Parliamentary maneuver likely to delay City Council showdown on gang asset forfeiture ordinance, mayor’s deputy floor leader says

Any two City Council members — no reason needed — can delay a vote for one meeting. Ald. George Cardenas expects that stalling tactic to be used to delay a vote on s proposal to sue gangs and seize their assets.

SHARE Parliamentary maneuver likely to delay City Council showdown on gang asset forfeiture ordinance, mayor’s deputy floor leader says
Miracle Boyd of Good Kids Mad City discusses her opposition to a proposed ordinance that would allow the city to sue gang members and seize their assets.

Miracle Boyd of Good Kids Mad City, at a news conference outside City Hall in September, discussing her opposition to a proposed ordinance that would allow the city to sue gang members and seize their assets.

Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s deputy floor leader predicted Tuesday that a parliamentary maneuver would delay this week’s City Council showdown on the mayor’s controversial plan to use civil lawsuits to seize the assets of Chicago’s most violent street gangs.

“I expect people to play games — like they’ve been doing,” said Ald. George Cardenas (12th).

Any two aldermen can postpone a City Council vote until the next meeting. The tactic is called “defer and publish.” Opponents don’t need a reason.

Cardenas said he expects that stalling tactic to be used at Wednesday’s Council meeting to delay a vote on the gang assets measure — what Lightfoot likes to call her “Victim’s Justice Ordinance.”

Whenever that tactic has been used in the past, Lightfoot has retaliated by calling a special Council meeting 48 hours later to approve the delayed legislation.

Asked if the mayor would do that this time, Cardenas said only: “I would want to get this done sooner, rather than later” to “do something” to stop unrelenting gang violence plaguing South and West side communities.

At an unrelated news conference, Lightfoot left little doubt about the sense of urgency she feels.

“What you’re not hearing is what I hear almost every time I’m out in the community: `Save us from these gangs. Do something to stop this violence that is terrorizing our neighborhoods,” the mayor said.

Lightfoot said she cannot “sit idly by and watch the level of gang violence that we’ve seen and not do anything.”

She challenged her critics to “answer ... the cry and the plea of people in neighborhoods...under siege by gang violence.”

“Tell them why we should not take away the profit motive of gangs who are killing our children, who are killing our elders and who have no regard for the sanctity of life,” the mayor said.

Cardenas predicted the delay minutes after a coalition of alderpersons, community leaders and civil liberties advocates joined Cook County Public Defender Sharone Mitchell Jr. in urging Lightfoot to abandon the ordinance. They called it fundamentally flawed, and said it cannot be salvaged no matter how much the mayor waters it down.

Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) was asked during Tuesday’s virtual news conference about using a parliamentary maneuver to delay Wednesday’s showdown vote.

“It’s fair to say that we’re gonna do everything that we can to convince our colleagues that this is not this is not the right move. To convince the administration that this is not the right move. So I think everything is on the table,” Hadden said.

Mitchell has led the charge against the mayor’s ordinance, joined by the ACLU of Illinois and dozens of civil rights attorney and advocates.

On Tuesday, he argued yet again that “grandparents, other family members and innocent members of the community” would be caught up in the web of seizures, thereby creating “new legal liabilities” for a city that already has a mountain of them. 

Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the ACLU of Illinois, said Lightfoot’s ordinance is “built on a state law from the 1990s” that has long since been abandoned by people in other communities.

“They know it doesn’t work,” Yohnka said.

“This ordinance … will not impact gun violence in our communities. But it will certainly result in innocent people losing their property. It should be rejected.”

Citing “significant due process concerns,” Yohnka added: “There is no right to legal counsel. A resident who is, having never been convicted of a crime, who is suddenly confronted with one of these lawsuits will be forced, either to hire an attorney at a cost to them … or simply forfeit their property and pay the fine. That’s not justice.”

Sarah Staudt from the Chicago Council of Lawyers noted thousands of people were “incorrectly listed as current or formerly affiliated people” in the “now infamously-problematic” gang database that the Chicago Police Department has yet to formally replace.

“This ordinance still does not provide any legal clarity on how the city will protect incorrectly-identified people who are identified as gang members, family members and other innocent people from improper seizures and improper uses of this law,” she said.

Staudt pointed to a dramatic difference between civil and criminal cases. Defendants in a criminal trial get a public defender if they can’t afford your own attorney. But defendants in a civil lawsuit are on their own to access legal aid.

“As a result, combined with the flaws in the gang database, this ordinance is a due process disaster waiting to happen. One that could expose the city to civil liability when peoples’ rights are inevitably violated,” Staudt said.

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