CITY HALL — A chaotic meeting of the City Council ended almost as soon as it began Wednesday after two aldermen blocked a vote on appointing the city’s top attorney, meaning a much-anticipated vote to rename Lake Shore Drive has again been delayed.
The drama began when aldermen were asked to consider Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s appointment of Celia Meza as Chicago’s corporation counsel at the top of the meeting.
Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) moved to “defer and publish” the vote on Meza “in light of everything going on with Ms. Anjanette Young.”
Last week, the city filed a motion to dismiss Young’s lawsuit against the city and the 12 officers who wrongly raided her home in 2019, leaving her handcuffed and naked as she pleaded with the officers that they were in the wrong home.
Young and her attorney, Keenan Saulter, criticized the move at a news conference last week, with Young saying she felt “betrayed” by Lightfoot, who has personally apologized to Young for the raid and vowed to make her “whole,” Young said.
Ald. Jeannette Taylor (20th) joined Lopez in attempting to stop the vote. After several colleagues tried to talk them out of the move, Taylor defiantly said, “I’m not changing.”
In response, Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) made a move to recess the meeting until Friday, creating a chaotic scene as aldermen tried to talk down Lopez and Taylor while asking Sposato not to end the meeting early.
Lightfoot briefly recessed the meeting, walking off the podium to the back of the chamber to argue with Taylor.
After the meeting, Taylor told reporters the move to block Meza’s appointment was not about her, but about the city’s “mistreatment of Ms. Young.”
“I’ll stand up for Ms. Young. She deserves to be respected, and that’s just what it is,” she said.
Taylor also criticized Lightfoot for not working well with City Council.
“Ever since we’ve been in a global pandemic, and she got this ultimate power, she doesn’t feel like she has to work with us, and that’s not how this is going to work,” she said.
During the argument, Lightfoot told Taylor she “cut out a woman of color” by blocking Meza’s appointment, Taylor said.
“Don’t talk to me like I’m a child,” Taylor responded. “You saw me tell her to put her hands down. I’m a grown woman like she is. We are coworkers, and clearly she doesn’t understand that, and I’ll make her understand that.”
The city filed separate motions, one on behalf of the 12 officers and one on behalf of the city, to dismiss all nine counts of wrongdoing Young alleged in her lawsuit, including that city officials, Lightfoot among them, engaged in a conspiracy to cover up the raid.
After the filing, Saulter said Lightfoot and Meza “and their expensive outside attorneys continue to play games and waste taxpayer money while filing frivolous motions to dismiss.”
“At the same time, this is a case that Mayor Lightfoot has repeatedly indicated that she would make Ms. Young whole and that she would direct her legal department to resolve this case,” he said in a statement. “It is clear that the mayor’s words are nothing but political talking points devoid of candor or action. It’s a sad day for Ms. Young and the citizens of Chicago.”
Lightfoot appointed Meza as acting corporation counsel following the resignation of former top attorney Mark Flessner in the wake of the Young scandal, which also caused the resignations of Flessner’s top assistant and a Law Department spokeswoman.
Lopez said it wasn’t about Meza’s specific appointment, but rather to send a message to the Law Department.
“The Law Department has to be taken to task for what it’s been doing to this woman this entire time, but this is the only way we can get their attention, then so be it,” he said.
After the recess, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) moved to consider the nomination of Annette Nance-Holt as the city’s first Black woman to serve as Fire Department commissioner.
As aldermen praised Nance-Holt’s appointment, embattled Rev. Michael Pfleger sat in the chamber as her guest.
Nance-Holt’s appointment was unanimously approved before another motion to adjourn the meeting was approved.
In a statement, Lightfoot ripped aldermen for stopping the meeting so early.
“Our residents expect the City Council to pass critical legislation that impacts their daily lives. However, today, a small group of Aldermen brazenly created a spectacle and did a disservice to their constituents, instead of raising their concerns through the appropriate forum,” Lightfoot said. “As a result of their cynical actions, the City Council failed to pass protections and relief for our hotel workers, primarily Black and brown women, who were most impacted by the pandemic, and our small businesses. On Friday, we look forward to continuing our work on behalf of Chicagoans.”
The abrupt end to the meeting further delayed a vote on the proposal to rename Lake Shore Drive after the city’s Black founding father, Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, until the council meets again 1 p.m. Friday.
After the meeting, Ald. David Moore (17th), a lead sponsor of the renaming, said the votes are still there to pass the measure, but he conceded two more days of discussions between the Mayor’s Office and aldermen could change things. Lightfoot opposes the renaming.
“As of today, we had them, but you know, now I just don’t know,” he said.
Alternative plans to simply tack DuSable’s name onto the front of Lake Shore Drive or rename Millennium Park after DuSable were floated Tuesday, but Moore shot those down, saying he would “stay the course” and seek to pass his ordinance without an amendment.
Moore had filed a Rule 41 prior to Wednesday’s meeting, a parliamentary step to force a vote on the measure, and said he would file another to force a vote Friday.
A close City Council ally of Lightfoot told Block Club after the meeting they think the proposal would have been called for an up or down vote on Wednesday and no parliamentary tricks were in the works to stop it.
Reflecting on the chaotic meeting, Moore — who is also campaigning to replace outgoing Secretary of State Jesse White — said City Council is “not a council of order anymore” and predicted more tension as the council weighs tough battles in the future.
“It’s not a council of rules. Any and everything goes. And I’m sad to say that you’re going to see fireworks in this City Council that we should not have to deal with,” he said.
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