Berwyn's Plan for ARPA Funds Reveals Lack of Community Input, Disproportionate Allocation to Berwyn Police

A growing number of Berwyn residents are questioning the City of Berwyn’s plans for the $31.9M in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds it received. 

According to the Brooking Institution’s ARPA Investment Tracker, the national average being spent on public safety is 2.3%. The City of Berwyn has allocated 10 times that amount to the Berwyn Police and Fire Departments.  

A comparison with other Illinois municipalities, most notably nearby Oak Park, which received $38.9M in ARPA funds, revealed that Berwyn involved no community input into their process of determining how to allocate the funds. 

Check out the comparison chart above and an overview of Cook County‘s ARPA funds to the right. Then read more below about how the controversy over Berwyn’s ARPA plan unfolded. 

Timeline of Controversy Over City of Berwyn's Plan for ARPA Funds

  • 5/10/22

    At the Committee of the Whole meeting, City Administrator Ruth Siaba-Green presented a summary of how the City plans on using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. It was presented the same night as City Council was set to vote on two items from the plan: an online incident reporting system and the expansion of the Police Department, including a controversial $2.1M parking lot. Council voted 5-3 on both items. Voting in favor: 1st Ward Ald. Scott Lennon, 2nd Ward Ald. Jim Woywod, 3rd Ward Ald. Richard Leja, 4th Ward Ald. Bob Fejt, 7th Ward Ald. Mary Beth Arenella (all from the Democratic Citizens of Berwyn [DCOB] party. Voting against: 5th Ward Ald. Rob Pabon, 6th Ward Ald. Alicia Ruiz, 8th Ward Ald. Joe Carmichael (all independents).

  • 5/12/22

    Ald. Joe Carmichael and Ald. Rob Pabon released a joint statement explaining their vote against both projects.

  • 5/16/22

    Mayor Robert Lovero released a statement criticizing the aldermen who voted against the measure. Mayor Lovero's statement was published only on the City website and blog, not on social media. That same day, Berwyn Police Chief Michael Cimaglia released a statement defending both projects and condemning a meme that criticized the $2M parking lot and used a police dog's image.

  • 5/19/22

    On 5/19/2022, 3rd Ward Ald. Richard Leja held a ward meeting and invited City Administrator Ruth Siaba-Green to present a report on how the City of Berwyn is using American Rescue Plan Act funds. This was the first time the report was distributed directly to the public. Towards the end of the meeting, some residents questioned why some of that money wasn't set aside for urgent needs, such as sidewalk repairs.

  • 5/24/22

    At the 5/24/22 Berwyn City Council meeting, a group of residents spoke during the open forum, criticizing the City’s ARPA plan, its exclusion of community input, and the lack of funds towards direct support such as food security, mental health services, small business grants, child welfare, and job training. Watch the open forum in the video below.