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How’s she doing?

If you’re keeping score (we are), here’s how Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s actions measure up against the BGA agenda published after her election.

State lawmakers didn’t come through on either of Lightfoot’s revenue asks in their just-completed veto session. There’s always next year. Meanwhile, stay tuned for the mayor’s Plan B budget. November 15, 2019

Click on each heading below to expand a list of Lightfoot's actions.

1. Enforce a citywide standard of proactive, affirmative transparency Link to this section
Updated: a month ago

See the BGA Policy team's recommendations for this area at ‘The BGA's Agenda for Lori Lightfoot’

UPDATE: Records released.

UPDATE: The ordinance passed.

A judge lifted his order preventing the release of documents about an alleged cover-up by Chicago police after the shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald by Officer Jason Van Dyke. The records are from a city inspector general’s 2016 investigation that concluded 11 police officers should be dismissed. The mayor’s office says it still can’t release the records to reporters until the City Council passes an amendment to the municipal code — even though the documents are in the possession of the Chicago Police Department, not the IG. That vote could come Sept. 18.

Paid lobbyists for nonprofits will now have to register (but their fees will be waived) under the just-approved ethics ordinance.

For the first time, Chicago Public Schools Board of Education livestreams its meeting.

Lightfoot’s proposal to expand the definition of "lobbyist" would give the public a better view of who is trying to influence government officials. The amended ordinance would require lobbyists for nonprofits to register if they are paid to do so. The ordinance still needs full City Council approval.

Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, the mayor’s pick to chair the City Council’s Zoning Committee, has decided that citizens won’t be allowed to speak on individual agenda items after hearing the city staff’s presentation. They’ll be limited instead to four minutes during a designated public comment period covering the entire agenda. It looks like an attempt to contain frequent commenter George Blakemore, who isn’t the only concerned citizen in Chicago. Let the people speak, alderman.

The mayor’s proposed amendments to the ethics ordinance would broaden the definition of lobbyists, requiring those who lobby for non-profits to register and file quarterly reports.

Lightfoot’s proposed rule changes, approved by aldermen, require City Council committee meetings to be livestreamed and the recordings posted online.

2. Eliminate conflicts of interest in city government Link to this section
Updated: 4 months ago

See the BGA Policy team's recommendations for this area at ‘The BGA's Agenda for Lori Lightfoot’

Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, has 90 days to decide whether he wants to be an alderman or a property tax appeals lawyer. Under the ethics ordinance approved July 24, he can’t be both.

The Ethics and Good Governance Committee signed off on limits on outside jobs held by aldermen and city employees. Will the full City Council embrace this check on conflicts on interest?

Lightfoot introduces changes to the ethics ordinance that would prohibit aldermen from holding outside jobs that conflict with taxpayer interests.

The mayor also proposes fines of up to $5,000 for serious ethics violations. (The current ceiling is $2,000; the Chicago Board of Ethics has proposed $20,000.)

Today marks the fourth time Lightfoot has publicly called for indicted Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, to resign.

City Council approves new rule proposed by Lightfoot that requires aldermen who have conflicts of interest to recuse themselves from all discussion of the matter in question, as well as from voting

3. Transform policing for a safer Chicago Link to this section
Updated: 10 days ago

See the BGA Policy team's recommendations for this area at ‘The BGA's Agenda for Lori Lightfoot’

The mayor’s commitment to community policing is underscored by her choice for interim superintendent: former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who is credited with a sharp drop in violent crime. The search is on for a permanent replacement for retiring Supt. Eddie Johnson.

Police chief Eddie Johnson announces his retirement. Lightfoot praises him for leading the department through the rocky aftermath of the Laquan McDonald killing, for beginning the court-ordered reforms and for reducing gun violence.

Lightfoot says her plan to reorganize the police department will put 151 officers back on the street. A new Office of Public Safety Administration will also analyze data with an eye to reducing overtime, which cost the city $200 million last year.

Off to a bad start: WBEZ reports that the city has missed at least two dozen deadlines spelled out in the police consent decree that became effective March 1. That’s the takeaway from a six-month progress report filed with the federal judge overseeing the reforms.

Lightfoot and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson announced the launch of two new Area Technology Centers in Area Central and Area North. The centers house technology that will allow detectives to better process digital evidence, including footage from cellphones and private surveillance cameras. Community members will also be able to extract video pertaining to incidents occurring near their homes or businesses.

Lightfoot announces a policing initiative focused on neighborhood businesses. Each of the city’s 22 police districts will designate a “business liaison officer” to address public safety complaints and to work with the city department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to make sure licensing requirements and other rules are followed.

