LITTLE VILLAGE — Alderpeople are ramping up pressure on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration to release the watchdog report detailing wrongdoing leading up to Little Village demolition disaster in 2020.
The City Council passed a resolution Wednesday calling on Lightfoot’s office to release the full findings from former Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, whose summary report into the incident was published earlier this year.
The measure — which Little Village Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd) introduced in January —is non-binding, meaning it does not compel the mayor to do anything. It now falls to the city’s Department of Law, which is under Lightfoot’s purview, to make the call.
Lightfoot has said city law bars her from releasing the full report, but Rodriguez and others dispute that. The mayor’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on whether that stance has changed with the City Council’s vote.
“Good government should be about transparency and accountability,” Rodriguez said in January. “We need to restore justice to Little Village residents and neighbors.”
Ferguson’s summarized report pointed the finger at three unnamed city officials, including one senior public health department employee. The watchdog said that official should be disciplined or fired for failing to act on knowledge the implosion would be disastrous. Health department leaders instead gave that person a written reprimand.
Two officials from the Department of Buildings also won’t receive any punishment, though the report had recommended it.
Rodriguez, Little Village residents and environmental advocates slammed the city for not punishing the official. They demanded better pollution controls, publication of the full report and an apology from Lightfoot.
The implosion at the Crawford site has been a flashpoint in the fight over environmental racism in Little Village.
The April 2020 explosion of the former Crawford Coal Plant coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving neighbors concerned over how the dust might exacerbate the respiratory illness.
Activists begged the city to halt the demolition, but it went on, blanketing Little Village homes in dust. Hilco Redevelopment Partners was slapped with $68,000 in fines for the mishap and was forced to pay an additional $370,000 in a settlement with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
Hilco’s warehouse opened as a Target distribution center in July 2021, despite protests by community members.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: