Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson (D) is looking into opening taxpayer-funded, city-owned grocery stores in areas in which businesses have pulled out due to rampant crime.
Johnson announced a partnership with the Economic Security Project to look into the possibility of opening city-owned grocery stores. The first step in the partnership will be to perform a feasibility study, but the city did not provide a timeline, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Johnson claimed his administration is “committed to advancing innovative, whole-of-government approaches to address these inequities.”
The mayor said in a statement:
All Chicagoans deserve to live near convenient, affordable, healthy grocery options. We know access to grocery stores is already a challenge for many residents, especially on the South and West sides. A better, stronger, safer future is one where our youth and our communities have access to the tools and resources they need to thrive. My administration is committed to advancing innovative, whole-of-government approaches to address these inequities.
Economic Security Project senior adviser Ameya Pawar compared the proposal to “the way a library or the postal service operates.”
“The city of Chicago is reimagining the role government can play in our lives by exploring a public option for grocery stores via a municipally owned grocery store and market,” Pawar said. “Not dissimilar from the way a library or the postal service operates, a public option offers economic choice and power to communities.”
The partnership comes as a plethora of mega-retailers have closed multiple stores in Chicago. For example, Walmart closed four out of its remaining eight stores in Chicago in April.
City-owned grocery stores have been tested in smaller municipalities but never on a scale as large as Chicago.
Although Johnson’s police chief Umi Grisby claimed the city would not be “spending any taxpayer dollars,” Johnson’s office said the grocery stores would be funded by grant money from state and federal tax dollars.
“All of our stores are closing, and so now we have to go outside our neighborhoods to purchase food,” one South Side Chicago resident told CBS News. “I think that’s a good idea that Mayor Johnson is picking up the slack where these big store chains are leaving.”
However, prominent Chicago restaurateur Sam Sanchez said the stores would be “operating in the red,” thus wasting taxpayer dollars.
“Control crime and business will come,” Sanchez opined.
Nobel intention but not a good idea. This groceries stores will be operating in the red and loosing tax payers money.
Control crime and business will come. https://t.co/hWi5jitCto
— Sam Sanchez (@samsamco) September 13, 2023