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Mayor Lightfoot Reflects on City of Chicago’s Key Accomplishments in 2019

From solving historic budget challenges to spearheading record improvements in public safety, the Lightfoot administration has focused on building safer and stronger communities to improve quality of life for residents across the city

 

Mayor’s Press Office    312.744.3334

CHICAGO – As 2019 comes to a close and the City of Chicago begins to prepare for 2020, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and her administration are looking back on key accomplishments made over the past 7 months. From the first day in office on May 20th to today, the administration has implemented a number of policies and initiatives centered around moving Chicago forward. These include investments to ensure City government operates more transparently and ethically, to create safer and stronger communities, to expand high quality education, to enhance conditions for working families, to encourage inclusive growth in communities that have long been overlooked, and to put Chicago on stronger financial footing for its future.

“Over these last seven months, we used a progressive blueprint to chart a new, transformative course for Chicago, resulting in our historic Fair Workweek legislation, efforts to end our dependence on harmful fines and fees, to improve equity in our schools and expand access to libraries for every community, legislation to boost the minimum wage to $15 by 2021, and much more,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Today, the City is on stronger financial footing because we closed a nearly billion-dollar budget gap through long-term solutions, while still making unprecedented investments to better serve our communities with violence reduction programs, mental health services, affordable housing and homelessness prevention. Our work is only just beginning, and my administration will continue to work tirelessly in 2020 to continue improving quality of life for every resident throughout Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods.” 

Beginning on her first day in office, Mayor Lightfoot took action to eliminate Aldermanic prerogative and ensure that departmental decision making is based on the same standard criteria treating all 50 Wards the same. The Lightfoot administration also acted immediately to begin solving some of the City’s most pressing issues, including: mobilizing the most comprehensive citywide summer safety plan in recent history; directing new school investments to restore equity across schools in every neighborhood; and tackling the city’s historic, structural financial challenges by solving the largest budget gap in history without a significant tax increase or credit downgrades.

Under Mayor Lightfoot’s leadership, the year of 2019 was marked by a series of unprecedented reforms and initiatives designed to improve quality of life for residents and expand equity and opportunity for communities across all neighborhoods. Some of these noteworthy reforms revolve around the administration’s top five priority areas, and include:

Financial Stability & Financial Justice

  • Chicago is now the biggest city in the nation to undertake comprehensive fines and fees reforms geared toward unwinding historically regressive ticketing policies and providing residents an opportunity to pay down old debt affordably. These reforms include an overhaul to the City Sticker debt policies, elimination of driver’s license suspensions for non-moving violations, creation of more accessible payment plans to help residents experiencing hardship to avoid their cars from being ‘booted,’ and finally, to wipe out outstanding debt and make Chicago Public Libraries entirely fine-free.
  • Similarly, the City’s new 2020 Utility Billing Relief program will bring relief to residents struggling to afford water and sewer payments and will effectively end the regressive practice of water shut-offs due to inability to pay.
  • The City’s 2020 budget directs a record-increase in human services programs funding—a nearly $30 million increase combined—helping to address social issues affecting all of Chicago. This includes a 36 percent increase in funding for affordable housing and homelessness prevention, and a $5 million increase to the Flexible Housing Pool. It also doubles the City’s investment in mental health with the creation of a new Framework for Mental Health Equity to expand mental health services at 20 community-based centers for care, including the City’s five mental health clinics, and directs new funding to violence reduction programming serving the city’s highest risk neighborhoods.
  • The City’s $11.5 billion budget is built on many structural reforms as well as several new sources of revenues, including: a congestion policy designed to reduce gridlock in the downtown zone and incentivize more use of sustainable methods of transit; a revised restaurant tax to put Chicago on par with the suburbs; a modest increase to downtown and West Loop parking meter rates; and revenues derived by the expansion of the cannabis industry following legalization in 2020.  

Economic Development & Working Families

  • Passage of the Chicago Fair Workweek Ordinance represents the nation’s most comprehensive scheduling legislation, which will ensure tens of thousands of low-wage, hourly workers in Chicago are guaranteed fair working conditions and scheduling protections.
  • Chicago also passed legislation to accelerate the $15 minimum wage to 2021—three years faster than the State of Illinois–which will help increase the minimum wage for tens of thousands of Chicago workers, and will eliminate exemptions for youth and disabled workers that exist in the current law.
  • Mayor Lightfoot launched the INVEST South/West initiative to marshal the resources of multiple City departments as well as community and corporate partners to revitalize the commercial cores of 10 underinvested neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West Sides. The City will align more than $750 million in already allocated funding over the next three years. INVEST South/West neighborhoods will initially include: Auburn Gresham, North Lawndale, Austin, Englewood, Humboldt Park, Quad Communities, New City, Roseland, South Chicago, and South Shore.  Already companies like Starbucks and BMO Harris Bank have put forward significant investments towards this initiative.  
  • The City in 2019 began Sunday hours at the Chicago Public Library system, building on the policy goals behind ‘fine-free libraries’ to help create better access to libraries citywide.
  • The administration initiated significant reforms in 2019 to protect its immigrant and refugee communities. Some of these initiatives included: introducing the ACT Ordinance to strengthen Welcoming City protections; terminating federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) access to Chicago Police Department databases; new directives given to departments to ensure that city facilities do not cooperate with ICE enforcement actions; and increased funding for the city’s Legal Protection Fund by $250,000.
  • To ensure accurate representation of all its communities, the City also took steps to prepare for a full and accurate count on the 2020 U.S. Census, directing $2.7 million in its 2020 budget—the largest amount of funding Chicago has ever committed to the census—to ensure stronger outreach and coordination with community partners and other local government agencies.
  • Mayor Lightfoot joined dozens of businesses to announce more than 5,600 new jobs coming to Chicago. These new jobs are located throughout the City, adding convenience and helping to reach residents where they live.
  • Chicago continued to climb the charts as a top international destination for travel and investment, according to reputable global organizations. Chicago was named #1 best big city to visit by Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards, the longest-running and most prestigious recognition of excellence in the travel industry.
  • The City also landed the number one spot on a ranking of global cities that lead for foreign direct investment, according to the 2019 IBM Global Locations Trends Report, which ranks based on the latest trends for corporate selection.
  • The administration created a new framework for more inclusive economic development through the new Community Advisory Councils to head up the multi-billion-dollar Lincoln Yards and “The 78” development projects. These new Councils emphasize a renewed focus on community engagement and an inclusive approach to development that will work to ensure major development projects provide the maximum level of jobs, economic impact as well as public input as they are conceived and constructed.
  • The passage of the 2020 budget this year will also include 5 new Regional Small Business Centers to provide residents with easy access to business licensing support and information in their communities. In addition, through a new Fast-Track Business Signs initiative, businesses can apply for an on-premise sign at the same time as their business license. 

