Hot Mic Highlights Police, Mayor Ongoing Divide
“Oh, back again, this is this FOP clown,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot whispered near a live microphone before Wednesday’s City Council meeting. The mayor was referring to Patrick Murray, vice president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, as he began speaking in the public comment session before the council meeting.
Murray came to speak against the Police Board’s recent vote to fire four Chicago police officers for covering up for their colleague Jason Van Dyke, who was convicted of fatally shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014.
When confronted by a reporter who heard the quiet remark, the mayor responded, “It was not appropriate for me to say that out loud.” Later pressed on whether she should issue an apology, the mayor shot back, “I think I just did; I think I said I shouldn’t have said that out loud.”
The jab came the same day the mayor introduced an ordinance allowing the city’s Inspector General to release investigatory reports involving a death or a felony. If approved by the City Council, this could lead to the public release of the OIG’s files on two high profile police department cases: the shooting of teenager McDonald and the death of David Kochman.
Real estate transfer tax back in play
Aldermen are eyeing an increase in the tax collected on residential home sales. Ald. Matt O’Shea, of Beverly in the 19th Ward, wants the extra revenue for the city’s underfunded police and fire pension funds.
Ald. Roberto Maldonado, of Humboldt Park in the 26th Ward, has said the money would be better spent on services for homeless people. Both proposals, and another one from the Progressive Caucus that sought the money to cover lead removal from city water pipes, had died with the previous administration.
Any increase would require approval from voters through a ballot referenda.
The two tax proposals advanced to the council’s Finance Committee, chaired by former Progressive Caucus Chair Scott Waguespack, 32nd ward. He plans to hold hearings on whether the tax could reasonably cover either proposal.
Chicago is ready for reform, alderman says
Not a comment was made on the floor of the council chambers when aldermen approved stronger ethics rules that will audit how city council committees spend their money.
Previous efforts to give the city’s inspector general the power to audit aldermanic expense accounts failed to make it this far. But that was back when the council’s two most senior aldermen — Ed Burke and Carrie Austin — controlled the two most powerful committees, Finance and Budget.
The new ethics rules also bar aldermen from making money on city business. This means that as an alderman, Burke would have to stop representing clients who have business before the city.
Mayor Lightfoot’s advice: leave. “I’ve already called on [Burke] to resign,” Lightfoot said, repeating a call she made the day the alderman was indicted on racketeering and other federal corruption charges.
Predictive scheduling passes, but who will police it?
A yearslong fight to give workers more notice of their schedules received unanimous support from the City Council. Employers who fail to follow the new rules when they take effect next year will be penalized. But that job of monitoring compliance is the duty of a new office that has yet to be staffed.
City Hall sources confirmed that former Ald. John Arena wants to head the new Office of Labor Standards and is currently being vetted for the position. Ironically, he led the charge in its creation before getting voted out of office. It will be a division within the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP).
BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno declined to comment on what she called a private human resources matter.