The Spin: Pritzker vaccinated | Sen. Duckworth vs. White House | Downtown Ald. Reilly calls for City Council to have final say on removal of monuments

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Lisa Donovan, Chicago Tribune
·10 min read
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After weeks of being eligible but noncommittal about exactly when he’d get his COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. J.B. Pritzker sat down and got his one-and-done Johnson & Johnson shot this afternoon in Springfield.

With that question no longer hanging in the air, we’ll circle back to the other query he’s been ducking: When will he formally announce a bid for reelection?

The governor said at a news conference before his shot that he’s “concerned” about the uptick in cases in Chicago and reminded reporters that mitigations are still in place that would trigger closures and restrictions based on infection rates, deaths and hospitalizations.

Indeed, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said today the city’s case numbers are “going in the wrong direction” and resemble the period before last fall’s surge, the Tribune’s Gregory Pratt reports. For that reason, officials aren’t in a position right now to consider lifting more business restrictions.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth publicly called out President Joe Biden’s administration yesterday over the lack of Asian American and Pacific Islander representation in the cabinet and vowing to vote “no” in Senate confirmation hearings of the administration’s non-diverse appointments.

That was yesterday afternoon. Before the day was out, Duckworth reversed course after the White House announced it would appoint an Asian American Pacific Islander liaison. The Senate chamber is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats — with Vice President Kamala Harris poised to cast any tiebreaking votes, Biden can ill afford to lose a fellow Democrat’s support for his cabinet, judicial and other nominations not to mention legislation.

“In a 50-50 Senate, every senator has the power to complicate,” Illinois’ senior U.S. senator and fellow Democrat Dick Durbin is quoted as saying in Roll Call.

And Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side could become one of three National Heritage Areas in Illinois under a proposal in Congress that could pump millions of dollars into a community where activists are working to both preserve the traditions of the historically Black community and revitalize it.

Welcome to The Spin.

Pritzker vaccinated in Springfield, says he’s ‘concerned’ about uptick in COVID-19 cases in Chicago

Gov. Pritzker was inoculated at the Illinois State Fairgrounds mass vaccination site this afternoon. As an elected official, he’s been eligible for weeks — but when asked previously about when he might get the vaccine, he said he wanted others to get in front of him in line.

Pritzker said his decision to get the shot in Illinois’ capital city was a matter of convenience; he’s in Springfield with the legislature back. Like Mayor Lightfoot, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other elected leaders before him, the governor offered a message to those who might be hesitant to get a shot before sitting in front of the television cameras to get his.

“I’m not asking you to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself,” Pritzker said, adding that he trusts the doctors, guided by science, who say this is the “fastest” way back to “normal life.” He said his family has yet to get vaccinated. The Tribune’s Dan Petrella, Jenny Whidden and Gregory Pratt have all the details here.

Inching toward loosening more restrictions? The governor announced that 66% of residents 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, inching Illinois closer to the 70% vaccination mark that would trigger’s the governor’s “bridge phase” of reopening. Read more that here.

While he’s optimistic, he cautioned that it’s obvious to him that people are letting their guard down as they go out and about.

“I can tell you, there is more activity going on and I think people maybe are being a little less careful, and I want to remind everybody please keep your distance, please continue to wear your mask, please be respectful of others.”

Asked about the slight uptick in cases in Chicago, the governor said he’s “concerned” but is hopeful that the city won’t have to reverse course and reinstitute tighter restrictions.

“I’m concerned about it and I’ve been saying all along, even as we have addressed the mitigations and tried to lower mitigations here or there, I’ve said, ‘we’ve got to be careful about the variants, and I am concerned, I must tell you, you know, as I see numbers go up, (I ask) Is that the variance? Or is it a blip in the data?” Pritzker said.

In Chicago, Lightfoot told reporters she too was “very concerned,” that case numbers are on the rise.

“If you look at our data in the last week to 10 days, it feels like October when we saw the second surge happen,” the mayor said after a City Council meeting.

Earlier this week, both the mayor and public health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady warned of a slight increase in cases, especially among younger residents.

For now, the mayor said, the city isn’t in a position to talk about lifting restrictions, “particularly when it comes to expanding capacity indoors” at restaurants, bars and other businesses.

“The last thing any of us want to do is take any steps back,” Lightfoot said. “But we are in a place where both Dr. Arwady and myself are very concerned and we’re sounding the alarm.” (Gregory Pratt)

Chicago Fire will have fans at Soldier Field this season, the Tribune’s Jeremy Mikula reports.

Company in charge of vaccinating CPS employees misallocated 6,000 vaccines, Chicago Health Department says. Read the Tribune story here.

