Mayor Rahm Emanuel played hardball Wednesday after two aldermen used a parliamentary maneuver to delay consideration of a fund transfer needed to bankroll a $95 million police and fire training academy in West Garfield Park.
Aldermen Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and David Moore (17th) delayed consideration for one meeting to underscore their opposition to a project that has drawn opposition from Chance the Rapper, black youth who have organized around the Twitter hashtag #NoCopAcademy” and college students around the nation.
When Ramirez-Rosa and Moore declared their intention to “defer and publish,” Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke (14th) proposed that the meeting be adjourned and reconvened until 2:15 p.m. Friday.
Emanuel gave the two aldermen a brief opportunity to reconsider to avoid having to return late on a Friday before the long Memorial Day holiday weekend.
But when they didn’t quickly take him up on the offer, the mayor banged the gavel and declared the meeting adjourned before votes could be taken on other business.
“That’s how they do business here in the Chicago City Council. The mayor wants to rule with an iron fist,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “They didn’t even let black youth testify at the Budget Committee hearing on Tuesday. So, I’m not surprised by that action. I expected that. But I did the right thing standing with black youth and standing with Chicagoans who say, `Invest in our communities.’ ”
The U.S. Justice Department report triggered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald found CPD’s training to be sorely lacking.
But that didn’t stop Ramirez-Rosa from questioning the mayor’s spending priorities and questioning whether the new academy in West Garfield Park would be used as an “anchor for gentrification … so he can further push poor black people out of the city.”
“There’s not a single study that says that a new shooting range, a new swimming pool for cops, will address public safety,” he said.
“I’m standing with the 79 community organizations … that are saying invest that $95 million in … jobs programs, youth programs, education programs. Don’t tell me you have to close 50 schools and close six mental health clinics then say you have $95 million for a new shooting range and a new swimming pool for police,” Ramirez-Rosa said.
Moore said he joined in the deferral because the ordinance appropriating $20 million from the sale of a valuable North Side fleet maintenance facility for the new police academy still leaves a $37 million funding gap.
“Are we gonna do this in piecemeal or are we gonna see this so I can understand what I’m voting for. I can’t vote in piecemeal,” Moore said. “If the pricetag ends up being more than $95 million, I’m not helping my constituents. You can find money for certain things [but, not others]. Help the neighborhoods.”
After the meeting, Emanuel denied that he was playing political hardball, even though he’s famous for it and has used a similar tactic before.
The mayor said he was determined to get on with a fund transfer that impacts the new academy, the 311 makeover and the new fleet maintenance facility in Englewood.
“We’ll be back Friday for a vote that everybody knows is gonna pass. It passed 48-1 the first time,” Emanuel said. “Given the fact that investments have not happened on the South Side and West Side for decades, I don’t see a reason to wait when you know what the conclusion is gonna be.”
The mayor then challenged reporters to name one alderman whose vote would change between now and Friday.
“You characterized what I did as playing hardball. Between today and Friday, who here believes a vote is gonna change? Going once. Hearing no objection, so ordered. There’s not gonna be a vote change,” he said.
The complaint about misplaced priorities is a familiar one against Emanuel. Protesters said the same thing about the $55 million city subsidy that paved the way for construction of Wintrust Arena.
But the mayor had an answer for that, too.
“We all know this actually fulfills what the Obama Justice Department said,” Emanuel said.
“Every alderman on the West Side voted yes because they know how important this is as an economic investment … that will give our officers the support they need and the West Side a needed boost economically.”
Emanuel said he “hears the voice and the concern” from young people who “want to see investments” in other priorities.
But, he said, “It is not an either or choice. It’s a complement to the economic needs of the West Side and it is called for by the Obama Justice Department report, which is why we’re giving our officers the best facility for the best training to give them the best technology and support to do the job we want to see them do on the streets.”
Perhaps in response to Wednesday’s deferral, the City Council’s Hispanic Caucus voted unanimously hours later to expel Ramirez-Rosa as a member.
A statement attributed to Aldermen Gilbert Villegas (36th) and Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) explained the decision.
“We have repeatedly informed Aldermen Rosa that the mission of the caucus is representing the best interests of Latino community and that the only way to accomplish this is to have robust partners that participate in the caucus’ initiatives,” the statement said.
“After two years in office, he refused to engage our caucus in a meaningful way so that we could do the important work of addressing the issues in our community together.”
Ramirez-Rosa later issued his own statement, defending his work with the Latino Caucus.
“It is unfortunate that a majority of my Latino Caucus colleagues would vote to expel me, their only gay millennial member, on the same day I take a bold stand on police violence that disproportionately impacts our Black and Latino neighborhoods,” he said. “There was no due process, not all Caucus members were present, and no prior notice that this item would be taken up today was provided.”
“I have raised my concerns on due process with Chairman Gil Villegas, and the decision made today will be revisited at the Caucus’ June meeting. It is my hope that a majority of my colleagues will agree that we can have differences on policy while continuing to find common ground and unity around issues important to the Latino community.”