CHICAGO — From affordable housing measures to a cash settlement for wrongful convictions, Chicago City Council met for the first time in 2022 on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, increasingly rebellious aldermen pushed back on Mayor Lori Lightfoot, arguing that there’s not a level playing field when introducing a new measure for consideration. The council also addressed a pair of wrongful convictions, dating back to the dark days of former police commander Jon Burge.
“We have paid, as a city, as taxpayers, an unbelievable heavy toll for his crimes,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot reacted to the settlement approval of $14 million paid to Corey Batchelor and Kevin Bailey, who served decades behind bars. Lawyers say their victims of coerced confessions at the hands of Burge and his men.
“And we have to make sure that when the claims are valid, that we do what we can to address the harm that’s been done,” Lightfoot said.
Ald. Anthony Beale (9th Ward) said he is frustrated with the lack of progress when it comes to a measure to provide legal counsel to Chicago’s 50 council members, helping them wade through complicated legislative issues.
“I have attempted to take this to the committee and do it the right way,” Beale said. “But when your voice is being silenced where you can’t even bring something to the floor that is beneficial to us, it’s a problem y’all!”
“If you want to shoot from the hip, then by all means,” said Lightfoot, who along with others on the council opposed Beale’s effort to bring the proposed ordinance to an immediate up-and-down vote, even though it hasn’t been approved yet by the Rules Committee.
“I think it would be inappropriate for us to vote it up or down because we don’t even know what we’re voting for,” said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd Ward).
But South Shore Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th Ward) fired back.
“Mayor, you call upon us all the time to pass things and we work out the details later,” Hairston said. “So this is not unusual.”
Ald. George Cardenas (12th Ward) says city council should focus on fighting crime first.
“Until we figure that out, I’m not moving on any more bureaucratic expenses to the taxpayers,” Cardenas said.
Beale’s motion fell short to a 29-19 vote, but the Southside alderman issued a final point.
“Yes, it is extremely frustrating,” says Beal, “that you have an administration that wants to consistently silence the voice of the people.”