CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot and an alderperson challenging her in next year’s election traded barbs at Wednesday’s City Council meeting after a proposal to install a new committee chair was voted down.
Lightfoot backed an appointment Wednesday to nominate retiring Ald. James Cappleman (46th) to head the city’s education committee, bypassing Ald. Sophia King (4th), who is running for mayor and currently serves as the acting chair of the committee. The committee has been without a permanent chair since former Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) resigned earlier this year.
The resolution to install Cappleman was then voted down 29-19 at Wednesday’s Council meeting after no discussion, delivering a defeat to Lightfoot.
After the vote was taken, King, who announced her campaign for mayor in August, rose to lambast the vote and Lightfoot, saying she’s received no response from Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez when asking him to appear regularly in front of City Council.
King is one of three alderpeople running to unseat Lightfoot in next year’s mayoral election. Also running are Alds. Raymond Lopez (15th) and Roderick Sawyer (6th). Retiring Lakeview Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) has also hinted he’s considering a run.
“You know, and I know, that I’ve been asking the CEO of Chicago Public Schools to come in, to meet, to have quarterly meetings. That’s bringing in the light. That’s transparency. And you saw with my colleagues today, they would like to have them come here. We give them millions of dollars every year. I didn’t want to turn this into politics, but that’s what it is right now,” King said.
“I don’t understand why we have to make this political. I am the acting chair, I reached out to the CEO, he has not returned my call, I assume it’s under your orders, this is just not how government should…” King said, before Lightfoot cut her off.
“Alderwoman King, don’t make that assumption, and that’s not appropriate. I have no knowledge of your contacts with the CEO. Don’t make that assumption and please don’t bring me into what is clearly a political issue for you,” Lightfoot said.
The two continued their back and forth, with King criticizing Lightfoot more broadly.
“Quite frankly, if you would spend more time attacking problems instead of people, we’d be much better off,” King said.
Lightfoot ended the exchange by saying she wouldn’t allow King to make a “political speech” on the City Council floor because of her “aspirations.”
“If you have an issue, we should talk about it, but this is not the time or place,” Lightfoot said. “Thank you so much Alderwoman King. I think people understand exactly where you’re at.”
Chicago mayors have traditionally handpicked City Council members to chair committees, although the practice has recently come under scrutiny.
In September, Ald. Matt Martin (47th) introduced a resolution appointing himself chair of the Council’s ethics committee, which has been without leadership since Ald. Michelle Smith (43rd) resigned in August.
Martin recently told the Chicago Reader he’d be the first alderperson in recent history to ask the council to appoint him to chair a committee.
At a press conference after Wednesday’s Council meeting, Lightfoot called the committee chair vote result and King’s response a “reflection of the politics that we live in right now.”
In response to a reporter’s question about some alderpeople feeling “blindsided” by the vote on the appointment, Lightfoot said there was a preliminary vote on the resolution in Tuesday’s Rules Committee meeting.
“So this was approved by the City Council and then brought forward today,” she said.
But according to the agenda for Tuesday’s Rules Committee meeting, the proposal was not discussed or brought up for a vote.
Even so, Lightfoot said she’s confident City Council will approve Cappleman’s appointment at a later date.
“Jim Cappleman is a good, good man. He is a former teacher himself. He has tons of experience in education, a compassionate heart, and is somebody that I have total confidence in,” she said. “So today what happened was politics at work.”
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: