After months of organizing, the Chicago Budget Coalition and their allies in the Democratic Socialist Caucus of the Chicago City Council claim credit for substantially shaping Mayor Lightfoot’s proposed 2022 Chicago budget, which is widely anticipated to receive final approval on Wednesday.
Lightfoot’s budget proposal was announced October 11th and has since been quickly moved through committee. The proposal has been received warmly by progressives, particularly in comparison to the mayor’s previous plans which attracted significant controversy from the left for their inflated emphasis on policing and underfunding of public services.
At an October 14th town hall cosponsored by Chicago DSA, the Democratic Socialist Caucus responded to the release of what they evaluate to be a flawed but moderately progressive plan. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Alderman of the 35th Ward and chair of the Democratic Socialist Caucus, hosted the evening. He pointed out that the size of the proposed city budget alone is noteworthy:
“The city of Chicago’s proposed 2022 budget is $16.7 billion. If Chicago were a state, it would have a budget bigger than 16 other states, including Hawaii, Nebraska, and New Hampshire.”
Ramirez-Rosa was quick to share much of the credit for swaying Lightfoot with the wider Chicago Budget Coalition. The coalition is comprised of dozens of progressive organizations, including Chicago DSA, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, One Northside, Local 73 SEIU, United Working Families, and the Chicago Teachers Union.The Chicago Budget Coalition was represented at the Democratic Socialist Caucus’ town hall by CDSA Treasurer Matthew Cason. As Cason explained, the size of the proposed 2022 budget is owed to several factors:
“This is one of the biggest budgets we’ve had, ever. And this is thanks to an influx of federal funding, thanks to stimulus funds from the pandemic, and thanks to dedicated and dogged activism…Without this coalition we would not have the budget we have today.”
The budget is set to include major investments in areas like affordable housing and mental health treatment. Several activists from relevant campaigns spoke of their work on the ground advocating for these investments, including housing justice advocate David Zoltan of the Chicago Housing Justice League and mental health advocate Arturo Carrillo of the Collaborative for Community Wellness.
While Lightfoot’s budget has been moved significantly to the left, the Democratic Socialist Caucus sees room for improvement. In addition to a continued emphasis on policing, the budget has drawn criticism from the left for regressive tax policies.
1st Ward Alderman Daniel La Spata alleged that Lightfoot’s property tax increases disproportionately taxes lower and middle income families:
“Everybody is impacted by this. If you’re a homeowner, many of the people we talk to cannot afford an increase in their property taxes. If you’re a renter, don’t be fooled into thinking that a property tax increase isn’t passed on directly to you. The mayor has trumpeted the idea that there are no new taxes in this budget and that is not true.”
Mayor Lightfoot’s proposed 2022 Chicago budget will come to a final vote on Wednesday.