4. Reset the relationship between the City Council and the mayor Link to this section
Updated: a month ago

See the BGA Policy team's recommendations for this area at ‘The BGA's Agenda for Lori Lightfoot’

Lightfoot's marijuana zoning ordinance passes the City Council by a vote of 40-10 after strenuous pushback from the Black Caucus and assurances from the mayor that she will work to overcome their concerns about minority ownership of dispensaries. Again, lots of talk about an insurrection, but this is a healthy dynamic between executive and legislative branches.

Aldermen pass an ordinance strengthening the Council Office of Financial Analysis. The office is meant to provide them with independent guidance on matters involving taxpayer dollars, allowing them to vet mayoral proposals instead of relying on City Hall.

There’s a lot of talk about a possible rebellion in the City Council, as Lightfoot presses her agenda for Chicago. Aldermen are pushing back against her attempts to curb their longstanding control over decisions in their wards. In September, a pair of critics put the brakes on her pick for the Zoning Board of Appeals, for example. Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, who penned an op-ed in the Sun-Times chiding the mayor for making things “all about you,” predicts Lightfoot will eventually need aldermanic support for a property tax increase — and will have a hard time getting it. Is this a rebellion? It’s a start. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. There’s supposed to be give-and-take between the executive and legislative branches. But it can’t begin and end with resisting the mayor’s initiatives, or with the mayor dismissing aldermanic alternatives.

Still working on it: City departments won't need a letter of support from an alderman to approve demolition permits, land sales, new Divvy stations, Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grants and other tax breaks in their wards. Aldermanic prerogative takes another hit.

Not so fast: The last paragraph of a press release about reforms to the workers’ compensation program boasts that Lightfoot has “eliminated Aldermanic Prerogative through Executive Order.” It’s a little early for a victory lap.

Presiding over her first City Council meeting, Lightfoot won approval of a plan to reorganize the committee structure. She added two new committees, installed new chairs and realigned some responsibilities. She also adjusted funding, including cutting the Finance Committee budget from $2.3 million to about $700,000.

On her first day as mayor, Lightfoot signs an executive order instructing city departments not to defer to aldermanic prerogative when granting licenses and permits. The order doesn’t curb the practice with regard to zoning; that will require amending the municipal code.

5. Strengthen oversight of all government bodies and functions Link to this section
Updated: 4 months ago

See the BGA Policy team's recommendations for this area at ‘The BGA's Agenda for Lori Lightfoot’

After 30 years of ducking full oversight, aldermen agreed to fully empower the city inspector general to investigate and audit the City Council. Fines for the worst ethics violators increase to $5,000 (up from $2,000).

The city’s inspector general would have full authority to audit and investigate the City Council if aldermen approve the mayor’s proposal that survived a committee vote July 17. The measure also would increase the statute of limitations for alleged ethical offenses and give the IG power to enforce subpoenas. Believe it when you see it.

Special carve-outs that spare the City Council from full scrutiny of the Inspector General would be eliminated under Lightfoot’s proposed amendments to the ethics ordinance.

6. Wrestle the pension monster to the ground Link to this section
Updated: 5 months ago

See the BGA Policy team's recommendations for this area at ‘The BGA's Agenda for Lori Lightfoot’

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is less than lukewarm toward Lightfoot’s request for the state to take over the city’s struggling pension funds. But their meeting opened a dialogue about how Springfield and Chicago might work together, possibly helping to rescue smaller suburban and downstate pension funds, too.

7. Don’t count on new revenues to right the ship Link to this section
Updated: 4 days ago

See the BGA Policy team's recommendations for this area at ‘The BGA's Agenda for Lori Lightfoot’

Lightfoot went 0-2 in the General Assembly’s veto session, with no action taken on her plan for a graduated real estate transfer tax or a new tax structure to attract a developer for a Chicago casino.

Lightfoot’s legislative asks are treading deep water in Springfield. Her proposed transaction tax on home sales over $500,000 is opposed by Chicago Democrats who want the money to go toward housing. And the unfolding federal corruption investigation, which has touched on video gaming interests, has given some lawmakers cold feet about reopening the gaming bill to address the tax structure for a Chicago casino.

Part one of the General Assembly’s veto session was basically chaos after federal prosecutors charged Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, with trying to bribe an unnamed state senator to support a bill that would benefit a lobbying client. Arroyo resigned under pressure from House Speaker Mike Madigan, but not much else got done.

Mayor Lightfoot did everything but rummage in the couch cushions for change in her effort to bridge an $838 million budget gap. The plan she outlined to the City Council calls for new revenue from parking meters, refinancing city debt, taxing Uber rides and restaurant meals and scraping surplus dollars from the city’s TIF districts. To make up the rest, she’ll be looking for help from state lawmakers in their coming veto session.

