EDITORIAL: Against Recreational Marijuana and Chicago Casino
Our upcoming Chicago mayoral election is about the tale of two cities; the difference between whether our government gives its helping hand to the neediest or gives handouts to the wealthiest among us. Whatever your neighborhood, you know someone who is hurting from the repeated failure of City Hall to actually solve problems.
The pains from unsafe streets, jobless neighborhoods, substandard housing, and underfunded schools, are too real, for far too many in a city as wealthy as Chicago.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his entrenched business allies have repeatedly given handouts to corporations, insiders and campaign contributors; money they didn’t need to prosper in a world-class city like Chicago. They claimed these subsidies would trickle down to solve the City’s economic injustices and fiscal imbalances. This economic policy has more in line with Republican orthodoxy in the 1980’s, than the values of the progressive neighborhoods of Chicago.
The results of Mayor One-Percent, the rich got richer and the poor got left behind and the City’s finances are still a mess. In short, those controlling the Mayor got accomplished what they wanted. The crisis remains, and City Hall can continue its campaign to strip retirees of their pensions, close down public health clinics and replace public schools with corporate-run charter schools.
While we have successfully ran off Rahm, his allies and polices remain in place. The same Mayor who couldn’t find money to keep schools serving minority populations open, proclaimed support for selling high-potency recreational marijuana and borrowing a billion dollars to build a mega-casino. Now, a number of the candidates running to replace Rahm want to keep these bad ideas of Big Marijuana and a Chicago owned, operated and regulated mega-casino.
To propose legalizing marijuana AND a government-owned casino in the name of economic justice demonstrates just how far the two cities of Chicago has drifted. Government sanctioned super-weed coupled with a government-owned casino are policies that prey upon and prod citizens to get high and lose their paychecks, so that the City can make a few percent off the top.
Rather than come up with new progressive plans that support the neediest among us, our current Mayor and candidates to be mayor want to not only double-down on the failed policies of the past but raise the pot by also proposing legalized recreational marijuana.
Will the casino be in Lakeview or the Gold Coast, or will it be it be set-up to prey upon the communities that can least afford the vice? Does anyone think that the schools and health clinics will re-open once there are twin vices - 10,000 slot machines in a gambling palace on Lake Shore Drive?
Chicago City Hall taking over lucrative vices is a gangsta move worthy of Al Capone.
If this wasn’t Chicago, this harebrained idea would be immediately disregarded. The twin-vice of legalized recreational marijuana and a mega-casino gambit are nothing more than political sleight of hand, intended to hide the fact that City Hall intends to force the lower and middle class to continue to bear the burden of pain in the years ahead.
You can certainly bet that cronies, the connected and the clout-based corporations that rule this City will benefit handily from this boondoggle. Chicago can’t even run a parking lot without scandal and graft, but we expect a recreational marijuana program and a taxpayer funded casino and to be run on the up-and-up?
City Hall has switched from doing the bidding of Wall Street bankers who crippled our schools with rate swaps; to those of the oligarchs and gambling interests this election cycle. Lost in this all, is what is good for the people and neediest of Chicago.
This demonstrates that the fight for true economic and social justice in Chicago’s policies will continue long after Rahm is gone and the new Mayor is in place. The sooner the members of the City Council realize they work for the people of Chicago, and not the Mayor of Chicago and special interests, the sooner their wards will heal and their citizens will prosper.
As Election Day draws near, it is not the end of this movement; but merely the end of the beginning of this renewed fight for Chicago’s soul.
The voters need to reclaim Chicago’s government so it acts in the public interest, not work for the special interests.
Author: Rev. Gregory Livingston, Pastor at New Hope Baptist Church