Lightfoot unveils roadmap to economic recovery from coronavirus pandemic

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said Chicago will need “nothing less than the most breathtaking recovery effort our city has ever seen” to come roaring back from the economic devastation created by the coronavirus pandemic and the stay-at-home shutdown it triggered.

She’s said — to some ridicule — that she hopes it will warrant a fifth star on Chicago’s flag.

Now, she has a roadmap to get there.

It’s called, “Forward Together, Building a Stronger Chicago.” The 105-page report is the product of the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force co-chaired by the mayor’s longtime friend Sam Skinner, who served as White House chief of staff and U.S. Transportation Secretary under former President George H.W. Bush. Skinner also is a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Eleven weeks in the making, the report includes 17 broad-brush recommendations and countless more specific suggestions to confront the many challenges Chicago faces if it hopes to make a strong comeback from the pandemic and the civil unrest triggered by the death of George Floyd.

Many of those challenges existed long before the current crisis, and are why Black and Hispanic Chicagoans bore the brunt of the coronavirus. The pandemic simply exposed Chicago’s ugly underbelly — and even made it worse.

The recommendations include for addressing “new and old traumas” include: create the most advanced healing centered region in the country; increase access to mental and emotional health resources and services in communities, and create a culturally-sensitive, diverse mental health workforce.

To expand economic opportunity, quality employment and financial security, the report advises the city to: re-imagine the region’s workforce infrastructure and create a plan to invest in displaced and young workers; increase ownership in employment for Black and Brown residents in the region’s contracting and construction industry; create the most vibrant small business and Black- and Brown-owned business community in America; and expand relief programs and try out innovative approaches to improve and strengthen the social safety net.

To build on the region’s strengths and seize new opportunities created by COVID-19, Lightfoot was advised to: expand the transportation, distribution and logistics sector by “leveraging new trends in the localization of supply chains”; strengthen Chicago’s health care and life-sciences eco-system and build on the region’s assets in food and agriculture and historic strength in manufacturing; prepare the region to “capture HQ2’s and corporate development and specialty centers” and capture more film and TV production.

To rebuild a convention and tourism industry devastated by the pandemic, the report suggests the mayor: introduce “Chicago’s master brand”; lead the re-imagination of regional tourism, travel and hospitality; develop new and existing neighborhood hubs to encourage tourism in neighborhoods; and “show the world Chicago is open for business.”

Within those broad-brush categories are more specific and intriguing recommendations. They include:

• A public-private venture fund to provide venture capital for local entrepreneurs.

• A portable benefits program for gig workers.

• Subsidized child care.

• A 211 line for mental health emergencies.

• A wage and standards board to establish a workers’ bill of right.

• Making city incentives “conditional on corporations meeting standards for localized hiring and procurement.

• Creating a “health check-off,” likened the Zagat survey for restaurants, that provides Chicago attractions and businesses a “set of standards” to meet so patrons feel safe.

• Luring “hybrid” conventions that are a mix of remote and in-person events.

• Dedicating resources to address recovery in a way that is “equitable and not uniform across Chicago” because the “impact of COVID-19 is not uniform across the city.”

• Holding another youth summit or engaging in “ongoing conversations” with young people “given the intense and historic protests, rioting and looting that Chicago and so many other cities experienced” after the death of George Floyd.

Lightfoot commissioned the study in late April while standing outside the Old Water Tower that survived the Great Chicago Fire.

“We don’t know when this crisis will end. … But what we do know is that, when it comes to recovering from this crisis, there are no half measures. No cutting corners. … The crisis we face today is like nothing any of us have ever experienced. … What we are embarking on is nothing less than the most breathtaking recovery effort our city has ever seen,” the mayor said on that day.

Lightfoot acknowledged then that Chicago was “still very much in the thick of the fight” and a “long way from being out of the woods.”

But, she added: “At the same time, we need to plan in a thoughtful, deliberative way about what the future is gonna look like at the neighborhood level, at the block level, but also at the city and the regional level. That’s what this task force is all about: Assessing the damage that’s been done, the harm — both in economic and … emotional terms — and building a framework for us to transition out of stay-at-home when that time is right.”


via Chicago Sun-Times

July 9, 2020 at 09:26AM

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