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On the anniversary of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s second year in office, she trotted out a series of campaign-worthy videos touting her administration’s accomplishments, doubled down on working to improve communities south of Roosevelt Road and West of Ashland Avenue and slammed the head of the city’s largest police union, whose members issued a vote of no-confidence in her leadership.
For more than a full year of her administration, the rookie mayor had to deal with managing nation’s third largest during a pandemic.
Meantime, Illinois Republican Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Channahon and Rodney Davis of Taylorville crossed party lines — and by extension GOP leadership including former President Donald Trump — and voted for the creation of a commission that will examine the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection.
The plan heads to the U.S. Senate where it seems to be on the rocks.
And we know that since President Joe Biden took office, there’s been a surge of Central American immigrants making their way to the United States via Mexico. Chicago-area shelters serving unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S. are now seeing the ripple effect, my Tribune colleague Laura Rodriguez Presa reports.
Welcome to The Spin.
As Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot marks a turbulent two years in office, some potential 2023 challengers already getting mentioned
“Lightfoot on Thursday marked 24 months since her inauguration as the city’s first Black woman and openly gay mayor — a period in which she’s had to steer the nation’s third-largest city through endemic gun violence amid the turbulence of a deadly pandemic and historic unrest that combined have rocked the city’s economy,” the Tribune’s Gregory Pratt writes in this deep dive on the ups and downs of her tenure.
“While the mayor has scored her share of political victories, she’s also grappled with a revolving door of top advisers, public relations nightmares and an array of unfulfilled campaign promises.”
“Look, I’m a tough grader and I’m never satisfied,” Lightfoot said when asked to reflect on her job performance during an unrelated news conference this week. “But keeping in mind that no one thought, and least of all me, that I’d be coming into office and facing a global pandemic that would really upend a lot of what we had hoped to accomplish, I think what you’ll see as we roll this out is we’ve done a heck of a lot. And if we weren’t in mixed company, I’d use a different word.”
At least one of the challenges ahead could be on the electoral front.
“(P)otential opponents unhappy with the city’s handling of crime and civil unrest, disappointed by a series of broken progressive promises, and emboldened by Lightfoot’s lack of clear political base, are weighing bids to take her on in 2023,” Pratt writes.
While the mayoral election is still two years away, some names already are being floated:
*Ald. Brian Hopkins, a former chief of staff to Cook County Commissioner John Daley, is a favorite in some business circles
*Lightfoot’s former City Council floor leader Ald. Gilbert Villegas
*Ald. Roderick Sawyer, whose father was mayor in the 1980s.
*Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates
*Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer.
*Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson
*Arne Duncan, the former Chicago Public Schools CEO who also headed President Barack Obama’s Department of Education and now works at an anti-violence nonprofit, is reportedly weighing a bid.
Mayor Lightfoot will spend up to $10 million on seven community projects, the city announced Thursday.
Lightfoot said the city will give up to $1.5 million for one project in each of seven planning regions. At a news conference announcing the program, Lightfoot said the money will go toward upgrading vacant city-owned lots, playground or library improvements, among other ideas.
The city will take applications beginning June 1 through September. The community engagement process will continue through December, and the city plans to break ground on many of the projects in 2022.
Lightfoot announced the plan on her two-year anniversary in office Thursday. She cast it as part of her broader initiative to develop neighborhoods, though some have said her administration hasn’t spent enough money in underinvested communities. (Gregory Pratt)
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NABJ, journalism professor and others debate Mayor Lightfoot’s decision only to grant interviews to journalists of color ahead of her 2-year anniversary
Mayor Lightfoot continues to defend her decision to grant interviews on her two-year anniversary in office only to journalists of color, “saying it was intended as an effort to confront the issue of what she described as a mostly white and male City Hall press corps,” the Tribune’s Alice Yin reports.
“WBEZ disputed the mayor’s observation in a Wednesday story, noting that two of its three City Hall reporters are women, one Hispanic and the other South Asian,” Yin writes.
Charles Whitaker, dean at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, said journalists of color trying to break into the political press corps have faced barriers for decades. But while he applauded Lightfoot’s motivation, he said the one-time interview restrictions felt more like a “stunt” and don’t address the root of an age-old problem.
“I don’t necessarily know that it is the best way,” Whitaker said in a phone interview. “We would never, ever in a million years allow that of a white politician. And so it’s dangerous now to say we are going to allow that of a Black politician simply to make a point about the historic inequities in media.”
The board of the National Association of Black Journalists agreed with the call for newsrooms to diversify their City Hall press corps ranks — but said it cannot support the mayor’s method.
