Chicago Ald. Carrie Austin to retire early – Crain’s Chicago Business

Indicted Far South Side Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th, will retire from the City Council earlier than expected for medical reasons, her attorneys told a federal judge on Friday as they argued she is medically unfit to stand trial.

The veteran alderman announced in December 2021 she would step down from the seat she was appointed to in 1994 to replace her husband, Lemuel Austin, who died suddenly from a heart attack.

Austin cited her own deteriorating health—including a years-long battle with breast cancer and a May 2020 surgery for an aortic dissection—in making the announcement and gave her blessing for her colleagues to shift the 34th Ward north into downtown to accommodate a boom in population under the city’s remap.

Austin was indicted in July 2021 on bribery charges stemming from accepting home improvements from a developer in her ward in exchange for favorable treatment and had seen her ability to fundraise slow to a trickle, making re-election a difficult prospect.

In the court filing, Austin’s attorney said Austin saw it as her duty to fulfill her term, despite her health issues, even as she sought to be declared medically unfit for trial. Her attorneys said it was “rhetorical foolishness” to compare her fitness to stand trial to her ability to attend “periodic City Council meetings.”

Austin collapsed at a City Council meeting late last year and was carried out on a stretcher after being attended to by her colleagues. Earlier this month, Austin voted in favor of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s 2023 budget while receiving supplemental oxygen.

Included in the court filing was Austin’s resignation letter to Lightfoot, dated Nov. 11, saying she would step down on March 1 after the February election.

“Attending a City Council meeting, which in the past I have always looked forward to, has now become a very exhausting and strenuous ordeal,” Austin wrote.

Lightfoot will be charged with appointing a replacement to serve out Austin’s term.

While the appointee will continue to serve the people of the current 34th Ward on the Far South Side, by the time Lightfoot makes the appointment, it is likely a new alderman will have been elected to serve the new 34th Ward, starting in May 2023, which spans portions of the Loop, West Loop and Near West Side. Bill Conway, who unsuccessfully tried to oust Kim Foxx as Cook County state’s attorney, is seen as the favorite to win the 34th Ward seat.

Austin’s current ward will be largely merged into the 21st Ward under the new ward map, where there will be a handful of candidates seeking to obtain an open seat. Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st, is not seeking re-election.

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via rk2’s favorite articles on Inoreader

November 21, 2022 at 09:45AM

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