LOGAN SQUARE — Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) is catching flak from some residents for being the only alderperson in City Council this week to miss votes on two hot-button issues: the Bally’s casino and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s curfew change.
Both the $1.7 billion River West casino — a proposal years in the making — and the curfew — sparked by an increase in shootings Downtown — were approved by the full City Council Wednesday, despite strong opposition from some alderpeople. But La Spata was noticeably missing in action. His name was the only one without a vote next to it.
Some current and future 1st Ward residents are frustrated with La Spata’s absence and his response to pushback. La Spata apologized for missing the city hearings, but didn’t offer an explanation.
“I expect that when we’re dealing with something of this magnitude, that my alderman is going to be there to represent his constituents,” Logan Square resident Josh Levin said. Levin currently lives in the 32nd Ward, but he will live in the 1st Ward when the city’s new ward map takes effect.
La Spata on Thursday addressed neighbors’ concerns in a written statement posted to Twitter.
“I believed I had managed the multiple components of my schedule well enough to participate for the duration of the meeting, but I had not,” La Spata said. I take my official duties very seriously, as is reflected in my 97% attendance rate, and I’m truly sorry for having let my constituents down with my absence yesterday.”
La Spata said had he attended Wednesday’s hearings he would’ve voted “no” on the youth curfew and “yes” on the casino, in line with his Democratic Socialist colleagues.
Some residents reached out to La Spata’s office to find out why the alderman missed the city hearings, according to an email thread shared with Block Club. La Spata’s staffer first shared the statement and then offered to set up a Ward Night appointment with La Spata — but wouldn’t say why specifically he didn’t attend the hearings.
Levin said that response — and the statement — demonstrate a lack of transparency.
“It’s a simple question: Where was he?” Levin said. “They’re offering a private meeting, but this is not a private question. Where were you?”
Levin is among a group of Logan Square residents who have been critical of La Spata for his handling of the bike lanes on Logan Boulevard. They say they weren’t asked for input on the lanes, which have changed the flow of traffic along the thoroughfare.
La Spata didn’t immediately respond to a request for further comment Friday morning.
In an analysis of City Council members’ attendance, WBEZ and The Daily Line found La Spata has the fourth highest overall attendance record of any alderperson on City Council: 97 percent.
La Spata’s attendance on Wednesday wouldn’t have swayed the casino or curfew votes.
City Council passed the curfew in a 30-19 vote, even after some alderpeople pointed to research that shows curfews don’t reduce crime. The legislation moves Chicago’s curfew up an hour from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. The earlier curfew will apply to minors 17 and under seven days a week.
The legislation comes amid an uptick in shootings Downtown and after 16-year-old Seandell Holliday was killed near The Bean.
Bally’s plan to build a riverfront casino and resort at the Tribune Publishing site in River West was approved by a 41-7 vote, despite criticism from some alderpeople and residents who compared the project to the much-loathed parking meter deal. The casino proposal still needs approval from the Illinois Gaming Board.
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