Lightfoot says her budget will include higher costs at city parking meters.

The mayor floats two more proposals to shrink the budget gap: Doubling the 0.25 percent tax on food and drinks sold in restaurants, estimated to raise $20 million, and an increase in the 72-cents-per-ride tax on rideshares. Solo riders would pay $3 per trips that begin or end downtown while shared trips pay $1.25. Elsewhere, the flat fee would be 65 cents for shared trips and $1.25 for singles.

Here’s a big whack at that deficit: Lightfoot announces plan to refinance $1.3 billion in city debt, saving $200 million in interest next year. She also says her first budget will not include selling risky pension obligation bonds or scoop-and-toss borrowing, which lowers payments now while pushing higher costs off into the future.

Lightfoot overcame resistance from the City Council’s Black Caucus to pass her zoning plan for recreational marijuana dispensaries in the city. The mayor promised to work for changes in the state law to ensure that African Americans share in the business opportunities, but she has said she doesn’t expect a lot of city revenue from cannabis.

Meeting with state lawmakers from Chicago, Lightfoot reveals her big ask for the General Assembly’s veto session: She wants a publicly-owned Chicago casino, operated by a private vendor, with the city and state sharing revenues. Alternatively, she needs changes in the tax structure to attract a developer. She also will ask lawmakers to allow her to raise the real estate transfer tax on high-end sales. Still on the table: a tax on ride shares and yes, a property tax increase.

More efforts to find efficiencies in the budget: A crackdown on delinquent contractor license fees could save $25 million, the mayor says. A new Office of Public Safety Administration would centralize payroll, HR and technology for police, fire and the 911 center (once approved by the City Council). An earlier proposal to merge the Department of Innovation and Technology with Fleet and Facility Management would save $1 million, City Hall says. But critics say the the two departments have little in common.

This feels like spitballing: Lightfoot tells WLS-AM reporter Bill Cameron that she’s thinking about a city sales tax on online purchases. That would require approval from the General Assembly.

Speaking of downtown, the mayor hasn’t ruled out putting a casino there, despite her strong preference otherwise. But first, let’s see what the General Assembly will do to make the taxing structure more attractive to investors.

Lightfoot is bumping heads with aldermen over her plan not to bar marijuana dispensaries downtown when recreational pot becomes legal next year. Aldermen say the city can’t afford to pass up the revenue that could be collected from the densely populated, high-traffic downtown. The mayor says she’s more worried about equity and public safety.

Chicago is on track to spend $300 million on overtime by the end of the year, Lightfoot said in a speech to the Chicago Investors Conference — and it’s not because of necessary crimefighting costs, the Sun-Times reported. Eliminating excessive OT is the sort of efficiency she’ll need to deliver as she makes her case for new revenue to close that $838 million budget gap.

Video gaming keeps coming up: Ald. Raymond Lopez, 15th, says a Chicago casino will take too long to build and will lose millions before becoming profitable. He’s introduced an ordinance to allow video gaming in the city, where it is now banned. A $2,500-per-terminal license will raise $40 million up front, he says.

Chicago will have a more forgiving ticketing and debt collection system under an ordinance passed by the City Council. The city will no longer seek to suspend a driver’s license over unpaid parking tickets, and the late penalty for not buying a city sticker will fall to $50 instead of $200 (along with a 15-day grace period). There’s also a new payment plan, to help those with significant ticket debt avoid bankruptcy, and an amnesty plan is in the works. It’s all part of Lightfoot’s promise to stop relying on punitive fines to balance the budget, but the projected $15 million revenue loss comes at the same time the mayor is struggling to bridge an $838 million budget deficit.

Never mind the $15 million the city will forgo by revising its ticketing and debt collection policies. An inspector general’s report says the city is leaving money on the table — along with wasting resources and blindsiding property owners — because of a backlog in code violations. Tickets for violations such as overgrown weeds or overflowing garbage containers are often sent six months to a year after the violation is noted. Ald. Matt O’Shea, 19th, has introduced an ordinance that would require tickets to be issued within 45 days or voided.

The Illinois Gaming Board says lawmakers should revisit the tax structure they set for a proposed Chicago casino after a consultant’s study found that the terms would discourage investors. It’s on Lightfoot’s wishlist for the legislative veto session.

Citizens who turned out for the mayor’s first budget town hall had some thoughtful suggestions for how the city might close an $838 million deficit. Savings: Fewer tax breaks for corporations, beginning with an anticipated $1.3 billion TIF subsidy for the Lincoln Yards megadevelopment. Dissolve the TIFs and distribute money in those accounts to the city, schools, parks and other local governments. Convert pensions to 401(k) retirement plans. New revenue: Tax Uber and Lyft. Video gambling. Ask taxpayers to donate their spare change. Don’t, don’t, don’t: Raise property taxes. The town hall schedule is here. You can also weigh in online:](https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Chicagobudget)

More belt-tightening before the big budget ask: Lightfoot announces a citywide hiring freeze through the end of the year.

