Mayor picks new 11th Ward alderperson

Notes from the 4/7/22 issue

Mayor picks new 11th Ward alderperson

On March 28, Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed Nicole Lee as Alderperson of the 11th Ward, the first Asian-American woman to serve on City Council. The ward includes parts of Bridgeport, Chinatown, and Pilsen. “I take this historic moment with a lot of stride and responsibility,” said Lee, who was raised in Chinatown. She mentioned that the first Chinese immigrant arrived in Chicago in the 1870’s. “One hundred fifty years later, we’re getting some representation, and it’s me.” Lee has a background in corporate giving and consulting. She last worked as director of social impact optimization and global community engagement at American Airlines. She also worked at Premier Bank and BP America, according to her resume. Lee is replacing Patrick Daley Thompson, who was forced to resign in February after he was found guilty of filing false tax returns. Lee has roots with the Daley Machine. Not only did the 11th ward help elect former mayors Richard J. Daley and Richard M. Daley, but Lee’s father, Gene Lee, worked as deputy chief of staff for Daley son. He was convicted of embezzlement and tax fraud, stealing more than $90,000 from a federally funded nonprofit that helps Chinese immigrants and senior citizens—something Ald. Lee has not publicly addressed. Lee has not yet taken a stance on the ward remapping debate.

Chicago public television workers on strike

Two dozen unionized broadcast technicians at Chicago’s WTTW (Window To The World) channel 11 will enter their fourth week of striking for a contract that preserves their jobs. WTTW, an affiliate of PBS, has been negotiating a contract with the union since May of last year and is attempting to “modernize” by offloading more work to non-union workers. The union, a local of the International Brotherhood of Electricians that represents camera operators, graphic artists, and audio professionals who produce <i> Chicago Tonight </i> and their weekend segments <i>Latino Voices</i> and <i>Black Voices</i>, among other programs, has argued that maintaining the union’s jurisdiction over traditional production tasks preserves better-paying jobs and ensures quality work. John Rizzo, the local’s business manager, believes WTTW’s stance is part of the company’s broader campaign to diminish the power of the union. In the last couple years, the company has hired exclusively non-union employees and apparently attempted to buy out senior union members, leading to the number of union employees dropping from thirty-two to twenty-three. Since going on strike on March 16, WTTW has streamed reruns and shortened the usual hourly <i> Chicago Tonight </i> segment to a half hour. Meanwhile, the union has garnered support from a number of sources, including several politicians, like ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) and even Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who said “Make no mistake, Chicago is a union town” despite clashing with organized labor such as the Chicago Teachers Union in the past. On April 1, WTTW took away health insurance coverage for striking workers.

Scrutinize asphalt plants

MAT Asphalt in McKinley Park recently offered to supply the city’s asphalt for five years for $500 million. At the end of March, about two dozen community, environmental, and health organizations penned a letter to the City’s Chief Procurement Officer Aileen Velasquez to request a higher level of scrutiny when evaluating the environmental impact of companies that wish to operate in the city, like MAT Asphalt. The plant has racked up hundreds of IEPA complaints about their emissions, which are believed to cause a strong odor in the residential and green areas nearby. The letter was also signed by Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) and six North Side alderpersons: “We believe this contract requires a degree of consideration, public involvement and environmental awareness proportional to its large size and long duration.” Currently, MAT Asphalt’s co-owner Michael Tadin Jr. is appealing $4,000 worth of City fines.

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