U.S. outlook improving as vaccinations rise and deaths fall; ‘We are at the corner,’ Dr. Fauci says — Read The Associated Press story here.

Other news: Chaotic scene unfolds as customer shot dead outside busy Secretary of State’s office in Bridgeview, the Tribune’s Sarah Freishtat and Liam Ford report.

Downtown alderman wants City Council to have final say in Chicago monuments decisions

“Chicago’s downtown alderman wants the City Council to have the final say on whether monuments up for review in their wards get taken down as part of ‘a racial healing and historical reckoning project’ started last summer after disputes erupted over Columbus statues,” The Tribune’s John Byrne and Gregory Pratt report.

Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, made the proposal at today’s City Council meeting. It comes a month after Mayor Lightfoot’s commission on monuments identified statues of Presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley, plus the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus among 41 public statues and other commemorative markers identified on a list for further review and possible removal.

The move could heighten tension between Lightfoot and the City Council, “as the mayor seeks to make good on her campaign promise to reduce council members’ ward-level authority known as aldermanic prerogative, and aldermen push back against what they see as executive branch overreach,” Byrne and Pratt note.

Also at today’s City Council meeting: Symbolic resolution addressing tensions in India voted down after months of negotiation and pushback, my colleagues Nausheen Husain and Byrne report. Rogers Park Ald. Maria Hadden, the resolution’s sponsor, said it was meant to condemn violence against certain castes and religious minorities in India. But opponents say the proposal needlessly sows division within Chicago’s Indian American community.

*Mayor proposes anti-retaliation measure to protect employees needing time off to get a COVID-19 vaccine, Byrne and Pratt write here (last paragraph).

Universal income proposal touches sparks concerns over reparations during Chicago City Council meeting, the Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman writes.

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Duckworth versus the White House

Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth told reporters in Washington that’s she’d be a “no” vote on the Biden administration’s non-diverse appointments, telling reporters it’s “unacceptable” that “(t) here’s not a single AAPI in a Cabinet position.”

The Hoffman Estates Democrat said she made the decision after a Monday night call with Biden aides, including one whom Duckworth said referenced Vice President Kamala Harris’ South Asian heritage, National Public Radio reports.

“(Monday) night — that was the trigger for me,” Duckworth said. “To be told that ‘well, you have Kamala Harris, we’re very proud of her, you don’t need anybody else’ is insulting.” Read the full NPR story here.

Later in the day, Biden insisted his cabinet was diverse when was asked by a reporter about the two senators vowing to vote down non-diverse appointments. Duckworth, whose Thai mother is of Chinese descent, was joined by Hawaii U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono in the potential boycott; they are the only two senators of Asian American heritage.

“We have the most diverse Cabinet in history,” Biden said. “We have a lot of Asian Americans who are in the Cabinet and sub-Cabinet levels.”

Before the day was out, press secretary Jen Psaki announced the White House would add a senior level Asian American Pacific Islander liaison, “who will ensure the community’s voice is further represented and heard.”

Duckworth subsequently reversed course with her spokesman saying the senator “will not stand in the way of President Biden’s qualified nominees — which will include more AAPI leaders.”

“Senator Duckworth appreciates the Biden administration’s assurances that it will do much more to elevate AAPI voices and perspectives at the highest levels of government, including appointing an AAPI senior White House official to represent the community, secure the confirmation of AAPI appointments and advance policy proposals that are relevant and important to the community,” the senator’s spokesman Ben Garmisa said in a statement.

Duckworth has been viewed as a Biden ally, having been among the finalists to be his running mate and a contender for a cabinet seat.

Perspective: “Asian American and Pacific Islander elected officials and activists are hoping that last week’s shootings at spas around Atlanta that killed eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, will prompt the community to demand greater representation in government,” The Associated Press’ Aamer Madhani and Will Weissert write in their piece about the controversy. The Tribune’s Rick Pearson also wrote about it here.

Bronzeville, hub of Black culture in Chicago, would become one of three National Heritage Areas in Illinois under plan in Congress

Federal legislation introduced last month in Congress by Democratic U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Chicago in the House, and Illinois U.S. Sens. Durbin and Duckworth in the Senate would designate Bronzeville as a National Heritage Area and pump $10 million into preserving its history, the Tribune’s Alice Yin writes.

“The Bronzeville-Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Act has been introduced before, but with Democrats now controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House this year, Rush said he believes 2021 is the year the legislation will see movement,” Yin reports.

History: During the Great Migration, African American people moving from the South for better prospects were met with further segregation here including restrictive covenants that prohibited homeowners from renting or selling to Black people, constraining them to an area on the South Side that became nicknamed the “Black Metropolis,” Yin reminds. From there, a thriving business and arts scene emerged.

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