Good Thursday morning, Illinois. And congratulations to Lori Lightfoot who celebrates her two-year anniversary as Chicago mayor today with wild headlines.
This is where the public discourse is: Tucker Carlson called Lori Lightfoot racist and basically Hitler last night during a Fox News segment criticizing the Chicago mayor’s decision to only do one-on-one interviews with Black or brown reporters on the occasion of hitting her two-year mark in office.
Earlier in the day, Lightfoot sent a two-page letter to reporters explaining that she’s calling attention to the lack of diversity within the press corps. “I have been struck since my first day on the campaign trail back in 2018 by the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of Chicago media outlets, editorial boards, the political press corps, and yes, the City Hall press corps specifically,” she wrote.
Her move to only sit down with reporters of color to talk about her two-year anniversary (it’s just one day, folks) prompted plenty of fierce debate among members of the press and on social media.
Then Carlson jumped in the deep end: “If someday the Chicago Police round up the entire population of the city, Lightfoot would have no trouble pulling the right ones out of line for punishment. By the way, in case you’re wondering, that was a Nazi reference, and it was deserved. Lori Lightfoot is a monster." While he spoke, a picture of Lightfoot was on the screen with the description: “The Racist Mayor of Chicago.” (He also grew an interesting concern for the press, using a chyron that read "Journalists attacked for the color of their skin.")
Carlson’s comments drew a rebuke from Jewish leaders. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, described the rant as “slanderous.” She added: “Just last month, the Anti-Defamation League — folks who know a little something about calling out Nazis — called on Carlson to be fired for his white supremacist rhetoric.”
Laurence Bolotin, executive director of American Jewish Committee Chicago, called the commentary “disgusting and evil."
Before Tucker, the debate about newsroom diversity in Chicago and how Lightfoot played this moment was fraught but more nuanced than the low bar of Nazi comparisons.
Lightfoot drew praise from some media circles for shining a light on a problem in local outlets. “The lack of diversity is a subject that newsrooms have wrestled with for decades. Lightfoot just dragged it out into the light of day for the public to see,” writes Sun-Times’ columnist Mary Mitchell.
There was scrutiny, too, for Lightfoot seeming to bypass pressing questions from the City Hall press corps. Her move also forced the National Association of Black Journalists to carefully thread the situation. Its board issued a statement saying it “cannot support the tactic” of excluding beat reporters, but “we applaud the mayor’s sensitivity to the lack of diversity among the people who cover city government.” The mayor “has every right” to decide who she’ll sit down with for interviews, yet “NABJ’s history of advocacy does not support excluding any bona fide journalists from one-on-one interviews with newsmakers, even if it is for one day and in support of activism.”
Brandon Pope, president-elect of NABJ Chicago, however, called “prioritizing media requests from people of color… a welcome move” and one he hopes it becomes “a standard, not the two-year anniversary exception.”
Lightfoot’s media move comes a year after George Floyd’s murder and at a time when the country is examining its history of systemic racism, reminds Maudlyne Ihejirika, a Sun-Times reporter and outgoing president of NABJ Chicago. “If a mayor of the third-largest city wants to step up at this time in history and say, ‘Here is my effort. Here was my reparative measure to address the media sector.’ What is the big deal? I say kudos,” she told WBEZ’s Becky Vevea, who noted two of WBEZ’s three reporters covering City Hall are Hispanic and South Asian women.
Retired political reporter Charles Thomas told Playbook that newsrooms have come a long way since he was the only Black reporter among a sea of white men in the press corps. He called Lightfoot’s move “a distraction and it worked… Instead of talking about crime, police accountability, education and city finances, we’re talking about the diversity of the press corps. C’mon.”
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Josina Morita, a commissioner with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, is throwing her hat in the ring for Cook County commissioner of the 13th District now held by Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who announced he won’t seek re-election.
Morita would make history as the first Asian American woman to serve on the county board, if elected. In 2016, she made history when she was elected MWRD commissioner.
“Throughout my career, I have prioritized racial equity and environmental justice to create a better tomorrow for the next generation, and I can think of no better position to continue that work than serving as Cook County Commissioner,” Morita said in a statement to Playbook.
Early endorsements include Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Along with her MWRD work, Morita chairs the Asian American Caucus, which was formed in 2019 to advocate for resources and representation for Asian Americans in Illinois. And she’s a co-founder and Chair of new Illinois Mamas Caucus, an organization of elected officials who are mothers.
Have a tip, suggestion, birthday, anniversary, new job, or any other nugget for Playbook? Get in touch: [email protected]
Holding a presser at 1:30 p.m. on 79th Street to announce a new community investment initiative on her two-year anniversary in office.
No official public events.
No official public events.
The Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported 28 additional deaths and 1,633 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease. That’s a total of 22,494 fatalities and 1,370,342 cases in Illinois. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from May 12 through 18 is 2.3 percent. Chicago’s positivity rate is at 3.2 percent.
