Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot blasted the Chicago Teachers Union Thursday for not agreeing with the city on a deal to reopen public schools to in-person learning, saying her “patience for delays from the CTU leadership is over.” “After 80-plus meetings and going above and beyond to address the CTU leadership’s various issues and concerns. We
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot blasted the Chicago Teachers Union Thursday for not agreeing with the city on a deal to reopen public schools to in-person learning, saying her “patience for delays from the CTU leadership is over.”
“After 80-plus meetings and going above and beyond to address the CTU leadership’s various issues and concerns. We are out of runway,” Lightfoot said at a news conference this morning, adding at one point, “We need to get this deal done and get it done today without further delay.”
Meantime, I’m keeping one eye on the heavy snow and cold moving in to the Chicago region and another on Illinois’ congressional delegation via C-Span. The U.S. House is expected to vote today on whether to strip embattled Georgia Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments over her racist and violent commentary.
As The Associated Press notes, “The vote will force Greene’s Republican colleagues to go on the record to defend or rebuke her after she has drawn bipartisan condemnation over her past remarks.” Illinois 18-member House delegation includes 5 Republicans.
And here are some things that shouldn’t get lost in the, er, Super Bowl shuffle: Illinoisans will be able to legally bet on the big game for the first time; with online sports betting taking off. That’s good news not only for sportsbooks but also the cash-strapped state of Illinois, which gets a cut.
But this is hardly an excuse to party — at least in person, cautions Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, along with other health experts. Many are concerned Super Bowl gatherings could turn into superspreader events.
Negotiations between the union and the school district seemed to ease a bit on Monday when CPS suggested the two sides were making progress. The district even called for a 48-hour “cooling off” period in hopes of inking a deal by last night.
But it didn’t happen. The mayor told reporters during a morning news conference that “(y)esterday, there were a series of steps backward.”
An apparently angry Lightfoot set a Thursday deadline for the CTU, which she maintains has been slow to respond. “We need to deal today” the mayor said, adding at one point “My patience is up” and “we are out of runway” as she stood with CPS CEO Janice Jackson, who reports to the mayor.
Reminder: Because Friday is a day off for students, the earliest they could be back is Monday.
What some are wondering: Is this really a political test of wills between the mayor and CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates? That’s what WMAQ-Ch.5 ace Mary Ann Ahern asked Lightfoot. Gates and CTU President Jesse Sharkey led the union during the last teachers strike, just 16 months ago.
“I don’t see it that way. This is about our kids,” the mayor responded. “For me, that’s the only thing that matters.”
The mayor’s role in ending the standoff: “I have been personally involved in trying to craft solutions, that’s partly why we’ve had the movement that we’ve made … this week,” Lightfoot said.
Sticking points: Yana Kunichoff, with the education news website Chalkbeat Chicago, reports that “some of the same key issues continue to dog negotiations: how many educators will receive work-from-home accommodations, vaccination schedules, and what metrics will be used to decide when the district opens and closes schools.”
Side note: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said educator vaccination “is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools,” with evidence that masking and social distancing significantly reduce transmission, my Tribune colleagues Hanna Leone, Gregory Pratt and Leslie Bonilla report in this piece.
CPS and CTU have reached tentative agreements on some COVID-19 testing issues, including weekly tests for students and all employees at the 134 schools in neighborhoods seeing high COVID-19 numbers, my Tribune colleagues report. Likewise, symptomatic staff and students would receive an immediate tests. More here.
State lawmakers split on partisan lines over moving them up in vaccine line: The Sun-Times’ Rachel Hinton reports that Democratic House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch sees it as a “welcomed step in the interest of government functionality and safety. But Republican legislative leaders called it “ridiculous” to allow the 177 state lawmakers to move ahead of other members of the public not yet eligible for the potentially lifesaving vaccine.” Read the story here.
Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison, of Mount Prospect, along with nearly a dozen northwest suburban mayors penned a letter to Illinois’ congressional delegation urging them to support a COVID-19 relief package that sends aid to local governments and small businesses.
Congressional Republicans have balked at money set aside for state and local governments in Democratic President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion relief package. More on the status of that here. Businesses have been hit hard amid mandatory closures during the pandemic. The domino effect is that tax revenues those businesses might have generated have dried up, states and cities in financial crisis.
A new COVID-19 relief package, including significant funding for local governments and small businesses, is long overdue. For months, small business owners have wondered how they will pay their bills, stay current on rent payments, and provide living wages for their employees.
“We know firsthand that governments and businesses across Northwest suburban Cook County are struggling. We cannot wait any longer. We need relief, and we call on you to act now,” Morrison, a Democrat, along with the bipartisan group of mayors wrote in a letter to Illinois’ congressional delegation.
The latest on the COVID-19 outbreak in Illinois, including vaccination numbers and new cases, is here.
From the Tribune’s Robert Channick: “When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday in Super Bowl LV, Chicagoans can legally wager on the big game for the first time, the culmination of a pandemic-challenged but promising inaugural year of sports betting in Illinois.”
The Illinois General Assembly approved sports wagering in 2019 as part of a sweeping gambling expansion bill.
Big bucks for state government? The Super Bowl is the biggest betting day of the year. That on top of soaring online wagering here — thanks in part to the pandemic — can only be good news for the cash-strapped state government. Illinois gets 15% of the adjusted gross revenue for sports betting in taxes. Channick details the big-money world of online sports betting here.
When it comes to Super Bowl parties during the pandemic, people should “just lay low and cool it,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says. The Associated Press has the full story here. Chicago public health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, too, said during an unrelated news conference that she had similar concerns.
The surprise announcement this week that Northwest Side Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th, stepped down as Mayor Lightfoot’s City Council floor leader — a position that requires pushing the mayor’s agenda and corralling votes — has had tongues wagging.
Asked about that tough style during a news conference today, the mayor pushed back — saying she’s simply firm about not engaging in the expensive politics-as-usual favor-trading between the legislative and executive branches to push through her agenda.
“The style point is this: I don’t buy votes. I never have and never will. And people aren’t used to that. But I’ve been very clear about that. I do not buy votes. We manage every vote to 26,” the simple majority she needs to pass, for example, the annual budget. “And they’re getting used to that.”
Ald. Michelle Harris, 8th, is taking the reins as the floor leader while Southwest Side Ald. George Cardenas, 12th, will be deputy floor leader.
“Michelle Harris is beloved and respected. And George Cardenas is a real warrior — smart, sophisticated, both of them very well liked and respected by their colleagues. And I’m enthusiastic.”
A federal grand jury has indicted former Illinois state Sen. Sam McCann on charges of fraudulent use of campaign funds, money laundering and tax evasion in the amount of $200,000 between 2015 and 2020, The Associated Press is reporting.
The indictment was announced by the Department of Justice for the Central District of Illinois, the FBI and the IRS. McCann, a Republican from central Illinois, ran for governor as a third-party candidate under the new banner of the Conservative Party in 2018. He was viewed as a “spoiler” in that bid, which saw incumbent GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner lose to Democrat Pritzker.