By: Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner

Think what you want of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, but she’ll never get a shot at actually accomplishing its proposals. As long as the mayor continues to ignore the city’s slide toward bankruptcy, she won’t “eliminate inequalities” or “expand economic opportunities” for Chicago’s minority communities. Broken cities have little to no chance of helping those most in need. 

Lightfoot is seemingly oblivious to the depths of the city’s financial crisis. None of her lofty goals for the city have ever addressed the city’s massive debts and deficits. Her task force’s recommendations are just the latest example. 

Lightfoot originally promised that her task force would offer “bold, visionary action to reduce [the crises’] impact on those who were already struggling. There can be no half measures,” she said. And yet the group’s report made no mention whatsoever of what’s really damaging Chicago’s communities: overwhelming debts, punishing taxes and exorbitant labor costs

During her campaign, Lightfoot never communicated a vision for a fiscal turnaround for the city, which was in shambles and already rated junk (see Appendix 1). And when it came time to put together her first city budget, the best she could do was cobble one together. Her plan counted on one-time gains and vague cuts, but no real reforms and no real savings. Everybody knew it wasn’t actually balanced, even based on Illinois’ flawed budget math.

But perhaps most telling was when COVID-19 hit. In early April, she dismissed the damage being done by the coronavirus, saying the city had planned for a crisis in her 2020 budget. “I think we’re very well-situated to weather this storm because we anticipated…some kind of economic downturn…we built the budget this year to be able to be responsive to that kind of worst-case scenario.”

Lightfoot went even so far as to call former city budget director Paul Vallas “foolish” when he said the mayor needed a wartime financial plan.

The impacts of COVID-19 and the city’s subsequent lockdown have exposed just how wrong she was. Lightfoot finally admitted last month that COVID-19 has ripped a new $1 billion hole in the budget.

But it’s not just Lightfoot’s inactions that are worrisome. It’s also what she’s done to make the city’s finances even worse.

To begin with, she’s backed off from making any calls for an amendment to the state’s pension protection clause. Without it, she can’t reduce the city’s retirement debts to a level residents can afford. She’s hinted that massive property tax hikes may be the only way to pay that debt down. 

Nobody is more on the hook nationally for pension debts than Chicagoans. Moody’s calculates that Windy City households are each burdened with $140,000 in local and state pension debts, nearly two times more than what residents in Los Angeles owe, three times the burden of Philadelphia households and five times those in Phoenix (see Appendix 2). Minority communities will never achieve real prosperity when every household is burdened with what amounts to a second mortgage. 

Lightfoot has also insulated the city’s public sector workforce from the effects of the coronavirus, all at the expense of city services and the private sector. 

The mayor declared layoffs were a “last, last, last resort” for city workers, even as Chicago’s shutdown crushed businesses, blew a new hole in the budget and put hundreds of thousands out of work. Meanwhile, many government workers ended up at home with full pay for over three months.

And Lightfoot spiked labor costs by offering the Chicago Teachers Union the “most generous” contract they have ever gotten (see Appendix 3). Her attempt to buy labor peace will cost Chicagoans an extra $1.5 billion through 2024 – and that’s excluding extra pension expenses. 

All of the above will worsen Chicago’s perfect financial storm. The city’s poor and minority residents will suffer most when the mayor ends up borrowing more, slashing services, and raising taxes and fees to try and stop the city from falling apart.

The city’s finances are not the only thing Lightfoot has failed to change. The Mayor’s task force talks of expanding “economic opportunity,” “reigniting activity” and creating “vibrant business communities.” But so far, Lightfoot has done little to make Chicago a more attractive place for businesses and entrepreneurs.

Chicago’s commercial property taxes are already the 2nd-highest in the nation, far above any other major city besides Detroit (see Appendix 4). Industrial property taxes are the 15th-highest. And Wallethub ranks Chicago as one of the worst places to start a business – it’s ranked 85 out of the nation’s 100 biggest cities.

On the margin, what company or entrepreneur wants to move to Chicago when what awaits them is high taxes that will grow even larger as the city tries to pay down its massive debts?

The mayor’s task force doesn’t address the city’s overtaxing problem. Instead, It reintroduces the tired ideas of more incentives, programs and subsidies that only help businesses the city favors.

