Thursday is the first Chicago City Council meeting of all 50 aldermen since Mayor Rahm Emanuel abruptly announced he’s not seeking a third term
Here’s how the political drama behind Emanuel’s decision will play out on Thursday, the key votes awaiting aldermen, and what didn’t make it on the agenda.
Lame-duck mayor to preside over City Council
Emanuel’s recent announcement has turned the February election upside down with an ever-growing list of mayoral hopefuls.
Gery Chico, who was chief of staff to former Mayor Richard M. Daley, announced Wednesday night he will enter the race. Chico is also a former president of the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District.
Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia quietly filed paperwork with the state election board Wednesday to create a new campaign fund for the mayor’s race. Manny Perez, a spokesman for Garcia, called it an “exploratory committee” to legally raise funds for the 2019 mayoral race. He also confirmed Garcia is circulating petitions to get on the February ballot, but Perez said Garcia has not yet decided if he’ll actually run.
Last week, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez openly endorsed Garcia for mayor. Garcia lost to Emanuel in 2015 and is on the November ballot to replace Gutierrez in the 4th Congressional District. But he’s been coy about whether he intends to also campaign for Chicago mayor.
In addition, William Daley, the youngest son of and brother to Mayors Richard J. and Richard M. Daley, announced his candidacy Monday. That same day, Toni Preckwinkle gave word she’d announce her campaign for mayor Thursday afternoon. She’s unopposed in her campaign for re-election as Cook County Board President in November’s election.
These recent additions to the mayoral field build on the 12 other candidates who had already started campaigning before Emanuel’s bombshell announcement.
Emanuel’s lame-duck status will likely shape every city council meeting from now until his term officially ends in May, particularly as aldermen start to consider the city’s spending priorities for the next year and how the cash-strapped city can afford to pay for those priorities.
$18M in payouts for police misconduct
But before the debate over the city’s budget begins next month, aldermen will vote on four police-involved settlements Thursday. One of those includes whether to settle a $16 million case with the family of Bettie Jones— a bystander in a 2015 police involved shooting.
On Dec. 26, 2015, Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo accidently shot and killed Jones while trying to disarm a black teenager wielding a bat. The teen, Quintonio LeGrier, was also shot dead. Both families sued. The city’s Law Department chose to settle the Jones case, but took the LeGrier case to trial.
City Hall’s top lawyer Ed Siskel said it was “clearly a tragedy” that Jones was caught in the crossfire.
Earlier this year, a jury ruled the shooting of LeGrier was unjustified. But because they also found that Rialmo feared for his life, the judge rescinded a $1 million jury award to the LeGrier family.
Jefferson Park’s affordable housing saga nears a milestone
In another matter, aldermen will be asked to approve a zoning change to allow the construction of a controversial seven-story apartment building on the city’s Northwest Side. The proposed 75-unit building — planned for 5150 Northwest Highway — is the product of a two-year fight over its addition to the neighborhood. The fight has centered on the area’s shortage of subsidized affordable housing and has included accusations that opponents of the project are racist.
Developer Full Circle Communities shaved 25 units from their original proposal and reduced the number of three-bedroom units to address school overcrowding concerns raised by the opposition.
Eighty percent of the units will be made affordable, with some reserved for veterans. Construction of the $27 million project is contingent on state funding by the Illinois Housing Development Authority.
Disappointing month for downtown residents
Downtown residents who were hoping aldermen would ban horse-drawn carriages will have to keep lobbying City Hall. Their advocacy hit a roadblock in License Committee last week. The committee delayed a vote on a proposal to bar license renewals for these carriage operators.
And residents complaining about the noise and environmental issues at the General Iron Junk Yard on the North Branch of the Chicago River will have to live with it, for now.
On Tuesday, Patrick Collins, the lawyer for the company, accused Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) of a shakedown.
Collins said the alderman told the family-owned company back in 2015, “You can either leave the easy way or the hard way.”
The junk yard is close to the old Finkl Steel property, which has been purchased by developer Sterling Bay for their new Lincoln Yards project.