City Council’s special meeting on vaccine mandate fails to attract a quorum

Mayor Lori Lightfoot had made it clear before leaving town for Florida that she would instruct her allies to stay away from the special meeting, arguing that voters are “sick and tired of gamesmanship ... political charades and stunts.”

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Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) takes the roll call of attendance for a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, but with only 17 members attending, the special meeting ended within minutes. A quorum of 26 members was needed to conduct business, so the meeting was adjourned.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) takes the roll call of attendance for a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall on Wednesday, but with only 17 members attending, the special meeting ended within minutes. A quorum of 26 members was needed to conduct business, so the meeting was adjourned.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A special City Council meeting called to consider a vaccine policy “inclusive of natural immunity” lasted less than three minutes on Wednesday after attendance fell nine votes short of a quorum.

Before leaving town for a fundraising trip to Miami, Mayor Lori Lightfoot made it clear that she would instruct her allies to stay away from the special meeting, arguing that voters are “sick and tired of gamesmanship” and “political charades and stunts.”

She accused the 11 members who called the meeting at the behest of the Fraternal Order of Police of “fear mongering” by spreading false reports that thousands of police officers defying Sunday’s first-shot deadline would be fired amidst a crime wave.

“I wish that those aldermen, who clearly feel like they’ve got some political pressure, that they would use their office and the power of their voice to encourage first-responders and particularly police officers to get vaccinated,” the mayor said.

Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) said he joined the call for the special meeting reluctantly, knowing it would accomplish nothing and cause hard feelings.

“It’s hard to drop something on people and just say on Monday, we’re gonna have a meeting on Wednesday. We all have busy schedules. I just think we probably pissed a lot of people off, to tell you the truth,” Sposato said Wednesday.

“We made some mistakes with this. I didn’t want this meeting to be this fast. I begged them to say, ‘Let’s just cool our jets. Let me try to resolve this.’ But, they were in a big hurry to say, ‘Let’s have this meeting on Wednesday.’”

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 members and their supporters protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates outside City Hall before a Chicago City Council meeting, Monday morning, Oct. 25, 2021.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 members and their supporters protested against COVID-19 vaccine mandates outside City Hall in October.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The aborted meeting “doesn’t do any good at all,” which makes him “a little bit sad,” Sposato acknowledged.

“Everybody had the opportunity to comply. Everybody could get either a religious or medical exemption. All they have to do is apply. I’m not trying to defend those people. But they’re gonna be put on no-pay status for one month, no-pay, no insurance for the second month, then go to the Police Board for a [final determination,” he said.

“I’d like to get this out in the open. We need to know where exactly we stand. My real concern about this is, they are putting exempt ranks in a bad position to strip these officers. … If Officer John Smith is not complying, he’s gonna be stripped by one of his commanders, one of his chiefs … and word will get out there. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

For Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), it’s “back to the drawing board” to find “different ways to make sure we don’t lose one city worker.”

He added: “A good handful of us that care about this have proven over the last two years that we’re just gonna keep fighting.”

Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) and Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) were among those attending a special Chicago City Council meeting on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 called to consider alternatives to the city’s vaccine mandate for employees. The meeting ended quickly because it did not attract the minimum of 26 members needed to form a quorum and conduct business.

Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) and Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) were among those attending a special Chicago City Council meeting called to consider alternatives to the city’s vaccine mandate for employees. The meeting ended quickly because it did not attract the minimum of 26 members needed to form a quorum and conduct business.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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