The Spin: Lightfoot says threat of teachers strike didn’t force CPS remote learning plan | Is Duckworth still in veep race?

Laveta Brigham

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the Chicago Teachers Union didn’t force her or her Chicago Public Schools’ team into starting the school year online amid the pandemic. But in the ongoing battle of wills, the Chicago Teachers Union is saying the opposite. This morning, Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson stood […]

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the Chicago Teachers Union didn’t force her or her Chicago Public Schools’ team into starting the school year online amid the pandemic. But in the ongoing battle of wills, the Chicago Teachers Union is saying the opposite.

This morning, Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson stood before the cameras and confirmed what my Tribune colleagues and other news outlets reported late yesterday afternoon: The first semester of CPS classes this academic year will be conducted online. The CTU was starting to take the first steps toward a possible strike.

Meanwhile, the mayor’s comments about the killing of a Chicago rapper in Chicago’s tony Oak Street shopping district is raising some eyebrows.

And, an association representing Illinois marijuana companies penned a letter to Gov. J.B. Pritzker urging the state to use marijuana tax revenue to aid social equity applicants who’ve been hurt by delays in the licensing process, the Tribune’s Ally Marotti reports.

And, the news outlet Axios is reporting that confidants say they believe presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has whittled down his list of vice presidential finalists to two women, and neither is Illinois U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth.

Welcome to The Spin.

Lightfoot says her hand wasn’t forced by teachers union to pivot to online classes amid COVID-19 concerns. CTU suggests otherwise.

Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools chief Janice Jackson officially announced the district will open this fall online. My Tribune colleagues have the details here.

Union pressure or a coincidence? The mayor said “no” when asked during a news conference this morning whether the decision had anything to do with a threat by the Chicago Teachers Union to walk off the job should schools reopen after Labor Day. But, as my Tribune colleagues noted in a story today, the official announcement comes just a day after word emerged that the CTU was considering calling its governing body, the House of Delegates, to gather and consider a possible strike vote.

Union calls it a ‘win,’ suggests brinkmanship was in play: As reports surfaced late Tuesday of the expected move to remote learning, CTU President Jesse Sharkey tweeted: “A win for teachers, students and parents. It’s sad that we have to strike or threaten to strike to be heard, but when we fight we win!”

Data point: My Tribune colleagues report that the district cited in particular the feedback it received from Black and Latino parents and guardians of CPS students. According to the district, only about 20% of Black and Latino families indicated in a feedback survey that they intended to send their children back to school, “and the district is acting on that feedback to offer an improved remote learning experience for all students when the school year begins.”

The doctor’s opinion: Just 24 hours ago, Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s public health commissioner, told reporters that if the city’s pandemic numbers look good, she thought CPS could handle in-person learning safely, the Tribune’s John Byrne wrote yesterday.

Taking the temperature today: Arwady this morning said during a news conference with the mayor and CPS’ Jackson that the city wants to see the number of newly diagnosed cases fall below the 200 mark; right now it’s at 270 and continues to climb. It’s not, however, at the crucial bench mark of 400 new cases daily, which would result in reinstituted restrictions on everything from gatherings to businesses. The uptick in cases, Arwady says, was one part of the equation in deciding to go with remote learning.

“It’s not all about what our data looks like, it’s also about the feedback that … we’ve heard from parents and teachers and staff and recognizing that we are still learning about COVID-19,” she told reporters, adding that she hopes the city will be in the position to send kids back to classrooms in the second quarter, which starts Nov. 9.

Related: Community colleges may draw more students this fall as parents balk at paying high tuition for remote learning — The Tribune’s Elyssa Cherney has the details here.

Stimulus package: Lightfoot pushes back as Trump claims that Chicago, other ‘poorly run’ cities want a bailout – On Monday the president gave an update on the snail’s-pace negotiations in Congress over a new coronavirus relief bill, saying, “(w)hat the Democrats want … all they’re really interested in is bailout money to bail out radical-left governors and radical-left mayors, like in Portland and places that are so badly run. Chicago, New York City — you see what’s going on over there.”