The mayor’s office announces $6 million in planned efficiencies from the Department of Fleet and Facility Management. Like the crackdown on absenteeism announced weeks earlier, it’s an effort to squeeze savings from the city’s operating costs before hitting up taxpayers for more revenue. The larger point: It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $1 billion budget gap.

Chicago’s hopes for a revenue jackpot were dimmed by a consultant’s review paid for by the city. The study concluded that the tax structure built into the new gaming bill would deter investors from any of the five potential sites identified by the city.

Mindful of her campaign pledge to end the city’s “addiction” to punitive traffic and parking fines, Lightfoot proposes some small changes – an acknowledgment that the city can’t afford to stop cold turkey.

A new chief risk officer will work to reduce the costs to the city from lawsuits related to police misconduct . (Last year they totaled a record $113 million.) Other savings will come from reducing vehicular accidents and workplace injuries and overhauling the workers’ comp program.

Terminating $1.4 billion in short term borrowing programs could save the city $22 million in FY 2020. About $16 million will go to the corporate fund and $6 million to improvements at O'Hare International Airport.

The mayor takes steps to professionalize the city’s $100-million-a-year workers’ compensation program, previously administered without oversight by now-indicted Ald. Ed Burke, 14th.

8. Restore public confidence in TIFs Link to this section
Updated: a month ago

See the BGA Policy team's recommendations for this area at ‘The BGA's Agenda for Lori Lightfoot’

A $300 million TIF surplus — announced in Lightfoot’s first budget speech — will contribute only $31 million to city coffers, but it represents a windfall of $163 million for Chicago Public Schools. The money, which will come from retiring five TIFs and sweeping surplus dollars from others, must be distributed proportionally to local taxing bodies.

TIF credibility takes a big hit thanks to this Chicago Tribune report on the hurry-up approval of a $1.3 billion subsidy for the Lincoln Yards mega-development. If the vote had been delayed until the new mayor and City Council were seated, the Tribune says, updated tax assessments would have disqualified the project. Candidate Lightfoot opposed the deal, but backed down after negotiating some concessions when it appeared it would pass anyway.

Lightfoot’s City Council committee reorganization removes matters involving economic development subsidies, including TIFs, from the Finance Committee and assigns them to the Economic Development Committee.

9. Support a robust Census count followed by fair redistricting Link to this section
Updated: 2 months ago

See the BGA Policy team's recommendations for this area at ‘The BGA's Agenda for Lori Lightfoot’

The mayor announced a $2.7 million investment towards the City's 2020 census outreach efforts. Nearly half of Chicago's population lives in "hard-to-count" communities, and the funds will go toward outreach, coordination with government partners, and troubleshooting issues associated with limited access to computers and Internet. This is the largest amount of money the city has ever committed to the census.

Lightfoot launched a new comprehensive census website that will provide residents with information on how to participate in the census, resources available to aid in ensuring a full count, and why an accurate census is important. The information is available in several different languages, including Spanish, Mandarin, and Polish.

A new City Council committee, chaired by Ald. Ariel Reboyras, 30th, will work for a strong citywide count in the 2020 U.S. Census. Its budget is $110,000.

10. Go slow on that elected school board Link to this section
Updated: 18 days ago

See the BGA Policy team's recommendations for this area at ‘The BGA's Agenda for Lori Lightfoot’

Teachers and students returned to the classroom after the 11-day CTU strike. Lightfoot’s support (or lack thereof) for an elected school board remains a point of contention. The union wanted her to declare support for its bill during negotiations; Lightfoot says she still favors an elected board, but not the CTU version. House Speaker Mike Madigan declined to take it up during the General Assembly’s veto session but says it will be on the agenda in the spring.

If you were hoping for a less adversarial relationship between the new mayor and the Chicago Teachers Union, guess again. Teachers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. It could come as soon as Oct. 7.

Chicago Board of Education meetings will be more transparent and yes, longer, thanks to changes ordered by Lightfoot’s new school board president, Miguel Del Valle. Board members will conduct more business in public, and translation will be provided. Meetings will be livestreamed and will be held occasionally in neighborhood sites, at hours designed to encourage public attendance.

Lightfoot replaces the entire Chicago Board of Education, appointing a new president and six members, along with naming a deputy mayor for education and human services.

A bill calling for a 21-member elected school board by 2023 stalled in the General Assembly after Lightfoot said it was a recipe for “chaos.” But she maintains her support for an elected board.


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