Johnson announces new plans to address migrant crisis as some alders worry about funding
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Brandon Johnson on Wednesday won his first budget test as the Chicago City Council easily approved his spending plan for the next year.
The budget was praised for advancing the mayor's progressive agenda.
"The mayor laid out very clearly that this is about how we can invest in the people of this city, how we can uplift those who have the challenges. This budget lays out and does that," said Ald. Jason Ervin.
But, it came with some concerns about the possible need to raise taxes next year and how the city will pay for the ongoing migrant crisis. There were also concerns about how divisive the migrant issue has become.
"It is no secret that this issue is tearing the city apart," said Ald. Bill Conway.
The mayor touted this as a balanced budget, but the cost of housing, feeding and caring for migrants prompted questions about where that money will come from if the federal government does not come through. On Wednesday, the mayor announced that help is on the way.
While thousands of migrants await help from the city in finding shelter to get them out of tents, the city council approved a budget that allocates $150 million toward the crisis. But, with the city spending an estimated $40 million a month, that figure came under question.
"Forty million. That gets you through four months. So, what are we going to start doing come April, when we run out of money?" said Ald. Anthony Beale.
"This budget says we see a substantial amount, $150 million, appropriated towards the migrants. While we can all admit that number isn't enough, it does show a commitment to finding solutions, rather than just basically ignoring the problem," said Ald. Andre Vasquez.
And, while this year's $16.6 billion spending plan does not raise property taxes, some alders warned that the cost of caring for migrants will change that next year.
"I will bet anybody in this room, my entire next year's salary, that the following year, I guarantee we will have a property tax increase," said Ald. Jim Gardiner.
But, mayoral allies praised the budget for providing an additional staffer for each alder, and for helping former inmates through a new mayoral Office of Reentry.
"Today is a deposit on campaign promises you made to the city of Chicago to communities, to 77 neighborhoods," said Ald. Jesse Fuentes.
But, with the migrant crisis becoming such a divisive issue, there were also calls for better cooperation in the council.
"So, we got a responsibility and duty to work with everybody. I don't care if you don't like me. Join the club. We got jackets," said Ald. Jeanette Taylor. "And the reason why our city is in chaos is because we in chaos."
On Wednesday afternoon, the mayor talked about the importance of this budget and addressed migrant funding concerns.
"Our budget invests $150 million into our mission to support new arrivals from the southern border. And this week, both the state and the county will announce new investments to meet the needs of this humanitarian crisis," Johnson said.
The mayor also announced a new 60-day stay limit for migrants in shelters, and plans to help them move on to other cities and or be reunited with families in other locations.
But, expedited work permits for migrants are expected to be issued in the next two months. There will also be relocation assistance.
"We are increasing personnel at the landing zone and staging areas to facilitate connections to other destinations for individuals who do not wish to stay in Chicago," Johnson said.
The mayor said he will be revealing additional details about the city's migrant plans on Friday, when all the new policies will go into effect.
Also Wednesday, the city council announced new rules for decorum. It comes after several recent meetings got out of hand. On Wednesday, there were no problems.