How Chicago City Council Should Choose Committee Chairmanships

by

The following is an open letter to Mayor Lightfoot and the Chicago City Council:

Dear Mayor-Elect Lightfoot & Chicago City Council,

We, the undersigned community organizations, are committed to working to pass policies to help low-income and working-class communities of color whose needs have long been ignored in favor of the wealthy and politically connected. Like so many Chicago voters we are deeply disappointed by the corruption that has come to light in recent months.

We appreciate the promises many of you made during the recent election to end practices that allow politicians to profit from elected positions and moving Chicago towards the racial and economic equity our residents deserve.

Towards this end, we write to submit our recommendations to you about the criteria you should use in your selection of Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs.  As you know, the Chair and Vice Chair for each Committee hold tremendous power. We ask your Administration to take steps to ensure that Committee Chairmen and Chairwomen:

  • Wield their power in the interests of the public,
  • Are insulated from corrupting corporate influences and donations from special interest groups
  • Are accessible by average members of the public, and
  • Make a commitment to center the needs of Chicago’s most marginalized and vulnerable people and communities

 

Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs must commit to center questions of racial and economic equity in how they run the Committee

Residents want a Chicago a where your zip code doesn’t determine your destiny. We urge Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs to make a commitment to centering the voices and needs of Chicago’s most marginalized, vulnerable and under-supported constituencies. This includes using Racial Equity Impact Assessments to evaluate whether proposals in front of their Committee will benefit or burden people of color, low-income and working class people, people with disabilities, and other protected and vulnerable classes. We urge the Lightfoot Administration to make a bold statement about its commitment to racial and economic equity and ask Committee Chairs to do the same in their role as Chairmen.

Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs must reject donations that present conflicts of interest with their leadership role

We urge that the Lightfoot Administration and Chicago City Council to adopt a policy that Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs must make a commitment not to accept donations from for-profit business sectors or corporate lobbyists whose money may present a conflict of interest in how they run the Committee over which they have power.  Specifically, we urge that the Chair and Vice Chair of the Housing Committee and the Zoning Committee commit not to accept donations from developers or real estate companies who seek zoning changes or financial benefits from the City in their development deals. We also urge that the Chair and Vice Chair of the Public Safety Committee commit not to accept donations from any kind of private detention center or sector with a financial interest in the enduring criminalization and over-incarceration of people and communities of color.  We urge that your Administration further instructs the Office of the Inspector General to assess potential conflicts of interest with Chair and Vice Chair roles for each committee, publish a list of prohibited donors, and then audit Chair and Vice Chair compliance with avoiding potential conflicts of interest every 4-6 months.

 

Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs must make themselves accessible to members of the public across the entire city, not just from their own wards

In addition, we urge that Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs make the commitment to hold public office hours and times and locations accessible to members of the general public from any neighborhood in Chicago. The Chair and Vice-Chair role is one ideally responsible and accountable to the interests of residents across all of Chicago, not just residents from the specific ward the Chair and Vice Chair were elected from.   In holding open office hours at regular and posted times, the Chair and Vice Chair of each committee will be available to receive input about how to govern in the interests of constituents from all across Chicago.

Similarly, we urge the Lightfoot Administration to adopt a commitment that Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs should hold public comment at every Committee Meeting, in line with the Open Meetings Act.

Questions or follow up regarding this letter can be directed to Amisha@grassrootscollaborative.org. Thank you for considering these recommendations.

 

Sincerely,

Action Now

American Friends Service Committee Midwest Region

Alliance of the  Southeast

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Centro Trabajadores Unidos

Chicago Housing Initiative

Chicago Community Workers Rights

Chicago United for Equity

Enlace Chicago

Grassroots Collaborative

SEIU Healthcare

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Jane Addams Senior Caucus

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

Organized Communities Against Deportations

One Northside

Raise the Floor Alliance

Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education

The People’s Lobby