The Spin: Madigan’s legal bills skyrocket | Illinois lawmakers considering legislation that could hike ComEd bills after scandal | Politicians on Adam Toledo police shooting video

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Lisa Donovan, Chicago Tribune
·11 min read
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The video released Thursday of a Chicago police officer fatally shooting 13-year-old Adam Toledo has prompted a flood of commentary from our elected leaders, some of whom condemned police for the teen’s death. Others defended the officer’s split-second decision to shoot or veered toward neutral territory, blaming a larger “system” while holding up a mirror to say “we failed Adam.”

Southwest Side Ald. Raymond Lopez, 15th, said the officer “did what his training taught him to do” by pursuing an armed suspect. Meantime, U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who spent part of his childhood in Little Village and now calls the Southwest Side neighborhood home, said the teen’s death points to the need to enact police reforms.

“Like so many other Latino and Black children confronted by police, he was not afforded the benefit of the doubt that we’ve seen given to white suspects. Instead, Adam was robbed of his future.”

Finding words in a moment of deep grief is tough, but finding long-term solutions is more difficult. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she’ll continue talking with the White House about federal gun control.

President Joe Biden has found it politically difficult to push forward on his biggest campaign promises on this front, ranging from a ban on the importation of assault-style weapons to providing resources to federal authorities to enforce the nation’s current gun laws and track firearms, The Associated Press reminds in this piece.

Meanwhile, a proposal from Lightfoot to add a handful of elected seats to the Chicago Board of Education was introduced in the Illinois Senate yesterday, just as the state House approved a measure to create a fully elected board, my Tribune colleagues Dan Petrella and Jenny Whidden report. Lightfoot’s called the 21-member board in the House proposal “unwieldy” and has criticized yet another bill from Northwest Side state Sen. Robert Martwick, a fellow Democrat, who is calling for a fully elected school board.

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, the Maywood Democrat who is sponsoring the city measure, calls it a step in the negotiation process.

And Petrella also writes in a new piece today that “Michael Madigan’s legal bills connected to an ongoing federal corruption probe skyrocketed in the first three months of this year as has was ousted from his longtime role as Illinois House speaker and resigned the Southwest Side legislative seat he occupied for a half-century.”

Welcome to The Spin.

Politics and Adam Toledo fatal police shooting

My colleagues write, “Thursday’s release of the video footage by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates all shootings by police, had been highly anticipated throughout the city. And when it was made public, politicians were quick to react with opinions ranging from condemnation of Chicago police for Toledo’s death to an ardent defense of the officer’s split-second decision to shoot.

“Somewhere in between, political leaders released statements blaming the ‘system’ at large for Toledo’s death, an approach that is more open to interpretation.”

Ald. Jeanette Taylor, 20th, balked at the calls for peace after viewing the video: “You did not have to shoot that kid. And then y’all got the nerve to ask us for peace. When do Black and brown people get peace? When do I get to wake up and not worry about if my sons are next, or my daughters? When?”

Northwest Side Ald. Nick Sposato, 38th, said the officer did the best he could in a chaotic situation. “People say it seems like the kid threw away the gun, sure, maybe you can say that now when you see it on the video, but when he turned around there’s no way that officer could have known that. From everything I hear, he’s a good cop. You can see him doing everything he can on the video to help the kid. ‘Stay with me, stay with me.’ In my mind, the officer’s actions were totally justified.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, also tweeted a statement offering condolences to the Toledo family: “No parent should ever have to lose a child like that and no child’s life should end like that. Ever. If we’re to truly be the Land of the Free, every single American must feel safe, must be able to live,” Duckworth said.

* Chicago aldermen debate proposed ordinance to develop online database of closed complaints against police officers going back three decades — The Tribune’s Alice Yin writes: “A joint City Council committee debated an ordinance on Friday that would mandate an online database of closed complaints against Chicago police officers dating back almost 30 years, a plan Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she opposes.

“There was no vote during the meeting of the Finance and Public Safety committees over the pending legislation introduced by Alds. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, and Chris Taliaferro, 29th, last September. The plan would require all closed misconduct complaints to be published online since 1994. Though some aldermen expressed readiness to vote on it Friday — eagerness that was backed by Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s testimony — others recoiled over lingering concerns over the costs and repercussions of uploading that data.

“Lightfoot swiftly said ‘no’ when asked about the ordinance during a news conference yesterday: ‘Going back 30 years to paper files and the expense of digitizing them — I’m not sure what the utility of that would be.’ "

Loretto Hospital to resume distributing COVID-19 vaccines after city paused program over line-jumping allegations

City officials will again provide COVID-19 vaccines to the West Side medical facility after hitting the brakes on the program there last month amid accusations hospital bigwigs were arranging shots for members of their inner circle, the well-connected and others, Gregory Pratt reports.

This time, the city will initially run the program, Pratt notes. In March, Loretto acknowledged improperly vaccinating workers at Trump Tower downtown while also saying it improperly gave shots to Cook County judges. The stories, first reported by Block Club Chicago and WBEZ, drew negative attention to the hospital, which has said it was mistaken about the rules.