The mayor says ‘this isn’t a Democrat vs. Republican issue’ after taking a whack at Senate Republicans: Asked how it might hurt the city’s finances if it was left out of the equation Lightfoot said during an unrelated news conference this morning that she’s told member of congress “we will not recover as a city, as a region as a state, as a country if the federal government and particularly … Republican members of the Senate choose this moment when we are all hurting, when we are looking at Depression-like economic conditions, when we have millions of people unemployed … (to) defer to partisanship. Shame on them and we ought to vote everyone of them out of office,” before adding: “This isn’t a Democrat vs. Republican issue and it shouldn’t be made one.”

Democratic Gov. Pritzker also blasted the GOP as Congress continues to wrangle over the new COVID-19 relief package: “If the Republicans continue to take the stand that they’ve taken, including the Republicans in the Illinois (Congressional) delegation against support for local governments and state governments, then we’re gonna have to make drastic cuts,” the governor said at an unrelated news conference. “I mean I’ve said that many times … we certainly have to deal with the fact that there is a drop off of revenue as a result of COVID-19.”

Asked whether the state has a financial Plan B, Pritzker said only that the state budget office is “always hard at work thinking about where we can make changes, cuts and so on.”

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Marijuana industry group to Pritzker: Help weed entrepreneurs stuck in limbo

An association representing Illinois marijuana companies is urging the state to use weed tax revenue to aid social equity applicants who’ve been hurt by delays in the licensing process.

The Cannabis Business Association of Illinois wrote Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week urging support for those who have been waiting to find out if they’ll be awarded one of the long-delayed licenses, and the group is offering its own lifeline too.

The state is months late in awarding licenses to sell, grow, process and transport marijuana. State officials say the pandemic delayed the process, but applicants say they are in limbo and are hemorrhaging money as they wait.

The state’s recreational marijuana law laid out specific social equity rules meant to help diversify the largely white-owned industry. Read the rest of the Tribune story here. (Ally Marotti)

Federal push in Chicago begins to show up in new gun cases, some bypassing Cook County prosecutors

Looks like the U.S. attorney’s office’s gun crimes prosecution team, already working with Chicago police, is stepping up efforts in Chicago, sources tell my Tribune colleagues.

The Tribune’s Megan Crepeau, Jason Meisner and Jeremy Gorner write in a piece out today: “The scope of the renewed federal push was being held close to the vest, but it has seemingly intensified once again as President Donald Trump recently sent more federal agents here in an expansion of what has been dubbed ‘Operation Legend,’ which has seen leaders of the U.S. attorney’s office, the FBI and Chicago police trumpet their increased cooperation.” Read the full story here.

Lightfoot weighs in on gang member’s brazen killing in Gold Coast: Chicago police were investigating whether a video he recently made featuring what police say were “derogatory statements” about rival gang members who have died may be the motive.

“What we’re seeing is a manifestation of a larger problem, which is that way too many young men, and particularly young men of color, have access to guns and are willing to use those guns to settle petty grievances,” the mayor said when asked about the shooting at an unrelated news conference today. While the spectacle of it happening on Oak Street, arguably the city’s toniest shopping block off Michigan Avenue, the mayor pointedly said she’s concerned when a shooting happens anywhere in the city.

Lightfoot also diminished the musical success of Weekly, whose rap videos have received millions of page views. “My understanding of that is, this was an individual who fancies himself a rapper but is also a member of a gang,” she said. “There’s been an ongoing conflict between his gang and another.”

Fourth police officer shot in a week this morning; mayor Lightfoot calls to check on him: The officer and his partner were responding to a domestic violence call and at one point the suspect opened fire, striking the officer in the leg. The officer is hospitalized, authorities said. During an unrelated news conference today, the mayor said, “I spoke with him (the officer) this morning, and as you would expect, he’s tired and suffering from the trauma he received but in very good spirits.” She also called on the city to pray for the injured officer’s recovery, saying it’s “the latest searing reminder” of the dangers law enforcement officers face daily. More details on the shooting here.

With 2020 on pace to be the worst year in a decade for Black suicides, Cook County officials sound alarm on yet another ‘horrifying’ pandemic: The Tribune’s Alice Yin has the details here.

