February City Council debate: how to lose a winner

In an interview with Dave Glowacz on the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky Show, Dave and Ben listened to audio clips from notable moments of the Chicago City Council's February, 2020 meeting.

Dave explained how public comment and protest happen in today's City Council setting—with a live example by some very vocal animal rights activists.

The meeting showed how the council often passes many measures at once, and how that fast-moving train sometimes gets braked: Dave reported that a $10 million lawsuit settlement passed with no discussion—but a $1.2 million settlement stirred alderman to a vigorous back-and-forth.

Hearing aldermen debate the $1.2 million deal (Janet Godinez v. City of Chicago et al), Ben sympathized with the position of Ald. Rey Lopez (15th): If an offender started the string of events that led to his death, why should the city reward his family?

What other aldermen had to say:

  • Ald. Patrick Thompson (11th) argued that the city could pay much, much more even if it won in court. "You can win a loser," Thompson said, "and lose a winner."
  • Former firefighter Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) said that a settlement would debase the police: "Sometimes you gotta take a stand." Thompson maintained that a settlement "supports the police by having the fiscal stability to continue to pay them."
  • Sposato urged his colleagues to "roll the dice" and take the case to trial. Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) responded, "If you wanna roll the dice, put your money on the table."

Ben linked current-day police misconduct lawsuits to "the very contentious relationship between the Chicago Police Dept. and the black community" that "goes way, way back" in Chicago's history.

Closing the settlement debate, Dave and Ben heard finance committee chair Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) hope for fewer lawsuits going forward. Waguespack invoked the administration's new risk manager—prompting Dave to ask: How exactly will the risk manager impose new procedures on the police?

Length 6 minutes standard, 35.6 minutes premium.

Music: "The Deal" by Punk Rock Opera

Standard audio:

Premium audio:

Video: Police officer apparently stands on the neck of Heriberto Godinez (Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability)