Happy Wednesday, Illinois. Get out the popcorn. House Republicans will hear Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s arguments today for steering the GOP away from former President Donald Trump while the caucus mulls how to handle Trump disciple Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.
Chicago City Hall insiders did a double-take Tuesday when Ald. Gilbert Villegas announced he’s stepping aside as floor leader so he can spend more time on his committee work.
But the move wasn’t a complete surprise. Villegas has butted heads with the mayor for months about her style of running City Hall — combative, like a prosecutor. Villegas has tried to nudge Lightfoot to reach out more and try to build alliances with aldermen.
Villegas didn’t return a request for comment, and neither did Ald. Michelle Harris, the South Side alderman who will step in to replace Villegas as floor leader — the alderman who whips votes for the mayor. Ald. George Cardenas of the Southwest Side will work as deputy floor leader.
Harris is a smart choice as she could hold sway in rounding up (most) of the 20-member Black Caucus to support initiatives backed by the mayor, who needs 26 votes to pass any measure. Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), who fight Lightfoot at every turn, aren’t likely to change their tune.
The mayor gave a hat tip to Villegas Tuesday, saying, “I’m sad to see Alderman Villegas leave his post.” And she added she’s “thrilled” to have Harris and Cardenas “taking the reins.”
The transition appears seamless, but there are rumblings about why it occurred. It’s unusual, after all, for a floor leader to step down, especially midterm, the Tribune’s Gregory Pratt points out.
Some aldermen suggest that Villegas and Lightfoot didn’t have the right chemistry. “It wasn’t the best marriage in terms of a chief executive and her floor leader and the things they wanted to get done,” Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th), told the Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman.
Some examples: Villegas criticized Lightfoot’s slow rollout of a lead pipe replacement plan. And other measures pushed by the mayor stalled under Villegas, including changes to zoning laws to control industrial polluters, an ethics ordinance and creation of a civil police review board.
For his part, Villegas said serving as floor leader “pulled me away from where I believe my time is much more valuable for the city — as chairman of the Economic, Capital, and Technology Development Committee.”
There’s truth to that. Villegas becomes more animated when he talks about work on the committee than he does most issues. His committee expanded when the mayor split up the duties that once fell under Ald. Ed Burke’s once powerful Finance Committee. So he’s busy.
Chicago Public Schools and the city’s teachers union hunkered down again Tuesday for the protracted negotiations on how and when to return to in-person learning. And Mayor Lori Lightfoot vented about the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic saying it’s what caused the contentious battle.
“These are really difficult times in a pandemic, exacerbated by the incompetence of the previous administration that didn’t leave us with enough vaccine to really quickly get to the entire population in our city that needs it,” Lightfoot said on CNN’s “New Day” morning program. “It’s important for both sides to come to the table in good faith, recognize that we’re both trying to work through a very challenging situation but we must get a deal done."
CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union agreed to a two-day “cooling off period” Monday. They’ve made some headway on issues but the bargaining continued Tuesday evening.
CPS has given teachers a reprieve from being required to return to the classroom, and the kindergarten through 8th grade pupils who were supposed to be back at school are Zooming in at least through today.
Meanwhile, 3,700 CPS workers have been vaccinated or offered a shot, according to the Sun-Times’ Nader Issa. “In what would be a sign of progress, Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady declined on Tuesday to say how many vaccines the city is making available to CPS teachers every week, indicating the district and union are discussing a vaccination strategy, which would be key to a resolution,” Issa reports.
And it turns out Chicago teachers aren’t the only ones in Illinois challenging school reopening plans. “Teachers from west suburban Morton High School District 201 have filed an unfair labor practice charge against the district, alleging they are being forced back into in-person instruction without appropriate consideration for their health and safety as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on,” writes Tribune’s Charles J. Johnson.
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Touring the Champaign County vaccination site at 11:30 a.m.
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The Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday reported 47 additional deaths and 2,304 new confirmed and probable cases of the coronavirus. That’s a total of 19,306 fatalities and 1,130,917 cases in Illinois. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from Jan. 26 through Feb. 1 is 3.9 percent. Chicago’s positivity rate is at 5.6 percent.
— Democrats plow ahead with a party-line Covid relief package: “The vote to kickstart the budget reconciliation process, which passed 50-49, is a sign that leadership expects to have the full Democratic caucus on board for the final package,” report POLITICO’s , Marianne LeVine and Burgess Everett.
— All the suburbs in Phase 4 likely on Wednesday, though with tougher limits in Cook County: “DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties expect to see relaxed COVID-19 restrictions starting Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced. … It allows gatherings of up to 50 people, capacities of 50% in stores and fitness centers, and puts youth sports like basketball back in business,” by Daily Herald’s Marni Pyke.
— New website aims to help Chicagoans find Covid-19 vaccine appointments, despite low supplies: “Chicagoans can sign up on the Zocdoc Vaccine Scheduler to be notified as appointments become available. The site is free to use and has translation support in more than 100 languages. The city says several local medical systems and hospitals, such as Erie Family Health and Rush University Medical Center, are already signed up – and others can connect for free,” by WBEZ’s Becky Vevea.
— Walmart distributing Covid-19 vaccines at eight Chicago stores: “Three stores in the Hermosa, West Chatham and Pullman neighborhoods are giving the vaccine in an area typically used to store online grocery orders. Those stores can vaccinate about 150 people per day. Other stores are vaccinating a smaller number of customers in store pharmacies,” by Tribune’s Lauren Zumbach.
— City’s St. Patrick’s Day parades again canceled: “South Side Irish Parade organizers announced the march down South Western Avenue is off. And downtown Ald. Brian Hopkins, 2nd, said city officials have said the downtown St. Patrick’s Day parade won’t be held either. The news Tuesday didn’t come as much of a shock. The city is just dipping its toe back into indoor dining after shutting restaurants for months,” by Tribune’s John Byrne and Jeff Vorva.
— City agencies partner to help survivors of gender-based violence: “Group of representatives from multiple city agencies will advise mayor’s office on how to assist survivors of gender-based violence, including human trafficking and domestic violence,” by Sun-Times’ Zac Clingenpeel.
— WGN INTERVIEW: Chicago Police Union President John Catanzara tells John Williams he “made peace” with the fact that he may never be in uniform again after his term. And he dismisses a letter written by community, religious and civil rights groups calling for him to step down, saying, they are “irrelevant” to him.
— Affordable housing has a segregation problem. Here’s one plan to fix it: “Proponents are hoping to get the word out about the Chicago Inclusive Housing Ordinance (CIHO), the reform legislation they hope will create more inclusive, affordable housing, potentially lessening the blow of the looming eviction crisis prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic,” by Tribune’s Darcel Rockett.
— Heavy snow topples Aragon Ballroom wall, but it can’t bury nearly a century of memories: “It’s been shuttered by fire, flood and pandemic, and now the storied Uptown venue’s considerable lifespan is being put to the test by snow. A stretch of a wall came down, but the 94-year-old’s structure and roof still appear sturdy,” by Sun-Times’ David Struett and Mitchell Armentrout.
— Tax business cited for violating Covid-19 restrictions, River North restaurant charged for overcapacity: “A South Side tax preparation business has been cited for violating Covid-19 regulations by allegedly operating an illegal club that featured a DJ, dancers and cover charge where guests did not practice social distancing or wear face coverings, city officials said,” writes Tribune’s Josh Noel.
— Can shortage leaves breweries scrambling — and spells the demise of at least 1 brand: “Like much of an industrywide downturn that has seen revenues plummet for breweries large and small, the can shortage is rooted in the Covid-19 pandemic. Last March, when keg sales were eliminated literally overnight due to bar and restaurant closures, oceans of beer were diverted into cans, the vessel favored by the majority of American brewers in recent years,” reports Tribune’s Josh Noel.
— Chicago Joe’s closes permanently: Owners of the family-run restaurant in the North Center neighborhood are selling to a developer who wants to build million-dollar condos, reports Block Club’s Alex V. Hernandez.
