Chicago's City Council approved a budget amendment Wednesday to use $14.7 million in unspent property tax rebate funding to invest in the city’s public safety and economic development.
“Investing in public safety is a top priority, and that is why this package supports police work, expands youth services, creates jobs and invests in our neighborhoods, all of which are vital to improving public safety,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.
The City Council unanimously approved the $21 million property tax rebate program last June, offering homeowners some relief in the wake of a record property tax hike. Despite extending the program to the end of 2016 last November, a great deal of the rebate money was left unclaimed. The city is now using the remaining $14.7 million to create an estimated 1,000 jobs “over the next few years.”
The budget amendment includes $2.8 million to support the Chicago Police Department’s plan to equip all district police officers with body cameras by the end of 2017. Another $1.6 million will go to crime fighting intel centers, which provide tools to facilitate quicker response times and aid crime reduction.
The plan also includes $2 million toward a capital fund for neighborhood contractors, investors and developers to rehab vacant homes in certain communities and provide job training for young adults. $1 million will fund a pilot program that will train Chicago City Colleges students in cybersecurity practices.
An additional $1.8 million will support after-school programs for Chicago Public Schools students, while $3.5 million will fund infrastructure improvements at Chicago parks. $1 million will be used to create a new small business incubator on the West Side and another $1 million will go towards a South Side call center.
“These investments build on the substantial 2017 budget investments in public safety and economic development - including out plan to hire nearly 1,000 officers over the next two years, to make youth mentoring universal, and to drive economic growth in our neighborhoods,” Emanuel said.
All told, 25,300 Chicagoans have taken part in the program, receiving an average rebate check of $108. The program cost the city an estimated $3.8 million.
The City Council was expected to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would restrict Downtown street performers, but pulled back after the American Civil Liberties Union warned that the measure could lead to legal action, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“The street performer ordinance already has serious First Amendment problems,” ACLU senior staff counsel Rebecca K. Glenberg wrote in a letter to aldermen obtained by the Sun-Times. "The proposed amendments to the ordinance would add new restrictions that cannot satisfy constitutional standards, leaving the city open to a strong likelihood of litigation.”
Glenberg also urged the city to abandon the new restrictions and called on the City Council to “eliminate the current permit requirement and the prohibition on performances in Millennium Park."
Ald. Brendan Reilly ultimately agreed to push the vote for at least one meeting as the City Council identifies places for street musicians to perform, according to the report.