Welcome to Issue #3 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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Fighting for a Real Sanctuary City
With threats of immigration raids bearing down on our communities last week, socialist alderpeople used their offices to mobilize a swift response and make clear that immigrants are welcome in our neighborhoods and ICE is not.
On just a day’s notice, more than 100 people came out to distribute Know Your Rights information during a canvass organized by Alds. Rossana Rodriguez (33rd) and Carlos Rosa (35th) in Albany Park, an immigrant enclave that falls within the boundaries of both of their wards. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) spoke at a press conference in Little Village and appeared on Fox News to talk about the steps his office is taking to protect immigrant residents.
As Trump’s threats against sanctuary cities cast a national spotlight on Chicago, Lori Lightfoot made a high-profile announcement that she was terminating ICE’s access to the Chicago police gang database. Under the current version of Chicago’s Welcoming Cities ordinance, the gang database is one of several major loopholes–Chicago police can collaborate with ICE to target individuals who are in the database, have pending felony prosecutions or prior felony convictions, or are the subject of an outstanding criminal warrant.
Cases like that of Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez, who was violently arrested and detained for eight months by ICE after having been erroneously listed by CPD as a member of two rival gangs, illustrate the impact of the error-ridden database.
During her campaign, Lightfoot told members of Chicago’s Immigration Policy Working Group that she would cut off ICE’s access to the gang database, and it’s a positive sign that she felt compelled to keep this promise. However, she has not gone any further than issuing a “directive” to CPD which does not amount to a formal policy change. It’s also unclear whether other federal agencies that CPD shares arrest and incident data with, such as the FBI, may then share it with ICE.
Immigration activists, backed by several socialist alderpeople, are calling on Lightfoot to issue an executive order that would prohibit police from fulfilling requests for information, support or equipment from ICE, as well as reporting any such requests to city officials.
During her campaign, Lightfoot also refused to commit to the more consequential step of abolishing the gang database. At present, CPD is moving forward with developing a retooled “criminal enterprise database,” despite calls for a complete moratorium on gang databases from immigration activists and civil liberties groups.
Chicago should expand its sanctuary protections to the fullest possible extent under the law, and a more Left-leaning Latino caucus with Rossana Rodriguez as chair of the immigration sub-committee can push hard for this. However, municipal policy can only go so far in this regard. Seeing the socialists we all worked hard to elect using their platforms not only to push for policy changes, but to mobilize neighbors and encourage people to organize themselves, is a beautiful thing.
The Path to Police Accountability
Last month, Lori Lightfoot introduced an amendment to a new section to the Chicago municipal code titled “Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability,” an effort that has been advanced for several years through the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA).
Several aldermen who had already signed on to the ordinance creating a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), introduced in the first session of the new City Council, also chose to sign onto GAPA. Five aldermen who are CPAC co-sponsors–Rossana Rodriguez, Carlos Rosa, Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Jeanette Taylor and Andre Vasquez–did not co-sponsor GAPA.
We asked the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression, a long-time backer of CPAC that urged aldermen not to sign onto GAPA, to explain the key policy differences between the two ordinances.
GAPA maintains the status quo. All power over the police accountability system remains in the mayor’s hands and the system is effectively unchanged, save an additional layer of bureaucracy. GAPA creates a committee, which in turn nominates candidates to serve on the accountability commission. Candidates must still then be approved by the mayor. Commissioners are still, ultimately, unelected, and cannot be voted out of office by the public.
As a reminder, Chicago’s woefully inadequate Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), which GAPA would largely preserve, has to date:
- Resulted in the firing of just 128 officers since 1988, out of the nearly 250,000 complaints who have been the subject of complaints.
- Reversed the Superintendent’s request to fire a police officer in 2 out of 3 cases, reinstating officers deemed unfit to serve by their own institution since 2014.
- Referred two-thirds of misconduct cases – including sexual assault cases – back to the CPD’s Bureau of Internal Affairs, meaning the CPD will continue to investigate itself in the majority of cases.
COPA also only has the power to issue recommendations for discipline, which must be approved by the Superintendent.
The answer to police accountability is CPAC, which would the entire failed police accountability system with an elected, representative council. The council’s representatives would be chosen every four years by the residents of each of the city’s 22 police districts, and they would answer directly to those residents. The council would also have the power to hire and fire the police superintendent, conduct investigations of police misconduct, and discipline officers if necessary, including firing them and referring them to a federal grand jury if warranted. Under CPAC, COPA would be replaced by full-time investigators assigned to each of the 22 ouncil members. The Bureau of Internal Affairs will be abolished, meaning all cases of police misconduct will be investigated and adjudicated by this representative body. The CPD will no longer investigate itself.
