Newly seated Ald. Knudsen touts youth, role in LGBTQ community: ‘Representation matters’
Ald. Timmy Knudsen (43rd) was confirmed, sworn in and started voting Wednesday, becoming Chicago’s youngest alderperson. His predecessor, Michele Smith, offered an impassioned defense of the role of Council members.
Newly appointed Ald. Timmy Knudsen (43rd) was confirmed, sworn in and started voting Wednesday, quickly becoming, at age 32, Chicago’s youngest alderperson, the seventh member of the City Council’s LGBTQ caucus and the first openly gay alderperson to represent the 43rd ward.
After some sage advice from Council gray beards and hugs from his proud family, the rules were suspended to allow an admittedly “humbled” Knudsen to address his new colleagues.
“My name is Timmy Knudsen. My pronouns are ‘he, him.’ Yes, my last name is pronounced ‘Kuh-noodsen.’ And I do go by ‘Timmy.’ And I’m thankful for everyone’s humor on it,” said Knudsen.
He called himself “someone who has a proven track record of bringing private sector results into public service.” From his work as a lawyer, to his two-year stint as chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, to his work as a “grassroots organizer” in the 43rd Ward, Knudsen said he “actively engages with people on all sides of an issue and seek to find common ground.”
He added: “From my pro bono commitment to LGBTQ+ asylum applicants in Chicago and Mexico, I’m someone who believes compassion and inclusivity are the best tones to lead through. As alderman, I will be an advocate and consensus builder, someone who works hard to get things done.”
Knudsen is Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s third aldermanic appointee in just the last few months. But that’s not what makes the moment historic, he said.
Instead, he mentioned his youth, his role in the council’s LGBTQ caucus and the fact that he is “the first openly gay alderman of the 43rd Ward. I want to take a moment to recognize the significance of this. Representation matters. Having the opportunity to share my own experiences and uplift those of other diverse communities is a responsibility that I take so seriously and one that rests on the shoulders of many giants,” he said.
“There are too many to name. But I am especially grateful to Chicago’s very own Art Johnston, my friend, for his mentorship and early encouragement.”
Later in the meeting, alderpersons approved a resolution honoring Knudsen’s retired predecessor Michele Smith.
Smith was hailed as the conscience of the Council and a tireless champion for ethics reform.
Addressing her now-former colleagues, an emotional Smith offered an impassioned defense of the role of alderperson, a rebuttal to the “think tanks” or editorial writers who, Smith said, believe alderpersons should be replaced with a “giant bureaucracy or maybe just technology.”
Never mind that her audience included two colleagues under federal indictment — Edward Burke (14th) and Carrie Austin (34th).
The audience also included Ald. Nicole Lee (11th), chosen by Lightfoot to become Chicago’s first-ever Chinese-American alderperson after Lee’s predecessor, Patrick Daley Thompson, was convicted on federal corruption charges.
“I just want to take a minute to stick up for us. For we, as aldermen, are the direct link to the people in our wards. To hear their voices and to provide services to our people and make their lives better,” Smith said to applause.
“Fixing streets, planting trees and picking up the trash are no lowly things. And they are not ends unto themselves. They create the support system so that people in our city can work, raise their families and build their lives.”
By “everyday listening,” Council members “fill a critical part of the American experiment of making democracy work,” Smith said. She called “local grass roots government” the “most direct and honorable place for people to work out compromises and help our neighbors live in peace.”
She concluded: “Thank you again for the opportunity to serve our community as alderman. It has been the honor of my life to serve. Thank you, and I love you all.”
Council OKs settlements totaling $25 million
When the Council finally got down to business after more than three hours of honorary resolutions, the Finance Committee signed off on $25 million in settlements, all but one of them tied to allegations of police wrongdoing or abuse.
The largest settlement — for $15 million — goes to the family of Guadalupe Francisco-Martinez. The 37-year-old mother of six was headed home from her first day on a new job when she was killed in a crash with a marked Chicago Police SUV at Irving Park Road and Ashland Avenue. The SUV was involved in a pursuit that supervisors had repeatedly ordered officers to terminate.
Also, a $900,000 settlement to Dwayne Rowlett was approved by a 27-20 vote.
Rowlett was shot eight times on New Year’s Day 2017 by a Chicago police officer who resigned last year after the Civilian Office of Police Accountability ruled the shooting unjustified and sought to fire him.
The shooting happened after Rowlett initially evaded officers who tried to pull him over for speeding and running a stop sign. Rowlett drove on a sidewalk, sideswiped several vehicles and hit a police car. No gun was recovered, but he had “several knives,” one of them with a “4-to-5-inch blade,” according to police.
Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) brought a knife to Wednesday’s meeting to justify his dissenting vote.