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Chicago mayor makes historic community wealth building commitment

Centering community and place Expanding democratic ownership

Lightfoot proposes $15 million to pilot economic development strategy focused on “local, democratic and shared ownership”

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Isaiah J. Poole, Vice President of Communications; ipoole@democracycollaborative.org

Making a sharp departure from the usual economic development pledges made by big-city mayors, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot this week made a historic commitment to the city’s community wealth building strategy that is designed to support bottom-up efforts that root control as well as benefits in communities.

As part of her budget message to the city this week, Lightfoot proposed a $15 million community wealth building pilot, which she said “will create a new economic development program to promote local, democratic and shared ownership and control of community assets.” That will include “pilot investment in shared equity models such as worker cooperatives, housing cooperatives, and community land trusts— giving historically disinvested communities more accessible and sustainable pathways to build wealth in their communities.”

The Democracy Collaborative defines community wealth building as a systemic transformation of local economies to bring about shared prosperity, racial equity, and ecological sustainability through greater democratic ownership and participation. TDC is currently working with the City of Chicago’s Office of Equity and Racial Justice to advise and make recommendations on their development of a community wealth building strategy. TDC has previously played key roles in the development of the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland and the northern England town of Preston’s highly regarded model of using anchor institutions and local government procurement to support the growth of cooperatively owned enterprises.

City officials say money the city is receiving from the American Recovery Plan Act will be used to finance this project. The mayor’s proposal will now go to the City Council for approval.

“Other cities should take note of what Chicago is doing,” said Ted Howard, president of The Democracy Collaborative. “With so much upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no better time than now to rethink our approach to revitalizing our cities. Too often economically struggling communities are treated as opportunities for companies to extract labor and profits, and whatever revitalization occurs is not for the people in those communities fighting for a decent life. Those residents and workers are demanding real power, control and wealth-building capacity, and we applaud the growing number of local officials who are addressing that demand.”

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