Mayoral appointees to boards and commissions should be prohibited from seeking political office in Chicago for two years to prevent them from doing what Lori Lightfoot did, Northwest Side Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) said Wednesday.
Sposato floated the idea at the City Council confirmation hearing for Lightfoot’s replacement, Police Board member and designated vice-president Paula Wolff. He plans to introduce it in ordinance form.
When Sposato asked Wolff if she would be willing to sign such a pledge, the nominee said: “I would be delighted to sign such a statement. No danger there.”
Wolff’s answer was just what aldermen wanted to hear.
“It’s a concern I have for future appointments—people using these appointments as springboards to either beat us over the head [or] the mayor, the clerk, the treasurer, whatever,” Sposato said.
“I just don’t think these appointments should be springboards for higher office.”
Last month, Sposato accused former Police Board president-turned mayoral challenger Lori Lightfoot of committing the “ultimate act of betrayal” by using the political platform the mayor gave her to hammer him and attempt to take his job.
He also joined the call for an “independent review” of all Police Board cases Lightfoot helped to decide, on grounds she was using the board presidency as a springboard to run for mayor.
“It’s unconscionable what she’s doing. … It’s disloyalty at its best,” Sposato said the day Lightfoot declared her candidacy.
“When somebody you trust to do a job flips on you, to me, that’s the ultimate betrayal. … It’s almost like she cheated with her brother’s wife. It’s just plain wrong. Garry McCarthy is a different story. He was fired.”
After Wednesday’s Paula Wolff love-fest, Sposato acknowledged the two-year ban may not be constitutional.
If that’s the case, the alderman said he would ask mayoral appointees to sign a “pledge” promising not to seek elective office in Chicago for two years after the appointment. Without mentioning Lightfoot by name, he said: “You know who it’s about.”
“I want a commitment from them. … I just think it’s wrong that somebody gets in office and they use this office as a platform. … It taints the office,” he said.
Reminded that Sharon Fairley stepped down as head of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability to run for Illinois attorney general, Sposato said, “I’m trying to correct the future. In the future, I want people to know, ‘Look, if you’re gonna take these appointments, you can’t run. You can’t run for public office in the city of Chicago. Plain and simple.’”
Two weeks ago, Sposato made his case for the now-vacant job of chairman of the City Council’s Aviation Committee and urged Mayor Rahm Emanuel not to play the familiar Chicago game of racial politics.
“Race should be a non-factor in this. He shouldn’t be worried about it because blacks and Latinos already have a disproportionate amount of committee” chairmanships, Sposato said on that day.
“Forty-four percent of the Council is white and whites have 31 percent of the committees. Blacks are 34 percent of the Council. They have 44 percent of the committees. And Hispanics are 22 percent of the Council and they have 25 percent of the committees.”
Sposato is vice-chairman of an Aviation Committee that will ride herd over Emanuel’s $8.7 billion O’Hare Airport expansion plan.
On Wednesday, the alderman denied the two-year ban was another attempt to ingratiate himself with the mayor after years of outspoken criticism.
“I’ve disagreed the third-most amount with him in the last seven years. This last four years, the fifth-most,” Sposato said.
“I’m not trying to ingratiate myself with anybody or win favor or whatever you want to say. I do what I think is right. … I’m above reproach. I can’t be bought. I do the right thing all the time. I do what I say. I’m not afraid of 49-to-1 votes.”
Sposato said he plans to make an endorsement in the crowded mayoral race in short order. But he predicted the field of 10 would be whittled down significantly by the need to gather enough signatures to survive a petition challenge.
He predicted four survivors: Emanuel, former Schools CEO Paul Vallas, fired Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Lightfoot.
“I know it’s 12,500 [signatures, but] if anybody here thinks you only need 12,500, then you’re in the wrong business. 12,500 is not gonna make it. You’d better triple that,” he said.
Sposato said it’s a “very safe assumption” he will not endorse Lightfoot, whom the alderman has branded “anti-police.”
Lightfoot could not be reached for comment.