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Lightfoot’s budget threat to Black Caucus makes her ‘no different than Daley or Rahm,’ alderman says

Rookie Ald. Jeanette Taylor (16th) said she was outraged by the threat and told Mayor Lightfoot that she wouldn’t stand for it.

Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) speaks to reporters before the Chicago City Council meeting
Ald. Jeanette Taylor
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Mayor Lori Lightfoot proved she is “no different than Daley or Rahm” by threatening to cut off Black aldermen who dare to oppose her budget, an angry alderman said Friday.

Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) has already gone toe-to-toe with Lightfoot in the rookie alderman’s quest to protect Woodlawn residents living near the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.

On Veterans Day, the two strong-willed women had another confrontation — this time over the mayor’s decision to play hardball with budget opponents when choosing projects in her $3.7 billion capital plan.

Taylor said Friday she was incensed when Lightfoot warned aldermen that, if they don’t vote for her $12.8 billion budget, “Don’t ask me for s--t for the next three years.”

“She’s no better than Daley and Rahm. One of the first things she said was, ‘I’m not making deals with folks.’ ... Then, you turn around and say that? That’s no different from what they did. You claim you’re different,” Taylor said.

“That’s not what you do to communities that are already disinvested in. That’s like saying, ‘Kiss the ring.’ No. I’m not doing that.”

Taylor said she told Lightfoot that she wouldn’t stand for it. “I cannot, knowing how my community is already struggling, agree to a property tax increase and layoffs. So, it’s a ‘no’ for me.”

The comparison to Emanuel has been made before — by former Ald. Joe Moore (49th).

On the anniversary of Lightfoot’s first year in office, Moore told the Sun-Times:

“Overall, ironically, she’s governing in the same pragmatic style as Rahm Emanuel. She may not like the comparison, but it’s very similar in terms of policy. The only difference is Rahm did a very good job of building relationships with members of the City Council, [and it showed] when they were called upon to cast difficult votes.”

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), former chairman of the Black Caucus, laughed when asked whether he agreed with Taylor’s claim that Lightfoot had proven she is “no different than Daley or Rahm.”

“I’ll say this: I’m not familiar with any mayor who has ever said those words or made the statement that the mayor made,” said Sawyer, son of former Mayor Eugene Sawyer.

“I was surprised, even shocked. … I definitely think it’s a mistake. That’s just not something you say — to anyone. … I’ve never heard Rahm say that. I wasn’t here with Daley.”

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), the mayor’s floor leader, said threatening people “doesn’t work at home. And it definitely doesn’t work in the City Council.”

“If that took place, that’s not an approach one should take. You want to be firm in your ideas. But you have to be a little flexible, too,” Villegas said Friday.

Villegas said lining up 26 votes for a $12.8 billion budget laden with politically unpopular choices “is already tough and this makes it tougher.”

To help wipe out a $1.2 billion shortfall caused primarily by the coronavirus, Lightfoot is proposing a $94 million property tax increase followed by annual increases tied to inflation.

The budget also raises taxes on gasoline, computer leases and cloud services. It includes furlough days for non-union employees, 350 layoffs for unionized employees and a $1.7 billion debt restructuring and refinancing.

The mayor has delayed the layoffs until March 1 to give Congress, and now the incoming Biden administration, more time to ride to the rescue.

A Lightfoot ally, who asked not to be named, predicted Friday the mayor is at least five votes shy of the 26 votes she needs for the property tax increase.

To avoid an embarrassing defeat, the alderman said, Lightfoot might delay the final Council vote, now scheduled for Nov. 24.

“If her budget goes down, she’s toast. She might as well pack up her s--t and go,” the alderman said.

Yet another influential alderman said the mayor is more like 10 votes short.

Villegas insisted there is no talk of delaying the final vote.

“We’re gonna get the votes. We’re gonna get ’em,” he said, refusing to reveal his headcount or the prospect of shrinking the property tax increase.

“The mayor’s proposed budget is just that. A proposed budget. Now we’re hearing from the members what they can and can’t support,” Villegas said. “That’s what democracy’s about. Hearing from both sides and trying to compromise and get to the middle.”

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said the 20-member Black Caucus he chairs has made three major demands of Lightfoot: cancel the 350 layoffs; “substantially” increase funding for violence prevention beyond the $5.25 million she added to last year’s $9 million investment; and identify the capital investments she intends to make on the South and West sides.

“If we get to where we need to be as a group, I do believe that a decent number of us will be in a position to be supportive,” Ervin said.

“Movement will happen. There will be some adjustments to what’s currently on the table so that ... a majority of members of the Council will support” the mayor’s budget.