As we continue to fight for CPAC, here are some of the key differences to understand.
|Criteria||Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC)||Existing Police Accountability System (Police Superintendent + Police Board + COPA)||Extent of GAPA Modifications to Current System|
|What is it?||Chicago residents directly elect police accountability representatives every four years whose mission is to hold the police accountable in their name. Representatives form a council similar to the elected City Council||Existing system||Grassroots alliance for police accountability|
|Modifies existing system of accountability (COPA, Police Board, CPD Bureau of Internal Affairs)||Replaces them with directly elected Council||Head of COPA & police board members appointed by the Mayor||Unchanged, but Appointee candidates submitted for Mayor’s approval by Community Commission, which is appointed by Commission Nominating Committee, which is appointed by 66 elected District Council Members (Mayor can refuse all candidates)|
|Power over Police Superintendent||Elected Council hires (and can fire) Police Superintendent||Police Superintendent is appointed by the Mayor|
|Investigations & adjudication of misconduct||– Elected Council hires its own full-time independent investigators.
– Elected Council investigates all cases of misconduct including sexual assault; replaces CPD Bureau of Internal Affairs
– Elected Council adjudicates all cases of misconduct and disciplines officers on basis of investigations where warranted
|– Full Police Board votes on disciplinary matters only if Superintendent concurs with COPA findings; in case of disagreement between Superintendent and COPA, one randomly selected Police Board member breaks tie
– Only select misconduct cases investigated by COPA; majority investigated by Internal Affairs, including sexual assault cases
City Council Meeting Recap
The Chicago City Council met for its second session of the new term on June 12th. The second council meeting with Mayor Lori Lightfoot at the gavel and six socialists in the assembly was the first true regular council meeting of the term, with the council back to business as usual.
Generally, council meetings don’t actually involve a lot of voting. Most resolutions and ordinances voted on by the council are added to an omnibus bill, “a single roll call vote taken and applied to all items not voted upon separately, or for which another vote was not employed during the course of the meeting.”
What usually constitutes the “meat” of a City Council meeting are the committee reports, particularly Finance. This June meeting’s Finance committee was particularly notable as it was Alderman Waugespack’s (32nd) first report back as the new chair of the committee.
Three items from the committee’s supplemental agenda caused controversy. The first, a settlement in “the Ibach case,” was a $3.6 million payment to a woman paralyzed in a drunk driving accident in 2014. The city, liable for poor maintenance of the intersection where the accident occurred, ended up paying more than both the driver of the vehicle and the club that overserved him. A vote to pass the settlement had initially failed in committee the day before, with Waugespack forced to recess till the next morning right before the council meeting to reconsider the vote, where it then passed.
Alderman Raymond Lopez (15th) rose in opposition to the settlement at the council meeting. “I am not a fan of rewarding bad behavior,” Lopez said. “I’m worried about this message this sends.” “The message that … we are taking people’s criminality and bad behavior and paying for it.” Alderman Tom Tunney (44th) and others who agreed with Lopez’ sentiments but stressed that if the case went to trial the city could be liable for up to ten times the amount its paying now to settle. “I’m not cool with irresponsible behavior… but that ship has sailed,” said Tunney. “We have to make sure we protect the taxpayer here.”
The motion passed 47-3, with Aldermen Lopez, Quinn (13th), and Tabares (23rd) voting nay.
Two other settlements from the Finance committee’s supplemental agenda had aldermen on the record voting nay, both related to CPD misconduct. With the second settlement, “the Campbell case,” Alds. Maria Hadden (49th) and Jeanette Tayor (20th) recused themselves from voting as they both had been involved with organizations listed as plaintiffs in the settlement (Network 49 and Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, respectively). The motion passed 45-3, with Beale (10th), Thompson (11th), and Gardiner (45th) voting nay but no debate on the floor of the council.
The other settlement was $265K for Javier Sepulbeda, who was shot in the back three times by Chicago police while fleeing. Alderman Lopez again rose to speak against the settlement, again emphasizing that the city was “rewarding criminality” and asserted that the plaintiff in the case was “a likely gang member”. The motion passed, 36-14. View the full report of the roll call votes here.
Introduced Legislation of Note, 6/12/2019
- O2019-5305: Amendment of Municipal Code Chapters 2-56 and 2-156 regarding government ethics
- Co Sponsored by Andre Vasquez, Matt Martin, Michele Smith, and Mayor Lightfoot
- O2019-4153: Amendment of Municipal Code Chapter 1-24 to further regulate Chicago Miniumum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Ordinance
- Co Sponsored by the Socialists and 30+ other council members
- O2019-4277: Amendment of Municipal Code Title 2 by adding new Chapter 2-82 entitled “Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability” (The GAPA Ordinance)
- Daniel La Spata is the only socialist to co-sponsor, joined by 30+ other council members.