— Lending a hand: “Chicago Tool Library has proven to be a much-needed lifeline for locals sprucing up spaces while quarantining,” writes Jenna Rimensnyder in the Reader.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: State Democratic senators are taking their show to a podcast. They launched “In Session” today with the first episode examining how Senate Dems won seats in a cycle that saw others in their party struggle. Sen. Dave Koehler of Peoria hosts and President Don Harmon and Sen. Karina Villa of West Chicago are guests. The weekly podcast will feature three or four members of the 41-member caucus in conversation for 20 to 40 minutes. We’re hoping for some humor and maybe music by Harmon (he plays guitar). “Having a few Senators talk among themselves reveals a dynamic that’s rarely accessible to the people we represent,” Harmon said in a statement to Playbook. Upcoming episodes include recently retired Sen. Pat McGuire sitting down with Sen. Meg Loughran Cappel and Sen. John Connor talking about how their careers translate into legislative work. Sen. Robert Peters will be featured on another episode talking to Sen. Chris Belt and Sen. Adriane Johnson about the Black experience in different regions of the state.
— Senate Dems decide ‘it makes sense’ to meet virtually, but GOP argues ‘it is time to get back’ to Springfield: “‘Given the ongoing pandemic, it makes sense to utilize the Senate’s remote committee meeting authority to continue doing the work of the people,’ said John Patterson, spokesman for state Senate President Don Harmon. The cancelled session days had been scheduled for Feb. 9-11 and 16-18,” writes Sun-Times’ Andrew Sullender.
— Welch ‘steps back’ from partner role at law firm, becomes ‘Of Counsel: “Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch announced he was ‘stepping back’ from his role as partner at the firm of Ancel Glink P.C. Instead, Welch said, he would take on the title ‘Of Counsel. Cook County Record’s Jonathan Bilyk reports.
— DCFS reports 17% decline in child death cases: The Department of Children and Family Services opened 102 child death investigations during the fiscal year that ended June 30, down from 123 the previous year. The drop is a sign that implementation plans recommended by DCFS’ inspector general appear to be working. They include appointing a domestic violence coordinator in each region of the state, having DCFS management review all cases involving families with three or more child protection investigations within a year, and providing in-home parenting services for all pregnant and parenting youth in care. Capitol News’ Peter Hancock reports.
— Planned central Illinois youth center will advance juvenile justice overhaul: “The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice is establishing an Illinois Youth Center in the city of Lincoln in Logan County. The facility will be part of the state’s ongoing effort to secure incarcerated juveniles in smaller dorm-like facilities based on community, rehabilitation and restorative justice, rather than only detention,” by Capitol News’ Raymon Troncoso.
— It’s a fact: On this day in 1809, Congress passed “An Act for dividing the Indiana Territory into two separate governments,” creating Illinois Territory with its capital at Kaskaskia.
— Illinois Gaming Board investigates key figure in Rockford casino plan: “Plans for a new casino in Rockford could receive a crucial vote of support from Illinois gambling regulators at a special meeting scheduled for Thursday. The investors in the Rockford gambling venture presented their plans to the Illinois Gaming Board last week, with businessman Dan Fischer of Naperville acting as the point person for the group’s pitch. But left unsaid was that the gaming board also is conducting a separate, disciplinary investigation into a deal involving another company owned by Fischer,” by WBEZ’s Dan Mihalopoulos
… How a fight over slot machines led state investigators to probe two Illinois video gambling kings, by Tribune’s David Heinzmann.
— Much of Joliet under boil order after water main breaks: “The City of Joliet Public Utilities department said it wasn’t clear how long it would take to restore service,” by Sun-Times’ David Struett.
— Ringleader pleads guilty in sports gambling ring allegedly involving now-pardoned Casey Urlacher: “Vincent Del Giudice, 55, who goes by the nickname “Uncle Mick,” pleaded guilty at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse to gambling conspiracy and money laundering charges, and faces up to about a year and a half in prison under preliminary sentencing guidelines,” by Tribune’s Jason Meisner.
— Feds charge Chicago area developer in mortgage fraud scheme: “Andrzej Lajewski, 53, allegedly worked with two mortgage professionals and the owner of a remodeling company to fraudulently obtain mortgage loans totaling at least $3 million,” via Sun-Times.
