The City Council voted 37-10 to clear Mayor Lori Lightfoot's plan to spend $377 million in federal aid on Friday after two aldermen used parliamentary tactics to end a Feb. 24 meeting before a vote on the matter.
Ald. Sophia King (4th) voted for the measure; Alds. Leslie Hairston (5th) and Jeanette Taylor (20th) voted no.
As reported by the Sun-Times, the money includes $179 million for the Chicago Department of Public Health for COVID-19 vaccines, $79.8 million for emergency rental assistance, $68 million in federal aid for this year's budget and $50 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In an interview, Hairston said she supported portions of the omnibus, particularly the rental assistance. But she is upset about what she viewed as inadequate responses from the city's budget director regarding Chicago Police Department personnel and salary costs.
"I’m entitled to have all information on any item I vote on," she said. "Didn’t get it."
Ald. Ed Burke (13th), speaking in council, outlined issues with the budget director's response, which covered 10 weeks in March, April and May. For instance, Burke said there were inadequacies with wellbeing checks — when police check up on someone after a 3-1-1 request. CPD reported having conducted 16,555 in total last year, but Burke calculated that, for the 10 weeks that the memo covered and the 25 police districts in Chicago, that only worked out to 13 wellbeing checks per week per district. And there is no information in the memo if the checks were done by officers in person or over the phone, alone or in pairs, or how much they cost.
Block Club reports that the city told the Budget Committee earlier in February that $151.1 million went to salaries, $3 million on overtime and $128.1 million on benefits to officers involved in pandemic response.
The vote became controversial after news broke earlier in February that Lightfoot's administration spent $281.5 million in federal dollars on police payroll under pandemic emergency spending powers granted by the council last April. King, Hairston and Taylor voted against giving them.
Said Hairston, "$281 million to police unaccounted for? SMH."
On Feb. 24, Taylor voted with Burke and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) to end that day's meeting.
Reached for comment on Friday, Taylor said they were right to raise issue with police spending.
"We should have reevaluated the spending to make sure it's correct," she said. "All them showing proof of what they actually did, I never heard of a wellbeing check in my ward."
At a press conference prior to the council meeting, Lightfoot said that aldermen should vote against her plan for federal COVID-19 relief funds if they believed the emergency spending powers were not meant to designate funding for police.
"We have a democratic process," she said. "We have a process where we always do extensive briefings for aldermanic staff and the aldermen themselves. They have plenty of opportunity to answer questions. Some people take advantage of that; some people don't. Then it goes to committee where it's debated. They have an opportunity to vote. Then it comes to the floor."
"They can simply vote no, and then we can move on," she said. "But our residents are literally still fighting for their lives every single day. What they want us to do is focus on the things that are important to them, to deliver to them. That's what we ought to be focused on and not a lot of political theater and drama."