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Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly, Who Fought The Casino, Wants Lightfoot Out As He Eyes 5th Term In 42nd Ward

The 42nd Ward alderman, first elected in 2007, has never faced an opponent in four reelection bids. In his next term, he wants to kill the deal to bring NASCAR races Downtown streets.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) speaks against the casino plans at City Council on Dec. 14, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN — Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) wants to kick off his next City Council term with someone other than Mayor Lori Lightfoot at the helm.

The veteran alderman is running unopposed, assuring him a fifth term representing parts of Downtown and River North.

Reilly did have a challenger initially, but Chris Cleary dropped out of the race earlier this month after failing to garner donor support. He said he dropped his bid after meeting with Reilly for two hours to discuss the ward’s future.

Cleary’s withdrawal means Reilly, first elected in 2007, has never faced an opponent in four reelection bids. He took office after upsetting former Ald. Burt Natarus, who held the seat for 36 years.

The lack of opposition speaks to the work Reilly and his staff to earn the support of residents, he told Block Club.

“I look at that as some validation for the hard work that we’ve been putting in,” Reilly said.

Although it’s smooth sailing for Reilly through Election Day, he’s hoping a shakeup in the mayor’s race will help him turn back time on “bad decisions” made by Lightfoot, he said. Decisions that have left a bad taste in the mouths of Downtown residents, he said, like the upcoming Chicago casino and the three-year contract for NASCAR races Downtown streets.

Before the $1.7 billion Bally’s casino is built in River West, a temporary casino is slated to come to the Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash Ave., in River North, which is part of Reilly’s ward. Reilly has blasted the casino selection process and the site, calling it a “bait-and-switch.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the long-awaited completion of the Navy Pier Fly-Over path on May 10, 2021.

The alderman also hasn’t been shy in comparing the casino deal to the much-loathed deal to privatize Chicago’s parking meters.

“The process was indefensible. The lack of transparency … it was a very opaque process at best,” Reilly said. “I don’t know that the next mayor or next City Council could undo the casino. … We would likely be subject to litigation, and we’d probably lose. My constituents are hoping that the gaming board sees this for what it is and shuts it down.”

But Reilly said he’s confident the next mayor and City Council will be able to shut down the NASCAR deal if they so choose.

The street race scheduled for July 1-2 is slated to shut down Grant Park for two weeks, with the 2.2-mile course spanning DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Michigan Avenue, Columbus Drive and surrounding streets, with the start/finish line and pit road along South Columbus Drive in front of Buckingham Fountain. 

Reilly has said he was not looped into the plan until hours before the announcement.

“A lot of this mayor’s initiatives will likely be undone by the next mayor, and NASCAR is one of those that could be on the plate,” Reilly said.

Reilly hasn’t announced who he plans to endorse in the mayor’s race — but it’s definitely not Lightfoot, he said.

“I do think the mayor will pay pretty severe political consequences with Downtown voters,” Reilly said. “I’m looking forward to working with a new partner to finally address the crime issue, develop a real strategy to get at it and also to take a look at some of the policies that this mayor put in place that might need to be changed.”

Reilly said residents can soon expect the rollout of two pilot programs that would use cameras on city vehicles and other infrastructure to catch drivers parked illegally in bike lanes, bus lanes and loading zones and mail them a ticket.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) speak at a City Council meeting on June 22, 2022.

“I’m hopeful that pilot is successful because we could broaden that to a citywide basis. We’d have much safer bicycle infrastructure across the city and every neighborhood,” Reilly said.

The pilot program comes after Reilly successfully introduced an ordinance last year to hike fines for people caught drifting or drag racing and sponsored another boosting penalties for drivers parking or loading in a bike lane.

Reilly’s also banking on pushing through an ordinance he proposed to establish the Office of Legislative Council, which would clarify City Council’s investigatory powers and include a process for committees to subpoena individuals or evidence.

“It allows the City Council to be stronger and to be better informed and to make decisions eyes wide open without having to rely upon the Mayor’s Office for, quote, facts,” Reilly said.

Reilly will be tasked with working with the alderman of the newly formed 34th Ward, which absorbed about one-third of the current 42nd Ward in the most recent redistricting process.

The two Downtown wards will share the corridor along LaSalle Street that’s slated for a makeover due to a new program handing out TIF dollars to convert vacant office buildings into apartments.

Reilly expects that program to be tweaked under a new mayor but agrees the corridor needs “extra help.”

“I just know how administrations are; each one has its own view on these things,” Reilly said. “My guess is that whoever the next mayor is will come in, evaluate, decide whether to throw it out the window or retain certain components of it or to tweak it or change it.”

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