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Editorial: Lightfoot’s budget. Pain from the pandemic, salve from nearly $2 billion in federal relief.

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Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, a place of oppression, famine and plague. Moses had the Red Sea, which was willing to part at his behest. But he did not have $1.9 billion in federal cash to smooth his journey

Behold the central, best-of-times, worst-of-times paradox of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s 2021 address announcing a $16 billion budget forChicago.

On one hand, the city is in a mess, mostly (but by no means entirely) due to factors outside direct City Hall control. On the other, federal American Recovery Plan goodies can be spread around to ease the pain and purchase support from progressive aldermen.

In one rhetorical moment in her speech, the mayor involved the Old Testament prophet and compared the pandemic travails of her city to the struggles of those ancient peoples; travails, she said, that require much government intervention in a many-headed hydra of programs designed to help a citizenry in crisis.

Moses became cover for spending federal cash. Daniel Burnham, he of “no small plans” fame, was thrown in there too. No small plans mean no small amount of spending.

In fairness to Lightfoot, who picked a near-impossible time to run a big, sprawling city, there is some poetry in the sudden abundance of resources at her disposal. A year ago, that would have beyond her wildest dreams.

And we admire the notes of restraint in the budget, while urging the mayor to withstand any and all subsequent pressure to remove them and empty the city’s federally guaranteed checking account on immediate gratification.

All good parents teach their kids not to spend their allowance all at once. And some suggest adding some improved earned income into the mix.

So Lightfoot is correct to hold the city to $782 million in ARP spending in 2021, leaving $385 million to plug a........

© Chicago Tribune

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