Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday shot down as “grandstanding” an attempt by four aldermen to declare a state of emergency in Chicago that would pave the way for a four-month stint by the Illinois National Guard to assist exhausted police officers.
Two of the four aldermen calling for Friday’s special City Council meeting are, Lightfoot noted, her most outspoken and knee-jerk City Council critics: Anthony Beale (9th) and Ray Lopez (15th). She signaled strongly she would direct her allies to stay away.
Lopez and Beale were joined by Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), whose Far Northwest Side ward is home to scores of police officers, and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), who represents Hyde Park and South Shore.
“This is a very difficult … and challenging time for all of us across the city. … What we really need to be focusing on is ways in which we can reach common ground and listen to each other,” the mayor said.
“The two main proponents of this meeting unfortunately have a history of grandstanding. They don’t listen. They don’t ask questions. And they’re not really committed to answers. … This is not a time for grandstanding just for the purposes of trying to seek media attention, which, unfortunately at least two of those aldermen — that seems to be their M.O. … They are who they are.”
Lightfoot was asked about the specific call for a four-month National Guard deployment to prevent a third round of looting in the downtown area, River North, the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park.
“This isn’t the way you get things done. And certainly not something like that. It’s quite foolish and it’s unfortunate that they are grandstanding again on an issue that is so important, which is the safety and security of our communities. There’s a better way to get things done,” she said.
Hairston countered she is “not a grandstander, nor am I interested in grandstanding,” but there are “real issues” the City Council must address. They include a long-pending ordinance to provide arrestees with “a list of free legal services and a phone call when they are arrested by police.”
“The administration has said they will schedule a hearing on that ... If that is the case, then I will withdraw my name. But we have to get moving on this. The young people — we’re not hearing them. Or, other people aren’t,” Hairston said.
“It is wrong for the administration only to talk with the aldermen who were impacted [by the looting]. This is a citywide issue. They can’t get enough votes to pass the city budget from only the aldermen impacted in the Mag Mile looting. They have to talk to all of us.”
Friday’s special Council meeting will adjourn immediately unless a quorum of 26 aldermen answer the virtual call. That’s unlikely, given Lightfoot’s opposition. She’s almost certain to ask her allies to stay away from a meeting she views as an attempt to embarrass her and tie her hands.
Still, Beale said Wednesday: “If my colleagues understand the disaster this city is headed toward, I’m hoping they’ll step up the plate.”
Beale noted Lightfoot’s response to the second round of looting was to cancel days off and put officers on 12-hour shifts. That’s “unsustainable” at a time when the coronavirus has blown a $700 million hole in Lightfoot’s 2020 budget.
“We’re using so much manpower to create that barrier downtown. The state can do that. That will free up police officers to do other things,” said Beale, a former longtime chairman of the City Council’s Police Committee.
“That same manpower protecting property — why can’t we use it to protect people? Yes, there was no looting last weekend. But we still had 51 people shot and five or six people killed. Let’s work on saving lives at the same time.”
Lopez argued Chicago’s future is hanging in the balance. A third round of looting and mayhem would send businesses and residents running for the hills, he said.
“We cannot continue to pay people overtime — not just police, but Streets and Sanitation, CDOT and Aviation workers parked in front of various grocery stores and other neighborhood assets in hopes of protecting them from potential looting. We need the help of the state because, if Chicago slides downward, the entire state goes with it,” he said.
Besides declaring a state of emergency, the four aldermen also are demanding reports from Lightfoot, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Chief Circuit Court Judge Tim Evans on their “unified efforts” to confront “rioting, looting and destruction.”
They also want monthly hearings on a budget shortfall that Beale expects to be a whole lot bigger than the $700 million Lightfoot has acknowledged.