Chicago-native and Grammy Award-winner Chance the Rapper took the mic on the floor of the City Council Wednesday to ask elected officials to rethink their plan to build a new $95 million training facility for police and firefighters.
But aldermen ultimately decided to go ahead with the plan anyway.
The young celebrity and graduate of Chicago Public Schools has donated money for arts and music education to several local high schools, including some near where the new training academy will be built on the West Side.
“What are we doing?” he asked the city’s 50 aldermen. “I’ve been asking for money for over a year now to fund these classrooms and on the Fourth of July weekend, in like a cool finessing way, (the city announced) that they have $95 million, or that they’re proposing to build a $95 million cop academy.”
Despite that criticism, the measure to purchase the land at 4301 W. Chicago Ave. for $9.6 million was approved by the City Council with just one dissenting vote from Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th Ward).
Chance, born Chancelor Bennett, is the son of Kenneth Bennett, who previously worked in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration. Emanuel left the room during Chance’s testimony. Emanuel said later he stepped out to call his mother to wish her a happy 85th birthday.
Speaking directly to aldermen, Chance urged a no vote on the measure, which authorizes the city to buy 30 acres of land in West Garfield Park to build the new training academy.
“We should understand that, financially, this proposed plan doesn’t make sense; we don’t have $95 million,” Chance said. “They’re just asking you for $10 million today to purchase the land, but we don’t have the rest of the money to do it.”
Even after it sells the existing training academy facilities, the city is still short $37 million of the $95 million it needs. It’s still unclear exactly where the balance of the money will come from, but city officials have suggested they might seek to borrow it.
Bennett’s testimony on the council floor was met with loud applause from many in the gallery who were there to protest the new training academy.
Before the council meeting, activists gathered to speak out against the plan. Brook Celeste, who is with the group Showing Up for Racial Justice, said of the nearly 100 recommendations for police reform made by the U.S. Department of Justice following the shooting of Laquan McDonald, only a few had to do with training and building a new facility.
“If the problem with the CPD is cultural, why would we think that building a facility would do anything but direct resources away from the change in … culture needed in police, and the need for community accountability?” Celeste said.
Ald. Emma Mitts (37th Ward) represents the area where the new academy will be built and chided those who came to protest the plan. She and other aldermen maintain the new facility will spur economic development on the West Side.
“I’m not trying to say the facility is going to change police behavior. You going to have good and bad in everything you do,” Mitts said. “But what we want to happen is … I want the perception to change for our youth that all police officers or firemen are not bad.”