- R2019-422: Call for review of previous 25th Ward permit and license requests submitted prior to May 20, 2019
- Sponsored by Byron Sighco-Lopez
Upcoming Committee Meetings
- 7/9 @ 10AM – Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards
- 7/11 @ 12PM – Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety
- 7/15 @ 10AM – Committee on Budget and Government Operations
- 7/16 @ 1PM – Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development
- 7/17 @ 10AM – Committee on Housing and Real Estate
- 7/17 @ 11AM – Committee on Transportation and Public Way
- 7/17 @ 1PM – Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight
- 7/23 @ 10AM – Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards
Next City Council Meeting: Wednesday July 24th at 10AM
Report on #DemocratizeComEd
In March, Chicago DSA voted to adopt a campaign that seeks to municipalize the local, investor-owned electric utility, ComEd. The campaign is taking advantage of a huge opportunity—the December 2020 expiration of a 29-year “franchise agreement” between ComEd and the city—to push for a local, socialist response to the climate crisis. The existing franchise agreement gives ComEd rights to operate the distribution and transmission of electricity. The goal of municipalization is rooted in the ideals of energy democracy, which aims for community control of energy in service of not only solving climate change, but also social and economic justice.
CDSA-member alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) discussed the idea of municipalizing ComEd in an interview with WTTW. In Illinois, public ownership is possible because of the Illinois Municipal Code, which allows municipalities to own and operate utilities. Further, ComEd’s franchise agreement stipulates that with one year’s notice, the city can purchase ComEd’s infrastructure for the cost of “reproduction new,” minus depreciation.
The capitalist class created the climate crisis and has actively fought against measures intended to reduce carbon emissions. The municipalization of Chicago’s electric utility provides the opportunity to reduce and eventually eliminate carbon emissions generated by the sources of the city’s electricity.
Within Chicago’s City Council, the Committee on Environment Protection and Energy will be the main body hearing from ComEd as the energy provider tries to negotiate a new franchise agreement with the city. CDSA-member alderpeople Daniel La Spata (1st), Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd), and Jeanette Taylor (20th) sit on the committee.
The Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy met on Thursday, June 27. The sole agenda item was a presentation of ComEd’s annual financial report and preparations for peak summer energy usage. Chicago’s Department of Fleets & Facilities Management (2FM), opened the meeting with a presentation on ComEd service updates, collaboration between the city and ComEd on upcoming infrastructure updates/ upgrades in preparation for summer, and a brief report on conversations thus far between the city and ComEd with regards to the expiration of the existing franchise agreement and negotiations to adopt a new one. The Franchise Oversight Committee within 2FM has been researching other cities’ agreements and structural relationships with their utilities (looking mostly at similar electricity load and weather conditions, and researching some cities with shorter franchise agreements or different relationships with their utility). The Franchise Oversight Committee is the body responsible for negotiating a new franchise agreement with ComEd.
After questions from aldermen, ComEd (who brought a senior management team of 17 people) also presented on the same topics. ComEd was questioned by the committee chair, Alderman Cardenas (12th) and other aldermen on how the utility provider plans to achieve 25 percent renewable energy by 2025, as mandated by the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act, and whether ComEd is on track to meet long-term goals as laid out by the “Ready For 100” 100 percent renewable energy plan passed by the previous City Council. ComEd’s answers focused on individual microgrid projects, their Peak Energy Savings program, and raising awareness among their consumer base about how to purchase rooftop and/or community solar. ComEd’s representatives were not forthcoming on questions about where the City’s current energy supply comes from, citing “competitive market equations.”
Having three socialist alderpeople on a key committee is an important opportunity for CDSA to advance a socialist demand from both inside and outside City Hall. The Red Star Bulletin will continue following relevant policy updates.
Analysis of Municipal Election Expenditures
The first and second issue of the Red Star included analysis of total election spending and major sources of contributions for CDSA-endorsed aldermanic candidates and their opponents. This issue will look at expenditures in a few specific areas, broken down by candidate. These expenditures combine direct campaign expenditures and in-kind contributions. The data below is drawn from campaign disclosures to the Illinois Board of Elections; all analysis based on that data was performed by Red Star. CDSA-endorsed candidates are in red, their opponents are in blue
Campaign workers include canvassers, poll watchers, and other Election Day workers (exclusive of dedicated campaign staff). Expenditures on campaign workers as reported by the ten campaigns totaled $142,365.48.
Expenditures on dedicated campaign staff (such as campaign manager or field director) as reported by the ten campaigns totaled $207,311.22.
It is likely that Andre Vasquez and Pat O’Connor reported their campaign staff in a separate category, such as campaign workers (above) or consultants (below).
Expenditures on consulting, research, and polling as reported by the ten campaigns totaled $802,109.15.
