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