Beale: Lightfoot’s ‘dictatorship’ over City Council must end

“We need to have a true speaker of the city, where the speaker presides over the City Council and not the mayor. You don’t see the governor presiding over … the General Assembly,” Ald. Anthony Beale said.

SHARE Beale: Lightfoot’s ‘dictatorship’ over City Council must end
Ald. Anthony Beale speaks during a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

Ald. Anthony Beale speaks during a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall, reacting to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to again delay a vote on his ordinance that would restore higher thresholds for speed-camera tickets.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The City Council needs to be “turned upside down” — with its own speaker, parliamentarian and attorney and committee chairs it chooses — to end Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s “dictatorship,” Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said Thursday.

One day after Lightfoot used a parliamentary maneuver to preserve her 6-mph-over-the-limit ticketing threshold for Chicago speed cameras, Beale argued the mayor’s actions — the latest in a string of disputed mayoral rulings during City Council meetings — underscores the need to shift the balance of power away from the mayor.

“We are right now under huge dictatorship on how this city is being [run] and you see where that’s getting us,” he said.

With the exception of mayoral challenger Ray Lopez (15th), Beale has pretty much been a voice in the wilderness since being stripped of his committee chairmanship for opposing Lightfoot’s choice of Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) as Finance Committee chairman. 

That’s part of the problem, Beale said. By law, the City Council is supposed to reorganize itself. Instead, the mayor chose the committee chairs.

“Putting people in these positions that have no clue about what they’re doing is a disservice to the city. We need to have experts in these fields who know what’s going on. Everybody hires their friends and family when it comes to these committees. We need to change our committee structure,” Beale said.

“We need to have a true speaker of the city where the speaker presides over the City Council and not the mayor. You don’t see the governor presiding over … the General Assembly. They have a speaker of the House. We need to scrub how this city functions from one end of the city to the other. [Otherwise], mayors can do what they want to do, whenever they want to do it.”

By law, Chicago is supposed to have a “strong council, weak mayor” form of government. But that’s not the way it has played out.

Alderpersons have abdicated their responsibility to serve as a check on the mayor and provide the oversight required to solve Chicago’s intransigent problems.

Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, Chicago City Council, City Hall

Mayor Lori Lightfoot reacting to the legislative tit-for-tat with council members Anthony Beale and Ray Lopez on Wednesday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Former Inspector General Joe Ferguson cited the need to shift Chicago’s tilted balance of power in launching a non-profit to re-examine Chicago’s governing structure — from the mayor’s office, city departments and the City Council to agencies of local government under the mayor’s control. 

“An extraordinary amount of power is held by the mayor. There really are no checks and balances,” Ferguson told the Sun-Times earlier this month.

“The mayor runs the City Council. There is no good outcome anywhere in which a single person basically decides everything. You need that critical tension. We need a City Council that actually has the expertise and works together collectively through a structure that actually puts the mayor to the test and doesn’t let things just get rammed through.”

Thursday, Beale climbed aboard the Ferguson bandwagon. In fact, he essentially accused his colleagues in the City Council’s Black Caucus of rolling over for Lightfoot at the expense of their constituents.

“I tell ’em, they’re hurting our community. There’s a reason why our communities look like they look. There’s a reason why we have the highest crime in our area. Why we have the shootings in our area. We have the least jobs in our area,” Beale said.

“When you follow and just go along to get along, you get nothing. You have to fight for your community. You have to fight for your people. That’s what you are duly elected to do. If you don’t fight for your people and you forget how you got to where you are, that’s a problem. When you become more beholden to the mayor than you are to your constituents, that’s a problem.”

As evidence of the “go-along, get-along” claim, Beale pointed to the Black Caucus decision to authorize recreational marijuana in Chicago instead of holding out for a piece of the pie.

“I said, ‘Don’t vote for this cannabis piece because there’s nothing in it for our community, who was more affected by the war on drugs than any other ... racial group,’” Beale said.

“But we voted for it and we are getting nothing out of it. There is not one [black] cannabis owner/operator in the Chicago. And we’re almost four years later. We have to start fighting for what we believe in and stop bowing down to whoever the mayor is just because they’re the mayor.”

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