Progressive alderman call for House Speaker Michael Madigan to step down

Six progressive first-term aldermen today added their voices to those calling for Michael Madigan to step down as the Illinois House speaker and head of the state’s Democratic Party amid allegations ComEd tried to influence him by bribing people in his orbit. Madigan has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing.

Ald. Matt Martin, 47th; Andre Vasquez, 40th; Maria Hadden, 49th; Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th; Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, 33rd; and Daniel La Spata, 1st, released a statement saying they “feel strongly that our current circumstances require a change in leadership.”

Asked about the aldermen’s statement today, Lightfoot said there’s a need to “have a serious conversation as Democrats at every level about what we stand for, and I think people are having that conversation.”

Lightfoot last month said if the allegations involving Madigan are true, he should step down. Read the full story here. (John Byrne)

ComEd pleads not guilty in federal bribery case; prosecution to be deferred for three years: The Tribune’s Megan Crepeau and Jason Meisner have the details on perfunctory court hearing for the utility here.

Road to November — Biden confidants believe he’s whittled VP finalist list to two — and neither is Duckworth: report

“Confidants of Joe Biden believe his choices for vice president have narrowed to Sen. Kamala Harris and Susan Rice — and would be surprised if he picks anyone else,” Hans Nichols and Alexi McCammond with Axios write in a piece out today.

They note: “Biden’s brain trust — Steve Ricchetti, Mike Donilon and Ted Kaufman — skew older and have deep and trusting relationships with many of the Obama and Clinton veterans who are advocating for Harris,” the California senator who was part of the crowded field of Democratic presidential hopefuls and famously sparred with Biden during a debate last summer.

Rice, who served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Obama-Biden White House, “is getting a big bounce from Obama people who claim her presence on the ticket would guarantee the enthusiastic presence of both Barack and Michelle Obama on the campaign trail,” Axios notes.

Biden won’t be traveling to scaled-back Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee: Citing concerns about the coronavirus, Biden acknowledged he wouldn’t be flying to the party’s nominating convention that had once promised an economic boost to Milwaukee and parts of northern Illinois but like so many events have been drastically rolled back out of health concerns.

“I think it’s the right thing to do. I’ve wanted to set an example as to how we should respond individually to this crisis,” Biden said today at a fundraiser.

Several outlets are reporting that he’ll remain in his home state of Delaware and accept the nomination there. Organizers of both the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating conventions are orchestrating largely virtual events that are TV-friendly. Biden offered an upbeat view of his party’s nominating festivities: “I think it’s going to be an exciting convention.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has more details here.

Asked about Biden not going to Milwaukee this afternoon Gov. Pritzker said, “I always love to see Joe Biden … and I’m sorry that he’s not coming. On the other hand, I completely understand. There are lots of people who are not traveling to states with higher positivity rates because of the danger associated with them.” Wisconsin has seen an uptick in cases – so much so that Mayor Lightfoot has enacted a quarantine order that requires anyone arriving in Chicago from that state to self-isolate for 14 days. Pritzker has two homes in Wisconsin.

The Democratic National Convention starts Aug. 17 while the Republican convention starts Aug. 24.

From the ‘not giving up’ files: Michelle Obama supporters urge Biden to pick former first lady as running mate — The Hill has the story here.

Kanye West files to get on Wisconsin ballot as presidential candidate for The Birthday Party in November: Read The Associated Press story here.

Other campaign news: Mayor Lightfoot names Jane Kim Funk as new chair of campaign committee Lightfoot for Chicago:  Lightfoot’s campaign offered this bio of Kim Funk, who was an early supporter of Lightfoot’s mayoral bid: Chicago resident for 12 years; attorney, vice president and shareholder at Xact Data Discovery, an international eDiscovery, data management and managed review services; Asian American Bar Association of Chicago board member; co-founder of Decisis, an educational, legal nonprofit.

It was previously chaired by attorney, activist and longtime fixture in Chicago’s political scene, Michael Bauer who died in 2019 after a long illness.

The next mayoral election is 2023.

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Twitter @byldonovan


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