The Spin: Brinkmanship continues in Lightfoot vs. teachers union | State Republican party delivers Kinzinger mild rebuke | Evanston, Dolton to pick new mayors in Feb. 23 elections

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Lisa Donovan, Chicago Tribune
·9 min read
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In what only feels like an endless game of brinkmanship, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her Chicago Public Schools chief issued a statement this morning saying they have made their “last, best, and final offer” to the Chicago Teachers Union over a plan to reopen schools amid the coronavirus pandemic, my Tribune colleagues report.

The Tribune’s Rick Pearson reports that the Illinois Republican Party issued a mild rebuke to U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, saying it disagreed with his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump as it sought to clear its agenda for a Saturday meeting to pick a new chairman who could unify the party.

It’s the second such slap on the wrist by local Republicans in a week that saw Kinzinger unveil his “Country First” movement — that calls on Republicans to dump Trump — and vote to remove Trump supporter and fellow GOP U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her House committee posts for her hateful and violent rhetoric. He was just one of 11 Republicans in the House who joined Democrats in the unprecedented move to strip her of committee assignments, a move that greatly diminishes her legislative sway.

And it’s forecast to be dangerously cold in the Chicago area on this Super Bowl weekend. Best to stay home and make a few rounds of practice nachos before Sunday’s big game.

Welcome to The Spin.

Teachers union signals it won’t accept Lightfoot’s ‘final’ offer, signaling possible work stoppage

Hours after the mayor and her schools chief issued a statement saying they had made their “last, best, and final offer” to the CTU, union leaders, in a letter to its members, accused Lightfoot of walking away from the table and said it viewed her latest offer as “a threat to cut all students off from schooling unless educators drop all remaining demands.” The Tribune’s Hannah Leone and Gregory Pratt have more details here.

Lightfoot and Jackson, in a statement this afternoon that indicated there may be some wiggle room, saying: “We have yet to receive a formal response in writing today from CTU leadership. The ball is in their court.”

Per the union: “The city’s offer would require COVID-19 outbreaks in half of Chicago Public Schools buildings in order to pause in-person learning districtwide, and only agrees to remote work accommodations for 25% of members who have household members with high-risk medical conditions,” Leone and Pratt write. “The union is pushing for reopening and closing decisions to be based on CDC indicators for lower risk of transmission in schools, which includes a 5% positivity rate.” More here.

Outside pressure: Today, a line of Democratic elected leaders — including Chicago aldermen, Cook County Board commissioners and state legislators — held a virtual news conference on Zoom where they declared they were siding with the union over Lightfoot.

“Nearly two dozen Illinois state lawmakers signed a letter Thursday urging the mayor to further compromise, in a similar vein to a letter last month from a supermajority of aldermen,” Leone, Pratt and Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas wrote in this piece, which details where negotiations stand.

Can the two sides ink a deal to avert a second teachers strike in 16 months? For the very latest updates, tune in here.

Opinion: Mayor’s frustration with Chicago Teachers Union leaves CPS families feeling like pawns in a battle they didn’t choose, Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens writes.

Other city news — Southeast Side activists go on hunger strike to stop scrap shredder: The Tribune’s Michael Hawthorne has the details here.

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Kinzinger draws censure from county GOP, minor rebuke from state Republicans over vote to impeach Trump

As U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger has been making the rounds on national cable news shows talking up just his “Country First” movement, aimed at steering fellow Republicans away from the party’s de facto leader, Trump, local Republicans have been trying to figure out their response.

On Tuesday, the La Salle County Republican Central Committee gathered in Ottawa, part of Kinzinger’s north-central Illinois district, and voted to censure him for denouncing the former president.

“While Capitol Police Officer Sicknick was being honored in state for his ultimate sacrifice — defending our democracy — the La Salle County GOP was condemning Congressman Kinzinger for trying to hold the President accountable for the actions that lead to his death,” Kinzinger’s office said in a statement referring to the U.S. Capitol police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was killed in the Capitol insurrection that Trump egged on, leading to his impeachment.

Today, the state Republican Party issued a mild rebuke, the Tribune’s Pearson reports.

State Republicans said the actions of Kinzinger and nine other Republicans who voted to impeach Trump “created widespread division and anger among the Republican Party both nationally and here in Illinois.”

The party also said “the political stakes in 2022 were too great, with Democrats including Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Gov. J.B. Pritzker heading the statewide ballot, to ‘engage in a circular firing squad.’”

“We strongly disagree with any Republican, Congressman Adam Kinzinger included, who voted to impeach President Trump or those who vote to convict him in the U.S. Senate, but we will let the voters be the arbiters of any vote taken by an elected official,” the party’s statement says.

