Burke, Lopez use parliamentary maneuver to delay vote on federal stimulus funds

After aldermen Edward Burke (14th) and Ray Lopez (15th) moved to postpone a vote on CARES Act funding, Lightfoot adjourned Wednesday’s meeting and summoned the City Council back at 3 p.m. Friday.

SHARE Burke, Lopez use parliamentary maneuver to delay vote on federal stimulus funds
Ald. Edward Burke (14th) in 2016.

Ald. Edward Burke (shown) joined with Ald. Ray Lopez to delay a City Council vote on the use of federal stimulus funds.

Sun-Times file

Mayor Lori Lightfoot abruptly adjourned Wednesday’s City Council meeting — and summoned aldermen back late Friday — after aldermen Edward Burke (14th) and Ray Lopez (15th) used a parliamentary maneuver to delay a vote on the use of federal stimulus funds.

The Council was poised to authorize the carryover of $68 million from the federal CARES Act, allocate $80 million for emergency rental assistance and another $179 million for the Department of Public Health to administer the coronavirus vaccine.

That’s when Burke joined Lopez, one of the mayor’s most outspoken Council critics, in exercising the right of any two aldermen to delay consideration of an agenda item for one meeting.

Lightfoot responded to the delay as she has before when things don’t go her way at a Council meeting: by summoning aldermen back into session at 3 p.m. on Friday to approve the stalled ordinance.

“What we need is progress — not parliamentary tactics. Not with thousands of our residents still in desperate need for critical support that the city can provide through dollars that come to us from the federal government,” the mayor told reporters after cutting the meeting short.

“Make no mistake — come Friday, I’m very confident that we will get this done.”

Lightfoot said aldermen were “fully briefed” on the federal spending before Wednesday, but “my understanding is that Alderman Burke didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to even attend a single one of those briefings.”

The matter was also discussed during a Budget Committee meeting last week in which Burke did participate.

“We provided him with very specific information which, my understanding is, he’s still having some difficulty comprehending,” the mayor said.

Lopez said he and Burke have legitimate questions about the mayor spending $281.5 million in federal CARES Act money on Chicago Police Department payroll costs and they won’t be silenced, no matter how often or how late the Council is summoned back to session.

“She is doing her usual pettiness. If she thinks that’s gonna be punitive that I have to come back to work on a Friday, she’s sorely mistaken. I’ll come back every day of the week if that’s what it takes to get the truth out of her,” Lopez said.

Last week, Lightfoot called the raging political debate about that spending “just dumb” and a “total head-scratcher.”

That didn’t stop Burke from questioning how CPD could possibly have wracked up $281 million in expenses between March and May of last year for performing well-being checks, screening air travelers for COVID- 19 and providing security at coronavirus testing sites and the barely-used McCormick Place field hospital.

“The numbers don’t make sense. The answers that we were given seems to stretch reality far and wide. They did 15,000 well-being checks and all these other things that were described. It just begs for more clarification,” Lopez said Wednesday.

“Yes, they already spent it. But we can’t just keep giving them more and more money without having a better accounting of what’s going on with it.”

Lopez accused Lightfoot of “stretching” the boundaries of federal CARES Act dollars. 

“We are exaggerating and over-extending what is considered COVID-related to try and maximize the CARES Act dollars to cover our budgetary shortfalls,” he said.

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th).

Ald. Ray Lopez said the city has used federal relief money “to cover our shortfalls” and if so, “we need to have a more robust discussion about where our finances truly lie and not just keep chalking everything up as COVID-related.”

Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times

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