Welcome to Issue #2 of the Red Star Bulletin!
The aim of this bulletin is to bring Chicago Democratic Socialists of America members a regular round-up of important legislation, committee meetings, and other updates from City Hall, as well as analysis of what this means for our organizing as socialists.
Make no mistake: the City Council is not friendly terrain for us. We must first and foremost continue to build power in the places it derives from–our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and the streets. But we hope to give CDSA members information they need to assess the electoral project we’re embarking on, and to continue building it into a powerful vehicle for working-class politics in our city.
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CDSA Opponent Financing
In the previous edition of the Red Star Bulletin, we looked at the total spending of aldermanic campaigns for CDSA-endorsed candidates, and for their opponents. We also looked at common sources of contributions among CDSA-endorsed candidates.
Looking at our opponents’ sources of financing can help reveal our class enemies: individuals or groups who oppose an agenda of housing for all, education for all, sanctuary for all, and taxing the rich.
While there is not as much uniformity in the direct sources of our opponents’ financing, a close examination of the contributions reveals that the primary sources were real estate developers and related interests. CDSA produced a website, Who Bought Your Neighborhood?, which looked into this. The numbers listed on that site do not reflect donations made in the first quarter of 2019, which were not reported until April 15th.
Looking at the first quarter contribution numbers, Block Club reports that developer Mark Fishman contributed at least $100,000 to Amanda Yu Dieterich, opponent of Carlos Ramirez-Rosa in the 35th Ward. By Red Star’s calculations, the contributions totalled $104,420.
The only major source of funding that contributed to each opponent was the Chicago Land Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC. The amounts were as follows: $9,174 for Nicole Johnson; $15,000 for Alex Acevedo; $20,000 for Deb Mell; $3,265 for Amanda Yu Dieterich; and $62,800 for Pat O’Connor.
While the name of the PAC is vague, a look at its financing on Illinois Sunshine reveals the main source to be Midwest Operating Engineers Construction Industry Research and Service, a real estate development interest. That one source has accounted for over $24 million in donations to the PAC.
The LiUNA Chicago Laborers District Council PAC donated to four opponents: $10,000 to Alex Acevedo; $8,500 to Deb Mell; $5,000 to Amanda Yu Dieterich; and $16,500 to Pat O’Connor. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399 donated to three: $8,500 to Alex Acevedo; $2,500 to Deb Mell; and $2,500 to Amanda Yu Dieterich.
No other individual source contributed to more than two opponents. Of those, there are sources which contributed to some CDSA-endorsed candidates, but to opponents of others. As noted in the previous edition of Red Star, SEIU sources made significant contributions to CDSA-endorsed candidates. SEIU Local 73 donated to four of our candidates, but also donated $10,000 to Deb Mell. SEIU Local 1 did not contribute to any CDSA-endorsed candidates, but donated $67,500 to Deb Mell and $49,220 to Pat O’Connor.
The next issue of Red Star will look at the expenditures of the 2019 municipal elections to examine how CDSA-endorsed candidates and their opponents chose to spend money during the campaigns.
Mayor Lightfoot’s Ethics Reform Initiatives
Within hours of her inauguration, Lori Lightfoot signed an executive order which seeks to limit the extent of aldermanic prerogative. If you need a refresher on the powers that aldermen have traditionally held, here is an explanatory video from Chicagoist featuring Chance the Rapper, Hannibal Buress, and a couple of friendly CDSA faces.
Below are links to articles which explain the intent of the executive order and its immediate impact:
Ethics reform was a central plank of Lightfoot’s campaign, and the Mayor has indicated that this executive order represents a first step in fulfilling that promise. Lightfoot has announced she will introduce further ethics reform measures during the June 12th city council session.
The Mayor will likely enjoy broad public and political support for further reforms, since this effort will play out against the backdrop of Alderman Ed Burke’s ongoing corruption scandal. Lightfoot has called on Burke to resign in advance of a criminal trial because, she says, the indictments themselves constitute a black mark on the City Council and have undermined public trust. It is worth noting that Burke was already under federal indictment at the time of his re-election.