That government-centric model has been tried over and over again, each time with new enthusiasm and a fresh coat of paint. Rahm Emanuel tried it with his Neighborhood Opportunity Fund and “The Chicago New Americans Plan” for immigrants, for example.

But decades and billions of dollars in spending later, Chicago is still wrestling with the same poor neighborhoods and lack of opportunities, particularly for minorities and the young.

Now Chicago doesn’t even have money to spend. The city, as Vallas warned in April, is in the midst of a “code red financial meltdown.” Lightfoot needs to start acting like it.

Read more about Chicago’s financial crisis:

Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Appendix 3

Appendix 4

Subscribe
Notify of
32 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Poor Taxpayer
21 days ago

Chicago has been under water for years.
It will be bankrupt soon.
Run for your economic life.
Nothing but murders and drugs.
Schools are the worst, cops drive by and do not get out of cars. Firemen workout and watch porn on the computers.
Cops, Teachers and Firemen pay and benefits are nothing but adult welfare.
Taxes will be so high and pensions even higher.
Illinois “Land of Slavery”

Richard Poo Millersky
20 days ago
Reply to  Poor Taxpayer

Cops drive by for three major reasons: 1) not wanting to be the next Derek Chauvin, Jason Van Dyke, Garret Rolf, Darren Wilson, etc., 2) ordered to stand around, to avoid 1) and 3) arrested people aren’t sentence and jailed. ☹️👮

Poor Taxpayer
20 days ago

They drive by everything but the Salary, Benefits, and HUGE PENSIONS.
If I did not have to work and got what they got, I could drive by also.
Who cares if you do you job if you are a government employee?
It is called get Paid to Play until you have Fun in the Sun (move to Florida live in a luxury home).

Christo
19 days ago
Reply to  Poor Taxpayer

Watch that Columbus Statue riot, tell me those cops don’t deserve to be paid while teachers sit at home and get paid. And btw, the CPD has not had a contract in three+years or any raises or pension bumps.On a side note the health care premiuns for retired sgts. is going up in a few months. so you could say their pensions are going down rather than up. Right now the police are some of the few gov employees doing their jobs . Yes they are not doing alot , but when they can easily lose their job for doing… Read more »

Last edited 19 days ago by Christo
Richard Poo Millersky
18 days ago
Reply to  Poor Taxpayer

You can become a cop. 🙂👮

Susan
21 days ago

I suggest the term “Lori” be coined for any woman who immediately accuses any woman critical of her behavior of being a “Karen”, in deflection of speaking to actual facts related to the specific criticism.

Tom Paine's Ghost
22 days ago

The only solution is Chicago Bankruptcy as soon as possible but the public sector unions like AFSCME, SEIU and CTU own the Democrat party. These public sector gang of thieves goal is to steal everything that they can from the taxpayers.

Bankruptcy alone isn’t a solution until public sector unions are made illegal. Just like in Wisconsin. Its coming eventually.

Poor Taxpayer
22 days ago

Chicago is a place to be FROM not to.
Run for your economic life.

Tom of Northfield
22 days ago

Chicago isn’t broke – it’s “fixed”. A once great city has been ruined (!!) by decades of very corrupt, very incompetent, and very evil Democrats. Lightfoot is just the current iteration of the human wrecking-ball morons. There is no conventional remedy for the problems. MAJOR SURGERY is required. No one has the courage or the brains to do it.

PlanningAnExit
22 days ago

She and JB, for lack of a better expression, are simply ignorant. Freedom is the wave that lifts ships, not wealth redistribution. Not socialism. Not HAND OUTS AND FREEBIES.

However, all of this is within the context of a social compact that places individual liberties and freedoms at the top.

Maybe that is not their vision of our society. How sad it is to be at least semi-sentient and living in our society today. We have given away so much.

PlanningAnExit
22 days ago
Reply to  PlanningAnExit

Does anyone have any idea if she reads WirePoints? I would imagine JB doesn’t as there isn’t a graphic version.

Governor of Alderaan
20 days ago
Reply to  PlanningAnExit

they might read a crayon version

David
22 days ago

Until they start with pension reform, they just blowing smoke or in this case fire.

Aaron
11 days ago
Reply to  David

So true, I know a 85 year old retired teacher whose pension payment in one year is more than she made in the first ten years of her career as a teacher.

