CITY TASK FORCE RE­LEASES ROAD MAP TO ECO­NOMIC RE­COV­ERY FROM CORONAVIRU­S PAN­DEMIC

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY FRAN SPIEL­MAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER fspiel­man@sun­times.com | @fspiel­man

Mayor Lori Light­foot vowed Thurs­day to lead a “sec­ond Chicago re­nais­sance” — by fol­low­ing a road map to re­cov­ery from the eco­nomic dev­as­ta­tion cre­ated by the coronaviru­s pan­demic and the stay-at-home shut­down it trig­gered.

Light­foot said the pan­demic and the sys­temic vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties that forced Black and His­panic Chicagoans to bear the brunt of it pro­vide a “once in a gen­er­a­tion op­por­tu­nity” to cre­ate a “new eco­nomic model based on dy­namic, in­clu­sive growth.”

She promised to seize that op­por­tu­nity by fol­low­ing the blue­print she proudly un­veiled dur­ing a highly or­ches­trated news con­fer­ence — com­plete with videos — fit for a task force with more than 200 mem­bers and con­trib­u­tors.

“If we do this right — and I’m com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure that we do — this will be the kind of trans­for­ma­tion that, gen­er­a­tions from now, we’ll be talk­ing about as the sec­ond Chicago re­nais­sance. … If we do this right, peo­ple are gonna be com­ing to Chicago to say, ‘What hap­pened? How did the Chicago re­nais­sance start?’ ” the mayor said.

Sam Skin­ner is the Light­foot friend who cochaired the COVID-19 Re­cov­ery Task Force. He called the re­port a “la­bor of love” and the road map for a “sem­i­nal” mo­ment in Chicago his­tory.

“We now know what our chal­lenges are. We now know they’re huge. We now know that we’ve got a bat­tle plan. Now, it’s up to us to im­ple­ment it,” said Skin­ner, who served as White House chief of staff and U.S. Trans­porta­tion sec­re­tary un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush.

The 105-page re­port that Light­foot vowed would “not be rel­e­gated to a shelf” is ti­tled “For­ward To­gether, Build­ing a Stronger Chicago.”

Eleven weeks in the mak­ing, the re­port in­cludes 17 broad-brush rec­om­men­da­tions and many more spe­cific sug­ges­tions to con­front the chal­lenges Chicago faces if it hopes to roar back from the pan­demic and the civil un­rest trig­gered by the death of Ge­orge Floyd.

Many of those chal­lenges — like un­equal ac­cess to jobs, health care and healthy food op­tions — ex­isted long be­fore the cur­rent cri­sis. The pan­demic sim­ply ex­posed Chicago’s ugly un­der­belly — and even made it worse. Some rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude: † A pub­lic-pri­vate ven­ture fund for lo­cal en­trepreneur­s.

• A por­ta­ble ben­e­fits pro­gram for gig work­ers.

• Sub­si­dized child care.

• A 211 line for men­tal health emer­gen­cies. † A wage and stan­dards board to es­tab­lish a work­ers’ bill of rights.

• Mak­ing city in­cen­tives “con­di­tional on cor­po­ra­tions meet­ing stan­dards for lo­cal­ized hir­ing and pro­cure­ment.”

• Cre­at­ing a “health check-off,” likened to the Za­gat restau­rant guide, pro­vid­ing at­trac­tions and busi­nesses a “set of stan­dards” to meet so pa­trons feel safe. Light­foot called

Chicago’s cur­rent av­er­age of 200 new coronaviru­s cases per day a “sell­ing point for us.”

• Lur­ing “hy­brid” con­ven­tions that are a mix of re­mote and in-per­son events, and also us­ing “mul­ti­year sub­si­dies” to lock in com­mit­ments.

• Ded­i­cat­ing re­sources to ad­dress re­cov­ery in a way that is “eq­ui­table and not uni­form across Chicago” be­cause the “im­pact of COVID-19 is not uni­form across the city.”

• Hold­ing an­other youth sum­mit or en­gag­ing in “on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions” with young peo­ple “given the in­tense and his­toric protests, ri­ot­ing and loot­ing that Chicago and so many other cities ex­pe­ri­enced” af­ter the death of Ge­orge Floyd.

To ex­pand eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity, qual­ity em­ploy­ment and fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity, the re­port ad­vises the city to: reimag­ine the re­gion’s work­force in­fra­struc­ture and cre­ate a plan to in­vest in dis­placed and young work­ers; in­crease own­er­ship in em­ploy­ment for Black and Brown res­i­dents in the re­gion’s con­tract­ing and con­struc­tion in­dus­try; cre­ate the most vi­brant small busi­ness and Black- and Brown-owned busi­ness com­mu­nity in Amer­ica; and ex­pand re­lief pro­grams and try out in­no­va­tive ap­proaches to im­prove and strengthen the so­cial safety net.

To build on the re­gion’s strengths and seize new op­por­tu­ni­ties cre­ated by COVID-19, Light­foot was ad­vised to: ex­pand the trans­porta­tion, dis­tri­bu­tion and lo­gis­tics sec­tor by “lever­ag­ing new trends in the lo­cal­iza­tion of sup­ply chains”; strengthen Chicago’s health care and life-sci­ences ecosys­tem and build on the re­gion’s as­sets in food and agri­cul­ture and his­toric strength in man­u­fac­tur­ing; pre­pare the re­gion to “cap­ture HQ2’s and cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment and spe­cialty cen­ters” and cap­ture more film and TV pro­duc­tion.

Light­foot com­mis­sioned the study in late April while stand­ing out­side the Old Wa­ter Tower that sur­vived the Great Chicago Fire. She un­veiled it Thurs­day at the South Shore Cul­tural Cen­ter, an­other Chicago icon.

The mayor was asked how Chicago can af­ford the laun­dry list of rec­om­men­da­tions at a time when the coronaviru­s has blown a $700 mil­lion hole in her pre­car­i­ously bal­anced 2020 bud­get.

“We’re in a mo­ment in our civic life where lots of peo­ple are step­ping up and say­ing, ‘Mayor, how can I help?’ This has got to be a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship. But we be­lieve, par­tic­u­larly in tough eco­nomic times, that gov­ern­ments at all lev­els should act as a stim­u­lus,” Light­foot said.

“We have no choice but to make these in­vest­ments if we want to grow our econ­omy.”

ASH­LEE REZIN GAR­CIA/SUN-TIMES

Mayor Lori Light­foot in­sisted the rec­om­men­da­tions out­lined in the re­port pro­duced by the COVID-19 Re­cov­ery Task Force will ac­tu­ally be fol­lowed, not just gather dust on a shelf.

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