Even before the pandemic hit, we knew 2021 was going to be a pick-your-poison budget for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Thanks largely but not exclusively to costs and consequences from COVID-19, the budget gap Lightfoot faces is a bitter pill: $1.2 billion. That amounts to about 10% of last year’s budget — and it could get worse.

Shuttered businesses, near-empty streets, CTA trains with plenty of legroom, industrial districts without much industry: Chicago has the look of an urban economy hitting the skids. Office vacancies are on the rise — and will get worse, thanks to 6.5 million square feet of office space currently being built, less than half of which is leased, according to real estate broker CBRE.

Lightfoot, speaking at the Cultural Center on Monday, ascribed the pending problems to the “catastrophic collapse of our local and national economy,” compounded by the costly impact of looting and civil unrest. This has left her with the task of building a “pandemic budget” for next year.

Read more at chicagotribune.com.

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.