"We have to figure out what kind of people are we going to be and what policies will help us be our best selves."
Chicagoans have a history of coming together to improve our communities. We believe that if everyone does their part, we can make life better for all of us. Whether it’s helping dig out our neighbors’ cars after a snowstorm or checking up on them during a heat wave, we have each other’s backs.
Unfortunately, our political leaders do not have ours. Mayors like Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel have created barriers to our ability to thrive, choosing instead to enrich their wealthy campaign donors. With the Chicago mayoral and city council elections just around the corner, it’s time to demand our elected officials center policy around the needs of the people who live here.
For decades, our mayors have promised to make Chicago a “world-class” city – which, to them, has meant bringing more wealthy, white people to the city. To feed this vision, they’ve torn down public housing while giving tax handouts to luxury developers, opened selective enrollment schools while closing public schools in Black and Latinx communities, and poured millions into making Downtown more attractive to tourists who don’t live here while ignoring Chicago’s Black and Latinx neighborhoods.
The result is a city deprived of quality public service and residents who lack the opportunity to earn decent pay and raise a family. Chicagoans carry these burdens daily – parents struggle to pay for childcare, students work three jobs just to pay for college, and teachers have gone on strike four times in eight years to try to improve classroom conditions.
This is unacceptable and unnecessary. There are concrete solutions to the issues that Chicago residents deal with every day.
Chicagoans are rallying around a plan to ensure free universal early childhood education, free community college, and free public transit, all while guaranteeing 36,000 more folks a place to live.
A new report from Action Center on Race and the Economy lays out a path to fund all of these services by making Chicago’s wealthier residents and major corporations pay their fair share. The report outlines innovative solutions, including instituting a city income tax on wealthy residents and commuters, reinstating the corporate use fee on large corporations, ending the hundreds of millions in tax handouts currently going to major corporations and developers, imposing a speculation tax on LaSalle Street’s financial exchanges, and more.
Daley and Emanuel’s policies have rapidly gentrified Chicago. Since 2010, the city has seen the second largest growth in households led by high-earning residents under the age of 45 of any city in the country. Chicagoans have always done their part to improve our communities. We expect no less from our new neighbors.
The mayor and city council can help make housing affordable by instituting a vacancy tax on the luxury apartment buildings that are sitting empty because Chicagoans cannot afford their astronomical rents.
The report also calls for elected officials to save the city hundreds of millions by divesting from policing, which currently makes up nearly 40 percent of our budget. Instead of being used to brutalize Black and Brown bodies, that money could be put towards creating programs that actually make communities safer – like a summer jobs program and expanded after-school activities.
Finally, Chicago’s leaders should establish a city-owned bank that would allow us to declare our independence from big banks, and save more than a billion dollars in fees and interest payments every year. These savings would reroute Chicago taxpayer money from the pockets of greedy bankers to infrastructure projects, like expanding public transportation and replacing lead pipes in Chicago’s schools.
Chicago has the potential to truly be a world-class city, but it will require a clear commitment from our elected officials to make the wealthy and major corporations pitch in – just as Chicagoans have always done.