Calling on Burke to resign, despite the legal presumption of innocence, is a savvy political move, especially if Burke refuses to do so. It will likely keep the story in the news, galvanizing public support. It is also likely to make it more difficult for aldermen to oppose further reforms, especially since in her initial call for Ed Burke’s resignation, Lightfoot insinuated that federal investigators may have sufficient evidence to bring charges against other sitting aldermen.
Corruption, especially in an institutionalized form, is a tool the ruling class uses to propagate its power and subvert laws intended to protect the working class. While we oppose corruption, we must remain vigilant to ensure that reforms do not go so far that they impede the ability of CDSA-member aldermen to engage in participatory budgeting, or stop gentrifying developments in their wards. As authority is stripped from aldermen, we must ask who authority is being transferred to–and if they can be trusted to protect working class interests.
City Council Dispatch
On May 29th, new Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot presided over the first City Council meeting of the 2019-2023 term. Lightfoot was joined by 12 new members of the Council, five of whom are dues-paying members of CDSA: Daniel La Spata (1st Ward); Jeanette Taylor (20th Ward); Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th Ward); Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd Ward); and Andre Vasquez (40th Ward). They join returning 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, another DSA member. These six join other freshman progressives like Matt Martin (47th Ward) and Maria Hadden (49th Ward), among others, who represent a new left flank in a legislative body whose arteries have long been clogged by institutionalized corruption and neoliberal rot.
Prior to the first council session, there had been rumors that there would be opposition to Mayor Lightfoot’s committee chair assignments–especially her recommendation of 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack to chair the powerful Finance Committee, the committee Ed Burke controlled for decades until his indictment in January. The alternative would have been 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney, who Lightfoot instead slated to chair the Landmark and Zoning Committee.
15th Ward Alderman Raymond Lopez spoke against the committee assignments, attacking Lightfoot for a perceived lack of collaboration and for trying to turn the Council into a rubber stamp. Nonetheless, the committee assignments sailed through passage on a voice vote, with only four aldermen in opposition: Anthony Beale, Ed Burke, Raymond Lopez, and a fourth unknown.
Waguespack, who also chairs the council’s Progressive Reform Caucus, is commendable for his history opposing former Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel, and being one of the only five aldermen to vote against privatization of the city’s parking meters. Waguespack was an early supporter of Mayor Lightfoot, and in return, she has given the once-isolated alderman significant power on the new council.
Read the full report here.
DSA Member City Council Committee Assignments:
Committees and Rules
All (Committee of the Whole)
Budget and Government Operations
Contract Oversight and Equity
Daniel La Spata
Economic, Capital, and Technology Development
Human Relations and Health
Special Events, Cultural Affairs, and Recreation
Daniel La Spata
Andre Vasquez (Vice-Chairman)
Education and Child Development
Ethics and Government Oversight
Daniel La Spata
Environmental Protection and Energy
Daniel La Spata
Housing and Real Estate
Daniel La Spata
Pedestrian and Traffic Safety
Daniel La Spata
Transportation and Public Ways
Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards
Two ordinances of note were reintroduced at the first council session: Fair Work Week and Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC). All six of the City Council’s socialists are co-sponsors of these ordinances. The Fair Work Week ordinance has Mayor Lightfoot’s approval and looks set for an easy passage by the Council; CPAC, however, may again languish in committee as it did during the last term. None of the six socialists are on the Public Safety Committee (though other co-sponsors are), and with Alderman Ariel Reboyras out as chair of the committee, the ordinance might have some chance of moving to a Council vote.
Chicago Tribune: A busy close to the legislative session. The state body voted to expand casino gaming and legalize sports betting. They also increased taxes on gasoline, license plates, electric cars, and cigarettes, with added revenues supposedly going towards infrastructure projects.
