Sometimes a candidate offers a campaign promise whose staying power lasts only as long as its echo in the microphone.
Chicago mayoral candidate Gery Chico trotted out one of those promises this week to address a vanishing problem.
At a press conference in Marquette Park yesterday, Chico pledged to deploy 2,000 more officers on the street by the end of his first term in office without detailing how he would pay for it as the city budget gushes red ink.
"It's time to face the harsh reality that gang violence and crime are stealing our children and stealing our communities," Chico said, despite Chicago Police Department statistics revealing that homicides fell to 435 in 2010 from 460 in 2009, the city's lowest total since 395 homicides in 1965.
To add an extra 2,000 police officers to the street force to address the perception of escalating violent crime, Chico offered no concrete detail where he would find the $200 million necessary for the new police contingent except principally noting that he would tinker with the Chicago Police Department's management to make the department more effective and efficient.
Additionally, Chico says he would weed out duplication and better coordinate centralized "special units," as well as shift sworn, capable officers who perform office duties to District Law Enforcement.
Despite a city budget deficit this year of $655 million plugged with one-time cash reserves which will surface again next year like the creature from the black lagoon, Chico also said would bring back and expand community policing programs like CAPS, which have withered due to budget cuts.
Additionally, he said would encourage greater coordination between the Cook County Sheriff's Office and the Chicago Police Department, while leveraging partnerships with other law enforcement agencies to combat crime and increase efficiency.
"When we work together, we work smarter and we can be even more effective in fighting crime," Chico said. "There are currently eight layers of command between the superintendent and the district commanders. The last place we should have any bloated bureaucracy is in the organization responsible for public safety."
In June 2010, the city approved a new contract for existing police and fire fighters which will cost the city an additional $370 million without a plan to pay for it, according to Alderman Ed Smith who at the time poured cold water on the idea of additional police hiring.
We're in a budget crisis, and right now--I mean, right here, this contract that we're approving today is going to cost the city of Chicago $370 million. If you add more officers to that $370 million, we have to figure out where we're going to get that money. So we can't talk about adding until we figure out how we're going to pay for this agreement.
Additionally, recent police and fire pension reforms, approved by the Illinois General Assembly to address a $5 billion under-funding in Chicago's plans, could blow a $500 million hole in the city's 2011 budget alone, forcing big property tax increases to pay for the pensions.
City Budget Director Eugene Munin said, "In an environment when we already have problems in neighborhoods with foreclosures and people losing their homes, to put that kind of burden on the property owners in the city of Chicago seems to be having the pendulum swing a little bit too far the other way."
Chico, who has been endorsed by Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7 and Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, has made a reckless and cynical $200 million promise for more cops to promise-weary voters. It's reckless and cynical because the city will have no realistic way to pay for it or a pressing need that requires it. And he knows it.
Can you hear the echo?