The Spin: Lightfoot dismisses unsubstantiated Twitter chatter | Pritzker puts National Guard on standby ahead of Chauvin verdict | First lady Jill Biden in Dixon

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Lisa Donovan, Chicago Tribune
·9 min read
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First lady Jill Biden was in Illinois today, touring Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon to talk up affordable higher education. A community college teacher herself, the first lady didn’t dig into specifics but President Joe Biden has advocated making two years of community college tuition free.

As the Tribune’s Rick Pearson points out: “Jill Biden made the trip along with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and was met by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos of Moline, a convening of Democrats in a city with a more historic Republican reputation as the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot responded in person today to unsubstantiated social media chatter. The mayor’s name was trending on Twitter over the weekend. Lightfoot on Sunday blasted the Twitter traffic, which included claims she was about to resign, as “homophobic, racist and misogynistic rumors,” the Tribune’s Gregory Pratt and John Byrne wrote.

Today, she once again dismissed those rumors in front of reporters, saying she had a chat with her 13-year-old daughter and told her “unfortunately, honey, there are stupid and mean people out there.”

Late this afternoon, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that “at the request of the City of Chicago” he is activating 125 personnel from the Illinois National Guard to stand by to support the Chicago Police Department with a verdict expected in the Minneapolis trial of Derek Chauvin, the onetime police officer charged with killing George Floyd. The jury was beginning deliberations today. The governor stressed in a news release that guard members would have a “limited mission,” helping with street closures and “will not interfere with peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment rights, much the same role as Guard members played in previous deployments.”

Lightfoot has been saying for days now that the city has been preparing for protests once a verdict is reached in the Chauvin case.

City Chicago Public Schools’ high school students returned to classrooms today, for the first time in a year, under a deal worked out by the teachers union and City Hall. The Tribune’s Clare Proctor and Hannah Leone have the details here.

Meantime, Chicago City Council will resume in-person meetings starting on Wednesday with aldermen still having the option to attend remotely, Lightfoot announced. It’s another step toward normalcy. We’ll know just how comfortable our elected leaders are with it when the City Clerk takes attendance.

Illinois is close to having 50% of residents 16 and older vaccinated. But an ongoing COVID-19 surge in the state will put a hold on Pritzker’s reopening plans, my colleague Jenny Whidden reports.

Welcome to The Spin.

Lightfoot dismisses unsubstantiated weekend Twitter chatter, including talk of resignation

The Tribune’s Gregory Pratt and John Byrne write: “Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday dismissed unsubstantiated social media chatter from over the weekend that included claims she was about to resign.”

“At an unrelated news conference, Lightfoot said that online chatter, which was trending on Twitter over the weekend, was ‘salacious and false and goes against everything and who I am.’”

The mayor also told reporters: “I’ll just share my exchange with my 13-year-old. … She said, ‘Why are people so stupid and mean?’ And I said, ‘Unfortunately, honey, there are stupid and mean people out there. Luckily not the majority, but some are.’”

The mayor’s comments followed a series of Twitter posts she made on Sunday rebutting claims that she was resigning.

“I will continue to lead a group of the willing all across our city who are about doing the people’s work,” Lightfoot said through her political account. “The people of Chicago elected me mayor, and I will continue to serve today, tomorrow and into the future. Back to work.”

“It’s shocking and disappointing to see some media members and verified Twitter handles are peddling this trash as truth,” Lightfoot said. Full story here.

*Lightfoot, who will reach the midpoint of her four-year term in May, was asked during that same news conference whether she’s thinking about running for reelection.

“Can you let me get through my second year? I haven’t even gotten there yet. Can I have that as a little milestone? … The politics will take care of itself.”

On the agenda at this week’s City Council meeting: basic income plan to pay 5,000 Chicagoans $500 per month. The Tribune’s John Byrne reports has the details here.

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Foxx’s team quiet after a prosecutor blamed for errant in-court description of Adam Toledo shooting is placed on leave

Cook County prosecutors have partially disavowed statements they made in court about the police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, but the office has declined to elaborate on what exactly went wrong and why, the Tribune’s Megan Crepeau reports.

“But the assistant state’s attorney who made the statements was placed on leave on Friday,” the Cook County state’s attorney confirmed on Saturday.

