Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) is disconcerted by the environment in City Council, specifically its safety protocols in the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and functioning under its presiding officer, Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
"City Council has become quite active lately," Hairston said at her July 27 ward meeting, observing that alderpersons are now compelled to come to the council chamber in person although the more transmissible and potentially more virulent delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading in Chicago.
Furthermore, she said some alderpersons are not wearing masks, even though they are not vaccinated.
"Microphones and podiums are not being sanitized after use, and people are not being cognizant of social distancing," she said. "Robert's rules of order and council rules have been ignored, which can make some council actions illegal. People are being disrespectful and disrespected. This is a council that I don't recognize anymore."
At the council's June 23 meeting, Lightfoot incorrectly allowed debate on a defer and publish motion put forth by South Side Alds. Raymond Lopez (15th) and Jeanette Taylor (20th) on the nomination of Celia Meza to the corporation counsel, head of the Law Department.
Hairston had issues with Meza's nomination, given her role at the department amid its involvement with Anjanette Young's case against the city. A defer and publish motion automatically punts the vote to the next meeting.
Hairston — having heard Meza's "commitment to doing things differently than her predecessor" — voted alongside all other alderpersons to confirm her appointment at council's June 25 meeting.
With 17 other colleagues, Hairston summoned CPD Superintendent David O. Brown to a special six-hour council meeting on July 2 to brief them about law enforcement plans before the Fourth of July weekend.
"We didn't get much resolved," Hairston said. "In the past, Superintendent Brown has blamed the spike in violent crime on the criminal courts allowing defendants to walk free or offenders under electronic monitoring to walk free. He and Mayor Lightfoot have blamed the flow of illegal guns into Chicago from states with lax gun laws — and while this may be true, there is no one single item that is the reason.
"If the police are not apprehending the shooters, then it doesn't matter whether the courts are open. And it doesn't matter if they're on electronic monitoring,” she said. “They're not being caught."
In 2019, WBEZ reported that police solved around four in every 10 Chicago murders — 47% of murders involving White victims, 33% of murders involving Latino victims and less than 22% of murders involving Black victims.
"Neither the mayor nor the superintendent ever mentioned inadequate or outdated police policies or procedures being responsible or in need of reform, as per the consent decree," Hairston said. "Needless to say, the Fourth of July weekend was the most violent weekend of the year," with more than 100 people shot and 19 killed.
At the July 21 council meeting, alderpersons approved landmark civilian oversight of the CPD through an ordinance Hairston co-sponsored. Three-member councils will be elected in each of the 22 police districts, and a seven-member commission, confirmed by the council, with policy power. The mayor can veto them, but the council can override the mayor's veto by a two-thirds vote.
"As I said during the council meeting, the ordinance is a chance to change the city's policing trajectory after decades of police misconduct," Hairston said. "In my two decades of being a member in this council, we have witnessed torture from Jon Burge and the murders of Laquan McDonald and others. We have to know what we're doing, and our approach is not and has not been working."