The Spin: Lightfoot vs. Sharkey on hammering out deal | Businessman Rabine to run as Republican for governor | Former CTU leader, mayoral hopeful Karen Lewis dies

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·10 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union have a tentative agreement among leaders to return students and teachers to classrooms amid the pandemic.

CTU’s House of Delegates still has to decide whether to send it to the 25,000 members for consideration.

Nevertheless, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who controls the school district, and CTU President Jesse Sharkey are offering competing narratives about reaching the finish line.

Lightfoot has praised Sharkey for holding a series of one-on-one discussions that led to the tentative deal. The union president offered a cooler take, suggesting it was as far as both sides could go and added: “At a certain point, the conversation with the mayor went from reasonable to just outright hostile.”

In a labor town like Chicago, an elected leader brawling with a union can damage a political career. So lavishing praise on Sharkey and the teachers, as she did during her news conference yesterday — is a smart public relations move. For a powerful union like CTU, which endorsed Lightfoot’s chief rival in the mayor’s race, maintaining the adversarial stance with management may carry its own political weight.

A lot is happening on the state politics front, with Republicans picking a new state chair over the weekend, and a McHenry County businessman and supporter of former President Donald Trump saying he’ll run as a GOP candidate for Illinois governor next year.

Meantime, Democrats filled the seats of two departing state senators.

And tomorrow is the scheduled start of Trump’s impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. A two-thirds supermajority, or 67 out of 100 votes in the Senate, is needed to convict.

Welcome to The Spin.

How did CTU, Lightfoot reach a near deal? Depends on who you ask.

“At long last, CPS has finally reached a tentative agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union that opens up school doors for our pre-K, cluster and K through eight students,” a smiling Mayor Lightfoot told reporters yesterday. Students would return to classrooms in waves, beginning Thursday.

During a Sunday news conference and again today, Lightfoot credited reaching a tentative deal via a series of conversations with CTU’s president, Jesse Sharkey.

“I think, fundamentally, the president of the union and I sat down over a series of conversations, and I think both wanted to get to the same place, but we were on different pathways to get there,” Lightfoot said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when asked how they reached a deal. She said that zeroing in on the children and “using that as a focus, we were able to bridge a lot of divides.”

During a members meeting Sunday afternoon, however, union officials explained how they got to the point of a near-deal. Nothing’s final until the union’s 25,000 members vote, which could begin as soon as today, my Tribune colleagues Hannah Leone, Gregory Pratt and Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas report.

They also write: “Sharkey said they had reached a fork: In one direction, members could take a vote and ratify the framework, which would then govern the return to buildings.

“The other path looks like us being locked out and going on strike,” Sharkey said. “... It’s not clear to me that if we strike, we automatically get more.”

Lightfoot vs. CTU escalates long-running conflict between City Hall and Chicago’s public school teachers. The Tribune’s Gregory Pratt, Bill Ruthhart and John Byrne have the story here.

Sign up for The Spin to get the top stories in politics delivered to your inbox weekday afternoons.

Karen Lewis, the former CTU president, dies at age 67

Karen Lewis, the tell-it-like-it-is former Chicago Teachers Union president and one-time mayoral hopeful before a cancer diagnosis in 2014, has died.

Lewis had set out to challenge then-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whom she notoriously battled before leading a September 2012 teachers strike, the city’s first in a quarter-century. Today’s Tribune story notes her powerful speeches during demonstrations and how they underscored the smoldering debate over public education reform.

“Emanuel and Lewis developed a begrudging regard for one another as the union reached agreement with the administration to avoid a second strike, their bitter, sometimes profane early fights receded in the rearview mirror and Lewis’ cancer diagnosis sidelined her as a political rival,” the Tribune’s Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas, John Byrne and former Tribune reporter Juan Perez Jr. write.

Emanuel expressed his condolences via Twitter today: “Karen Lewis was a tough and tireless champion for public education and for Chicago’s children, one who was never afraid to fight for what she believed in,” he wrote. “While we often found ourselves on different sides of the debate, I grew to have enormous respect for Karen and our regular conversations were a benefit to me and to the city of Chicago. May her memory be a blessing.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who not only received the CTU’s endorsement when she ran against Lightfoot in 2019 but also Lewis’ backing, talked to The Spin about the former CTU president’s legacy. The two got to know each other when Preckwinkle, a onetime teacher, was Chicago’s 4th Ward alderman and Lewis was a constituent. They formed an alliance of sorts, Preckwinkle said, over their mutual interest in seeing equitable funding among school districts.

Preckwinkle nodded, too, to the fact that she and Lewis likely bonded as women unafraid to ruffle feathers in the world of politics and education.

“She was the person who stood up for herself, stood up for (union) members, you know wasn’t afraid ... (to speak) truth to power.”

