CITY HALL — The Lightfoot era is set to get underway in earnest Wednesday, as aldermen gather for the first regularly scheduled City Council meeting since Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s inauguration.
But while Lightfoot has upended life as many aldermen knew it for decades — one thing will remain as it has for more than 50 years — Ald. Ed Burke’s presence in the Council Chambers.
The 14th Ward alderman — now under indictment on 14 counts of racketeering, bribery and extortion — has defied Lightfoot’s renewed and repeated calls for his resignation.
Lightfoot has said his continued presence will be “awkward” for her and other aldermen as they work to end decades of corruption at City Hall.
Burke has pled not guilty, and Lightfoot has no power to force him to resign. Only a conviction can force an alderman out of office.
It is likely the two elected officials will continue to clash, much like they did May 28, when Burke objected to Lightfoot’s reorganization of the City Council — and the mayor shut him down.
Before the full City Council meets, the Finance Committee will meet at 9 a.m. to again consider a $3.7 million settlement for the three victims of a 2014 crash in which a car plummeted 25 feet down after crashing through a barrier at the end of Oak Street.
In addition, the Zoning Committee is set to meet at 9:30 a.m. to appoint Lightfoot (A2019-37) to the Public Building Commission, which considers city construction projects.
Aldermen are also set to approve the first round of Lightfoot’s cabinet appointments:
- A2019-38 — Marisa Novara as housing commissioner [Our coverage]
- A2019-39 — Mark Flessner as corporation counsel [Our coverage]
- A2019-40 — Susie Park as budget director [Our coverage].
In addition, aldermen are set to confirm the membership of the City Council’s 18 committees and approve Lightfoot’s proposal tp (O2019-3901) to adjust their budgets. That plan includes $393,000 for “audio visual materials” to purchase equipment to allow City Council Committee meetings to be streamed online.
With a relatively light agenda in front of them on Wednesday, two high-profile pieces of legislation are set to be introduced — setting up big battles in the weeks ahead.
With the support of Lightfoot, aldermen will resurrect a push to give elected civilians oversight of the Chicago Police Department as part of a plan crafted by the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability.
In addition, a measure to increase Chicago’s minimum wage to $15 by July 1, 2021 will be introduced after advocates gather for a morning news conference to rally support.
The city’s minimum hourly wage, earned by approximately 400,000 Chicagoans, will rise from $12 to $13 on July 1 — the final major hike called for in a 2014 compromise measure crafted by Emanuel designed to block efforts to raise the hourly wage to $15.
Once Chicago’s minimum wage hits $13, it will be tied to the Consumer Price Index, and rise with inflation.
The state’s minimum wage will hit $15 per hour in 2025 under a law signed by Gov. JB Pritzker less than a month after he took office.
Lightfoot is also set to introduce a package of ethics reforms prompted by the allegations against Burke.
Lightfoot’s proposal would ban aldermen from working as property tax attorneys or in any capacity “that poses a potential liability or a conflict of interest with City of Chicago business.”
The proposal also expands the powers of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson to investigate aldermen and “audit council administrative procedures.”
The proposal would also hike the fine for violating the ethics ordinance from $500 to $1,000 for low-level violations and from $2,000 to $5,000 for high-level violations.
In addition, Lightfoot proposed expanding the definition of lobbyists to include non-profits.
Lightfoot’s proposal could be the first item considered by the newly formed Ethics and Good Governance Committee, to be chaired by Ald. Michele Smith (43).
Other items set to be considered by the City Council:
- O2019-2762 — A measure to purchase a 274,000-square-foot property at 3154 W. 95th St. in Ald. Susan Sadlowski-Garza’s 10th Ward from Indiana-based Brown, Inc. that the city leases for salt storage.
- O2019-2821 — A measure to sell 2840, 2853, 2910 and 2912 W. Van Buren St. to expand an urban farm center for $4 in the 27th Ward.
- O2018-2817 —The sale of the old Marshall Square library building at 2724 W. Cermak Road for $1 to Latinos Progresando, a nonprofit that provides legal aid to immigrants, which plans to turn the building into offices and space for the community. [Block Club Chicago]
- O2019-2878 — The sale of vacant city-owned property at 6941 S. Stony Island Ave. to Illinois Power Development LLC for $100,000. The group plans to expand its Let Us Make Men program.
- O2019-3428 — A $4.2 million loan for the Nancy Franco-Maldonado Paseo Boricua Arts Building, which includes 15 live/work residences for artists, a theater and an art gallery.
- Three police misconduct settlements totaling $785,000 [Our coverage]