisive rhetoric and rolling up our sleeves together as Chicagoans.
We have been through more this year than any city should have to endure in any time, let alone six months, back to back to back. But we have been through tough times before and we have always come out of the moment stronger and more resilient than ever before. This time will be no different, but it will require us to continue working together. We are strong, we are resilient, because we are Chicago.
We must start by changing the tone of our discourse, and no better place to start than the process we will engage in together over our fiscal future.
And when I say “we,” that includes me as well. I am proud of what this administration has accomplished to shake-up the status quo that was failing too many Chicagoans—and to do it in a short time, against a lot of tough odds.
But I need to push myself harder to work with people with whom I do not agree and who do not agree with me. If you are focused on creating a better tomorrow for all of our residents, then I will be even more intentional in finding common ground with you. Reach out to me and I will do the same.
There is more that I must do, not only as a mayor, but as a person who loves this city and its people, as a neighbor, a friend and a mom. I want my daughter to see her mom as a person of strength and great character, a person who is a fearless advocate for those who were locked out from access to power and resources for far too long. A person of empathy and with an open mind and compassionate heart.
While I have worked hard to model the behavior I want our young people to emulate, I know that I must do more.
I hope that all people of good will in this city will join me.
Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot