Happy Wednesday, Illinois. Serious Jon Stewart is even more engaging than funny Jon Stewart.
Jaws dropped Tuesday when Ald. SCOTT WAGUESPACK (32nd) failed to get support for a $3.7 million settlement vote during his first time presiding as chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee.
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Longtime City Hall chroniclers said they’d never seen anything like it. The Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman called it “an embarrassing defeat he still hopes to reverse.” And in a tweet, WLS-AM’s Bill Cameron said forget “Council Wars,” this was “Council Confusion.”
Among the 13 aldermen voting against the settlement proposal were chairmen of other committees who also sit on Finance. Even Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), who is Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader, voted no. That raised the specter that there’s a crack in the mayor’s leadership team.
But aldermen on the Finance panel say it’s more of a crack in communication. There wasn’t enough discussion about the settlement beforehand, so Waguespack didn’t know going into the meeting that he didn’t have the votes.
“If you want a deliberative council, you have to deliver information and engage with aldermen and ensure you have the votes to pass legislation to make everyone happy,” said Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th).
Others called for better collaboration between Waguespack’s team and the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, which is responsible for promoting the mayor’s legislative agenda.
The settlement case stems from a 2014 drunk-driving accident that left a woman paralyzed from the waist down.
Though sympathetic to the victim, aldermen reject the idea that the city must cough up $3.7 million to settle the case when the drunken driver (who fled the scene!) paid a mere $30,000 and the bar owner who over-served the driver paid just $1 million.
It’s one thing to agree to a settlement when the city is at fault, but quite another when the city didn’t cause the accident, according to opponents of the settlement. The lawsuit alleges that the city was negligent and should pay up because it didn’t repair an embankment close to the intersection where the accident occurred.
“I understand some Aldermen want to test new committee process but in this instance (this unfortunate settlement) we would be saving taxpayers over $20 million,” Waguespack said in a text message to Playbook. “The deal we tried to pass is a better legal deal for everyone.”
The case is slated to be brought up again during today’s full Council meeting. Without a resolution, the victim could go to court to seek millions more.
Tribune’s Juan Perez Jr. and John Byrne have more here.
LORI LIGHTFOOT and her wife, Amy Eshleman, dined with Oprah Winfrey AT HER HOUSE during the Chicago mayor’s visit to California last week. Winfrey posted a picture of their meeting on Instagram with the note: “Look who came for dinner @chicagosmayor and wife Amy. Our first time meeting. #sweethomechicago.” Lightfoot’s team contacted Winfrey about meeting and the media mogul followed up by inviting Chicago’s first couple to dinner. Lightfoot brought Vosges chocolates (which are made in Chicago) and a book by Chicago artist Nick Cave, which includes an essay by Lightfoot about violence. Oprah, of course, lived in Chicago for years and still keeps tabs on the goings-on here. Photo here
In City Hall, presiding over the City Council meeting.
At the Chicago Cultural Center’s Gar Hall and Rotunda to sign the Reproductive Health Act.
— OBAMA LIBRARY UPDATE: “Federal judge tosses suit seeking to stop Obama center in Jackson Park, compares project to Soldier Field”: “In a major defeat for opponents, a federal judge ruled Tuesday that the city of Chicago was within its authority when it approved the Obama Foundation’s plan to build the Obama Presidential Center on publicly owned property in Jackson Park. The center ‘surely provides a multitude of benefits to the public. It will offer a range of cultural, artistic, and recreational opportunities … as well as provide increased access to other areas of Jackson Park and the Museum of Science and Industry,’ U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey said in a written ruling,” by Tribune’s Lolly Bowean. Story here
— Nurses union, in contract talks, files complaints against U. of C. Medical Center over staffing issues, patient safety: “In its complaint to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the union alleges that the hospital isn’t properly recording all required information about patient attacks on nurses and isn’t following the union’s proposals to help nurses handle violent patients,” the Tribune’s Lisa Schencker reports. “The union alleges, in its complaint to the Illinois Department of Public Health, that the hospital has failed to provide adequate nurse staffing and illegally mandates that nurses work overtime.” Story here
— Chicago neighborhoods continue to shift in size and race: “Chicago’s neighborhoods continue to see dynamic changes in their racial makeup, according to a WBEZ analysis of population estimates for the city’s community areas,” WBEZ’s Esther Yoon-Ji Kang reports. Between the five-year periods ending in 2012 and 2017, “the city’s black population declined by more than 58,000 residents. The heaviest losses of Chicago’s black population were found in several West and South side communities. … White residents saw the largest growth in population, with an increase of almost 25,000. … Asians, the demographic with the fastest rate of growth in the city and state, saw their numbers increase by about 19,000 residents in Chicago.” Story here
— SCOOTERS: “10 companies to offer scooters during Chicago’s summer pilot program that starts Saturday,” reports Tribune Transportation Reporter Mary Wisniewski. Story here
— Crain’s John Pletz rode in a self-driving car down the Kennedy. Here’s how that went. Story here
— Chicago Clerk Valencia releases report on fees: “Panel on fines recommends debt forgiveness, payment plans, new financial justice director,” reports One Illinois’ Ted Cox. Story here