— State Rep. André Thapedi, who announced he was stepping down from state government, hasn’t officially resigned his seat — “shortly,” he told Playbook. But there’s still a scramble behind the scenes. Candidates are lining up to apply for his House seat and current members are eyeing the Judiciary panel he chairs.
… Allyson Scrutchens, who owns a PR consulting and event planning business, appears to have the inside track on being appointed to the 32nd District seat that runs from the Chatham neighborhood in Chicago to Hickory Hills in the burbs. Scrutchens has the support of Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) and Ald. David Moore (17th), who have the weighted votes on the committee making the appointment.
… Also applying are former aldermanic candidate Chuks Onyezia and Cook County Young Democrats Chair Chakena Perry.
— Candidate who voted as a Dem in a primary can run as a Republican for Lockport Township assessor: “Some might think a Will County judge’s ruling may give new meaning to term RINO, or Republican In Name Only. A candidate who voted in the 2020 Democratic primary can run for office as the Republican nominee for Lockport Township assessor, Circuit Court Judge John Anderson ruled,” by Daily Southtown’s Ted Slowik.
— Hello, Mr. Judiciary Chairman: Sen. Dick Durbin, who serves as the Democratic Whip, has been officially selected chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “This moment in history demands much of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I’m honored to lead my colleagues as we face these challenges,” he said in a statement. His to-do list: confirming President Biden’s nominees, combating the threat of domestic terrorism, passing immigration reforms like the Dream Act, and and addressing systemic racism in the criminal justice system.
— Congresswoman Cheri Bustos will co-chair the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Chemistry Caucus in the House with Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Mich.). The mission of the caucus is to educate members of Congress and the public about the benefits of chemistry and the importance of sound science in public policy. The caucus also works to promote interest in STEM education and encourages students to become the chemists
— McConnell lies low ahead of Trump trial: "Kevin McCarthy is hugging former President Donald Trump as tightly as he can. Liz Cheney voted to impeach him. But Mitch McConnell isn’t making any sudden movements as House Republicans tear each other apart in Trump’s wake, by POLITICO’s Burgess Everett and Melanie Zanona.
— Ex-Marine from central Illinois among those facing charges in Capitol riots: “BUSHNELL — According to federal prosecutors, Donovan Crowl belongs to an extremist anti-government group that helped foment the fatal U.S. Capitol riots this year,” by Peoria Journal Star’s Nick Vlahos.
— Must watch TV: MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell gets shut down in a Newsmax interview.
— Law used to prosecute Capitol riot, Black Lives Matter violence under fire as racist, by POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein
— GameStop frenzy prompts Yellen to call meeting with SEC, Fed, by POLITICO’s Victoria Guida
— Bezos to step down as Amazon’s CEO — but isn’t leaving Washington behind by POLITICO’s Cristiano Lima
The night murder came to Canaryville: Chicago Tribune reporter and editor Jeff Coen teamed up with Jim Sherlock, a veteran detective, to understand the mystery of the shooting death of 17-year-old John Hughes. The book, "Murder in Canaryville: The True Story Behind a Cold Case and a Chicago Cover-Up,” is reviewed by the Tribune’s Rick Kogan.
— This morning at 10:25 a.m.: Congressman Adam Kinzinger is scheduled to sit down with the women of The View.
— Tonight 7 p.m.: A candidate forum for the 7th District Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Heather Steans is being hosted by 46th Ward Democratic Committeeman Sean Tenner.
— Thursday: A candidate forum for the 7th District Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Heather Steans. The event is being hosted by One People’s Campaign and Jane Addams Seniors in Action.
TUESDAY’s ANSWER: Congrats to Marty Green, VP of government relations for the Illinois CPA Society, who correctly answered that Neil Hartigan was the lieutenant governor whose offices were taken away by Gov. Dan Walker, forcing him to ask Secretary of State Michael Howlett for new space.
TODAY’s QUESTION: Which federal judge for the Northern District of Illinois served as director of two different cabinet agencies and appeared in a movie as a Cook County judge? Email to [email protected].
POLITICO senior producer Claritza Jimenez, Al Jazeera Chicago correspondent John Hendren, Brentano Math & Science Academy Principal Seth Lavin, and campaign operative Eli Stone.
February 3, 2021 at 07:34AM