Parting shots? Lightfoot issues flurry of executive orders before leaving City Hall

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson can rescind Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s orders once he’s inaugurated Monday, but her 11th-hour move puts him on the spot to publicly slap down the lame-duck decrees.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot waves goodby to supporters from the back of a 1940s Cadillac convertible on Friday.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot waves goodby to supporters from the back of a 1940s Cadillac convertible on Friday.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

On her final full weekday in office, Mayor Lori Lightfoot left a surprise farewell gift for her successor as she handed down a flurry of executive orders, aiming to leave a final mark from her administration — and apparently trying to box in Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson on a variety of issues.

Lightfoot’s 10 orders, issued hours before she likely walked out of City Hall for the final time as mayor, touch on a range of policies, from formally establishing the Office of New Americans to directing agencies to create a “chamber of commerce or delegate agency” to help oversee her downtown LaSalle Street redevelopment effort.

Other orders establish a pension advance fund starting with $641.5 million from recent budget surpluses, and require the city comptroller to deliver a report recommending the city expand Lightfoot’s relief programs for low-income residents struggling with fines and water bills.

Johnson can rescind Lightfoot’s orders once he’s inaugurated Monday, but her 11th-hour move puts him on the spot to publicly slap down the lame-duck decrees.

Representatives for Johnson’s transition team didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

“Under my administration, Chicago has put its fiscal house in order, and I’m proud of the financial turnaround our team led,” Lightfoot was quoted as saying in a press release on the pension advance fund executive order.

“The good work of government continues,” her office tweeted along with a link to the orders.

The outgoing mayor did not address the orders at an unrelated Bronzeville news conference earlier in the day, shortly after they were filed with the city clerk but before her office announced them.

“I feel very, very good about our record of accomplishment,” Lightfoot said at the news conference. “I am confident that it will live on in the lives of the people that we have touched, in the neighborhoods that we’ve breathed new life into, and I’m very, very, very proud of what we’ve done. And I’m extraordinarily proud of the team that we built.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot waves to supporters outside City Hall on Friday.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot waves to supporters outside City Hall on Friday.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Lightfoot issued other late-term orders earlier in her final week, declaring a state of emergency Tuesday due to the influx of migrants from the southern border, and another order on environmental justice handed down Wednesday.

Among her latest orders, Lightfoot directed the zoning administrator to publish recommendations online prior to public meetings; established the Mayor’s Youth Commission as a formal advisory board; laid out the procedure for agencies to provide updates on racial equity action plans; and expanded access to U/T visa certification for immigrant survivors of crimes.

While Lightfoot was leaving her mark on the fifth floor on her way out, Johnson confirmed his own mark on the City Council on his way in, announcing the chamber leadership plan his team hashed out with Council allies.

The new reorganization installs Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) as chair of the coveted Finance Committee and Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) as chair of the powerful budget committee, while relegating Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) — the Council’s longest-serving member — to the mostly ceremonial role of vice mayor.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) will chair the Zoning Committee and serve as Johnson’s floor leader.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) speaks at a news conference on the Northwest Side in 2022.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) speaks at a news conference on the Northwest Side in 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

“As newly elected leaders our first task is making sure our government is structured to actually deliver for people,” Johnson said in a statement. “This plan not only empowers the most diverse group of Council chairs in history, but also unites us across geography and political ideology.”

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), the outgoing Finance Committee chair who helped orchestrate a failed attempt to reorganize the chamber without Johnson’s input, was iced out of any leadership position.

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