Public Safety

  • Chicago brought 2019 to a close with a third consecutive year of historic, record-level crime reductions across the city, including robberies, burglaries and vehicle thefts at their lowest levels in more than 20 years. Throughout the year, the City’s accelerating crime reductions continued to fall with overall crime citywide at a four-year low, driven by a 14 percent decrease in murders and a 10 percent decrease in shootings compared to 2018. 
  • An unprecedented $11.5 million toward violence reduction was invested in the 2020 budget to enhance community-based interventions including street outreach, trauma and victim support services and improved coordination of citywide violence reduction efforts.
  • The administration announced creation of a new Office of Public Safety Administration, which will redeploy at least 150 officers back to the streets and re-open two Area Centers, Harrison Area on the West Side and Grand Central Area on the Near Northwest Side, to expand the department’s crime-solving and crime-response resources. 
  • Launch of Grounds for Peace, the City’s new vacant lot beautification pilot program designed to restore 50 city-owned residential vacant lots on Chicago’s South and West Sides. Working with Heartland Alliance’s READI Chicago program and Urban Growers Collective, the program offered skill-oriented job training and development experience for men at the highest risk of gun violence involvement.

Youth and Education

  • Chicago Public Schools (CPS) passed a capital budget with an unprecedented $821 million investment in Chicago’s neighborhood schools.  The capital improvements target critical facility needs, educational programs, site improvements and IT and security upgrades.  As a result of the district’s focus on equity, nearly $600 million of the capital plan will support schools that serve majority low-income populations. 
  • Working hand in hand with CPS leadership, the city entered into 5-year contract agreements that will honor the critical role educators and staff play in our schools, and provide CPS students and their families, teachers and staff, as well as school administrators, with additional supports, including expanded staffing, addition of hundreds of new nurse and social worker positions, and revised classroom size provisions—all in the name of supporting children in classrooms across the city in being able to continue building on their record academic gains.
  • During the summer more than 400 youth from vulnerable situations participated in the Summer for Change program, which included individualized mentoring for four hours per day, group-based trauma-informed therapy multiple times a week, and enrichment activities such as field trips, community service projects and a variety of recreational activities. According to data analyzed by CPS, between July 15 and August 12, 2019, none of the students attending the Summer for Change program were identified as victims of gun violence.
  • In 2019, the Chicago Park District set a new record for youth participation in summer parks programming, with over 90,000 participants enrolled across the City. This included more than 55,000 youth participating in summer camps and out-of-school programming – aligning with a key priority outlined in the administration’s “Our City. Our Safety.” initiative to improve participation in safe summer programming.
  • Mayor Lightfoot created Chicago’s first-ever Mayor’s Youth Commission, comprised of 27 diverse youth of ages 15-22 representing all areas of the city, to serve as inaugural Youth Commissioners. Youth Commissioners will create the Commission’s charter, collaborate with policy-makers, hold youth-centered events, and support youth outreach and communications campaigns to ensure youth are engaged in a variety of City initiatives.
  • Mayor Lightfoot joined CPS and elected officials in creating Career Launch Chicago, an apprenticeship program designed to enable CPS students to engage deeply in local businesses, while completing their high school degrees and preparing for college and workforce credential programs. This collaborative effort builds on earlier commitments by the Mayor and CPS to expand Career and Technical Education (CTE) learning programs, including investments to back a new goal of ensuring that, by 2024, 50 percent of all CTE students participate in an apprenticeship or internship by the time they graduate high school

Good Government

  • The Mayor and the City Council enacted Chicago’s most comprehensive ethics reforms to date—including new provisions which will bring greater transparency to the city’s legislative and policy-making processes, increase fines for ethics violations, clarify rules around outside Aldermanic employment and expand OIG oversight of the City Council, effectively ensuring that all city employees are subject to the same ethical requirements.
  • Chicago also passed a new ordinance designed to increase transparency and restore public trust by making Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigative reports available in cases of felonies and with high-public interest.
  • Chicago launched an overhaul of its $100 million a year workers’ compensation program to better serve injured workers, prevent abuse, and drive down cost claims
  • The administration created new designated city offices to enhance equity and ensure the City effectively responds to the needs of all its residents. This includes appointment of: the City’s first-ever Chief Equity Officer, overseeing the Office of Racial Justice and Equality geared toward ensuring that equity-centric policies are created across all city departments; as well as the appointment of the first-ever Chief Risk Officer, charged with standing up a new enterprise risk management system helping to reduce the high costs of legal settlements, among other liabilities.
  • The Mayor also staffed a new stand-alone Department of Housing that will respond to the city’s affordable housing shortage.

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