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The Pandemic Forces Austerity on Chicago’s Trailblazing Mayor

Dec. 3, 2020, 10:00 AM

After more than two weeks of sometimes contentious hearings, on Nov. 24 the Chicago City Council narrowly passed a 2021 “pandemic budget” to close a $1.2 billion deficit. It’s a victory for first-term Mayor Lori Lightfoot. But the turbulent process revealed the difficulty of reconciling a liberal policy agenda with the economic fallout of Covid-19, even in a deep-blue city. And it’s mostly a short-term fix for the long-standing fiscal problems of Chicago, America’s third-largest city.

“This was a really hard year,” says Lightfoot, a Democrat. “Unlike anything in our city’s history.” About 65% of the budget gap resulted...

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