In 10 days, Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot will be sworn in as she assumes office, but before that historic day, she took an opportunity to get to know the City Council better with a private lunch with officials old and new.
The lunch, which coincided with the one-year anniversary of Lightfoot’s launch of her mayoral campaign, didn’t feature any discussion about official business according to those in attendance, but there are already signs that the new mayor is going to have some work to do when she assumes office.
Talks are currently underway about which officials will be Lightfoot’s leaders in key committees, and it all starts with the Finance Committee, which was helmed by Alderman Ed Burke for years.
One alderman seeking the position is Scott Waugespack, but he insists that others are also in the mix too.
“I would like to run that committee, but I think there are other people as well who have asked for it,” he said.
Alderman Tom Tunney is also interested in the important role.
“I think I’ve got pretty good relationships with most of my colleagues,” he said.
Aside from key leadership positions, Lightfoot is already bracing for conflict with the council in other areas, including over a policy known as “aldermanic prerogative,” which allows aldermen to block projects in their wards.
Veterans of the council want to block any attempts by Lightfoot’s administration to get rid of the policy, but apparently the soon-to-be mayor was in a more collaborative mood during the lunch meeting.
“I think she relaxed a little bit,” Alderman Carrie Austin said. “She said ‘these are things I need to do in order to move my agenda forward.’”
Despite the potential for conflict between the new mayor and the council, some are skeptical that Chicago is in for a return to the hotly-contested “Council Wars” days of the 1980’s.
“No, I (don’t see that,)” Alderman Howard Brookins said. “I see a bunch of divided votes.”
Lightfoot’s first meeting with the City Council is slated for May 29, as she’s requested extra time to ensure a smooth transition between administrations.
Alderman Hopkins says that those types of requests are normal in the early days of a transition, as they’re typically difficult.
“I’ve never seen a transition that wasn’t rocky,” he said. “I’ve been involved in government for 30 years, and every one I’ve ever been through has been chaotic, confusing, driven by rumors, innuendo, and false information. This one is no exception.”
Lightfoot and all 50 City Council members will be sworn in for their terms on May 20 at Wintrust Arena.