A day after winning approval for a watered down ethics ordinance at the behest of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Lincoln Park Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) joined the exodus from the Chicago City Council on Thursday.
In an email to her constituents, Smith announced that she would step down from her council seat on August 12.
This gives Mayor Lori Lightfoot the rare chance to make a third council appointment.
The mayor has already replaced Patrick Daley Thompson, convicted on federal charges, in the 11th Ward and Michael Scott Jr., who took a job at Cinespace Chicago Film Studio in the 24th Ward.
Lightfoot named Nicole Lee, the first Chinese-American to serve on the council, as the 11th Ward seat, and named Monique Scott to replace her brother.
Smith is a former federal prosecutor who has served the 43rd Ward – which includes Lincoln Park, Old Town and the Gold Coast – for the past 11 years.
She called the decision to step down “difficult and deeply personal” due to “deepening responsibilities to family and friends”.
In 2019, Smith was forced into a runoff against challenger Derek Lindblom, surviving with 53.5% of the vote.
“It’s an entirely personal decision. I’m the youngest in a family. I’m 67. And I have elderly parents — people to whom I have responsibilities. There comes a time in life where I just have to think about my family,” Smith told the Sun-Times.
“I loved this job for 11 years. I am very sad to leave. …I believe I would have been re-elected. I am not leaving for fear of being re-elected. I think we have served the parish well. C “It’s just a 100% personal call. … I’m the fourth oldest person on the city council, I think. It’s just time for me to go.”
Earlier this week, the council unanimously approved another round of ethics ordinances. That hasn’t stopped the parade of current and former aldermen heading to federal prison or facing corruption charges.
The ordinance would have been even tougher had it not been for a series of changes demanded by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to benefit her City Council allies.
Thursday, the outgoing president of the ethics committee led her last legislative battle in stride. She described the fight for ethics reforms as a “marathon” – not a sprint.
“In 2011, someone introduced an ordinance for this thing called the ‘Legislative Inspector General’, and I voted against it…because I thought it was a fraud. And it turned out to be a fraud,” Smith said.
“It took until 2019 for the inspector general to actually have full authority over the city council. Eight years to do well. So I actually think in the last four years we’ve made more progress than in the previous 20 years.
Smith said she agrees with Lightfoot’s requested changes because, “by legislating, you don’t get everything you want every time. You make your compromises and move on.
Lightfoot released a statement praising Smith’s “great legacy of service” and calling retirement a “great loss to his neighborhood and our city.” … A fervent champion of ethics reform, she has made our city a fairer and more equitable city for everyone.
The process or appointment of his replacement will be announced on Friday, the mayor said.
Running for councilor to ‘keep families in town’, Smith said she was proud to have doubled the number of school-aged children in her neighborhood – with 15 more preschools and an increase registrations in each of the public and private schools in the district. . She even had an addition built at Lincoln Elementary.
She has also spoken openly recently about the outbreak of armed robberies, burglaries and carjackings in Lincoln Park.
“We worked hard and very deliberately to make the city a place where people not only wanted to live here as young single people, but to stay here and raise their families and keep their businesses here,” she said.
Smith also reflected on donnybrook’s politics after Children’s Memorial Hospital in Lincoln Park closed and moved to Streeterville, where it became Lurie Children’s Hospital.
“We have lost the biggest employer in our neighborhood and the biggest source of business. Six thousand people passed through the gates every day. When they closed it really killed the whole area around it,” she said.
“We built the replacement. And it is now a thriving hub of our neighborhood.
Smith’s decision to step down early is accelerating the transition to a radically different Chicago City Council in the next term.
Ald town center. James Cappleman (46th) is not seeking a new mandate. Neither did Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) or Ald charged. Carrie Austin (34th).
Alderman Howard Brookins (21st) is awaiting a decision from the ethics committee on conflicts posed by his law practice before deciding whether he wants to seek re-election after losing a court race.
Aldermen Roderick Sawyer (6th) and Ray Lopez (15th) give up their seats to run for mayor. Aldus. Sophia King (4th) could do the same. Aldus. George Cardenas (12th), Lightfoot’s deputy floor manager, leaves after winning a seat on the Cook County Review Board.
A handful of veteran aldermen could join the exodus, including the indicted Ald. Edward Burke (14th), dean of the council.
Why so much turnover?
“This job has always been a combination of fun and toughness,” Smith said. “The pandemic has been the most difficult work environment I have ever had in my professional career.”