Tensions flare at Chicago City Council meeting over Lightfoot's handling of migrant crisis
CHICAGO - There were fireworks among Chicago City Council members on Wednesday over $20 million from the state to help migrants.
Several aldermen wanted to discuss Ordinance 11-24 before a vote. They wanted answers on where the money would go, and to talk about how the asylum seekers will be handled moving forward.
Right now, over 287 people are being held at the shuttered Wadsworth Elementary School in Woodlawn. The majority are male.
This week, 120 new residents are supposed to be transported to the location.
The money from the ordinance will be used to shelter and feed the migrants.
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Several aldermen said they haven't heard anything from the Lightfoot administration about the migrant camps, and they were frustrated with how the entire situation has been handled.
"The administration dropped the ball with telling folks where these camps will be. And so now that they're closing, we're getting more people in the community. So the one in Maria Hadden's community closed, and those migrants were sent to of course Wadsworth which is a closed school. So with all due respect, there should have been a conversation with us. As a matter of fact, this was a conversation I asked for back in October and I'm confused how we're here again trying to pass something without having a conversation," said 20th Ward Alderwoman Jeannette Taylor.
"Since this crisis came to our city, we have sought input from a number of community stakeholders, including City Council, General Assembly and federal elected officials, as well as the faith community, and a range of social service organizations. Specifically, we have endeavored to keep all levels of government engaged and informed through more than 17 formal briefings, 9 of which were specifically for Aldermen. Unfortunately, despite advance notice, these briefings were poorly attended by City Council members," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement.
"Alderwoman Taylor said a number of things today regarding immigrants and direct engagement from the Wadsworth School that are patently and demonstrably false. Engagement with Taylor about Wadsworth started last fall and continued into this year from Mayor Lightfoot personally, senior Mayor’s Office staff and others. Any suggestion to the contrary is simply false," the mayor added.
Ald. Taylor, however, was not the only city council member to sound off.
"Who is making these decisions, not talking to anybody, and then they say, ‘oh we're sorry.’ You're not sorry, because you've been doing it for more than six months. So that's why I oppose this," said 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston.
Taylor is calling for a hearing on the issue before Mayor Lori Lightfoot is out of office.
"We should have committees which we have to address immigrant and refugee rights come together and speak on this. What the hell is the point of a committee that does no work?" Alderman Ray Lopez said.
The money from the ordinance, which passed overwhelmingly in council chambers, will be used to shelter and feed the migrants.
Meanwhile, a group of aldermen are calling for a special meeting in an effort to break free of mayoral control.
They say the meeting's purpose is to consider a new set of rules which would establish independence from the mayor and improve city governance.
"So far we have a majority of the members on board, and we'll be calling for a special meeting next week to consider these proposed rule changes," said Alderman Scott Waguespack.
"We've had more than 60 years of mayoral control of the city council. It's been too long," said Alderman Matt O’Shea.
The aldermen say they want to officially end the "rubber stamp" and make the city council a co-equal branch of government.