Controversial new police, fire training center in Garfield Park clears zoning committee

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The City Council's Zoning Committee approved a new police and fire training academy Thursday, though both mayoral candidates oppose the project.

For decades, a 30-acre West Side parcel of city-owned land on Chicago Avenue has sat empty. It is the site of the proposed $95 million facility, one that has been the subject of a lot controversy.

Protesters and supporters clashed before the Zoning Committee took the key vote to move the project ahead.

"More businesses will come to the Chicago corridor, we can get more retail, more restaurants," said supporter Margaret Gardner.

"These jobs they guarantee to the community are very few. It's not an adequate amount of jobs worth $95 million," said protester Brianna Hampton.
Hampton is among a group of young protesters called #NoCopAcademy. The have led the charge against it, calling on the city to spend the money on schools and mental health facilities, instead.

Mayoral candidates Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot are calling for a delay of the project until a new mayor and city council are sworn in.

"This is like Lincoln Yards and other massive developments where there has not been enough community engagement," said Lightfoot.

"I want the mayoral candidates to know, I didn't just start. Long before they started running for mayor, I was working on this project," 37th Ward Ald. Emma Mitts said. The proposed project sits in her ward.

Besides a consent decree that calls for new state of the art police training, Mitts and several other African-American aldermen said the academy will bring much needed development to the West Side.

"Every time I try to bring any project in I have to fight and fight. Do you want us to be black and stay back all the time? No, I don't," Mitts said.

North Side Aldermen Ameya Pawar and Deb Mell were the only Zoning Committee members to vote against the project. The next step is full City Council approval. For aldermen in runoff elections, like Zoning Committee Chairman James Cappleman, their support has become a campaign issue.
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