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Aldermen who blocked emergency powers ordinance are ‘selfish, grandstanding,’ Lightfoot says

Lightfoot got even by abruptly adjourning Wednesday’s Council meeting. The Council will meet again Friday to consider an ordinance that has prompted a backlash from aldermen reluctant to relinquish any more power.

Chicago City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St.
A virtual Chicago City Council meeting ended abruptly in a continuing fight over granting Mayor Lori Lightfoot expanded emergency powers to us during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sun-Times file

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday lashed out at the “shameful,” “selfish,” “grandstanding” aldermen who dared to delay a City Council vote to grant her the expanded spending and contracting authority she needs to respond on a dime to the coronavirus pandemic.

The mayor got even with the dissenters by abruptly adjourning a virtual City Council meeting and summoning aldermen back for a 1 p.m. Friday meeting at which the emergency powers ordinance is almost certain to be approved.

Without mentioning Ray Lopez (15th) and Carlos Ramirez (35th) by name, Lightfoot denounced the “small handful” of aldermen who “decided to use this moment of crisis to grandstand.”

“They stuck out like a sore thumb. Choosing to serve themselves, instead of the residents who elected them. Choosing to put their own selfish interest ahead of their city and their communities. And it is selfish. And it’s also shameful,” the mayor said.

“The ploy of these grandstanders changes nothing. It only needlessly delays the business of the city for two days and underscores exactly why we need an emergency order in the first place.”

Lightfoot said she is “personally embarrassed” that one of the obstructionists was her own alderman, Ramirez-Rosa. The actions are “exactly what voters voted against just 12 months ago,” she said.

“Of course, let’s have a robust debate. That’s what democracy should be about. But, dear Lord, in the middle of a pandemic where, every day, life and death are hanging in the balance, enough with the selfish political stunts,” she said.

Ramirez-Rosa essentially accused the mayor of punishing aldermen because she didn’t get her way.

“This underscores why this power grab is not an appropriate step for this Council to approve at this time. We need level-headed leaders that, when they don’t get their way, are willing to compromise and work with the City Council,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

“There was no reason to adjourn the rest of the meeting today. We could have continued on with the regular order of business. But also, this underscores that we have the ability to meet virtually in rather quick order, so why is the Council giving up its oversight powers to the executive branch when we can do what we just did: Set a meeting for 48 hours and continue on with the business of the people.”

Lopez denounced Lightfoot as an “absolute hypocrite” who “should be embarrassed”—by her own actions

“She said from the very beginning of her term she did not want a rubber stamp. She said she wanted a Council that was deliberative, engaged and challenged. And yet, when it happens, she becomes combative, dismissive, condescending and petty. That is the hallmark of her tenure to date,” Lopez said.

“In the midst of a pandemic, we need a leader that does not govern by paranoia and political pettiness and fear. We need someone who is collaborative and works together. We have seen what petty grandstanding looks like at the federal level. We don’t need that kind of stupidity in Chicago.”

The theatrics started when Lopez and Ramirez-Rosa moved to defer and publish the emergency powers ordinance.

Lightfoot responded by declaring her intention to end the meeting after only two substantive votes — to confirm David Brown as police superintendent end increase penalties for cyber-stalking — and return at 1 p.m. Friday.

That was followed by procedural votes to suspend the rules and consider those motions; several aldermen were left confused about what they were voting on.

During some of the virtual roll calls, dogs could be heard barking in the background. At one point, indicted Ald. Edward Burke (14th), an expert on Roberts Rules of Order, advised his nemesis, the mayor, on procedure.

“I’m a bit confused, but I believe ‘aye,’” Ald. Sophia King (4th) said at one point.

Lopez answered one procedural roll call: “Hell, no.”

Lightfoot said she knows that some aldermen “like the sport of this,” but called it highly inappropriate to “use profanity” during a Council meeting.

Later, Lightfoot explained why she needs expanded contracting and spending authority through June 30 even though the Council meets again in 48 hours.

“When we are competing literally on a global basis for every product that we need. We don’t have 48 hours. We have maybe hours. And if we don’t act quickly, we lose the opportunity. That is the reality,” she said.

“We are in the moment of our lives. A pandemic, a disease that is literally decimating communities. We don’t have a moment to waste.”