Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled a proposed budget on Wednesday that aims to close a projected $636 million+ shortfall. The budget proposes a major reorganization of the city's advisory councils and the elimination of its LGBT liaison, reports Windy City Times.
Under the subcategory "Commission on Human Relations," Emanuel has proposed having directors/community liaisons for the Advisory Council on Gender and Sexuality and the Advisory Council on Equity; each individual would receive an annual salary of $86,796.
However, in establishing these positions, several other councils would no longer exist, including those pertaining to African affairs; Arab affairs; Asian affairs; Latino affairs; immigration and refugees; women; and gay and lesbian issues. ( The directors/liaisons of those departments were being paid the same amount in the new proposal: $86,796. ) The aforementioned councils would be housed under gender and sexuality as well as equity. The Advisory Council on Veteran Affairs remains intact.
One individual whom the budget proposal negatively affects is Director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues Bill Greaves, who will lose his job. Windy City Times obtained an email that Greaves sent to members of that particular advisory council. "At a meeting this morning Commissioner [ of the Department of Human Relations Mona ] Noriega informed me that as of January 1 I will no longer be employed by the City of Chicago," the email states. "There will be reorganizations of the Advisory Councils, which we can discuss at our meeting October 19.
"I have been told by the Commissioner that my only responsibilities between now and the end of my tenure as Director are to request letters from the Mayor for the Hall of Fame inductees and to assist with the transition."
Beth Kelly, chair of the council, called both Greaves' proposed departure and the reorganization of councils an "affront to LGBT communities in Chicago" and a "symbolic erasure." "I think it's really important for people to think about the practical and symbolic consequences of this proposal should it come to fruition," Kelly said. "It sends a message that Chicago does not care about this community." [...]
Kelly also argued that there are practical concerns in reorganization. Kelly worries that the changes will undo progress the LGBT community has made with the Chicago Police Department and that by not naming "LGBT" specifically, the community will be less likely to report incidents of discrimination.
Chicago was one of the first large cities in the U.S. to name an official LGBT liaison. The city's first mayoral LGBT liaison was appointed by the late Mayor Harold Washington in February 1984. Greaves has served as mayoral LGBT liaison since 2000.
Emanuel's proposed elimination of the LGBT advisory position follows several similar local moves. Veteran Black lesbian activist Vernita Gray was laid off from the Cook County State's Attorney's office earlier this year. Gray was the prosecutor's LGBT liaison.
In an ironic twist of fate, the city's human relations commissioner and the person responsible for executing the re-organization is openly lesbian. Mona Noriega is the veteran Latina lesbian activist who was considered for a vacant city council post in 2010. Noriega would have become Chicago's first openly lesbian alderman but was not chosen. Noriega was appointed human relations commissioner in September.