Aldermen Wednesday temporarily derailed Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s appointment of a new top city lawyer over the Law Department’s treatment of Anjanette Young in her lawsuit over an infamous botched police raid.
The spat again delayed an expected vote on a plan to rename Chicago’s storied Lake Shore Drive in honor of the city’s Black founder Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable.
When the City Council began the usually ceremonial process of considering Lightfoot’s nomination of Celia Meza as corporation counsel during Wednesday’s meeting, Southwest Side Ald. Raymond Lopez announced he and South Side Ald. Jeanette Taylor would be deferring the action “in light of everything going on with Anjanette Young.”
Asked later why he took the step, Lopez referred to an order he and Taylor introduced last year instructing the Law Department “to terminate any and all efforts against” Young and her lawyers, and to “immediately negotiate” to end legal action related to Young.
Young and her attorney last week ripped Lightfoot and the Law Department for what they said was a lack of progress in both Young’s lawsuit and reforms to the Police Department.
Rather than wait another month to consider the Meza appointment at the next regularly scheduled City Council meeting, Lightfoot shortly thereafter adjourned the council until Friday to do so then.
The meeting’s ending was chaotic, featuring Lightfoot having a heated argument with Taylor in the wings of council chambers and various aldermen arguing with the mayor about proper procedure to reconvene Friday.
After the meeting, Taylor elaborated on her argument with Lightfoot. Taylor said the mayor told her she was “cutting out a woman of color” by blocking Meza’s appointment, which Taylor disputed.
“This was not about this appointment. This was about their mistreatment of Ms. Young,” Taylor said. “I’ve said to her and I’ll say to you all, ever since we’ve been in a global pandemic and she got this ultimate power, she doesn’t feel like she has to work with us and that is not how this is going to work,” Taylor said. “I’m not for it. I’m going to stand up for Ms. Young.”
She also said she told the mayor, “Don’t talk to me like I’m a child.”
The deferral doesn’t practically change anything for the law department. Meza will continue as the city’s acting top lawyer until the next meeting, when she’ll surely be confirmed. But the move by Lopez and Taylor is a sharp symbolic rebuke to the mayor and her law department
The abrupt ending to the meeting prevented aldermen from an expected vote on the controversial plan to rename Lake Shore Drive for DuSable.
The DuSable ordinance is instead set to be considered Friday.
After the original DuSable ordinance got temporarily blocked by opponents during a tense meeting in May, two different potential alternate plans were in the works in the hours before Wednesday’s City Council meeting: a possible compromise to re-dub the iconic stretch of pavement “DuSable Lake Shore Drive,” and the Millennium Park proposal.
Lightfoot’s own idea to name the downtown Riverwalk and a nearby park for DuSable didn’t have the votes to scuttle the ordinance proposing renaming Lake Shore Drive “Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Drive.” So the mayor’s administration instead worked on the compromise “DuSable Lake Shore Drive,” and proposed packaging it with the Riverwalk idea.
South Side Ald. David Moore, 17th, who sponsored the plan to rename the road that got stalled last month, initially said he might consider the compromise. But supporters of his Lake Shore Drive plan opposed the idea, and Moore said he didn’t think the 11th-hour offer from Lightfoot was made in good faith.
“We’ve been working on this for two years, and you beat a person down, then say you want to compromise at the last minute? That’s not real compromise,” Moore said.
Lightfoot has said many people are opposed to renaming Lake Shore Drive for DuSable, calling the current name “one of the most iconic assets the city has. When you say Lake Shore Drive, people know you’re talking about Chicago, and I think that’s very important.”
Moore argues giving DuSable such a lofty honor would be a unique way to bring the city together, and to show kids like those from his overwhelmingly Black ward greater possibilities in their lives.
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