Expenditures on mailers (campaign literature sent by mail) as reported by the ten campaigns totaled $845,729.55.
Expenditures on advertisements and promotional materials, exclusive of mailers, as reported by the ten campaigns totaled $523,324.99.
In the News
Block Club Chicago — Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) attended a demonstration outside of an Albany Park building and expressed support for the tenants in their struggle with the landlord.
Block Club Chicago — Coverage of two CDSA-member aldermen’s efforts to protect immigrants from ICE raids.
The Guardian — Coverage of Rossana’s first ward night.
Chicago Sun-Times The FBI executed a search warrant on the ward office of Carrie Austin (34th).
The Chicago Tribune looks at the interaction between Springfield and Mayor Lightfoot’s administration concerning Chicago’s projected $1bn 2020 budget shortfall.
Chicago Public Schools
WBEZ — Despite pressure from parents the Chicago Public Schools have done little to reform the heavy policing in Chicago’s schools, especially in Black and brown communities.
Chalkbeat — New education chair Michael Scott Jr (24th) wants to more closely involve the Council in CPS, with focus on Special Ed.
Chicago Tribune — A breakdown of the ethics reform package that Mayor Lightfoot introduced as well as other initiatives put forth during the June City Council session.
Chicago Sun-Times — Former Alderman Willie Chochran (20th) was sentenced to prison time after pleading guilty to wire fraud. This comes at a time when Mayor Lightfoot has been calling for further ethics reforms within city council.
Chicago Sun-Times — Tensions escalate between Mayor Lightfoot and the Fraternal Order of Police over the 2016 Consent Decree and Lightfoot’s plans for reform.
WBEZ — As a mayoral candidate, Lori Lightfoot said that there was no good faith reason not to release the full records of the investigation into CPD’s handling of the shooting of Laquan McDonald. Mayor Lightfoot has yet to release those records.
CNN — Coverage of Illinois’ marijuana legalization bill with an emphasis on the criminal records to be expunged.
Chicago Sun-Times — A breakdown of the fundraising that Lor Lightfoot has done thus far during her terms as mayor.
Sanctuary for All
Chicago Sun-Times — Coverage of anti-ICE actions in which CDSA members and member-aldermen took part.
1st Ward (Alderman Daniel La Spata)
New Ward Office/Ward Nights
Daniel La Spata’s new office (1958 N. Milwaukee Ave. ) opened Monday June 17. Ward Nights will take place the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month from 4pm to 8pm.
20th Ward (Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor)
The next Ward Night is July 18th, time and location TBA.
25th Ward (Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez)
The 25th ward holds weekly Ward Nights from 4-8pm in the ward office, 1645 S Blue Island Ave).
July 11: Public meeting on the proposed Pilsen Historic Landmark District, 6pm, 1661 S Blue Island
July 12: “Brake Light Clinic” Immigration Workshop at 1645 S Blue Island Ave, time TBD
33rd Ward (Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez)
The 33rd ward office (3001 W Irving Park Rd) is open M – F: 10 AM – 5 PM and Saturdays: 10 AM – 1 PM.
Ward Nights take place every other Monday from 5:30 – 7:30 PM (7/1, 7/15, 7/29, 8/12, 8/26).
You can subscribe to the 33rd ward weekly newsletter here: http://33rdwardorg.nationbuilder.com/subscribe
35th Ward (Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa)
The 35th ward hosts Ward Nights every first and third Monday of the month, 5-7pm, at alternating locations. The next is coming up Monday, July 15th at the main ward office (2842 N. Milwaukee Ave.)
40th Ward (Alderman Andre Vasquez)
Office Grand Opening: July 13th, 10am-1pm, 5620 North Western Ave.
The 40th ward is inviting all 40th ward residents to an official opening to come in and see the space and meet the alderman and the staff. There will be coffee, tea, bagels, and doughnuts from The Coffee Studio.
Ward Nights are hosted every Monday from 5pm-8pm, and office hours are 10a-8p Mondays, 10a-5p T-F, and 10a-1p the first Saturday of the month (except this July 4th weekend).
47th Ward (Alderman Matt Martin)
Green Council Kickoff
July 9th @ 7pm-8:30pm
Conrad Sulzer Regional Library
At this event Alderman Matt Martin and staff will be discussing environmental sustainability in the ward and green policies for the office to pursue.
The Red Star Bulletin was conceived by Ramsin Canon and is a project of the Political Education & Policy Committee. This issue was drafted by CDSA members and members of the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and and Political Repression. Special contributions were made by Rebecca Burns, Sean Duffy, Sean Estelle, Tina Groeger, Nick Hussong, and Liz Kantor. Graphics were contributed by Patrick O’Connell. If you would like to contribute to the Red Star Bulletin or have any feedback, email firstname.lastname@example.org.