Chicago City Council rift with Lightfoot recalls Harold Washington's 'council wars'

Craig Wall Image
Friday, June 25, 2021
Lightfoot's conflict with City Council pales in comparison to Harold Washington's
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Think relations between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago City Council are bad? You must not remember the council wars during Harold Washington's term.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot has it easy with the Chicago City Council compared to what Harold Washington inherited when he took office in 1983, but as aldermen continue to flex their muscle, they made it clear they don't want to be pushed around.

Mayor Lightfoot battled to keep order in the city council yesterday seemed tame compared to the chaos in the days of Mayor Washington

RELATED: Chicago City Council meeting devolves into chaos, Lake Shore Drive vote postponed

Ed Vrdolyak led a block of white aldermen, known as the Vrdolyak 29, who battled Washington at every turn starting in 1983.

"You are afraid of the truth, you are afraid of the truth and in America the truth is 29 votes is more than 21 votes," Vrdolyak once famously yelled on the council floor.

David Orr was an alderman at that time, who supported Washington and witnessed it all.

"The purpose of what Ed Burke and Ed Vrdolyak were doing back when Harold was mayor is they wanted chaos. OIK, they wanted confusion. They wanted to make it really difficult for administration to do anything," Orr said.

And Orr, a supporter of Mayor Lightfoot, sees some of that playing out in the current city council.

Wednesday Lightfoot went to the back of the room and confronted Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor when she used a parliamentary move to block a mayoral appointment. Orr said that was a bad move.

"Other mayors have done that, OK, Harold did it, Daley did it. Rahm did it. The problem is, I think the mayor should stay away from that kind of stuff," Orr said.

"This is not City Council wars, I would rather have debate, and transparency, then to have what we had under Rahm Emanuel and Richard Daley, which was, you do what I say do, or you get punished," said Delmarie Cobb, a long time political consultant.

Cobb said it all started for Lightfoot when she threw down the gauntlet even before her inauguration and said she was taking away aldermanic prerogative.

"I think the mayor needs have a reset button, and she needs to figure out a way to work with the aldermen and not dictate to the aldermen, because what we're seeing now is it's about winning," Cobb said.

Cobb and Orr both said when it's about winning or when there is chaos and disruption, it's the residents and the taxpayers who lose because it delays or can even prevent city business from getting done.