FEB 24, 2022
Lightfoot’s proposal to sue gang leaders hits another delay as aldermen approve mayor’s COPA nomination
Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29) (left) moved to defer and publish Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s gang asset forfeiture proposal during Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposal to sue gang leaders and seize their assets hit a snag on Wednesday when two supporters of the proposed ordinance moved to temporarily delay a vote on the matter, a move widely interpreted as a sign that it lacked enough support to pass.
During the City Council meeting, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29), who chairs the City Council Committee on Public Safety, and Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41) moved to defer and publish Lightfoot’s so-called “Victim’s Justice Ordinance” (O2021-4130) after voting last week to spring the proposal from committee for scheduled council vote Wednesday.
“I was hoping to avoid going to vote today because I think there needs to be further discussion,” Taliaferro told The Daily Line on Wednesday. “We have a lot of community residents that are concerned, a lot of organizations that are concerned and I'm hoping we'll have a little bit more time to discuss it.”
The mayor downplayed dissention in the City Council and vowed to push forward with the plan, saying many critics had simply not been educated enough on the measure’s details.
Lightfoot’s proposal has faced pushback since she introduced it in September as a way to go “after gangs’ profit motives.” Civil rights groups, some Cook County officials and progressive aldermen have come out against the measure, though it cleared the council’s Committee on Public Safety in a 10-4 vote last week.
Officials in Lightfoot’s administration have said they modeled the proposed ordinance on a 1993 state law that allows state’s attorneys to file civil lawsuits against gangs and their members. It would allow the city to pursue lawsuits the state or federal government passes on.
The measure would require the city to prove the person against whom they bring the lawsuit is a gang leader and that their gang “has engaged in a pattern of criminal activity, including at least two criminal acts within the preceding five years” where at least one of the “criminal activities” included a “violent or predatory felony motivated by gang-related profit” and that the acts harmed the city.
Lightfoot’s proposal would allow the city to fine people $15,000 for their first violations and up to $30,000 plus up to 180 days in jail for subsequent offenses within 12 months of the first violation.
Taliaferro said he believes “misinformation” has circulated about the proposal.
“I'm hoping this will give us time to do better in explaining it to our constituents,” Taliaferro said. “The positions may not change, but at least we're giving it that opportunity.”
Taliaferro said he “can only imagine that the mayor is going to call it sooner” than the next City Council meeting. But Lightfoot during her post-meeting news conference said she doesn’t plan to call a special meeting before the scheduled March 23 meeting.
Ald. Andre Vasquez (40), who has long opposed Lightfoot’s gang asset seizure measure, told The Daily Line after Wednesday’s City Council meeting that he had also initially intended to defer and publish the proposal.
Lightfoot denied that her proposal didn’t have the support to pass on Wednesday. “We made a decision that we were going to delay putting it for the final vote to continue to educate people,” Lightfoot said. “There's been a lot of misinformation.”
The mayor didn’t list specific examples of “misinformation” but said she has heard from some aldermen “that they didn't attend briefings” and “weren't sure exactly what was in the ordinance itself.”
The ordinance “would require the city of Chicago to file a complaint in court — we would always have the burden of proof,” Lightfoot added. “We're going to continue to work educating folks about what the ordinance does and what it doesn't do.”
Asked how she would measure the ordinance’s success should it be approved, Lightfoot said it matters about “not just the number of cases that we file — it's restoring a sense of normalcy to these communities that are suffering mightily right now.”
“I think what success looks like is that we move forward to target gangs that have an established hierarchy, that are clearly profiting mightily from the work that they do, and that we start to see people think once, twice, three times about being involved in this life,” Lightfoot said.
Aldermen during Wednesday’s council meeting voted 31-14 to approve Lightfoot’s nomination of Andrea Kersten (A2021-172) as chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA). Kersten’s nomination faced multiple delays amid backlash from aldermen before it cleared the Committee on Public Safety in a 9-6 vote earlier this month.
- Lightfoot’s pick to lead COPA stalls as aldermen cite concerns with report including slain officer’s name
- Aldermen narrowly send Lightfoot’s pick to lead COPA for final vote in City Council
Kersten has been serving as COPA’s interim chief administrator since former Chief Administrator Sydney Roberts resigned in spring 2021.
Multiple aldermen had expressed concern with Kersten’s release of a COPA report recommending discipline for Officer Ella French despite the report being published publicly after the officer was slain in the line of duty.
Several aldermen, including some who initially expressed concern over her nomination, came to Kersten’s defense on Wednesday.
