Slippery slopes and mayoral strokes mark May City Council

In an interview with Dave Glowacz on the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky Show, Ben and Dave listen to audio from the May 2020 meeting of the full Chicago City Council.

Tribune Tower
Artist's rendition of the future Tribune Tower development.
Source: Golub & Company

Ben and Dave began by observing the unique "blend" of the city's executive and legislative branches: Not only does the mayor appoint the chairs of City Council committees, but he or she chairs meetings of the full council. That's because, Ben said, "people in the city of Chicago love strong mayors—unless it's Harold Washington."

In the first audio piece that Dave played, a planning department staffer described how the city of Chicago proposed to give the Chicago Park District tax-increment financing (TIF) to fund improvements at five parks.

Dave pointed out that although the city sent letters to aldermen whose wards intersect the funding TIF districts, Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36) implied that the city's not doing enough to have aldermen "brought in" before the city diverts TIF dollars. Dave speculated that some aldermen, one year after Mayor Lori Lightfoot's executive order limiting aldermanic privilege, still think they must give their OK before TIF deals move forward. Ben scoffed at the notion that such propriety was ever even considered appropriate.

Next, regarding a council-approved zoning change for the $700 million high-rise development next to the Tribune Tower, Dave played audio of Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) asserting that the developer would voluntarily hire minority- and woman-owned contractors—and his colleagues' skeptical reactions. Dave recapped the latter: (a) The commitment doesn't guarantee hiring from disadvantaged Chicago neighborhoods, and (b) if the developer doesn't follow through, no penalties ensue. Ben responded that the city has plenty of leverage to enforce those commitments if it wants to.

Ben observed "how divorced a huge development like this is from the rest of Chicago" during "desperate times for a lot of people . . . It's like the pandemic doesn't exist on Michigan Avenue."

Dave next played a series of moments that showed how videoconferencing has changed the City Council's routine.

After an audio clip of Ald. Brian Hopkins (2) chiding freshman Ald. Daniel LaSpata (1) and others for asking questions outside of committee meetings, Dave pointed out that, pre-pandemic, it was common for the council to schedule simultaneous committee meetings—which served neither aldermen nor the public well. Ben accused Hopkins of a "classic Chicago alderman" move to "prevent the people of the city of Chicago to have a little better understanding of how their government works."

Next, Dave played part of a speech in which the mayor gave aldermen unexpected strokes. Dave wondered which public relations consultant gets the credit for what Ben called "Lori Lightfoot at her best."

Dave played a final clip, about which Ben said: "This is the first time that independents have kicked a mayoral idea" to delay it—the idea being a tenant protection ordinance pitched by the mayor and scorned by progressive aldermen.

Length 7.8 minutes standard, 53.8 minutes premium.

Music: "Ana" by Zep Hurme
(Copyright 2012. Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial license.)

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