United Kingdom

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot spent over $104,000 on upgrades to her City Hall conference room

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot spent more than $100,000 on City Hall improvements last year as the city grapples with a billion dollar shortfall. 

That tax payer funded spending included $104,682 on the conference room plus another $10,000 on a private roof terrace - which is inaccessible to the public. 

The estimate for the conference room upgrades arrived around the same time Lightfoot was preparing to share news about a $1.2 billion budget shortfall, according to Department of Assets, Information and Services records.  

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is under renewed fire for spending on her conference room

That tax payer funded spending included $104,682 on the conference room. It is not clear whether this is the conference room in question

An extra $10,000 was spent on City Hall's rooftop garden last year (pictured in 2006)

A spokesman for the mayor defended her saying that the upgrades allowed the city to better adapt to to virtual meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

'During the pandemic, the mayor’s office had to adapt to the virtual way of doing business, which required some significant upgrades in technology and equipment,' a spokesperson for Lightfoot said.

'Continuity of government was one of Mayor Lightfoot's top priorities throughout the pandemic, as we know the essential role the city plays in providing services to residents, and the technological upgrades allowed us to preserve and execute on that priority,' her office added.

The city contractor who did the work defended the budgetary decision and explained why the touch screen is so important. 

About two-thirds of the $104,000 on the conference hall went towards equipment (approximately $66,000) while a third of it went towards the labor costs (approximately $38,000).

Broken down further, about $9,000 went towards an EagleEye camera and video conferencing kit, $7,000 for a presentation switcher, $6,000 for a television with touch screen capabilities and built-in apps, $1,000 for a phone dialer keypad, $919 for a ceiling microphone, and $488 for a wall mount.

The Chicago Tribune reports that an extra $10,000 also went toward the maintenance of the private garden on the City Hall rooftop.

The city had spent just under $48,000 on the garden in both 2018 and 2019, before spending $57,603 in 2020.

Lightfoot had request extra funding for the garden after claiming it was falling into disrepair. 

'I write because while it is intended to be a wild prairie, to my untrained eye, it does not look well maintained,' Lightfoot said in a December email to AIS Commissioner David Reynolds and Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi regarding the garden.

Pictured: City Hall in Chicago. Lightfoot spent over $104,000 on improvements to her conference room in City Hall, including around $66,000 on new or improved equipment

Pictured: Lightfoot in her office at City Hall in March 2020. A spokesperson for Lightfoot cited the pandemic as a reason the technology upgrades were needed for the conference room

She also inquired a bee colony that hadn't been on the roof since 2016 and improved outdoor furniture. 

The spending is minor compared to the budget for the city, but still flies in the face of recent decisions made to halt the city's budget shortfall.

Some fellow Chicago politicians criticized the six-figure splurge. 

'I don’t think the mayor of Chicago or anybody in the city should be spending that amount of money on technological equipment to have Zoom meetings,' countered Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez.

Earlier in her administration, Lightfoot also spent $220,000 to renovate her office suite in City Hall. 

In November, Chicago City Council passed a property tax increase of $94 million, which includes annual cost of living increases.

The $12.9 billion budget also included the refinancing of more than $1.7 billion in debt.

'We are borrowing and refinancing $1.7 billion to kick the barrel down the road,' Alderman Anthony Beale said to ABC 7. 'Not the can, but we are kicking the barrel down the road.'

The budget also included an increase of $0.03 on taxes for each gallon of gas, as well as introducing penalties for drivers caught on speed cameras going as little as 6mph over the speed limit.

Football news:

Griezmann spoke with Hamilton and visited the Mercedes boxes at the Spanish Grand Prix
Barcelona feels that Neymar used it. He said that he wanted to return, but extended his contract with PSG (RAC1)
Aubameyang to the Arsenal fans: We wanted to give you something good. I am sorry that we could not
Atletico did not lose at the Camp Nou. Busquets' injury is the turning point of the match (and the championship race?)
Verratti injured his knee ligaments in PSG training. Participation in the Euro is still in question
Neymar's contract in one picture. Mbappe wants the same one
Manchester United would like to sign Bellingham in the summer, not Sancho. Borussia do not intend to sell Jude