NOV 03, 2023
Council meeting descends into chaos with quorum calls, motion to replace presiding officer, murky adjournment
Ald. Samantha Nugent (39) oversees the City Council meeting Thursday. [Erin Hegarty/The Daily Line]
A special City Council meeting Thursday where alderpeople were scheduled to consider whether the city should ask voters if Chicago should remain a sanctuary city descended into chaos after the start of the meeting was delayed as proponents worked to ensure enough alderpeople were present to meet quorum.
Ald. Anthony Beale (9), Ald. Marty Quinn (13), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15), Ald. Silvana Tabares (23) and Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41) teamed up to call for Thursday’s meeting whose agenda included three separate referendum questions proposed for the March primary ballot. The City Council only considered Beale’s proposal (R2023-0004224) to ask voters during the March primary election whether Chicago should stay a sanctuary city.
Beale during Thursday’s meeting defended his proposal to ask voters about sanctuary city status as Chicago is still scrambling to provide shelter and resources for waves of migrants being sent to the city.
"The reason I have brought this to the floor is not to eliminate Chicago as a sanctuary city but what it is, is to find some kind of compromise,” Beale said.
Ald. Samantha Nugent (39), the City Council president pro tempore, presided over Thursday’s meeting as Mayor Brandon Johnson was in Washington, D.C.
An initial roll call to determine quorum netted only 25 alderpeople present in council chambers, and 26 people are necessary for quorum. At the same time, some alderpeople were in or near council chambers but did not respond that they were present.
The City Council recessed for 30 minutes as proponents of the sanctuary city referendum question attempted to ensure more alderpeople showed up to make quorum.
The council finally reached quorum with 26 alderpeople present just before 1:30 p.m., nearly three hours after the meeting was scheduled to begin.
After reaching quorum for the meeting to proceed, a power struggle ensued as proponents of the proposal to ask voters about the city’s status as a sanctuary city wielded every procedural tool in the council’s rules of order to force a vote on the measure even though a maneuver used by opponents on Wednesday meant the proposal couldn’t be voted on.
Opponents of the referendum question answered the supporters’ tactics by initially attempting to ensure 26 alderpeople were not present to begin the meeting and then making a quorum call after enough alderpeople left council chambers to drop the attendance count below the threshold required to carry out the council’s business.
When quorum was called around 2:20 p.m., only 25 alderpeople were present in chambers, and Nugent ruled the council could either adjourn or recess the meeting. Lopez motioned to replace Nugent with Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) as the council’s temporary presiding officer, and Nugent ruled the motion out of order.
After some shouting by alderpeople and members of the public, Nugent said the meeting was adjourned.
But since there was no motion or vote to adjourn the meeting, Lopez took to the front of the chambers where the presiding officer stands and motioned to recess the special meeting until 9:45 a.m. Tuesday — a little over an hour before an 11 a.m. City Council meeting is scheduled to begin.
After the meeting, Ramirez-Rosa called Lopez’s and Beale’s tactics “a show in theatrics.”
“There wasn't quorum in the room at multiple occasions. Our rules are then clear. If you don't have quorum in the room, then you either need to adjourn or you need to recess,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “In this case, the meeting adjourned and it's just unfortunate that a handful of people want to engage in theatrics.”
When it comes to whether a vote on the sanctuary city referendum question would pass the City Council, Ramirez-Rosa is unsure.
“I've spoken with a number of the sponsors who have told me that they feel that they need to sign on to it for political reasons, but that in reality, they would not vote for it, and they don't support it,” Ramirez-Rosa said.
Addressing the fact that one year ago, opponents of the proposed Bring Chicago Home resolution used similar quorum tactics to block a hearing on the proposal, which Johnson’s administration and Ramirez-Rosa support, the floor leader said the situations are different.
“I would not compare some of the most richest, powerful people on the globe — which is the real estate industry, the real estate lobby, people who own $100 million buildings downtown — I wouldn't compare them to undocumented immigrants,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “If there were people today standing up against this referendum moving forward, it's because they believe that undocumented Chicagoans, people who own businesses, and homes will pay taxes, they should not be afraid to call 911 and that is very different.”
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