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CHICAGO — Plans to build a new Chicago police and fire academy will move forward despite protests by activists and the opposition of mayoral candidates.

Chicago alderman Wednesday approved the construction contract for the $95 million project and the needed zoning changes.

Opponents have ripped the proposed academy as an affront to the majority African-American West Garfield Park neighborhood where it will be built. They noted the need to instead invest public funds in education, job training and mental health.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and aldermen championed the academy as a way to provide police officers the training they need under a federal consent decree while helping revitalize a long-struggling part of the city.

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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot both said the final decision on the academy should have been left until one of them takes office in May .

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