Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is under fire again after an explosive report from the Chicago Tribune revealed her administration divested away from financial resources that could help surrounding communities in need, and instead invested in the city’s controversial police department.
Lightfoot’s administration is accused of squandering $281.5 million in federal COVID-19 relief money on personnel costs for the Chicago Police Department. According to the Tribune, the city of Chicago received around $1.2 billion from the federal government last year to help offset budget deficits as the country struggled under the weight of the pandemic.
The number was revealed after City Council members are scheduled to transfer about $65 million of unspent federal COVID-19 money into the 2021 budget.
The findings confirmed the fears of community leaders and activists, who hoped Lightfoot’s administration would depart from mishandling Black and underserved community members after eight years under Rahm Emanuel‘s administration. And dating back even further, Black and minority residents of Chicago lived through and witnessed lack of accountability, cover ups and low investment in their well-being.
A thread from United Working Families points out the ways the money was misused, where health resources were needed, direct cash payments, as well as elder care and child care.
Last year after the funds were released city Alderman like Daniel La Spata advocated that the money should be spent towards housing relief or community programming for the marginalized. According to local activists during a zoom meeting on Thursday, 40 percent of the city’s budget already goes to police.
“We asked for assurances they wouldn’t spend it all on police,” La Spata told the Tribune. “That’s the last thing people wanted, to infuse hundreds of millions more dollars into the Police Department right now.”
After meeting with city Budget Director Susie Park in June, Park assured a group of alderman that no monies from the government’s covid relief allocation were spent on the police department.
But city leaders later discovered that the monies were largely used to pay out police overtime, mostly in part to the demonstrations that arose last summer during the height of unrest over the repeated killings of Black community members, as well as enhanced security in response to the November election.
Lightfoot’s popularity with her constituents continues to trend downward. After being elected in 2019, Lightfoot was championed as a change agent, becoming Chicago’s first Black woman and first openly gay mayor. However, with the abovementioned findings regarding the allocation of funds, and the recent victimization of a Black woman who was victimized by CPD, the trust between Chicago’s vulnerable and legislators continues to erode.
“Lori Lightfoot is what identity reductionism and intersectional imperialism gets us,” Charisse Burden-Stelly, an Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and Political Science at Carleton College,” wrote on Twitter.
Burden-Stelly’s analysis speaks to the push for diversity and inclusion without first eradicating white supremacy and upholding the status quo.
What good is having a seat at the table if you are only there to enforce policies and practices which continue to harm the marginalized?