Aldermen arise and compromise in late summer councils

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

Dave explained how four aldermen sprung an unscheduled City Council meeting on their colleagues in August.

In the first audio clip Dave played (only in the premium version of the episode), aldermen at the August meeting spoke on a nonbinding resolution calling on Gov. JB Pritzker to declare a state of emergency for Chicago. Their aim: mobilizing the National Guard to protect Chicago neighborhoods. In the clip, aldermen argued for and against sending the resolution to the council's public safety committee—instead of debating it at the present moment.

Ben scoffed at a remark by Ald. Ray Lopez (15) that his backing of the emergency resolution wasn't personal. "Not true," Ben said. "This is most definitely personal . . . directed at Mayor Lori Lightfoot."

In the audio, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29) said he'd "rather not be used as a pawn" in an effort to attack the mayor. Ben's reaction: Pawns are "what aldermen in the City Council have been for as long as I've lived in the city of Chicago."

Dave presented another item from the August meeting: a resolution that urged the council's budget committee to hold monthly hearings on public safety before the council starts debating the city's 2021 budget.

In an audio clip, aldermen said they (and their constituents) want specifically to question the police department's portion of the city budget.

Ben opined that the majority of Chicagoans don't really care. "Mayor Lightfoot, you just do whatever you want . . . Most Chicagoans have that attitude," said Ben.

But some residents do care, as evidenced by remarks from Ald. David Moore (17)—who said constituents keep asking: What's the city's public safety strategy? Aldermen don't know, Moore said, and "that's an issue."

The budget-hearings resolution resurfaced in the council's September meeting—and in the premium version of the episode, Dave played a clip of the aldermanic bonhomie around an unexpected compromise.

Continuing on the subject of compromise, in the premium version Dave played a clip of Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20) praising her colleagues who helped pass an ordinance that housing activists say will combat gentrification near the planned Obama Presidential Center.

Ben suggested that the ordinance is a stark turnaround. "The whole point of the planning programs supported and adopted by the mayor and the City Council over the last 30 years," Ben said, "have been to fuel gentrification."

Also in the premium version, Dave and Ben discussed a proposed ordinance that would prevent aldermen from soliciting support on measures from their colleagues during council meetings. Dave speculated that the Lightfoot administration was heading off improved intra-council collaboration when in-person meetings resume. Ben predicted the proposal would die, though Dave wasn't so sure.

Finally, Dave highlighted a measure introduced by 12th Ward Ald. George Cardenas, requiring the planning department to identify tax-increment financing (TIF) districts that have at least 40 percent surplus beyond contractual obligations—which could make the city's opaque TIF program much more transparent.

Ben observed that Cardenas's measure "gets at the heart of what I call the slush fund part of TIF." But, he said, "I can't imagine any mayor giving up that slush fund."

Length 11 minutes standard, 52.6 minutes premium.

Music: "Equatorial Lies" by Hayvanlar Alemi

Standard audio:

Premium audio:

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