• Alex Nitkin
    AUG 20, 2020

    Aldermen force special City Council meeting on public safety; Lightfoot dismisses as ‘grandstanding’

    Ald. Anthony Beale (9) and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15) [Block Club Chicago/Colin Boyle; Facebook/Alderman Raymond Lopez]

    Four aldermen including two of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s loudest City Council critics invoked a rarely-used rule on Wednesday to schedule an impromptu meeting they say is needed to address recent looting and violent crime, in part by demanding the deployment of National Guard troopsto the city.

    Ald. Raymond Lopez (15), Ald. Anthony Beale (9), Ald. Leslie Hairston (5) and Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41) announced in a press release Wednesday that they had written a letter to Clerk Ana Valencia requesting that she schedule a virtual meeting at 10 a.m. Friday “to address some of the safety concerns businesses and residents and vote on possible solutions moving forward.” Notice of the meeting was posted to the clerk’s website on Wednesday.

    Council rules allow three or more aldermen to schedule meetings without the mayor’s approval, but at least 26 aldermen would need to attend in order for any votes to be taken.

    The agenda includes two resolutions, both sponsored by Lopez. The first (R2020-593) would call on Gov. JB Pritzker to declare a state of emergency in Chicago and activate the National Guard “augment and assist” city police for “no less than four months.”

    The second resolution (R2020-594) would call on the council’s Committee on Budget and Government Operations, which is chaired by Ald. Pat Dowell (3), to hold “monthly subject matter hearings on public safety.”

    The aldermen also want to use the meeting to receive “reports” from Lightfoot, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans “regarding their unified efforts to address safety in Chicago,” according to their release.

    “Losing Chicago’s downtown and business districts should have never happened,” the aldermen wrote in their release. “We need to suppress all looting and rioting the minute it begins but we cannot do so at the expense and safety of other districts and neighborhoods. The time to act is now.”

    Beale told The Daily Line on Wednesday that aldermen had no choice but to call the meeting because they are “in dire need of answers” about how the city plans to address mounting crime and a yawning budget gap for which Lightfoot has offered few details.

    “We're forced to do these kinds of things to get the answers that we so deserve, because right now the administration is hiding behind Covid and Zoom calls,” Beale said. “I was trying to sound the alarm about the budget at the very beginning [of the pandemic], and we're still not planning for the disaster that we're facing.”

    During a press conference on Wednesday, Lightfoot stopped short of dismissing the meeting entirely, saying “we’ll see what happens” when asked if she would preside over it. She called the announcement of a special meeting “a testament to listening.”

    However, she noted that “the two main proponents” of the meeting, referring to Beale and Lopez, “have a history of grandstanding.”

    “They don’t listen, they don’t ask questions, and they’re not really committed to answers,” Lightfoot said. “This is not a time for grandstanding just for purposes of trying to seek media attention.”

    Beale said he has “a history of getting things done in my ward…I’ve never had a track record of grandstanding.”

    The full City Council typically does not meet in August. The next regular council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 9.

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