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Daley Explains Stimulus "Wishlist"

By Kevin Robinson in News on Mar 13, 2009 2:40PM

After playing coy about how the city would spend federal funds designated for economic recovery and reinvestment, Mayor Daley finally came clean about how he plans to spend nearly $1 billion. The bulk of the funding will go towards public education, as well as transportation infrastructure and preservation of city jobs, mainly in the CTA and the public schools. “With a regional unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, the worst it’s been since December 2003, those jobs come at just the right time,” Daley said, noting that $1 billion was "better than nothing."

The mayor plans to spend $260 million on education, for after-school programs and teacher recruitment and training, as well as expanding Head Start for some 10,000 children. Daley also plans to rebuild 43 miles of pothole-filled arterial streets, while upgrading the fleet of police cars, including the installation of more cameras and finance more police overtime. The mayor also plans to spend about $144 million to convert existing condominum stock into affordable rentals, and $31 million to rehabilitate the Altgeld Gardens and Phillip Murray Homes on the South Side. “There are many opportunities to create jobs and protect people in their quality of life,” Daley said.

While the mayor was celebrating the billion dollar payday the federal government gave to the city, he was also warning of significant budget cuts in the immediate future. With city revenues down and the economy in its worse shape in 25 years, the mayor warned of a $200 million budget gap. But as bad as things might be in Chicago, the mayor intoned, they could be worse. "Other cities are taking drastic four-day workweeks. . . . They're having really major layoffs in police and fire. They're closing firehouses and police [stations]. They're cutting libraries, even closing schools," Daley told the Sun-Times. That warning came as the mayor introduced the city's new Chief Financial Officer, Gene Saffold. Saffold is managing director for national accounts for JP Morgan Chase, the same bank where the mayor's brother William serves as midwest chairman.