Vaccines for police, Latino Caucus overshadow budget talks at city council meeting

Chicago News

CHICAGO — The Chicago City Council gathered Thursday to discuss the budget but no one could ignore the showdown between the Fraternal Order of Police and Mayor Lori Lightfoot over her vaccine mandate. 

“Tomorrow is a real day and our expectation is people will comply,” Lightfoot said.

City workers must report their vaccination status by Friday. But the FOP President John Catanzara is urging officers to ignore the order. 

City Council members are nervous.

“Are we prepared for several hundred first responders not being there answering that call this weekend?” Alderman Matt O’Shea said.

“If we have over 50% of our manpower not on the streets coming this weekend, when we already have record numbers of homicides, record numbers of carjackings, record number of crime running rampant in the city,” Alderman Anthony Beale said.  “What’s going to happen?”

Lightfoot is threatening that any city employee who does not report their status by Friday will be placed on unpaid leave. 

“My expectation is that people who swore an oath to serve and protect the city are going to honor that oath and they’re going to show up,” Lightfoot said. “They’re going to report for duty and they’re going to comply with a legal directive from the city and order from the police department. Anything less would be insubordination.” 

The FOP is not budging and that is raising fears that officers may not show up for work.

“The refusal not to get vaccinated is a form of not protecting the community that they were charged to protect,” Alderman Roberto Maldonado said.

“They’re in here to serve the public,” Alderwoman Maria Hadden said. “And I think it’s in the best interest of the public – the residents of our city – for folks to just comply with the information.”

Police say they will have their officers they need even if some don’t report to work. 

Also at City Hall Thursday, tension continued between Lightfoot and the Latino Caucus. A recent meeting ended with harsh words exchanged. 

The caucus has been on Lightfoot about Latino representation and hiring. They put out a report card highlighting the lack of diversity. Lightfoot told members on the private call that she was offended by the caucus’ action. 

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Aldermen fired back.

The meeting was first reported by the Chicago Tribune and now confirmed by WGN. 

“We need a body that looks like the city, not just black, not just brown, Asian, we need to include everyone,” Alderwoman Sue Garza said. “We need to make sure that we represent the city as a whole.”

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