Background: “The statement in question had been distributed widely for nearly a week before a spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office on Thursday said that while the facts stated in court were correct, the prosecutor, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy, should not have phrased them in a way that could imply Toledo was armed at the exact moment he was shot.”

That pivot came a short time before police video of the shooting was released Thursday to the public, fueling an already tense situation.

“Watched in aggregate, the videos show Toledo apparently tossing a gun away a moment before the officer fires, and his hands appear empty and raised at the moment he is shot,” Crepeau writes.

Crepeau pressed for answers.

Still unclear: How many people in the prosecutor’s office had access to footage of the shooting; how much footage they could access; who signed off on the language Murphy used in court; and why they waited nearly a week before clarifying their statement.”

Alexi Giannoulias launches first ad in 2022 secretary of state’s race

Former State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has released the first ad in the Democratic race for Illinois secretary of state in which he portrays himself as a champion of the working class.

“The ad makes a reference to a labor situation in 2009 when Giannoulias (who was then state treasurer) threatened to pull the state’s $8 million investment portfolio from Wells Fargo after it planned to shut down suit-maker Hartmarx,” the Tribune’s Rick Pearson writes. “Wells Fargo, Hartmarx’s major creditor, agreed to sell the factory to preserve jobs at the Des Plaines factory.”

Pearson also notes: “While the secretary of state’s office is largely a clerical office, involving issuance of driver’s licenses and license plates, and a receptacle for business and government documents and filings, Giannoulias is attempting to play off past support from organized labor in his bid for the post.” Watch it here.

Giannoulias, 45, is among four announced Democratic contenders vying for the party’s nomination in the March 2022 primary to replace veteran Democratic Secretary of State Jesse White, who has said he is not seeking reelection. So far, Giannoulias is outpacing his rivals in the fundraising department, including Chicago Ald. Pat Dowell, 3rd, Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia and state Sen. Michael Hastings of Frankfort. Full story here.

Democrats may use population estimates for redistricting, raising questions about fairness of maps

From the Tribune’s Rick Pearson: “Illinois Democrats face mounting questions about what data they will use as an alternative to the federal census — and if that choice would shortchange the racial and ethnic communities that are a core of the party — as they attempt to meet a June 30 deadline to draw new political boundaries.

“Groups representing Blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans and other communities have urged Democrats to use actual federal census numbers rather than estimates or other data in preparing new boundary lines for the 118 members of the House, 59 members of the Senate and the districts for the state’s congressional delegation.”

But due to delays caused by the pandemic, hard census data won’t be available until mid-August at the earliest. And if Democrats were to delay the state legislative mapmaking process past a constitutionally set date of June 30, they risk giving minority Republicans a 50-50 chance of winning the right to draw new boundaries for the General Assembly that will stand for the next decade.

Pearson points out that “Illinois’ Constitution does not require the use of federal census data for legislative redistricting, and some leading Democrats question the accuracy of the final census data by pointing to efforts by former President Donald Trump’s administration to block the counting of undocumented immigrants.”

“Because of Democratic control of Springfield, Republicans have virtually no say in the mapmaking process, and they also have advocated an appointed commission process in an effort to remove much of the politics out of what has always been an intensely partisan process,” Pearson points out.

A guide to political redistricting in Illinois. Pearson’s got those details, too.

Foxconn, Gov. Tony Evers announce new tax break deal after electronics manufacturer scales back project near Illinois border

The Associated Press reports that Foxconn Technology Group, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer best known for making Apple iPhones, has struck a new deal with reduced tax breaks for its scaled-back project in southeast Wisconsin — near the Illinois border — Gov. Tony Evers and the company announced today.

The original deal with nearly $4 billion in state and local tax incentives was made in 2017 by then-Gov. Scott Walker. The project was heralded by fellow Republican and then-President Donald Trump as a sign of a revitalized American manufacturing economy, calling the envisioned plant “transformational” and the “eighth wonder of the world.” Trump even traveled to Wisconsin in 2018 for the groundbreaking.

But in the following years, Taiwan-based Foxconn has continually scaled back its initial plan for a $10 billion flat screen panel manufacturing facility in Mount Pleasant, just over an hour’s drive north of Chicago, that would employ up to 13,000 people. Evers, a Democrat who ran as a critic of the project in 2018 and defeated Walker, said in a statement today that the new deal “works for everyone.” Full story here.

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Twitter @byldonovan