— Cops in schools: “Community groups remain skeptical of the Chicago Police Department’s efforts to address the use of police officers in public schools after a series of invite-only meetings have largely been shrouded in secrecy,” by Sun-Times’ Matthew Hendrickson. Story here
— New riverwalk takes shape along the south branch of the Chicago River: “Crews are putting the finishing touches on a quarter-mile-long pedestrian path between Harrison Street and the River City Apartments along the river’s south branch,” by Jay Koziarz in Curbed. Story here
— 14 Chicago grassroots leaders win $25,000 grants, by Sun-Times’ Carlos Ballesteros. Story here
— Former village president of small town of Hebron found not guilty of firearm charge, but admits he possessed crack pipe, by Tribune’s Amanda Marrazzo. Story here
— Blue Island hospital operator says facility faces closure if no buyer is found: “Citing multimillion-dollar operating losses, MetroSouth Medical Center operators said Tuesday they will wind down operations by year’s end unless a buyer for the 314-bed Blue Island hospital can be found,” by Daily Southtown’s Mike Nolan. Story here
— 3 charged with animal torture at Fair Oaks Farms not in custody: “Three former employees of Fair Oaks Farms have been charged with a single felony count each of torturing or mutilating a vertebrate animal, and single misdemeanor counts of cruelty to an animal, according to charging documents released Tuesday,” by the Post-Tribune’s Amy Lavalley. Story here
— WTTW’s Carol Marin asks Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton, “Isn’t it just a return as business as usual with plenty of pork barrel projects?” Stratton responds: “(Legislators) know their districts, they know what their districts need, and we want to make sure that they have the opportunity to really talk about and meet the needs of their districts.” Video here
— New Illinois doesn’t sound any better than the old one: “Something you should probably understand is that a lot of people are serious about this separation business, even if most of us regard it as kooky,” writes Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown. Column here
— Corn, soybeans stage a comeback: “Illinois farmers plant more than a quarter of crop in a week, but still face record for prevented-plant claims,” reports One Illinois’ Ted Cox. Story here
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) joined Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in leading a dozen Democrats calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop issuing waivers from the Renewable Fuel Standard. The lawmakers argued in a letter Tuesday that EPA is violating congressional intent by increasing the number of waivers in the program. “The small refiner waiver provision was not intended to undermine the RFS to the benefit of the most profitable oil companies in the world,” they wrote. (H/t Afternoon Energy)
Republican Mike Fricilone, the Will County Board minority leader, has launched his bid for the 3rd Congressional District seat now held by Rep. Dan Lipinski, a Democrat.
“A lifelong resident of District 3,” Fricilone says in a release that he understands “the needs and wants of our residents” and will work “to do what is best for our communities.”
Fricilone’s day job is as executive director of Midwest Office Interiors in Woodridge. He’s served as a Will County Board member since 2012, serving as chair of the Finance Committee and vice chair of the Capital Committee.
His entry in the race must be a welcome relief to Republicans, who in 2018 failed to line up a viable GOP candidate to challenge Lipinski. That led to avowed Nazi and Holocaust denier Arthur Jones to appear on the ballot as a GOP candidate.
A former Cook County assistant state’s attorney was 30 years ahead of his time on legalizing marijuana: “He was a handsome young politician on the rise. A former Cook County assistant state’s attorney with a successful municipal law practice in Chicago’s south suburbs. And then Jim Gierach did something that caused people to question whether he was bent on self-destruction. In 1989, he publicly advocated the legalization of marijuana and other street drugs. He ran for state’s attorney professing his belief that the nation’s drug policy was all wrong.” Sun-Times’ Phil Kadner has the story here.
— Biden mocks Trump: ‘He’s got his tail between his legs,’ by POLITICO’s Natasha Korecki: Story here
— House green-lights lawsuits against William Barr, Don McGahn over ignored subpoenas, by POLITICO’s Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney: Story here
— USDA, trade officials can’t explain Trump’s promise of Mexican ag purchases, by POLITICO’s Ryan McCrimmon: Story here
— ‘That is f—ing frightening’: Treasury’s top brass is white, male and wealthy, by POLITICO’s Nancy Cook: Story here
— Eileen Dordek has been elected as the new board chair of Personal PAC, the Illinois abortion-rights advocacy group. Dordek is a licensed clinical social worker and former candidate for alderman. She also serves on the board of Equality Illinois. Dordek replaces Melissa Widen, who served as board chair for the past eight years and will continue on the board leading its committee on fundraising and major gifts.
— Ryan Johnson has been named national press secretary for New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. Johnson most recently served as communications director for Congressman Bobby Rush.
— Liz Sablich has been named director of strategy, external affairs, and communications for the University of Chicago’s Kenneth C. Griffin Applied Economics Incubator. She most recently was communications director, governance studies, at the Brookings Institution.
RTA Chairman Kirk Dillard is the keynote speaker at tomorrow’s Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois annual luncheon in Chicago. Details here
Cook County Circuit Court Judge John Curry, retired Circuit Court Judge Nick Ford, Chicago Board of Elections Commissioner William Kresse, Chicago Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), Uptake Director of Operations Mary Urbina-McCarthy, and Jill Zwick, director of Intergovernmental Relations for the Illinois Secretary of State.