By the time Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivered her budget address last week, the Chicago Teachers Union was already on strike.
The federal investigation into Illinois corruption had paid a visit to the City Club of Chicago. President Trump was scheduled to visit, the slurs against Chicago forming on his tongue.
“I feel like I sit in the eye of the storm, where I know there is a lot raging around me,” Lightfoot told me during an interview this week. “My goal is to always remain calm and focused, so that we make rational decisions, not stuff that’s spur of the moment and reactive.”
As Lightfoot assembled her $11.7 billion 2020 budget, she indeed faced a fiscal storm. Its thunderheads included an $838 million deficit, annual pension payments that will rise by $1 billion during Lightfoot’s first term and uncertainty over the viability of a proposed Chicago casino.
A quick fix — another hike in property taxes — was off the table. “That’s become the third rail in a very significant way,” she told me.
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David Greising is the president and chief executive of the Better Government Association, joining the BGA in 2018. For nearly a century, the BGA has fought for honest and effective government through investigative journalism and policy advocacy.
Greising’s career started at the City News Bureau of Chicago, with stops at the Chicago Sun-Times, Business Week magazine, the Chicago Tribune and Reuters. He was a co-founder of the Chicago News Cooperative and worked briefly as a consultant to World Business Chicago. Today, Greising writes on government issues in regular columns for the Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business.
Under Greising’s leadership, the BGA has played a key role in uncovering public corruption amidst the wide-ranging federal probe, starting with an in-depth report about Ald. Ed Burke’s conflicts of interest before the federal charges against Burke. The BGA also has exposed waste and fraud at O’Hare and the proliferation of corruption and poverty into Dolton, Lyons and other Chicago suburbs. The BGA’s policy team has led calls for ethics reform in Chicago’s City Council and in state government.
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