A perfect birthday gift for Chicago’s year-old Invest South/West program? Money | Editorial

There are reasons to be encouraged and, yet, concerned as one of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s marquee initiatives, a $750 million plan to reinvigorate long-disinvested South and West side retail corridors, turns a year old this week.

Chicago’s Invest South/West program, set to run three years, has started to bear fruit, as Lightfoot touted in a news conference Monday in North Lawndale. She said a $70 million infusion of public funds into targeted communities has attracted $300 million in private and philanthropic capital.

That kind of investment has been sorely needed for decades in North Lawndale, Roseland and eight other neighborhoods that are the program’s focus.

But if Invest South/West is indeed that successful and can leverage a financial return that large — and that quickly — why not give it some sort of increase in the 2021 city budget now being proposed by the Lightfoot administration?

The program gets no additional city funding, only the original $750 million committed last year. Those funds were set aside before the severe economic downturn caused by the pandemic. They also were set aside before growing calls, in the wake of last summer’s George Floyd protests, for more equitable public spending and programming to help financially-imperiled areas of the city.

If Lightfoot’s budget is designed, as advertised, to address the new realities of our day by rightfully increasing spending on health care, mental health and violence prevention, it follows that more money should be put into Invest South/West.

Because the need to rebuild Chicago’s West and South sides is as real as it gets.

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