Activist organization gives Black aldermen ‘C,’ while Aldermen Sawyer, Foulkes and Taliaferro received A’s
Crusader Staff Report
The Chicago City Council received an ‘F’ on a report card by the Center for Racial and Gender Equity (CRGE), which accuses the council of failing to pass ordinances that would improve police accountability, equitable economic investment, equitable public schools and fair and affordable housing.
While the City Council received a failing mark, many Black aldermen earned a ‘C’ on racial justice issues and only three out of 17 of them got top grades. Three Black aldermen earned a ‘D,’ on CRGE’s report card.
In determining the City Council’s grade, CRGE based its determination on an analysis of legislative activities since May 2015. The organization said in its report, that by applying a racial justice approach, the scorecard evaluates the city council’s actions on key policies that would either systematically benefit or harm Blacks in Chicago.
According to the report, “While the governing body passed several perfunctory reform measures in the area of workers’ rights, it altogether ignores the demands of Black constituents on issues related to police violence, economic disinvestment, inequitable schools, neighborhood displacement and housing injustice.”
In the area of police accountability, the report said the City Council received failing marks for failing to abolish or impose restrictions on the Chicago Police Department’s gang database, which CRGE says is inaccurate and racially targets groups. The report also said that the City Council passed new legislation that would empower police to arrest and charge residents suspected of loitering. The City Council however, was praised for repealing Chicago’s “panhandling” ordinance, which CRGE said discriminated against Black residents.
In the category of Equitable Economic Investment, CRGE said it gave a failing mark to the City Council for blocking affording housing developments in predominately white wards, but it gave passing marks to the city’s task force that monitors the city’s “predatory” reliance on fines, fees and debt collection.
The City Council earned passing marks in four out of six standards in the area of jobs and workers’ rights. They include:
- Legislation that requires employers to offer regular employees paid sick leave.
- Requiring hotels to equip workers with emergency contact devices to protect their safety.
- Established the Office of Labor Standards to enforce worker protections and investigate complaints.
- Implement bid preferences to companies with racially-inclusive management and workforces.
But the city received failing marks on all standards in the categories of Equitable Schools and Fair and Affordable Housing. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the CHA have been accused of sitting on $400 million surplus of funds that would help alleviate the city’s homeless problem and affordable housing shortage. CRGE in its report said the city failed to call on state lawmakers to lift the statewide ban on rent control.
The overall grade of the city council falls significantly below the average scores of the city’s 50 aldermen, who were graded based on their record of sponsoring ordinances that protect the rights of individuals. While the CRGE says this shows the aldermen’s independence on policy matters, the report did not include their voting history.
CRGE said the aldermen’s voting history “offers little insight into lawmakers’ positions on racial justice issues as the vast majority of aldermen rarely act independently, but rather vote with the mayor and council leadership over 90 percent of the time.”
None of the Black aldermen received failing marks, but three received a ‘D’ on their report cards. They are Aldermen Anthony Beale (9th), Willie Cochran (20th) and Walter Burnett, Jr.
Six aldermen received a ‘C,’ and five earned a ‘B.’
Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th), Toni Foulkes (16th) and Chris Taliaferro (29th) all earned an ‘A’ on their report cards.
Ald. Sophia King (4th) wasn’t rated because her term did not start in May 2015.
The Crusader calculated that as a group, the Chicago Black Caucus, which represents all predominately Black wards, received a solid ‘C’ grade based on CRGE’s report.