Alderman seeks ban on Madigan, Burke, Solis ‘using obscene amounts’ of campaign cash to pay lawyers: “Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) said he views the issue as one that “needs to be addressed systemically,” through the courts and through legislation, to ‘prevent [this practice] from happening again,’” by Sun-Times’ Rachel Hinton.
— Illinois schools must reopen full time this fall, but questions remain: The Illinois State Board of Education’s mandate “raises new questions about who will still qualify for remote learning and how quarantines will work,” reports Tribune’s Hannah Leone.
— Illinois highway improvement plan includes millions for MacArthur Blvd., Interstate 55: “Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder, who spoke at a news conference Wednesday when Gov. JB Pritzker unveiled the state’s latest six-year highway plan, said the MacArthur improvements represent the city’s highest-priority highway project,” by State Journal-Register’s Dean Olsen.
— Study shows smaller housing opportunities disappearing in Illinois: “The changes to the housing landscape is detailed in a study by the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University. In high-cost communities, many times buildings were replaced with single-family homes, and in lower-cost neighborhoods, the structures were often torn down,” by Illinois Radio Network’s Kevin Bessler.
— Statue task force considers adding, removing state monuments: “Rep. Mary Flowers, a Chicago Democrat who chairs the committee, suggested the task force consider adding monuments commemorating former President Barack Obama, as well as Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor; Ida B. Wells, a co-founder of the NAACP; and Rudy Lozano, a labor activist from Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood,” by Capitol News’ Sarah Mansur.
The back and forth between D’s and R’s continues: Gov. J.B. Pritzker says though they participated in hearings across the state, ““I have not seen a map from the Republicans.” And Minority Leader Jim Durkin jabbed back that “There’s no real input from the public, there’s no transparency.” So can their be a fair map? Pritkzer seems to think so and Durkin doesn’t. It’s the same place we’ve been for months. WGEM’s Mike Miletich reports.
— Get out the popcorn: Fireworks erupted during a Senate committee meeting Wednesday over a bill that would require certain training and hiring requirements for manufacturing and chemical refining companies to unionize or face fines. Democratic Sen. Michael Hastings’ bill didn’t have the support of some Black caucus members who worry the bill’s diversity efforts have been minimized. Debate on the bill was cut short, prompting Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford to walk out on the vote, and fellow Democratic Sens. Napoleon Harris III exited his Zoom and Maddie Hunter voted no. Hastings jumped up out of his seat, angry. The bill seemed doomed, when Senate President Don Harmon emerged with his chief legal counsel, second legal counsel, chief of staff and spokesman. Talk about fire power. There was a powwow to rally Democrats and another vote was taken to hold the bill for a second reading and address the Black caucus’ concerns with an amendment.
— Sexual assault in schools, life-sustaining medical treatment, marriage license language all addressed in state bills: “The House passed a Senate bill that allows for gender-neutral language on marriage certificates and allows for “consistency in the changing of gender on a marriage certificate, which may be appropriate with a transgender couple,” said state Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago,” by Sun-Times’ Rachel Hinton and Andrew Sullender.
— Suburban mayors, Preckwinkle speak out against proposed funding cut: “Pritzker, in his February budget proposal, called for the Local Government Distributive Fund to be cut by 10% percent. Local government leaders say they shouldn’t have to deal with the funding cut following the financial hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic,” by Daily Herald’s J.J. Bullock.
— Senate panel endorses ‘media literacy’ mandate in schools: “All high schools in Illinois would be required to offer instruction in how to understand and evaluate news and social media as part of their computer literacy courses under a bill that advanced out of a Senate committee Tuesday,” by Capitol News’ Peter Hancock reports.
— Dems fight for gun reform with less than two weeks left of session: With a new study in hand, Democrats push for reforms. “One of the plans would increase restrictions for gun owners by requiring fingerprints and increasing background checks,” reports WGEM’s Ali Rasper.
— Lightfoot to deliver her version of civilian police oversight on Thursday, ally says: “Ald. Chris Taliaferro said he has no doubt Lightfoot will want to retain power to set the CPD budget and hire and fire the police superintendent, COPA chief and Police Board president. And she should, he added,” by Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman.
— CPD rank-and-file cops issue no-confidence vote for Lightfoot, Brown: “The no-confidence vote — also directed against Brown’s second-in-command, First Deputy Superintendent Eric Carter — is the latest showing of tension between the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police and city leaders concerning myriad issues with the nation’s second largest police force,” by Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner.
— Lightfoot’s office was blindsided by CPD’s use of controversial facial recognition software — then raised serious concerns: “Hacked emails show the city only learned police were using technology developed by Clearview AI — which faces multiple suits claiming it violated the state’s biometrics privacy act — until after inquiries last year by the Sun-Times,” by Sun-Times’ Tom Schuba.
— Aldermen look to crack down on problem tow truck operators with licensing plan: “Northwest Side Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th, said the city needs its own standards to curtail bad behavior by such companies,” reports Tribune’s John Byrne.
— City Council flexing its freedom under Lightfoot’s tenure: “A report co-authored by longtime City Hall watcher Dick Simpson says the mayor still mostly gets what she wants, but lacks the total control of her predecessors,” by Crain’s Greg Hinz.
