Controversial plan for new police, fire academy approved by city council

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Protesters on both sides spoke at a city council meeting where funds for a new police academy were approved Friday. (WLS)

Despite protests at City Hall, a controversial plan to build a new police and fire academy moved forward.

Friday afternoon, the city council approved close to $29 million in funding to build the academy in West Garfield Park. It's something some residents worked hard trying to stop.

At issue was an ordinance that would appropriate $28.8 million from the sale of another city property to put it towards the new police and fire training academy on the West Side.

Opponents lost a court fight Friday morning and so they focused their frustrations at the mayor and city council that afternoon.

There were vocal protests before the city council meeting by opponents of the Public Safety Academy. Inside the council chambers speakers on both sides sparred from the podium and the gallery.

"The time has come for this city council to stop being more afraid of that mayor, than they are of us," said Erica Nanton, an opponent of the new academy.

"A lot of these folks have no idea what they're talking about," said Ald. Emma Mitts, (37th Ward). "Their heart might be in the right place, but they're following an empty hashtag."

Several times during Ald. Emma Mitt's speech in support of the academy protesters tried to shout her down and had to be escorted out. Frustrations were evident on both sides.

"This is an opportunity for people in my congregation and my neighborhood to eat, to bring business and to economically- watch this word- pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps," said Pastor Joseph Kyles, a supporter of the academy.

Ald. Walter Burnett found himself in a yelling match with protesters after chastising them for having misdirected opposition.

Ald. David Moore, one of two "no" votes Wednesday, changed his mind, but the other, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa remained adamantly opposed.

"We are here today because black youth and working class Chicagoans of all backgrounds are raising their voices for real neighborhood investment," said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward).

While the opponents were vocal, in the end the funds were approved by a 39 to 2 vote.

"Voices have been heard, the votes have been cast and the future of the west side is going to be better than it was when we started," said Mayor Emanuel.

The city still needs to come up with another $56 million to fully fund what is being billed as a $95 million project.

Some of that money could come from the sale of the current police and fire training facilities as well as other properties.

Opponents believe it could end up costing a lot more than planned.
Related Topics:
politicschicago police departmentchicago fire departmentrahm emanuelchicago city councilLoopWest Garfield ParkChicago
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