CHICAGO (CBS) — Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) announced Thursday she will be retiring from office, effective Aug. 12, after representing parts of the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, and Old Town for the past 11 years.
"My decision to retire prior to the completion of this term is a difficult and deeply personal one. At this point in my life, I have deepening responsibilities towards family and friends. These personal issues mandate that I step down now," Smith announced in a newsletter to her constituents.
A former federal prosecutor, Smith was first elected in 2011, after former Ald. Vi Daley retired.
"I love this community and want to thank you for the support you have shown me throughout the last eleven years. Your great ideas, feedback, constructive criticism, participation, and warm greetings encouraged me in every decision I made. As I’ve often said, every improvement ever made in our community started with neighbors, and I’ve been proud to help many of these dreams come true," she wrote.
It will be up to Mayor Lori Lightfoot to appoint a successor to fill the 43rd Ward vacancy until the next election in 2023.
Smith is the third member of the City Council to step down this year. Former Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) resigned in February after he was convicted of federal bank fraud charges, and former Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) resigned in June to take a top job at Chicago film studio Cinespace.
At least five other aldermen have said they’re not running for re-election in 2023. Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) and Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) both plan to run for mayor instead. Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) and Ald. James Cappleman (46th) both announced this month they plan to retire at the end of their terms. Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) announced last year she would not run for re-election after she was indicted on bribery charges.
Smith recently ushered a major overhaul of the city’s governmental ethics ordinance through the City Council, after months of negotiations with Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
The ordinance will boost the maximum fine for violating the ethics ordinance from $5,000 to $20,000. It also expands conflict of interest rules to prevent city officials or employees from taking any action that benefits a domestic partner or relative.
Aldermen who abstain from voting on an issue due to a conflict of interest would have to file a report specifying the conflict, which would be made public, but would not have to leave the City Council Chambers or a virtual meeting when the matter is up for debate.
A $1,500 limit on campaign contributions from companies doing business with the city during a single election cycle would be expanded to include firms doing business with sister agencies such as the Chicago Public Schools, CTA, and Chicago Housing Authority.
Former alderpersons who work as lobbyists also would be barred from the floor of the City Council Chambers.
Read Smith’s full letter to her constituents below:
I have some news to share with you.
For the last eleven years, it has been a great honor to serve as your alderman, representing the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park and Old Town neighborhoods. I am announcing today that I will be retiring from office on August 12, and will not be seeking a fourth term as Alderman of the 43th Ward in next year’s municipal election.
My decision to retire prior to the completion of this term is a difficult and deeply personal one. At this point in my life, I have deepening responsibilities towards family and friends. These personal issues mandate that I step down now.
I love this community and want to thank you for the support you have shown me throughout the last eleven years. Your great ideas, feedback, constructive criticism, participation, and warm greetings encouraged me in every decision I made. As I’ve often said, every improvement ever made in our community started with neighbors, and I’ve been proud to help many of these dreams come true.
I make this announcement with confidence in our community. Over the last decade, we have moved our community forward in positive and transformative ways.
We have come back from the loss of our largest employer, Children’s Memorial Hospital, and recreated the area as a new neighborhood crossroads with activities, public space and new shops and restaurants. We transformed the Armitage and Halsted area from a dying retail area to the premier hub of on-line shops in the Midwest.
One of my goals has been to keep families living in the City by investing in our schools and amenties for families. Since I became Alderman, over 16 new pre-schools have been built here and our under 18 population doubled. We invested in our schools, building an $25 million addition to Lincoln Elementary and much-needed infrastructure for Lincoln Park High School. All five of our elementary schools and our high school received new playgrounds and turf fields during my tenure. We rebuilt almost every public playground.
We methodically repaired and replaced infrastructure and planted hundreds of trees. We defended our historic districts and kept development within bounds, while building the most affordable housing units in our area in 35 years.
We rallied as a community during the pandemic to look out after each other, and to support our local restaurants and businesses. We worked together to seek justice and protect the safety of our Ward.
All this important work was done in collaboration with you – our fellow neighbors, community groups, the chamber of commerce, and school groups.
I am proud to be an advocate for government reform and transparency, standing on the shoulders of my predecessors and mentors Marty Oberman and Bill Singer. We passed significant legislation to streamline city processes, and improve government oversight, ethics and transparency. And we dedicated ourselves to keeping you informed with this newsletter.
The excellent staff at our ward office will continue to serve you as this transition occurs. I am indebted to and thank: Erik Wallenius, Sheila Pacione, McKay Murphy, Maggie Sullivan, Taylor Nesse and Emma Chesniak, and the incomparable Marty Casey, our Ward Superintendent. Many of you have worked with my staff and know that every day they work far beyond their job assignments to help you. I also want to thank the many interns and volunteers who have worked with me over the years.
I especially want to thank my husband Leigh for his good humor, love and support.
While I expect Mayor Lightfoot to appoint an interim alderman, you alone will decide who our next Alderperson will be. For decades, the 43rd Ward has had strong independent leadership, dedicated to preserving the historic and beautiful nature of the Gold Coast, Old Town and Lincoln Park, while making changes to bring us forward. While I expect I will be a committed volunteer for causes in which I believe, now is the time for others to step forward and take on the responsibility to lead our community.
I moved to this community in 1979 as a single woman newly graduated from law school. Over 43 years living in Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast, I became a professional, a mother, and now a grandmom. My whole life has been bound up in our tree-lined streets.
Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to serve our community as your Alderman. It has been the honor of my life to serve you.
See you in the neighborhood,
Region: Chicago,Politics,City: Chicago
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July 21, 2022 at 04:11PM