Tim Favero
22 days ago

Lightfoot will never get it. When she keeps on making stupid videos about “the Census Cowboy” she just doesn’t understand as hundreds of people leave Chicago daily, and they take with them their salaries and the money would spend in the city. https://twitter.com/chicagosmayor/status/1282754652031733761?s=20

JimBob
22 days ago

Unions have taught “management” how to behave to the point where both their interests and their tactics have merged. Be dismissive of short or long term problems and continue to do what you want. Bully and bluster. Lie. Hopefully the police will join with the army when Trump sends the soldiers. I’m no expert, but I think martial law will displace emergency orders. Injunctions will fly and judges will snort. One hates to contemplate it, let alone see it come, but it’s past time for those with sense regain control and take the initiative.

Christo
22 days ago
Reply to  JimBob

You got Lightfoot and Prizter, they will never ask for the help or declare Martial Law , which is the only way Trump/ the federal government could send in troops. Ike did an end around in in Little Rock because he had the Mayor’s request to get around the Governor of Ark. But with both the mayor of Chicago and the Gov of Ill in cahoots to see Biden elected , the Fed/POTUS is powerless

taxpaying citizen
20 days ago
Reply to  Christo

Federal troops can protect federal property under siege by the #basementbidenmobflakes. See Portland

Christo
19 days ago

Those are Marshalls and HSA/DoJ Police, not “troops”, And “Federal Property” is just that, usually just scattered buildings or complexes. doesn’t do anything for the 100’s of 1000’s of private businesses and homes or state property or roads

Susan Sweeney
22 days ago

Hard to argue with the facts! And sadly, policies hurt the poor and minority communities the most- creating an even bigger divide.

Gemini
22 days ago

Thank you Wirepoints for continuing to shine a bright light on this and keeping the problem in sharp focus.

chumpchange
23 days ago

The character of the people running IL/Chicago are no different than the people running Venezuela or other third world sh!tholes. They are no different. They feather the beds of people that do them favors and ignore everyone else. Symbolic victories, like caring for the people’s welfare in the scamdemic by locking down the lakefront, businesses, and schools, while at the same time economically burying the constituency they claim to care about. And always, always blaming someone else for their failures. The sheeple are too dumb to see it as they distract themselves with social media images and idolatry as they… Read more »

Richard Poo Millersky
22 days ago
Reply to  chumpchange

Hi debtsor! (@_@)

a fan
22 days ago

Welcome back debtsor.

state_pension_millionaires
23 days ago

Excellent article. Nothing good will happen unless fiscal situation, rampant political corruption and rampant political malfeasance/entitlement is fixed. Hasn’t happen in half a century plus, and the non-pubic union taxpayers have not forced it. We, mid-west nice, pay for our lackadaisical attitude every day.

Illinois Entrepreneur
23 days ago

Based on the behavior of Pritzker and Lightfoot, I sincerely believe they are hoping to win the lottery. The Federal bailout lottery, that is. They have basically gone “all-in” and figured that it’s going down anyway if Trump is reelected. Their hope and work is going towards getting Biden reelected, and then getting a majority in the Senate. With Congress and the Presidency, they then will get every blue city in America a huge multi-trillion dollar bailout. It will be named the “COVID-19 Recovery Act” or something related, and will pay for much more than just the effects of COVID.… Read more »

UnclePugsly
22 days ago

A few months ago it was argued here that deflation was the new problem. I strongly disagreed and suggested inflation due to a debased currency would be the new problem. People need to think about gold and bitcoin most definately if the lunatic Biden is elected.

UnclePugsly
23 days ago

Comparing Chicago to Detroit seems appropriate. Will be interesting, and not in a good way, as the shine comes off The Loop.

Last edited 23 days ago by UnclePugsly
Mick the Tick
23 days ago

Rather than Lightfoot and the liberals living in reality, maybe the rest of us should join them in their fantasy land. If you can’t beat them, join them.

Christo
22 days ago
Reply to  Mick the Tick

That is a ticket to a permenantly warm vacation, down under,so to speak.

Mick the Tick
22 days ago
Reply to  Christo

lol Hey, I didn’t say my idea was a good idea.

Bounced Out!
23 days ago

The last budget included about $170 Million dollars from the Feds for reimbursement for ambulance rides and other Emergency Medical Services.

Has the city received these funds?