CHICAGO (CBS) — Aldermen will begin holding quarterly budget meetings next year, and starting next month will hold an annual meeting on the Chicago Police Department budget outside of the City Council’s annual budget hearings in October and November.
The added meetings to review the city’s finances are the brainchild of Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), one of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s most outspoken critics, who praised the mayor for agreeing to put the city’s budget under the microscope on a more regular basis over the next two years.
“I think will provide increased transparency quarterly for the members of City Council and for the people of the city of Chicago, so that we can see more accurately how our budget is progressing thoughout the year for the next two years,” Lopez said.
Starting next year, the City Council Budget Committee will hold quarterly public hearings to review the annual budget, including the city’s revenue and spending projections for the year.
Lopez’s resolution also calls for annual Budget Committee meetings through 2022 on the Chicago Police Department’s budget, starting with a hearing on Sept. 17.
All of the meetings will be held separate from the City Council’s annual budget hearings, which are typically held in October an November, to review the mayor’s proposed budget plan for each individual city department.
Lopez called the added budget hearings “a wonderful, fundamental shift in how we address our city’s finances, our revenue and our spending.”
“Right now, more than ever, we know that every dollar matters, that every taxpayers’ dollar matters, as we look towards trying to ensure that we can provide the best possible service most efficiently and accurately during these difficult times ahead,” Lopez said.
Lopez originally proposed monthly budget hearings from now on, but said Lightfoot’s agreement to quarterly budget meetings and annual CPD budget hearings for two years was an encouraging sign that she’s willing to collaborate more with aldermen, including those who often criticize her.
Last month, when Lightfoot presented a budget projection that estimated a combined $2 billion shortfall for 2020 and 2021, she lamented that political discourse has been growing increasingly combative, and admitted she herself needs to do better at working with people who disagree with her.
“We are losing our ability to see each other’s perspective. Too many of us ascribe the worst motives to anyone who is not agreeing 100% with our beliefs,” she said. “We need to change the tone of our discourse, and no better place to start than the process we will engage together over our fiscal future, and when I say we, that includes me as well.”
Earlier this year, Lightfoot and Lopez exchanged profanities during a May 31 conference call the mayor held with all 50 aldermen to discuss the city’s response to widespread looting. Lopez accused the mayor of being unprepared when looting spread from downtown to the neighborhoods that weekend. That prompted an angry response from Lightfoot, who said Lopez was “100% full of s***.” Lopez snapped back, “F*** you, then.”
The mayor later accused the alderman of “illegally” recording the call and releasing the tape to the press. Lopez argued that the meeting itself was a violation of the Open Meetings Act, which Lightfoot denied. The Better Government Association has sued the City Council over a series of conference calls the mayor held with all 50 aldermen, claiming the meetings should have been open to the public. The mayor’s office has since halted such conference calls.