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Police union’s City Council allies call special meeting to repeal mayor’s vaccine mandate

In all, 13 joined the call for the special meeting to consider the repeal ordinance. Still, 13 more must show up to form a quorum. And 8 more than that are needed for a vote to suspend the rules, allowing immediate consideration of the repeal.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara addresses a group of union protesters and their supporters as they rally against COVID-19 vaccine mandates outside City Hall before a Chicago City Council meeting, Monday morning, Oct. 25, 2021.
John Catanzara, president of Lodge 7 of the Fraternal Order of Police, addresses protesters and supporters outside City Hall on Monday at a rally against COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

More than a dozen City Council members who are among the police union’s staunchest supporters have called a special meeting for Friday to consider repealing the vaccine mandate being fought tooth-and-nail by the Fraternal Order of Police.

Earlier this week, the repeal ordinance championed by Alderpersons Silvana Tabares (23rd) and Anthony Napolitano (41st) was shunted to the Rules Committee, the traditional burial ground where ordinances opposed by the mayor go to die.

Tabares told the Sun-Times she wasn’t giving up. On Wednesday, she made good on that threat.

She joined Napolitano, embattled Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th), indicted Ald. Edward Burke (14th), Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) and a host of other police allies on the Council in calling a special meeting for 11 a.m. Friday to consider the repeal ordinance.

In all, 13 alderpersons joined the call for the special meeting. Still, 13 more must show up to form a quorum. And they’ll need 8 more on top of that for a vote to suspend the rules and allow immediate consideration of the repeal.

That’s a tall order, given that Mayor Lori Lightfoot has she’ll “do everything I can to stop it” and make certain the ordinance “never sees the light of day.”

After a Cultural Center rally to celebrate passage of her 2022 budget, Lightfoot refused to say whether she would attend Friday’s meeting or stay away and ask her City Council allies to do the same.

“What I think is, today is a day for celebration. And we’ll deal with the politics another time,” she said.

The mayor repeated that line almost verbatim when asked again whether she plans to attend.

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) and Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) attend a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
Among the City Council members who have called for a special meeting Friday to consider repealing Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees are: Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) and Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), shown here at Monday’s Council meeting at City Hall.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Lightfoot said she’s surprised Tabares would side with an FOP president who “spews hatred” against her Hispanic constituents.

“That is not reflective of her community. ... It’s really stunning to me that a woman of color would carry the water for a guy like that, who every single day spews hatred against people who look like her and have her background,” Lightfoot said last week.

The ordinance would effectively repeal the vaccine mandate, retroactively requiring City Council approval of “all policies, rules and regulations governing discipline” of city employees.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of the city code to the contrary and subject to the terms of any applicable collective bargaining agreement approved by city council, any new policy rule or regulation that provides for placing city employees on non-disciplinary, no-pay status requires City Council approval,” the ordinance states.

Lightfoot’s mandate that city employees report their vaccination status on the city’s data portal took effect on Oct 8. The ordinance “shall be retroactive” to Oct. 1.

Burke introduced a second ordinance, which also was sent to the Rules Committee but is not on Friday’s agenda. It would require that health care benefits for the dependents of city employees be continued for the duration of the dispute.

Many of those beneficiaries are “being treated for life-threatening diseases, mental health illnesses and are receiving hospital and in-patient treatment which will be at risk,” the ordinance states.

“No provision of the municipal code authorizes the Mayor of Chicago to take this draconian action. And furthermore, no action of the municipal code requires city employees to submit the information” on their vaccine status.

Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) gets a round of applause as she walks among Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 members and their supporters as they protest against COVID-19 mandates outside City Hall before a Chicago City Council meeting, Monday morning, Oct. 25, 2021.
Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) gets a round of applause as she walks among Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 members and their supporters as they protest against COVID-19 mandates outside City Hall before Monday’s Chicago City Council meeting.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Earlier this week, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara demanded that Council members support the repeal, then delivered an ominous political warning to those who don’t.

“We are coming for every one of your damn seats because this is not the way government is supposed to run. It is not a queen on that throne.”