Mayor Lightfoot also tweeted “our deepest condolences go out to (Lewis’) family, loved ones, friends and CTU family during this extremely difficult time.”

Chicago police leaders acknowledge need for more transparency as they file progress report on reform, a document critics dismiss as deflection

Chicago police Superintendent David Brown and one of his closest deputies acknowledged to reporters the department needs to do a better job being transparent with the public as their department is under continuing pressure to implement court-enforced reforms, the Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner and Dan Hinkel report.

An example: “The department failed last month on at least two occasions to release basic information to the media about its officers facing allegations of misconduct before relenting when reporters made repeated inquiries,” Gorner and Hinkel write.

The Police Department filed a progress report with the court, noting the transparency issues.

“Critics dismissed the new CPD document as a public relations ploy from the department ahead of a review from a court-appointed monitor who has faulted CPD for moving slowly on reforms since it fell under the consent decree in 2019,” Gorner and Hinkel note.

“Mayor Lori Lightfoot continued to try to show she’s making changes in the fallout from the Anjanette Young wrongful police raid controversy on Friday, signing an executive order designed to make it easier for people who file complaints against Chicago police to get copies of video and other materials in the case,” the Tribune’s John Byrne and Jeremy Gorner write.

Ex-gaming board chair, Rauner backer tapped to be new state GOP chair; businessman Gary Rabine says he’ll run as Republican for governor in 2022

“Don Tracy, a former state Gaming Board chairman and unsuccessful 2010 lieutenant governor candidate, was picked by top Republicans on Saturday as the new Illinois GOP chairman,” the Tribune’s Rick Pearson writes.

“Springfield’s Tracy, an ardent backer of former one-term GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner, defeated Mark Shaw, the Lake County Republican chairman and state party co-chair for county outreach, and Scott Gryder, chairman of the Kendall County Board,” he notes.

What it means: “The pick of Tracy was viewed as the choice of moderate-to-conservative establishment Republicans over Shaw, a sometimes controversial figure who previously sought the chairmanship,” Pearson notes. “Shaw orchestrated the December effort among hard-liners that led former Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider to agree to step down as party leader with more than a year left in his term. Schneider was Rauner’s hand-picked choice for GOP chair in May 2014.”

Rabine looking at 2022 governor’s race: “Bull Valley resident Gary Rabine, a longtime businessman in the northwest suburbs as the leader of Schaumburg-based paving, roofing and snow removal company Rabine Group, announced his intent to run for governor as a Republican in the 2022 election Sunday in an interview with the Northwest Herald.” Read the story, which notes he hasn’t filed any official paperwork with the state election board yet, here.

Meantime, Democratic leaders filled the vacant seats of two state senators: “In a surprise move, North Side Democrats on Saturday chose a former policy director under Mayor Rahm Emanuel and deputy commissioner in the city’s department of planning and development to ascend to former Sen. Heather Steans’ seat,” the Sun-Times’ Rachel Hinton reports. “Mike Simmons, a lifelong resident of the district, was chosen by a group of Cook County Democratic Party committeepeople to serve out the remainder of Steans’ term” over U.S. Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who had been considered the heir apparent.” Read the rest of the story here.

And “Springfield’s Ward 3 Alderman Doris Turner will now be the State Senator for Illinois’ 48th District,” Springfield news station WCIS reports. “Turner succeeds (fellow Democrat and) former State Senator Andy Manar. Manar relinquished the seat on Jan. 17 to become a Senior adviser to Gov. JB Pritzker.” Read the full story here.

US Senate’s impeachment trial of Trump begins tomorrow

The Senate trial of former President Donald Trump, on charges he incited the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, will closely parse the speech he gave at a rally near the White House that day before attendees stormed the halls of Congress.

House impeachment managers — akin to prosecutors — are expected to argue Trump via Twitter called on his supporters to come to Washington, D.C., that day and in a rally blocks from the Capitol reiterated false claims that he was cheated out of a reelection victory in November. He then urged the crowd to action, saying at one point, ”if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

His legal team has called the impeachment trial “political theater” and may argue — as Trump’s supporters have — that he meant no harm by pointing to this line in his Jan. 6 speech, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”

First up: “The trial will begin Tuesday with a debate and vote on whether it’s even constitutional to prosecute the former president,” The Associated Press reports. Read the latest and what to expect from the trial here.

“The fact that President Trump is no longer in office does not change things,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois’ senior senator, told reporters on Friday. He pointed to the 1876 case of William Belknap, the secretary of war for President Ulysses S. Grant, who resigned just before the House of Representatives impeached him. They went ahead with the charges, and the Senate, according to historical records, determined they had the jurisdiction to hold a trial. Belknap was acquitted. Read more 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

Twitter @byldonovan