Lightfoot’s plan for a partially elected school board introduced in state Senate as House passes bill calling for all seats to be chosen by voters

Lightfoot supported an elected board for Chicago Public Schools during her successful 2019 mayoral campaign, but has shifted her stance since taking office.

Under the current system, the mayor appoints school board members, something critics say makes the panel beholden to City Hall and the whims of politics rather than parents and students.

Here’s what the Lightfoot-backed bill for an elected school board, introduced in the senate this week, proposes: Two members of the seven-seat board would be elected in 2026, with the remainder appointed by the mayor. The board would then increase to 11 seats, with three elected members from separate districts, after the 2028 election. The board would revert to full mayoral control in 2032 without additional action by state lawmakers.

A look at Democratic Chicago state Rep. Delia Ramirez’s school board proposal that the House approved yesterday: Approved by a vote of 71-39, the proposal calls for creating 20 school board districts and one board president position to be elected citywide. The change would take effect for the 2023 consolidated primary election, and the board would revert to mayoral control in 2031 unless the legislature voted for an extension.

“Sen. Robert Martwick, a Chicago Democrat who has butted heads with Lightfoot on several issues, is sponsoring a separate bill in the Senate that would create a fully elected board,” Petrella and Whidden write. While the bill was approved in committee this week, its prospects are murky. Full story here.

Chicago aldermen consider adding gender identity protection to city’s anti-hate crime ordinance, the Tribune’s Gregory Pratt reports.

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Illinois lawmakers considering legislation that could hike ComEd bills less than a year after utility admitted multimillion-dollar bribery scheme

From the Tribune’s Dan Petrella and Stacy St. Clair: “It’s only been nine months since Commonwealth Edison admitted to a bribery scheme that padded its profits and helped topple former Speaker Michael Madigan, but there’s already a push to pass legislation that could see Illinois customers paying more.

“Long known for flooding Springfield with campaign cash and well-connected lobbyists, ComEd is now politically toxic at the Capitol. So this year it’s remaining in the background while labor unions take the lead in selling the Climate Unions Jobs Act as a way to preserve and create high-paying jobs, and help Illinois transition away from energy sources that contribute to climate change.

“While the union group proclaims independence from the energy company, its executive director is a registered lobbyist who once listed a company under ComEd parent Exelon among his clients.

“Critics contend the bill is another bailout for a highly profitable company, and marvel at the sheer gall of the attempt given the freshness of a bribery scandal that’s still unfolding.” Full story here.

Embattled former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s legal bills skyrocket in first quarter to $2.7 million

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s main campaign fund, Friends of Michael J. Madigan, paid almost $2.7 million in legal fees to law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman from January through March, nearly $1 million more than he paid the firm in 2020, according to state campaign finance records. The Tribune’s Dan Petrella has the story here.

Madigan, also the former state Democratic Party chair, hired Katten last year to represent him in the federal influence-peddling probe, but a spokeswoman for the former speaker declined to comment on the reason for his rising legal bills, Petrella notes. Madigan hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.

The background: Commonwealth Edison admitted in federal court last summer that it engaged in a yearslong bribery scheme to curry favor with Madigan and agreed to pay a record $200 million and cooperate with prosecutors. Top ComEd officials and lobbyists, including longtime Madigan confidant Michael McClain, have been charged in connection with the case, though all but one have pleaded not guilty. Full story here.

In letter to FEC, Illinois Democratic Party acknowledges its chair, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, can’t raise money for state candidates

From the Tribune’s Rick Pearson: “In a letter to the Federal Election Commission, the Illinois Democratic Party acknowledges that its new chair, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, cannot raise money for the party’s main state account because federal fundraising restrictions are stricter than the state’s.

“The April 13 letter asks the FEC for an advisory opinion on three proposed governance structures to allow Kelly to hold the title of state Democratic chair. She was elected March 3 by top state Democrats after the resignation of embattled former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.”

Fundraising concerns were raised in the debate preceding Kelly’s victory over Chicago Ald. Michelle Harris, 8th, for the party chairmanship this year. Full story here.

Illinois House Speaker Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch creates task force to review all monuments on state property

From the Tribune’s Jenny Whidden: “Nine months after then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan called for the removal of statues and a portrait of historical figures with ties to slavery from the Capitol grounds in Springfield, his successor has launched a task force to review all monuments on state property.

“The Statue and Monument Review Task Force called together by Speaker Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch will hold public hearings with historians, organizations and members of the public before making recommendations on the removal of any statues and, possibly, to advocate for new monuments to be erected.” Full story here.

“It comes a few months after the city of Chicago launched its Chicago Monuments Project and flagged 41 monuments for public discussion and review, including five statues of Abraham Lincoln.

* At the Illinois Secretary of State’s driver services facilities, the looming Real ID deadline and expired license backlog in combination with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are creating long lines at driver services facilities, my Tribune colleague Steve Johnson writes. But he’s got the scoop on avoiding lines and some reminders about taking care of some of your business online.

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