This story was originally published by City Bureau on Oct. 19, 2020.

The city of Chicago’s 2021 budget is expected to be one of the most contentious budget proposals in recent years. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic taking a toll on the city’s finances, the mayor is expected to introduce solutions for an anticipated $1.2 billion budget deficit this Wednesday. Then it will fall to City Council members to negotiate and ultimately approve or reject the budget.  

Although the city’s official engagement efforts around the budget have now come to a close, there are still ways for Chicago residents to participate in the 2021 budget. Below are five ways to voice your opinion.

1. Watch Lightfoot’s budget proposal this Wednesday

Mayor Lightfoot’s 2021 budget proposal is set to be released this Wednesday at 10 a.m. You can watch her press conference via Facebook and Twitter livestream. “Everything is on the table” to fill the historic gap in the budget, said Mayor Lightfoot previously. The mayor is rumored to have a $94 million property tax increase, more than 300 city worker layoffs and a gas tax increase as part of her plan, according to a Chicago Tribune report

2. Attend a budget hearing and/or sign up to speak at one

City Council will host a series of budget hearings with city agencies after the mayor’s budget proposal is released. Here aldermen can propose any changes prior to City Council’s vote. Historically, the budget is passed before Thanksgiving, however, City Council has until Dec. 31 to finalize it.

There will be 11 virtual budget hearings from Oct. 26 to Nov. 11 in which city departments will review their 2021 budgetary needs. Members of the public can tune in to watch the hearings on livestream, but they’re not allowed to address the council.

For those who want to speak at a meeting, Chicagoans may sign up for public comment in the annual City Council budget hearing on Nov. 16 at 10 a.m. In typical City Council meeting fashion, members of the public get two minutes to make public comment. You must sign up in advance, and be sure to fit your comments in the short timeframe.

Go to to see a full list of meeting information.

3. Contact your alderman

One of the most efficient ways to get involved—not only in this year’s budget but in your community as a whole—is to contact your alderman to share your thoughts and concerns. These elected officials are supposed to represent the needs of their community members. You can find out who your alderman is on the city of Chicago’s website. By typing in your address you will be able to discover which of the 50 wards you live in and the name of your alderman. This search also pulls up where your alderman’s office is located and their office phone number. 

During the budget process, aldermen vote on the annual budget and are required to show up at budget hearings and ultimately act as a representative for their ward. In the past, aldermen have been criticized for not showing up to these important meetings. You can even check out how your alderman has historically voted on the budget. When reaching out to your aldermen don’t get discouraged if they don’t respond immediately. Be persistent and understand that your voice matters. 

4. Take part in a protest or campaign

Right now, the most prominent grassroots movement in connection with the city budget is Defund CPD’s #TakeBackTheBudget protest. Mayor Lightfoot has voiced her opposition to public calls to defund the police, stating that it’s just a “nice hashtag.” This comes even after the city’s budget survey reported that nearly 9 out of 10 respondents requested that police funds be reallocated for public health and community services. 

Organizations and activists around the city have taken to mass trainings, mutual aid and canvassing to call for defunding the police since the summer. Local organizers Bella BAHHS and Damon Williams will host an abolitionist budget conversation on Tuesday night on Instagram live at 6 p.m.


This Wednesday, the Defund CPD campaign will hold a Take Back The Budget car caravan and protest at City Hall to demand an end to overspending on policing. You can get involved by following the Defund CPD campaign on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

5. Educate yourself on what Chicagoans want in the budget

The People’s Budget is a citywide community-led collaboration to educate Chicagoans about the city’s budget process and how funds are allocated. In partnership with Chicago United for Equity, The People’s Budget Chicago held budget bus tours in various neighborhoods across the city to ask residents about what they want in the 2021 budget and what they need to be safe and thriving next year. 

The People’s Budget website is full of information on Chicago’s budget. Here you can choose how you would allocate $100 in your community based on the categories of health, education, housing, infrastructure, community resources and the carceral system. Once you have put an amount in each category, you can see how your budget priorities compare to the city budget.

Disclosure: City Bureau’s Documenters program participated in this project by attending and documenting the results of each event.

Do you have any remaining questions about the city of Chicago’s 2021 budget? Are you still curious about how the city’s budget works? 

City Bureau reporting fellows want to help. Fill out the form at the bottom of this story, email or leave a voicemail or text message for us at 312-361-0881.