Chicago’s Democratic mayor, Brandon Johnson, has revealed a new partnership with a far-left non-profit organization to advance his proposal for a government-owned grocery store. Mayor Johnson argues that such a store is necessary to address issues of racial justice and promote food equity in the city.
In a recent press release, Mayor Johnson’s office emphasized the direct link between food access, security, and environmental and racial justice. The release highlighted that 37% of Black residents and 29% of Latinx residents in Chicago are considered food insecure, compared to 19% of the overall population.
The mayor’s office also pointed out that historic disinvestment has resulted in inequitable access to food retail across the city. Over the past two years, six grocery stores have closed in Chicago’s South and West sides, exacerbating existing inequities.
Furthermore, corporate grocery stores such as Walmart and Amazon-owned Whole Foods have recently left Chicago due to concerns over profitability and rising crime rates. Walmart closed four stores in the South and West Side neighborhoods earlier this year, citing significant financial losses over the past 17 years.
While the mayor’s office did not directly mention shoplifting, it is worth noting that Chicago has experienced a 25% increase in shoplifting over the past year. Walmart’s CEO previously warned about the impact of rising shoplifting rates on store closures.
In an effort to address crime, Mayor Johnson has established a community safety team, but their effectiveness has been questioned. The mayor has even resorted to suing car companies due to rampant auto thefts in the city, a move that has garnered criticism.
Although an exact cost estimate for a city-owned grocery store has not been provided, it is worth considering that the mayor recently announced a projected deficit of $538 million dollars for the upcoming fiscal year.
Umi Grisby, the mayor’s chief of policy, has stated that the project will not rely on taxpayer dollars but will instead utilize state and federal funding. However, it should be noted that economic grant money, which also comes from taxpayers, will be used to support the project.
Critics of the grocery store proposal have likened it to “Soviet-style central planning.” They have raised concerns about corruption in Chicago and questioned how the store would operate efficiently given the city’s significant budget deficit. Questions also remain about pricing, the impact on private grocery stores, and the effect on private enterprise.