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City Council Zoom Meeting Ends With Name Calling, ‘Grandstanding’ As Vote On Emergency Powers For Mayor Delayed

Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants emergency powers to make decisions without the City Council while battling coronavirus — but a group of aldermen say she's making a "power grab."

Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a City Council meeting in February 2020.
Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN — The City Council’s meeting over Zoom ended early Wednesday after aldermen called to delay a vote that would grant Mayor Lori Lightfoot emergency powers while dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Budget and Government Operations approved an ordinance that would give the mayor unprecedented emergency powers, including the ability to reallocate funds within the city’s 2020 budget; enter million-dollar contracts and lease and occupy property at no risk to the owners — all without City Council approval, the Daily Line reported.

But when the ordinance came to the full City Council on Wednesday, a group of aldermen spoke out against it, saying the body is able to meet and vote online and there is no reason to leave aldermen out of decision-making during the pandemic.

When asked to vote on the expanded mayoral power ordinance, Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) and Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th) voted to defer the decision. The meeting was quickly adjourned — despite a long agenda. Now, aldermen will vote on granting Lightfoot emergency powers Friday.

In a statement, Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), Rossana Rodriguez (33rd) and Ramirez-Rosa (35th) called Lightfoot’s ordinance a “power grab.”

“Today, alongside Alderman Raymond Lopez (15), we took legislative action to postpone Mayor Lightfoot’s power grab ordinance because we have a responsibility to ensure that millions in federal emergency dollars reach Chicago’s hardest hit communities on the West and South Sides,” the statement said. “The Mayor is asking City Council to abdicate its oversight responsibility with no guarantee that emergency dollars will be appropriated through an equity lens.”

After the meeting, Lightfoot ripped the group of aldermen, specifically calling out Ramirez-Rosa.

“On one side was a vast majority of our City Council members who understand the seriousness of this moment and the urgency in how we need to be laser-focused in supporting our residents and businesses who are desperately in need — who understand, as I do, that we need to act swiftly and boldly to help our fellow Chicagoans who are literally sick and dying,” Lightfoot said, adding that “a small handful” of council members are using “this moment of crisis to grandstand.”

“They stuck out like a sore thumb, choosing to serve themselves instead of the residents who elected them,” she said. “Choosing to put their own selfish interests ahead of their city and their community.”

Lightfoot added she is personally embarrassed by the 35th Ward alderman since she lives in that ward.

“The reality is the ploy of these grandstanders changes nothing,” Lightfoot said. “It only needlessly delays the business of this city for two days … .”

Lightfoot said the emergency power ordinance was introduced due to the speed in which city government needs to respond to the coronavirus crisis, and that it would expire in June — at the latest.

But the group of aldermen said Lightfoot should not be “Chicago’s sole decision maker and authority.”

“Why does Mayor Lightfoot want to broaden her powers when the Council can meet virtually? We oppose this ordinance to protect the right for public participation, and democratic decision making that will ensure we get sufficient COVID-19 testing to the South and West Sides, and ensure that every Chicagoan has a right to recovery,” the group said in a statement.

Asked if Lightfoot thinks she has the votes to get the ordinance passed Friday, she said, “Time will tell.”

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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