State Republicans gather tomorrow to pick new Illinois leader: Seeking the post are Mark Shaw, the Lake County Republican chairman and current state GOP co-chair; Don Tracy, the former head of the Illinois Gaming Board in the Rauner administration; and Scott Gryder, the Kendall County Board chairman from Oswego. The Tribune’s Pearson has more details here.

Illinois Gaming Board gives preliminary approval to Rockford Hard Rock casino despite investigation of lead developer’s prior deal

From the Tribune’s David Heinzmann: “The Illinois Gaming Board gave preliminary approval Thursday afternoon to a proposed Hard Rock casino in Rockford, despite the agency’s ongoing investigation into the lead developer’s other gambling interests in the state.”

“Without elaborating, Gaming Board Chairman Charles Schmadeke did raise concerns before the vote, saying he had questions about ‘current and former relationships’ among some of the investors involved in the Rockford project. The concerns, however, did not rise to the level of halting the project without more information, he added.” Full story here.

After Tribune story, Kane County reverses decision and will now allow pregnant, lactating women to get COVID-19 vaccines

In a statement released Friday, the Kane County Health Department issued a clarification saying it would provide vaccines to pregnant and lactating women. The decision came after consultations with the Illinois Department of Public Health, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The move came after “Illinois mom and health care worker Kate Raess told the Tribune that after careful consideration because she is breastfeeding, she had chosen to get a vaccine only to arrive at a Kane County location to be told the county had decided lactating women would not get one,” the Tribune’s Alison Bowen notes. Read the full story here.

More COVID-19 news: “President Joe Biden laid out his case Friday for moving fast and without Republicans, if necessary, to pass $1.9 trillion in coronavirus relief, armed with new signs of economic strain brought on by the continuing pandemic,” The Associated Press reports.

Earlier in the morning the U.S. Senate and later the House passed a measure that lays the groundwork for approving the relief package.

What’s next: Congressional committees will work through the legislation “with the goal of finalizing additional relief by mid-March, when extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid expires,” the AP notes.

Campaign watch: The political brawl in Dolton ahead of the Feb. 23 primary, plus a quick look at the Evanston mayor’s race

With just a few weeks to go before the suburban Cook County primaries, two of the most closely watched races will be the mayoral contest in Dolton where elections, more often than not, are a political brawl, and Evanston, which will get a brand new mayor with incumbent Steve Hagerty deciding against running again.

In the south suburbs, three candidates have lined up looking to unseat fellow Democrat and Dolton’s two-term Mayor Riley Rogers. Among them is former Chicago Ald. Robert Shaw, an old-school politico who, as my Tribune colleague John Byrne once wrote, was “known for teaming up with his late twin brother (the onetime mayor of Dolton), switching political allegiances, ending up on government payrolls and fighting the Jackson family in a political career that’s spanned several decades.”

Other candidates include two Dolton village trustees — Andrew Holmes, a well-known community activist, and Tiffany Henyard. Dolton voters will also have to pick a clerk as well as three trustees from a candidate field of nine.

The rules: Because there are no Republicans running, whoever wins the Democratic primary will become the next mayor.

Related: A big-name endorsement. A crowded field. Allegations of corruption. It’s election time in Dolton. Daily Southtown columnist Ted Slowik examines electoral landscape here.

Evanston races: Former Illinois state senator and onetime Democratic gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss, local activist Lori Keenan and Purdue University student Sebastian Nalls are all running to replace outgoing Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty in the Feb. 23 consolidated primary election. The elected posts of clerk as well as 8th and 4th Ward aldermen also are on the ballot in the northern suburb.

The rules: If the mayor’s race has two or more candidates, there’s automatically a primary. A candidate wins outright with 50% plus one vote, according to Evanston election officials. But like the Chicago mayoral and aldermanic elections, if there’s a line of candidates for the seat and none of the candidates reach that threshold, then the two top vote-getters advance to a general election.

Meantime, in West suburban Cicero Larry Dominick, the controversial town president with staying powering, is making a bid for a fifth term. With no competition on the ballot, Cook County election records show, it’s likely a foregone conclusion. Seats for clerk, supervisor, assessor, collector and trustee also are on the ballot.

Beyond Dolton, Cicero and Evanston, here’s what voters in municipalities will see on their ballots Feb. 23: In Berwyn — mayor, clerk and select aldermanic seats; in Calumet City — several aldermanic seats; in Lynwood — village president, clerk and trustee; in Riverdale — village president; in Berwyn Township — supervisor; and in Norridge — trustee. Take a closer look at who’s on the ballot Feb. 23 here.

Thanks for reading The Spin, the Tribune’s politics newsletter. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox weekday afternoons. Have a tip? Email host Lisa Donovan at ldonovan@chicagotribune.com.

Twitter @byldonovan