Will the Real Lori Lightfoot Please Stand Up? / In By a Hair / Unjust Justice in the Courtroom

Notes from the 5/20/2019 issue

Will the Real Lori Lightfoot Please Stand Up?

Lori Lightfoot’s inaugural address and transition plan were ambitious and far-reaching. Promising to rethink education and public safety, end water shut-offs, and provide free medical care to the needy, the new mayor’s days leading up to her first in office were full of sky-high thinking and grand, populist promises.

It’s a little funny, then, to compare her rhetoric with her choices for City Council committee chairs. (Never mind that, under the written rules, City Council is supposed to choose its own committee chairs.) It’s a bit disheartening to see a plan that so nakedly rewards allies and punishes enemies, even if a few of those choices end up being good for the city as a whole. For instance, independent Scott Waguespack is clearly one of the better possible choices to lead the powerful Finance Committee, as he’s spent his entire tenure pushing back against the horrid financial practices of Mayors Daley and Emanuel. But at least one of Lightfoot’s stated reasons for choosing him? He supported her before the runoff election, and she’s “not gonna forget that.”

On the flip side, no transportation expert or advocate could possibly claim that Anthony Beale did much of anything as Transportation Committee chair, but it’s clear that he’s being stripped of his title—and not being offered another chairmanship—solely because he spoke out against Lightfoot’s agenda in the press in recent weeks. Other aldermen who supported Toni Preckwinkle are keeping their positions, and Beale is the only City Council veteran to be completely demoted. (At least his replacement, Howard Brookins Jr., offers the possibility we might see some more good anti-squirrel legislation.)

Lightfoot’s other choices inspire about the same amount of confidence. For every good choice—hell yes, heir to the legacy of union leader Ed Sadlowski and former CPS counselor Susan Sadlowski Garza should lead the Workforce Development Committee—there are three bad ones. Why conservative Nick Sposato for the Cultural Affairs Committee, aside from the fact that he supported her? Why does perennial reform-killer Michelle Harris get to keep the Rules Committee? After the scandal around the asphalt plant being built directly across the street from McKinley Park by a well-connected industrial developer, what makes George Cardenas qualified to run the Environment Committee? It’s difficult to see how Lightfoot would be able to articulate good answers to these questions, but hey: now that she’s mayor, she doesn’t have to.

In By a Hair

Fifth Ward aldermanic candidate William Calloway attempted to delay the swearing-in of incumbent Alderman Leslie Hairston, and continues to challenge the Board of Elections’ ruling that Hairston won her fifth term by 176 votes. Calloway, a staunch critic of Hairston who managed to force force an April run-off election between the two, maintains he will file suit to challenge the results, despite a Cook County judge rejecting a temporary restraining order as part of Calloway’s lawsuit. The Tribune reports that Calloway hopes to launch a new vote in four precincts of the South Side ward that includes the University of Chicago. According to the same Tribune report, Hairston spokesperson Delmarie Cobb says that at some point, Calloway will start to look like a sore loser. But he may not be the only one: winning by just 176 votes indicates fairly tepid support for Hairston, and will hopefully serve as a wakeup call to Hairston that her constituency may not be as excited about her win as she is.

Unjust Justice in the Courtroom

Controversial doesn’t even seem to be a strong enough word to describe the recent appointment of Nicholas R. Ford as a U.S. Immigration Court judge in San Francisco. Ford, who retired from the Cook County Circuit Court last month, has a bad track record of biased decision-making in the courtroom. The Chicago Council of Lawyers cited various cases that raised “serious concerns about Judge Ford’s ability to decide cases in an impartial manner.” In a 2010 criminal case, Ford denied a defendant’s motion to allow a professor of legal psychology to testify as an expert regarding eyewitness error, citing an unprovable theory that psychologists study eyewitness error to “increase their degree of remuneration… That’s a way of saying I think they’re in it for the money.” He stated this as coming from “my own personal view,” a decision that was eventually reversed by the Illinois Appellate Court. The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers Guild has already stepped up, stating, “As someone who has dedicated his career to perpetuating racist state violence, Judge Ford has no place in a courtroom.”

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