Johnson’s City Council floor leader portrays Lightfoot as sore loser undermining smooth transition

“Mayor Lightfoot, in her final days, really worked to harm this incoming administration. It’s sad. It’s unfortunate. But we now have to come together as a city and clean up the mess that she left us,” Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, the mayor’s City Council floor leader, told the Sun-Times.

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Chicago’s new mayor, Brandon Johnson, hugs his predecessor, Lori Lightfoot, after she executes her last official act in office.

Chicago’s new mayor, Brandon Johnson, hugs his predecessor, Lori Lightfoot, at his inauguration on Monday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Lori Lightfoot was described Thursday as a sore loser whose “wholly inappropriate” decision to sign 10 executive orders on her final workday in office has forced Mayor Brandon Johnson to “clean up the mess.”

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Johnson’s City Council floor leader and hand-picked Zoning Committee chair, said the first elected Chicago mayor in 40 years to be denied a second term had no business issuing any executive orders on her way out the door, let alone 10.

Lightfoot’s decision to do so underscored the fact that what she described during Johnson’s inauguration ceremony as the “peaceful transfer of power” was not so peaceful behind the scenes.

“Mayor Lightfoot, in her final days, really worked to harm this incoming administration. It’s sad. It’s unfortunate. But we now have to come together as a city and clean up the mess that she left us,” Ramirez-Rosa, chair of the Democratic Socialist Caucus, told the Sun-Times.

“Once you’re a lame-duck executive … you have to be very careful about what you pass, particularly when the voters have already rejected you. And there’s no question that Mayor Lightfoot was resoundingly rejected by the voters of this city.”

Ramirez-Rosa laughed out loud when asked whether Lightfoot was a sore loser.

“Yeah. She was not happy about not receiving a second term and she was not helpful to the extent that she should have been if she really wanted to see the city succeed after her departure,” he said.

“I’ve heard from people working on the migrant crisis that a lot of basic information was not shared with the transition team. That it was very difficult to get basic data and basic information from the city that would help the transition team better prepare. And not just on the migrant crisis, but a whole host of issues that the transition team was looking at.”

A Lightfoot spokesperson countered that the now-former mayor was “working to ensure a smooth transition … in early March” just days after the third-place finish that eliminated her.

“Numerous hard copies of a transition book … hundreds of pages” long was provided to Johnson’s team on April 10. That document also was sent as a computer file.

Top aides and cabinet members subsequently “participated in more than 60 meetings” with Johnson’s team and transition consultants with “substantive follow-ups on specific topics,” including the migrant crisis.

“Mayor Lightfoot met with then-Mayor-elect Johnson on April 6 and offered full, collaborative support from herself and her staff, and we all remain available to support the Johnson administration in any way possible,” the emailed statement said.

“As recently as Inauguration Day, when Mayor Lightfoot greeted then-Mayor-elect Johnson, she again personally pledged that she is available to support him in any way he desires. As such, we are mystified that the alderman would make such a claim that is demonstrably false.”

Jason Lee, a senior adviser to Johnson, called the Sun-Times to say the new mayor does not share his floor leader’s viewpoint about Lightfoot’s post-election behavior.

“We understand how difficult elections are. From our perspective, we appreciated the mayor and her team’s willingness to engage,” Lee said.

“There’s never enough time to get fully downloaded on everything that you need to know. They still have their own prerogatives and their own things that they’re trying to get done. We understand that. But we’re ultimately appreciative and grateful for [Lightfoot’s] collaboration during the transition. The mayor has personally been grateful — not only for the professional relationship, but also for some of the personal advice that she gave him around his family and other issues like that.”

The most significant of the final 10 executive orders Lightfoot signed would box Johnson in by establishing a pension advance fund with $641.5 million in surplus funds from this year and last.

A $242 million pension pre-payment was included in Lightfoot’s final budget that triggered more than dozen upgrades in Chicago’s bond rating.

Johnson almost certainly has other priorities for those surplus funds, having promised to make $1 billion worth of “investments in people” through an array of social programs that form the cornerstone of his anti-violence strategy. That would mean issuing his own executive order to undo the one Lightfoot left behind.

As incoming Zoning Committee chair, Ramirez-Rosa said he is most concerned about Lightfoot’s executive order directing the zoning administrator to “investigate aldermanic-led re-zoning.”

“It’s preposterous because, when aldermen want to re-zone a parcel, they go to the zoning administrator to ask them for their advice and ... their assistance in prepping the ordinance that leads to that re-zoning. … An investigation has already occurred. … You’re asking the person involved in it to then investigate themselves,” he said.

“Our zoning administrator is speaking every single day to aldermen, developers and some of the biggest investors in our city trying to figure out how you move some of these projects forward. They simply don’t have the time or the personnel to conduct an investigation of every single down-zone or re-zone that they ... were already part of.”

Lee hinted strongly that both the pension and zoning executive orders would be undone.

“Those are two big issues that we don’t want to be unduly constrained [on] because we have our own perspective on how to grapple, particularly as it relates to pensions,” he said.

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