CHICAGO (CBS) — Chance the Rapper asked the City Council to reject “something that you know is illogical,” and halt the Emanuel administration’s plans to build a new $95 million police and fire academy on the West Side, saying the money would be better spent on mental health services and schools.
“Financially, this proposed plan doesn’t make sense. We don’t have $95 million,” the Grammy-winning musician told aldermen during the public comment period at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
Aldermen ultimately voted 48-1 to approve the first step toward building the new training academy for police officers, firefighters, and paramedics — spending $10 million to purchase vacant land in the West Garfield Park neighborhood to make way for the facility. Construction of the training academy would be funded with $20 million from sale of a North side fleet facility, $5 million from the sale of a River North firehouse and $23 million from the sale of existing police and fire training buildings.
The city has not yet determined a specific source for the remaining $37 million, but city officials have said they can work with the mayor’s Infrastructure Trust to obtain some form of loan or bonds.
“They’re just asking you for $10 million today to purchase the land, but we don’t have the rest of the money to do it, so why let them go ahead with this right now? There’s a lot of different services that need to be funded,” said the musician, whose real name is Chancellor Bennett.
Chance said he is not trying to take money away from the West Side, but feels the city would be better served spending the $95 million planned for the academy on other services, such as mental health treatment or schools.
“Obviously schooling is my big thing, but there’s a lot of ways to transform the city that don’t have anything to do with police training,” he said.
Chance cited work he has done with Orr Academy, which is located about half a mile away from the academy site.
“The school, with just $100,000 in three years, is about to make some transformative changes. It would be awesome, though, if we could get them pools at their school, or a library, a new library, or a museum, or any of the things that are proposed in the budget for this $95 million cop academy,” he said.
Chance has raised millions of dollars for the Chicago Public Schools over the past year or so, and said he’s been asking the Emanuel administration to spend more on classrooms.
“What are we doing? I’ve been asking for money for over a year now to fund these classrooms, and on the 4th of July weekend, they announced … in like a cool finessing way that they have $95, or that they’re proposing to build a $95 million cop academy,” he said. “What is y’all doing? What is y’all doing? It doesn’t make sense, and I’m very confused.”
The rapper urged aldermen to stand up and reject the planned training academy.
“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a victorious day for us if you guys end this meeting with your foot down on something that you know is illogical,” he said.
Several aldermen later stood up to defend the training academy plan, saying the city needs to provide better training for police officers in the face of a scathing Justice Department report that found current training is “severely deficient.”
Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), whose ward is where the academy would be built, said she agrees the city needs to spend more money on schools, but said the facility is needed to ensure police officers are trained properly.
“We still can use some money for a lot of things right there in the ward. Give us the $95 million, come on back and give us some more to help them with domestic violence, help them with the mentally ill. We could still receive more. Don’t close one door. Don’t do that. That’s wrong,” she said.