"All this woman did is her job,” Ald. Jason Ervin (28) said. “The job is to report the facts. The facts are the facts. We cannot have our own set of facts."
Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20) said she was one of the aldermen who signed onto a letter opposing Kersten’s nomination and was moved to support her after they had a conversation. Taylor added that she thinks the COPA report was issued at a "sensitive time" but that Kersten would get her vote.
Kersten "has shown professionalism in an unbelievably difficult job,” Ald. Harry Osterman (48) said. “She has to be fair — she has to be right every single time to build trust with the police and communities."
The following aldermen voted “no” on Kersten’s appointment: Ald. Brian Hopkins (2), Ald. Marty Quinn (13), Ald. Ed Burke (14), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15), Ald. Matt O’Shea (19), Ald. Silvana Tabares (23), Ald. Felix Cardona (31), Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36), Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38), Ald. Samantha Nugent (39), Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41), Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) Ald. Jim Gardiner (45) and Ald. Debra Silverstein (50).
Police misconduct settlement stalls
Some aldermen used a parliamentary maneuver to delay a vote on a proposal for a $1,675,000 payment to settle a lawsuit brought against the city by Mia Wright and four other people who were in a car with her at the Brickyard Mall when police surrounded it and used batons on the car amid reports of looting in May 2020.
Video that circulated of the incident showed officers pulling Wright out of the car by her hair. Wright was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and is now blind in one eye, city attorneys told aldermen during a finance committee meeting last week. An investigation by the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability did not find any evidence that tied the five people in the car to looting and eight officers involved in the incident are being disciplined.
Lopez moved on Wednesday to defer and publish the payment, temporarily delaying a vote on the proposal. Sposato, Cardona and Tabares joined Lopez in temporarily delaying the payment.
The settlement proposal advanced from the finance committee in a 13-7 vote last week, with supporting aldermen saying police should not be criticized for trying to tamp down looting on a “chaotic” day of protests and unrest.
Aldermen during the City Council meeting also approved the following measures:
- A $1.4 million payment to settle a lawsuit brought by Shatrell McComb, whose 13-month-old son Dillon Harris was killed when his stroller was struck by a driver who was fleeing a police chase in South Shore in 2015. McComb sued 20 officers who were involved in the chase, alleging they ignored orders to stop the chase.
- A $1.2 million payment to end a lawsuit brought last year by Jomner Orozco Carreto, who was allegedly shot in the hand by an off-duty Chicago Police officer when Carreto was pulled over looking at GPS directions on his phone.
- A $150,000 payment to settle a 2019 lawsuit brought by Chad Johnson, who was convicted of murder and served seven years for a 2004 shooting he alleges he did not commit. He was granted a new trial in 2018 and had his conviction reversed.
O2022-401 — A plan for the city to spend $700,000 to acquire the site of a closed Aldi store at 3811-41 W. Madison St. in the 28th Ward. The planning department “desires to have acquisition authority to actively facilitate returning a new neighborhood grocery store or a similar use with community support,” department officials said at a meeting earlier this month.
O2022-428 — An ordinance authorizing the city to buy the 6.25-acre lot bounded by 16th, Peoria, 18th and Morgan streets in the 25th Ward so that it can be redeveloped for affordable housing. City leaders plan to tap tax-increment financing for the $12 million acquisition cost of the lot, which has been owned by New York-based developer Property Markets Group for more than six years. City housing officials have said they will require at least 280 affordable homes to be included in any winning proposal.
O2022-431 — A proposal for the city to spend $17 million in tax-increment financing to bankroll the development of multiple affordable apartment buildings as part of the Roosevelt Square complex near the intersection of Roosevelt Street and Racine Avenue in the 25th and 28th wards. The Chicago Plan Commission and City Council both approved the development plan last summer. At the time, officials from the Chicago Housing Authority and the development mega-firm Related Midwest said they planned to build three new mid-rise buildings with 207 total units and rehab an existing building near the former site of the ABLA homes complex to be the new home of the National Public Housing Museum, with 15 additional homes.
The council approved all other measures included in The Daily Line’s preview of the meeting.
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This City Council meeting has begun! Big item on today's agenda is @chicagosmayor's proposal that would allow the city to sue gang leaders and seize their assets. Surely this will be an interesting meeting.— Erin Hegarty (@erin_hegarty) February 23, 2022
You can stream here: https://t.co/hKTcdBI2wH https://t.co/kcmFAehTQ2
Also joining this D&P: Sposato, Cardona, Tabares https://t.co/fkp9aaJrLW— Erin Hegarty (@erin_hegarty) February 23, 2022
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