Tiffany Walden, editor-in-chief of the digital media outlet The Triibe, which covers Chicago’s Black communities, defended Lightfoot’s action, saying it was a small step toward leveling the playing field after what she described as a long-standing lack of access for Black and Latino journalists.
CPD rank-and-file cops issue no-confidence vote in Mayor Lori Lightfoot and police Superintendent David Brown
Rank-and-file Chicago police officers on Wednesday night gave Mayor Lightfoot and her police Superintendent David Brown a vote of ‘no confidence,’ the Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner reports.
It’s the latest chapter in a showdown that’s pitted the Democratic mayor against the Fraternal Order of Police, including the union’s President John Catanzara. It comes as officers are still working without a contract and police are facing greater scrutiny from the public and court-ordered reforms.
Clearly blaming the union boss Cantanzara for leading the effort, Lightfoot said during an unrelated news conference today “getting a vote of no confidence from that guy is a … badge of honor.”
She also blamed him for the failure to reach a new contract, saying the FOP leadership is “refusing to come to the table and bargain.”
“We walked into office with so many contracts that were open. We’ve resolved every single one except the FOP,” the mayor said. “(T)he current administration of the FOP has decided that the best strategy is to do nothing. Why? Because they don’t want to face the realities that we are in” suggesting the union is asking for raises the cash-strapped city can’t deliver on. Meantime, rank-and-file police officers who make up the union “are losing literally tens of thousands of dollars every … year in back pay that daily entitled to that they haven’t gotten, because the FOP has done nothing.” Full story here.
Illinois will repay Fed loans with state funds, dropping appeal over rules on the use of federal coronavirus relief
From the Tribune’s Dan Petrella: “Illinois will tap state coffers to repay roughly $2 billion in remaining debt on emergency coronavirus loans from the Federal Reserve, abandoning plans to use federal COVID-19 relief money, state officials said Thursday.
“Illinois was the only state to borrow from the special Fed program, taking out two loans totaling $3.2 billion to plug holes in the past two state budgets. Officials had hoped to pay off the state’s remaining balance with a portion of the $8.1 billion in relief funds the state is receiving from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
“But the U.S. Treasury Department threw Illinois a curveball last week when it issued preliminary rules that prohibit states from using the funds to pay off debt.”
“Repaying the federal government is an important step in our efforts to ensure the state remains on sound fiscal footing,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement that announced the loan payback agreement with Comptroller Susana Mendoza and the top Democrats in the legislature, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside and Senate President Don Harmon of Oak Park. More here.
Chicago-area shelters see most young migrants from Mexico border seeking asylum in U.S. since 2014
From The Associated Press: “The U.S. government picked up nearly 19,000 children traveling alone across the Mexican border in March, authorities said Thursday, the largest monthly number ever recorded and a major test for President Joe Biden as he reverses many of his predecessor’s hard-line immigration tactics.”
The ripple effect in Chicago: “Since December, nearly 500 children have been placed under temporary care at Chicago-area shelters, most of them from countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras,” my colleague Laura Rodriguez Presa reports.
She notes, “In the Chicago area, agencies and community organization serving asylum-seekers are welcoming some of the children at local shelters, as federal agencies rush to transfer them from Border Patrol cells to temporary housing, said David Sinski, executive director of Heartland Human Care Services. For 20 years, his group has operated shelters under a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to care for migrant children who arrive at the border unaccompanied.”
Since December the number of unaccompanied minors transferred to five Chicago shelters to await reunification with family or placement with a sponsor, has first “doubled, then tripled,” said Dawnya Underwood, the deputy director of safety programs at Heartland Alliance, the umbrella organization to which Sinski’s group belongs.
About four children arrive each day, similar to the last large influx of migrant children in 2014. More here and here.
RELATED: Biden administration will soon allow 250 ‘vulnerable’ migrants into U.S. daily — They include the ill and young families. More from NBC News here.
Illinois Republicans Kinzinger, Davis join US House Democrats in vote to create panel to investigate Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection
In casting a vote in favor of creating a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission, U.S. Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Rodney Davis found themselves siding with 12 of the Democrats in Illinois’ 18-member congressional delegation, the Tribune’s Rick Pearson writes.
“The other three Republican members of Illinois’ congressional delegation, Reps. Mike Bost of Murphysboro, Darin LaHood of Peoria and Mary Miller of Oakland voted with GOP leadership against forming the panel,” Pearson writes.
Kinzinger already had signaled he’d voted to create the commission.
“Davis, who has been close to GOP leadership, has been weighing options about a potential statewide run for governor next year depending upon how Democrats in Springfield redraw his central Illinois congressional district,” Pearson writes. “The state is losing one district after reapportionment, and Democrats will try to take it out of Downstate Republican territory.” Full story here.
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