The Spin: At long last, Lightfoot offers civilian police oversight plan | Legislature enters closing days with budget, remap among unsettled items | Promoting from within, Lightfoot names new chief of staff

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered her own plan for civilian oversight of the Police Department, something she said would occur within her first 100 days in office.

The idea is to create an independent panel that would have some say over everything from leadership to policies and even budget at a time when demands are growing louder for reform in law enforcement.

Already, “the City Council’s Black Caucus joined the Hispanic and Progressive caucuses in endorsing a civilian police oversight plan summarily rejected by Lightfoot,” the Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman wrote last week. My Tribune colleagues reported Friday that the so-called compromise ordinance “is being pushed by two organizations that want an elected board to have broad powers to dictate the Police Department’s policies, leadership and budget.”

Lightfoot said this morning, before the rollout of her plan that the mayor - whoever it is - would ultimately decide who serves as the city’s top cop under the proposal.

This time of year, Illinois lawmakers make like wayward college students cramming to finish up a semester’s worth of work in time for summer break. In February, it seemed as if lawmakers had plenty of time to get everything done. But now, there’s still a pile of work to finish, and the clock is ticking.

For the General Assembly, the adjournment date is next week, May 31, and its to-do list remains significant.

There is the job of passing a state budget. That includes closing a $1.3 billion deficit, ideally before the start of the July 1 fiscal year. Lawmakers — led by the Democrats who control both chambers — also are working to redraw state legislative and congressional districts, the once-a-decade job done to reflect population shifts.

The Tribune’s Rick Pearson and Dan Petrella take a deep dive on the issues still on the table. More on that below.

And on Wednesday, former President Barack Obama will join in a virtual conversation with youth and community leaders to talk about the activism sparked by the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. Discussion, too, will focus on “re-imagining policing” as concerns take deeper root over law enforcement mistreating African American residents.

It’s part of a series of discussions via the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, which is part of the Obama Foundation, the fundraising arm of the former president’s planned presidential center on the South Side. Details here.

Welcome to The Spin.

Lightfoot rolls out her proposal for a civilian police oversight panel

Here’s what the mayor offered as a preview to the release of her proposal for a civilian police oversight commission: For one, she’ll hold on to the power of hiring and firing the city’s top cop.

Should a vacancy in the police superintendent’s office arise, she said, the civilian commission would vet candidates. But she stressed the final choice would rest with her.

“Public safety, I think, is one of the most critical responsibilities of any mayor….the relationship between the mayor and the police superintendent is critically important.” And it gives her some muscle since the mayor serves as boss to any police superintendent.

“Because the buck stops with me,” Lightfoot said, “I will ultimately as mayor and any other subsequent mayor be making that decision.” My Tribune colleagues are working on a story that takes a closer look at her proposal. Check back here.

Mayor announces $80 million in rental, utility assistance: The Tribune’s Gregory Pratt writes,Lightfoot’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program will be funded through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act Congress passed in December 2020, the city said. It will provide up to 15 months of rental assistance and utility payment assistance for eligible renters, the city said.” Full story here.

As cardinal reinstates the Rev. Michael Pfleger, Mayor Lightfoot welcomes back his voice in fight against gun violence

The Tribune’s Christy Gutowski writes, “Cardinal Blase Cupich is reinstating the Rev. Michael Pfleger as senior pastor at St. Sabina Catholic Parish after the archdiocesan board that investigates sexual abuse claims found ‘there is insufficient reason to suspect’ the iconic South Side priest is guilty of allegations of abuse dating back decades, according to a letter released to parishioners Monday.”

During an unrelated news conference, Lightfoot was asked about the developments involving the South Side priest who’s been a forceful voice over the years in city politics and beyond, putting him at odds with church leadership. Former Tribune reporter Evan Osnos chronicled Pfleger’s work, his place as a white clergyman in a predominantly Black parish and his political connections in this New Yorker piece.

The mayor described Pfleger as “an important center of gravity in the Auburn Gresham community, and I know he is a conscience for many of us around issues of gun violence that plagues way too many communities in this city. And he is an advocate, an advocate, for victims.”

Lightfoot talked, too, about how difficult it is for someone to come forward with sexual abuse allegations.

“One of the things that I think we can’t ever lose sight of is people came forward and said they were victimized and they deserve to be heard,” Lightfoot said. “The archdiocese went through a process to evaluate those allegations and again, we’ll learn more in the coming days, I would suspect, as to what that process was, but the fact those men now came forward and spoke (their) truth is something we can’t ever undermine or underestimate.” Full story here.

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Lightfoot promotes education deputy to become her chief of staff, picks new city COO

Mayor Lori Lightfoot will promote her education deputy to be her new chief of staff, her office said.

Lightfoot will replace outgoing chief of staff Maurice Classen with deputy mayor for education and human services Sybil Madison, a trusted friend and adviser.

Madison is a trained psychologist who, like Classen, served with Lightfoot on the police accountability task force. She also was a key adviser to Lightfoot during the 2019 teachers strike and school reopening negotiations.

Her appointment is effective June 2. She will be the second Black woman to hold the position, the mayor’s office said.

Lightfoot is also appointing Paul Goodrich to be the city’s chief operating officer, effective June 1. He will be responsible for “the oversight, development and implementation of strategic mayoral initiatives and policy priorities for Chicago’s infrastructure, transportation, regulatory and municipal administrative services.”

Goodrich is a former business executive with BNY Mellon Wealth Management, U.S. Trust Bank of America and The Northern Trust Company, the mayor’s office said. (Gregory Pratt)

Countdown to end of session

Here’s a smart checklist, courtesy of the Tribune’s Rick Pearson and Dan Petrella, on what’s on the legislature’s plate:

*“Paramount on the list is a new state budget, as legislators look for ways to close a $1.3 billion deficit. But of more political and long-lasting importance is the redrawing by Democrats of state legislative and congressional districts to reflect population changes over the last decade.”

*“Also on the table are efforts to move forward on clean energy and to make electric utilities more accountable in the wake of the Commonwealth Edison scandal, along with a push for legislative ethics reform.

*“There has been discussion about modifying a policing reform law that is set to take effect in July in the face of scorn from the law enforcement community. And once again there is debate over an elected Chicago school board. Add to all that something new this year, arguments about how to spend more than $8 billion in federal coronavirus relief money. Full story here.

First look at remap efforts, and the fight ahead

From the Tribune’s Rick Pearson: “Illinois Democrats on Friday evening gave the public its first look at their proposed maps containing new boundary lines for Illinois’ 118 state House and 59 state Senate districts that would be in place for the next decade starting with primary elections in March.

Facing a June 30 deadline to produce and enact the maps, or give Republicans a 50-50 chance at drawing the new boundary lines, Democrats will seek to act quickly in hearings scheduled for next week to advance their redistricting plans by the scheduled end-of-May adjournment date.”

“The actual detailed effects of the new boundary lines may not be known for several days as Republicans go through the details along with various voting rights groups, and ethnic and racial civil rights groups to ensure the new boundaries follow federal and state protections for traditionally underrepresented minorities,” he writes.

Pearson also notes: “With fewer than 10 days to go until the scheduled end of the spring legislative session, the release of the maps appears to run counter to Democratic commitments of full transparency and an effort to have the new boundary lines on display for public review for at least two weeks before a final vote. Instead, four legislative hearings are planned during the General Assembly’s final week — two on Tuesday and two on Wednesday — before an expected vote is taken.” Full story here.

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