City Council –
The Nation: Podcast interview with Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez.
WBEZ: A breakdown of the political shakeup within the Latino Caucus, and its current priorities.
Community Safety –
Chicago Sun-Times: In her inaugural speech, Lightfoot said she would use a different approach to community safety, but her first attempt is similar to tactics of the past.
Chicago Tribune: These tactics have once again had little impact on community violence.
Education for All –
Windy City Media: The state legislature has passed a bill which would require schools to teach contributions by LGBTQ people throughout history.
Health Care for All –
Chicago Tribune: Coverage of the American Medical Association’s opposition to Medicare for All, and the protests that opposition inspired.
Chicago Tribune: A state appellate court ruled a class-action lawsuit against the city can move forward. If successful, the suit would force Chicago to replace lead pipes throughout the city. An ordinance required the use of lead pipes until 1986.
Housing for All –
Chicago Reader: A deep dive into how landlords exploit low-income renters and how evictions impact communities, with a specific focus on one company: Pangea.
Chicago Tribune: The developer Sterling Bay seeks to use prefabricated modular units for affordable housing on 100 vacant lots throughout the city. The prefabricated sections are to be built at a factory in Little Village.
WBEZ: A breakdown of the impact of contract selling on the wealth of black households in Chicago.
Legalized Gambling –
Chicago Sun-Times: Governor Pritzker says he would prefer to see a Chicago casino outside of downtown, but reiterates that site selection is at the discretion of Mayor Lightfoot and the City Council. Mayor Lightfoot declines to comment on potential sites.
The Mayor –
Chicago Tribune: Mayor Lightfoot expressed distress at the federal government’s family separation policy, and indicated she would sit down with the head of ICE to discuss the agency’s operations in Chicago.
Rahm Watch –
Chicago Tribune: Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel has taken a position at a Wall Street investment firm with which he had dealings while in office.
Sanctuary for All –
Chicago Sun-Times: A report on the deportation of two Chicagoans. A prayer vigil was held on May 28th; Toni Preckwinkle and five CDSA-member aldermen attended.
State Politics –
Illinois Policy Center: With recreational usage of cannabis coming to Illinois in 2020, the IPC spells out the specifics, including limits, tax structure, and expungement of criminal records of pre-legalization drug offense convictions.
Events (In Specific Wards)
Community Services – 32nd Ward
Monday, June 24th, 11:00AM-3:00PM: 32nd Ward Shred-A-Thon
The 32nd Ward Service Center at 2611 N. Clybourn Avenue, along with Alderman Scott Waguespack, will provide document shredding services at no charge. Resident use only. Call (773) 248-1330 for more details.
Health Care – 15th Ward
Saturday, June 15th, 12:00PM-4:00PM: Community Wellness Retreat
Alderman Raymond Lopez will introduce a community wellness retreat at the Hamilton Park Cultural Center, 513 W. 72nd Street. Details here.
Neighborhood Associations – 22nd Ward
Thursday, June 20th, 6:30PM-8:00PM: Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association Meeting
The UVNA will hold its monthly meeting at the J&M Tap, 957 N. Leavitt Street, with Alderman Brian Hopkins in attendance.
Ward Nights – 21st Ward
Saturday, June 22nd, 9:30AM-11:30PM: 21st Ward Town Hall
Alderman Howard B. Brookins Jr. will hold his first community meeting of the new session at the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library at 9525 S. Halsted Street. Details here.
Ward Nights – 35th Ward
Monday, June 17th, 5:00PM-7:00PM: 35th Ward Ward Night
CDSA member and incumbent 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa will hold a Ward Night at his new office at 2842 N. Milwaukee Avenue. Details here.
The Red Star Bulletin is a project of the Political Education & Policy Committee. This issue was drafted by CDSA members with special contributions from Rebecca Burns, Sean Duffy, Nick Hussong, and Leonard Pierce. Graphics were contributed by Patrick O’Connell