— Foo Fighters, Post Malone, Miley Cyrus headline Lollapalooza’s 2021 lineup, by Sun-Times’ Satchel Price
— Gary bets big on new Hard Rock casino, but will it pay off? “The glitzy, Las Vegas-style Hard Rock Casino opens with the country still in a pandemic and in a crowded Northwest Indiana market — along with the possibility of gambling in Chicago just over the stateline from this Rust Belt city. That competition could mean trouble as city officials are hoping the casino will bring in much-needed revenue, but the owners are optimistic,” by WBEZ’s Michael Puente.
— Retiring Riverside police chief who survived a shotgun blast in 1987 reflects on how policing has changed: “Tom Weitzel says he no longer believes the police could ‘arrest our way out of crime.’ Early education and mental health treatment are key to reducing crime, he says,” by Sun-Times’ Frank Main.
— Chicago-area shelters see most young migrants from Mexico border seeking asylum in U.S. since 2014: “The number of children released to sponsors in Illinois also appears to be up, with 255 children statewide and 145 in Cook County between October 2020 and March 2021, according to the latest data from HHS. That total is already above the total of 211 for the 2020 fiscal year, when the border was closed because of the pandemic,” reports Tribune’s Laura Rodriguez Presa.
— Democratic split could create opening for Republicans in upcoming Rich Township elections: “Calvin Jordan leads one of the two Democratic factions in Rich Township. [He’s] township highway commissioner and the township’s Democratic Party committeeman. Jordan is running for township supervisor against incumbent Al Riley, a former state lawmaker who represented the 38th District in the Illinois House from 2007 to 2019. Riley has been Rich Township supervisor since 2006 and also represents the 2nd Congressional District on the Democratic State Central Committee,” by Daily Southtown’s Ted Slowik.
Metra to restore full Saturday schedule: “On May 29, full Saturday service will resume on the BNSF, Milwaukee North, Milwaukee West, Rock Island District, Union Pacific North, Union Pacific Northwest and Union Pacific West lines, the agency said in a statement,” by Tribune’s Sarah Freishtat.
— GOP’s Kinzinger, Davis join Dems to create commission probing Capitol attack: “House GOP divisions were on full display Wednesday as dozens of Republicans broke with their party leadership and former President Donald Trump to support a proposed commission investigating the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol,” report POLITICO’s Melanie Zanona, Nicholas Wu and Olivia Beavers…. No surprise Rep. Adam Kinzinger voted for the commission — he also voted to impeach Trump. Notable was Rep. Rodney Davis, who didn’t vote for impeachment, but joined Democrats in supporting a bipartisan commission. Here’s the full list
— Miller receiving warning for not wearing a mask: “Lawmakers who refuse to wear face masks are subject to a fine of $500 for the first offense. Subsequent offenses can result in a $2,500 fine. In practice, however, the House Sergeant at Arms is providing a warning for the first offense,” by The Associated Press.
— Inside Trump’s push to oust his own FBI chief, by POLITICO’s Daniel Lippman
— Biden’s old Senate colleagues don’t recognize his current economics. They’re cool with that, by POLITICO’s Laura Barron-Lopez
— Progressives warn Biden, Congress against fueling hatred with anti-China measures, by POLITICO’s Gavin Bade
— Trump, even in exile, is the Republican Party’s cash cow, by POLITICO’s Meridith McGraw and Sam Stein
Remembering Corinne Wood: “Wood portrayed herself as an outsider while wanting to become a powerful insider. Her drive provoked criticism and she saw significant staff turnover. She blamed the criticism on what she contended was a double standard for women in public office. ‘We are viewed differently,’ she said. ‘We’re evaluated more closely. It’s just the way it is because people aren’t used to seeing women in these positions. … I don’t have white hair, and I don’t smoke a cigar, but I can still do a great job,’” by Tribune’s Rick Pearson.
Courtney Tedrowe has joined Michael Best LLP as a partner in the firm’s Labor & Employment Relations practice group in Chicago. He previously was a partner at Novack and Macey where he was a commercial, business and employment litigator.
WEDNESDAY’s ANSWER: Congrats to Scott Burgh, the former chief law librarian for Chicago’s Law Department, and NPR’s Scott Simon for correctly answering that then state Rep. Abraham Lincoln jumped out of a window at Springfield’s Second Presbyterian Church, where a special legislative session was being held in 1839. He was attempting to stop a controversial vote but failed because he already had been marked present for the quorum.
TODAY’s QUESTION: What’s the significance of the Bible that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot used in her inauguration two years ago? Email to [email protected]
Former state Rep. Mary Edly-Allen, former state Rep. Skip Saviano Illinois senior adviser for Cannabis Control Toi Hutchison, Resolute Public Affairs executive VP Ami Copeland, political activist Teresa Reyes Martinez, and Illinois Department of Commerce’s Jason Horwitz.
May 20, 2021 at 08:14AM