Wednesday, March 2, 2022
The Honorable Lori Lightfoot
Mayor of Chicago
121 North LaSalle Street, 5th Floor
Chicago, IL 60602
11th Ward Selection Committee
121 N. LaSalle St., Room 406
Chicago, IL 60602
Dear Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Members of the 11th Ward Selection Committee,
We the undersigned write to express our concern with the search to fill the aldermanic vacancy in our ward. We recognized the urgency to fill the vacancy as soon as possible, but we believe the appointment should be balanced with transparency and the utmost attention to residents’ interests.
Because the selection of the final candidate for the interim alder ultimately falls under the mayor’s authority and the confirmation is in the hands of the City Council as opposed to an election, the process is inherently undemocratic and detached from the community. Bearing in mind that there is much room for improvement to the formal process outlined by the mayor’s office, we implore the mayor and the selection committee to implement a number of provisions to guarantee local, democratic participation in the search and selection. We believe these suggestions are the bare minimum to ensure transparent governance since the public has little to no input in the composition of the selection committee, the selection of the interim alder, or the final confirmation by the City Council. As alders possess enormous power and discretion in their ward, this historic political appointment will have an undeniable impact on the lives of the residents of the 11th Ward.
Thus, the selection process must include guarantees that the voices, interests, and needs of our community and residents are heard. These provisions are a matter of principle and pragmatism. It is simply unconscionable to select an alder through a process that does not prioritize the people living in the ward first and foremost. We believe the following provisions must be included to ensure community involvement and oversight at every step of the selection process:
- Public disclosure of all applicants before the interview process begins to allow the public ample time to learn about and review all potential candidates.
- Convene a public forum between the selection committee and residents of the ward to facilitate communication and trust.
- Establish and disclose the selection criteria by which the committee and mayor will select an appointment.
- Publicize all interviews with candidates, ideally live-streamed and open to public attendance virtually and (safety permitting) in-person.
- Make all interview recordings publicly available online.
- Allow the public to submit questions to be asked during candidate interviews.
- Translation of all press materials from the mayor’s office and committee and interpretation services during public interviews in Spanish and Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese).
The importance of transparency and of a community-driven process cannot be emphasized enough. The flaws inherent to the appointment procedures should be counterbalanced with a committee that goes above and beyond closed-door, business-as-usual politics.
Decades of pay-to-play politics, corruption, organized crime, and aldermanic dereliction of duty haunt our ward, plaguing neighbors with countless concerns. Therefore, it is implausible that a thorough decision can be made without the input of the people who have had to live through the ordeals of canceled public meetings, dangerous traffic conditions, undue environmental burdens, crumbling infrastructure, and other losses to quality of life. Without a fully transparent and equitable process, we will continue to erode trust in our public institutions and elected officials.
Due to the shortened nature of the timeline set by Mayor Lightfoot, we ask that the committee responds within a week of the letter’s date. We welcome further discussion and clarification of the points listed above and are receptive to working collaboratively with the committee to drive community engagement. We look forward to your response.
11th Ward IPO
Southwest Environmental Alliance
The People’s Lobby