Chicago mayor advances government-owned grocery store after Walmart, Whole Foods close over crime

A failure to address the basics in Chicago didn’t stop the mayor from proposing a new plan to put taxpayers on the hook for government grocery stores.

Since Mayor Brandon Johnson (D) took the reins of the Windy City from his predecessor Lori Lightfoot in May, incidents of major crimes had increased across the board and locals were contending with the uptick in illegal aliens.

With the addition of a massive budget shortfall, the mayor appeared to disregard sources of problems in Chicago to explore a new government program through a municipally owned grocery store in Chicago in neighborhoods that Walmart and Whole Foods had already fled.

“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,” Johnson said in a Sept. 13 press release.

“My administration is committed to advancing innovative, whole-of-government approaches to addressing inequities. I am proud to work alongside partners to take this step in envisioning what a municipally owned grocery store in Chicago could look like,” he added.

In addition to remarks from Johnson, the statement from his office contended, “Historic disinvestment has led to inequitable access to food retail across Chicago, and these existing inequities have been exacerbated as at least six grocery stores closed on the South and West sides over the past two years.”

While the city included data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that estimated between 52 and 63.5% of residents in neighborhoods they were focusing on lived more than half a mile from grocery stores, they claimed “food access and security link directly to environmental and racial justice. 37% of Black residents and 29% of Latine/x residents are food insecure, compared to 19% of residents overall.”

Left out of the release was the fact that big-name retailers like Whole Foods, which shut down a South Side location last year, and Walmart, which had closed three stores in April, were shuttering due to the city’s failure to address rampant crime.

“If it’s not corrected over time,” said Walmart CEO Doug McMillon about the nationwide shoplifting problem that impacted the closures, “prices will be higher, and/or stores will close.”

The company put out a statement when those Chicago locations were closed that said, “The simplest explanation is that collectively our Chicago stores have not been profitable since we opened the first one nearly 17 years ago — these stores lose tens of millions of dollars a year, and their annual losses nearly doubled in just the last five years.”

“The remaining four Chicago stores continue to face the same business difficulties, but we think this decision gives us the best chance to help keep them open and serving the community,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, Ameya Pawar, senior advisor for Economic Security Project, the city’s nonprofit partner in exploring the grocery store plan, touted “Not dissimilar from the way a library or the postal service operates, a public option offers economic choice and power to communities. A City-owned grocery store in the South or West side of Chicago would be a viable way to restore access to healthy food in areas that have suffered from historic and systemic disinvestment.”

Johnson too boasted, “A better, stronger, safer future is one where our youth and our communities have access to the tools and resources they need to thrive.”

However, as previously noted, in the six major crime categories, incidents had only increased since Johnson took office leading to the city likely outspending the $210 million used on police overtime in 2022.

At the same time, Johnson admitted that with a budget shortfall of over $500 million, “The projected budget gap paints a realistic picture of our city’s financial condition, which will require careful consideration and strategic action.”

Hospitality advocate Sam Sanchez wrote on X of the mayor’s proposal that the intention was noble “but not a good idea,” that the businesses would lose taxpayer money and the solution was far simpler than officials were admitting.

“Control crime and business will come.”


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