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Four-letter fiasco: Virtual City Council meeting turns profane

It started when an unidentified male voice said, “No one here knows what the f--- they’re voting on.” Next was Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza: “This is a total s--t show.” Ald. Walter Burnett capped it off with: “Are we being punked?”

The Chicago City Council held its first virtual meeting on Wednesday, April 15, 2020.
Virtual meetings of the Chicago City Council have generally gone well, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, despite profanity heard during Friday’s meeting.
Screenshot from Chicago city clerk’s website

A virtual City Council meeting turned into a profane, finger-pointing circus on Friday.

It started when an unidentified male voice was heard saying, “No one here knows what the f--- they’re voting on.”

That was followed by Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) saying, “This is a total s--t show.”

Sadlowski Garza, who is one of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s closest Council allies, apparently didn’t know that her microphone was still on — or had forgotten to mute it despite repeated warnings.

She voiced her frustrations as Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) made a failed attempt to set the date of the next City Council meeting for two weeks from now instead of May 20.

Earlier this week, Lightfoot admonished Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) for using what she called “profanity” when he answered a roll call by saying, “Hell, no.”

When Lopez heard Friday’s obscenities, he asked for a point of order and demanded to know whether Lightfoot intended to admonish her own ally for using profanity.

“This was five levels above, ‘Hell, no.’”

The mayor said she didn’t hear it and tried to move on.

Next, Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) asked: “Are we being punked? Is this a punk show?”

Lopez then hit the “raise hand” button on his computer, asking to be recognized, as the mayor had requested. Lightfoot ignored it.

Lopez didn’t let up. He was trying to invoke Rule 13 of Roberts Rules of Order, allowing Council members whose reputations have been impugned to defend themselves.

“For her to put me on blast on Wednesday for saying, ‘Hell no,’ but not hear the outrageous profanity by two of her chairmen and an unknown member within her office is hypocritical at best and completely Trump-like at worst,” Lopez said after the meeting.

Lightfoot ruled Lopez out of order, and the City Council upheld that ruling of the chair by a vote of 35 to 13.

Only after Lopez demanded she address the lack of decorum did Lightfoot admonish aldermen: “Our children are watching,” the mayor reminded them.

After the meeting, the mayor was asked whether she has given any thought to keeping aldermanic microphones off at future Council meetings until she recognizes them.

“Well, obviously having virtual City Council meetings has its moments,” she said.

“I think, for the most part, the meetings have gone fine. Some aldermen get excited and want to speak before either their colleagues or the chair are finished. But that’s to be expected in a virtual City Council meeting where we can’t all see each other at the same time.”

The mayor said it’s important for all elected officials — aldermen and the mayor included — to “maintain the dignity” Chicagoans deserve.

“Literally on today’s broadcast, people were watching all over the world. I think they saw democracy in action. But I think they also saw some things that are regrettable,” she said.

Sadlowski-Garza could not be reached for comment.

It’s not the first time the always outspoken alderman has used profanity publicly.

During a raucous Chicago Teachers Union rally during the teachers strike last fall, a provocative video that circulated on social media showed Garza stepping to the podium and saying, “That’s right, mother-f---er!”