Mayor Lori Lightfoot won’t face the first test of her City Council muscle until next week, when aldermen vote on her plan to reorganize the Council and install Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) as her Finance Committee chairman.
But, the new mayor got a chance to try out the rostrum in the City Council chambers on Thursday when she addressed a group of high school students at the NextGen City Council.
So, how did it feel?
“We have to fix the acoustics in there, which I think are terrible,” Lightfoot said after a hearty laugh.
“It’ll be a different experience, obviously, when 50 aldermen are there and things are on the record and live. But we’ll be prepared.”
Lightfoot was asked whether she had been practicing — by boning up on Robert’s Rules of Order.
“I believe in being prepared, yes. ... Studying everything about City Council procedure,” she said.
Ald. Edward Burke (14th), the deposed Finance Committee chairman and Lightfoot’s longtime political nemesis, is an expert on City Council rules.
Is the rookie mayor afraid somebody who knows the rules better than she does — like Burke, for example — might pull a fast one?
“No. I just want to make sure that I’m educated and informed. This is gonna be my first opportunity to lead a City Council meeting. And I want to make sure that I’m ready.”
With a week to go in the spring legislative session, Lightfoot refused comment on a plan to tear down the above-ground portion of McCormick Place East and replace it with a new building over Martin Luther King Drive.
As for the rest of her agenda, Lightfoot described Springfield politics as “tricky.”
After a get-acquainted trip to the state capitol shortly after her April 2 election, she said this session is as much about “building relationships” and “laying the foundation” for meeting the city’s formidable long-term needs as it is about satisfying Chicago’s immediate priorities.
“We have been asking for relief. We’ll see what we’re able to accomplish. Those discussions are ongoing and I don’t want to discuss them publicly. But we’ve been pushing on a range of possible solutions,” she said.
Does that mean pension relief?
“Yes. Of course. Pensions is the long pole in the tent for us,” she said.
As for the capital bill, Lightfoot said the city has been “very clear about what we think should happen,” but it “remains to be seen whether larger forces at work are gonna be able to move that bill forward.”
Is the gas tax increase too high?
“There’s a series of proposed revenue sources. A lot of it is gonna depend on what actually is in the final mix. There’s some things that may fall by the wayside. So I don’t want to pre-judge it yet,” she said.
Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), the Burke ally who is the most outspoken critic of Lightfoot’s plan to strip aldermen of their virtually iron-fisted control over licensing and permitting, conceded earlier this week that Lightfoot has the votes to deliver the City Council leaders she has chosen.
But, Lopez has argued that Lightfoot will pay the price down the road for the strident tone she took in her inaugural address when she asks aldermen to support a budget that’s certain to include painful tax increases and budget cuts.