City Council wrap-up: Lightfoot scold, aldermen fold

In an interview with Dave Glowacz on the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky Show, Ben and Dave discussed the City Council's dramatic debate and approval on Jan. 20, 2020 of a resolution regarding businesses having lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) owners.

Dave summarized the resolution, which requires the city's Dept. of Procurement Services (DPS) to gather data on LGBT businesses seeking city contracts; establish relationships and communication with "assistance agencies;" and report to Mayor Lori Lightfoot within one year.

Dave played audio recordings of aldermen's comments about the resolution:

  • Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), who "reluctantly" supports the resolution, voiced concern that non-LGBT-owned businesses would take undue advantage—given that there's no "gay test."
  • Ald. David Moore (17th) said he'd asked how LGBT business support efforts elsewhere had benefited black-owned businesses—but that he "did not get that answer." He feared that the resolution might hurt Chicagoans that the city's been trying to help. And Moore asked that the council take a roll call vote on the resolution.
  • Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) said she found it "difficult to figure out whether to react with humor or anger" to her fellow aldermen—some of whom she accused of "being afraid," prompting them to dismiss the resolution.
  • Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said he'd advanced a similar effort in the early 2000s—but got pushback from women and people of color. Now, he said, it's time for this "first step . . .  let's take a look at it." He asked Moore to withdraw his request for a roll call—but Moore did not.
  • Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said that women and minorities "are still fighting" to get the minimum number of contracts that city law requires—and, given past abuses of minority/woman firms fronting for white male-owned businesses, he's concerned about "opening up another window for white males" to commit fraud. "Most of the [gays] in business that I know," said Burnett, "they're doing pretty good."

Aldermen's comments prompted Dave to pose a couple of questions:

  • What will it cost taxpayers for DPS to implement the resolution? Dave asked, but the city hadn't given an answer.
  • The resolution doesn't call for contracting set-asides. So how rigorously should the city check that a business qualifies as LBGT? (Ben's response: "In the city of Chicago, the impulse seems to be: If you can steal a little somethin', you're gonna steal a little somethin'.")

Mayor Lightfoot, who claimed she doesn't normally speak during council debates, said she couldn't remain silent about aldermen's reactions to the LGBT resolution. "It's not the questions" of aldermen that she disliked, but "the content . . . and the offensive nature, and the tone." Lightfoot scolded alderman who "victimize, demonize, and discriminate" against others because they're "worried about what the size of the pie is going to be" for them.

Ben objected to aldermen's worries about losing part of, as Lightfoot called it, "the pie": "I didn't hear any great debate about the pie getting divided," Ben said, "when they were divvying up a huge chunk of it" in tax-increment financing for the Lincoln Yards and The 78 developments.

Dave also described how the council finalized two of the mayor's appointments to lead city departments: Gia Biagi at Transportation, and Allison Arwady at Public Health.

The council had originally balked at approving Arwady because Lightfoot wouldn't reopen mental health clinics closed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel. But aldermen gave Lightfoot's appointee the nod this time with no debate, to which Ben said: "I will never understand the reservation to opening more mental health clinics."

Finally, regarding an ordinance that suspends building demolitions near the 606/Bloomindale Trail, Dave presented audio of the council's approval—which took all of 20 seconds.

Length 6.6 minutes standard, 40.4 minutes premium.

Outro music: "Carry Your Own Weight Instrumental" by Forget the Whale


Standard audio:

Premium audio: