Federal government leaves Chicago to fend for itself

By Editorial Board

The G8 and NATO summits are approaching Chicago in full force, and the city is taking every possible measure to prepare. The summits are estimated to cost $40 million–$65 million, all of which the city promised in January would not be paid for with taxpayer money.

But city officials recently went back on that promise and admitted that Chicago has not received any federal funds to cover the summits, even though the city has already begun spending taxpayer money on security costs.

It is understandable that Chicago must prepare for potentially violent protests, but there are several issues that arise when city money is primarily used to pay for two large-scale international summits.

Many activists planning to protest the summits are Chicago residents whose taxes will be used to purchase security equipment that will ultimately be used against them. Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently approved an order for police horse riot gear and new face shields for officers. The face shields alone cost approximately $193,000, all paid for with taxpayer money, according to the Chicago Police Department. City funds could have been allocated to other areas in need, like Chicago Public Schools, which recently experienced several school closings amid protests and consolidations.

In fact, the entire process has not been fully transparent and numbers have remained vague. Taxpayers have a right to know specifics, but the Office of Emergency Management and Communications has only said that Chicago will be reimbursed “after the fact.” City officials also have not pinned down the definite cost of the summits even though they are less than three months away. All of this irresponsible and careless handling of city funds is unfair to Chicagoans who have had to adjust to several new revenue-raising measures, like speed cameras and dog registration.

But Emanuel and the city council aren’t fully to blame. The federal government should have planned further ahead and placed the summits as a higher priority. Instead, U.S. officials spent all available summit funds on an international economic meeting in Honolulu, even though Chicago applied for $7.5 million in fall 2011, as city officials told The Reader.

The federal government clearly did not prioritize correctly and left Chicago to fend for itself. Now the city is scrambling to prepare for an international event, thanks to the laziness and folly of federal officials.