Despite desperately underfunded schools and families struggling to pay heating bills as the winter rolls in, Ald. Deb Mell decided that what her communities and others around the city really needed was a $95 million police academy.
The $95 million in question would hardly fill the budget for needed services, but for neighborhoods hammered by austerity measures and bearing the brunt of mass incarceration and police violence, the project has come to symbolize much of what is wrong with the city's priorities. Illustrating this most cruelly is that the academy is to be built just blocks away from two shuttered elementary schools.
For critics, the message to communities like West Garfield Park couldn't be clearer: The city doesn't have the money to educate you, but it has the money to shoot you or lock you up.
As a member of the Housing and Real Estate committee, Mell was a sensible target to make the case to, and Working Families members and others from the ward stayed in contact with Mell to keep the pressure on and encourage her to oppose the project.
Earlier this week, Mell seemed to be able to grasp the outline of the argument, paraphrased by the Tribune:
Ald. Deb Mell, 33rd, said some residents tell her the money would be better spent on programs in neighborhoods to combat racism or used to hike budgets for education and mental health services.
But Mell, as usual, declined to translate these concerns into actual opposition to the project. The alderman, who racked up a 100% voting record with the mayor her first term and was rewarded with tens of thousands of dollars from his super PAC in the last election, again leapt to cast a vote for Rahm's position.
Despite a last-minute plea to the council by Chance the Rapper and a contingent of dozens of community groups, the measure sailed through, 48-1.
Following the vote, observers in the chamber bombarded the council with shouts of "Shame!" and "Vote them out!" according to the Daily Line.
We ought to understand who's not on our side, and take the instruction of those chanting yesterday. Today's a good time for the shaming. Tomorrow, let's start on the latter.
-Nick B, WF33