City council committee chaired by the accused Ald. Austin spends more, does less than almost everyone else | Chicago News

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The Chicago city council committee headed by the accused Ald. Carrie Austin (34th Ward) spent $ 191,500 in 2020, when she has only met three times without pushing forward a single substantive piece of legislation or lobbying officials on how the city can make a better work by ensuring that lucrative contracts can benefit women-owned businesses or Asian Blacks, Latinos or Chicagoans.

More than 45 days after Austin was charged with bribery and lying to federal officials, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who chose Austin to head the Market Watch and Fairness Committee, has yet to call on Austin to give up his post.

Austin has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The second-longest-serving Chicago City Council member, Austin has not spoken to the media since his indictment on July 1 and did not return an email from WTTW News requesting an answer to questions about the money spent by the committee she heads.

A spokesperson for Lightfoot did not respond to repeated questions from WTTW News about whether funds spent by the Market Watch and Fairness Committee were a good use of taxpayer dollars. Additionally, Lightfoot did not answer questions about whether she had spoken to Austin about her future on city council after pledging to do so last month.

The Market Watch and Fairness Committee dedicated more than eight other city council committees in 2020, including the Public Safety Committee – which approved a plan to put a Chicago residents council in charge from the Chicago Police Department – and the health committee, which oversaw the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the city’s annual financial report.

Due to the pandemic, city council committees have been meeting virtually since April 2020.

The two committees that met most often in 2020 were the city council finance committee and the budget and government operations committee, according to records maintained by the Chicago City Clerk’s Office.

Coincidentally, Lightfoot ousted Austin from the budget committee chair after taking office in May 2019 before creating the Market Watch and Fairness Committee and calling on Austin to lead it.

Even though the Markets Oversight and Fairness Committee spent every dollar set aside for its operations, 17 of 19 city council committees ended fiscal 2020 under budget, including the finance and budget committees.

Led by Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd arrondissement), the finance committee ended the year 41% under budget, while the budget committee spent only 77% of its annual budget. Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd Ward) said a large portion of those savings were made because the virtual meetings did not require the committee to hire a court reporter to transcribe the proceedings.

The only committee to exceed its annual budget was the Aviation Committee. President Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th Ward) told WTTW News that a “clerical error” caused the committee to exceed its budget by $ 180,000 by $ 7,045.

Under Austin’s leadership, the Market Watch and Fairness Committee proposed nominations to the city’s Affirmative Action Advisory Council, passed a non-binding resolution urging city officials to help owned businesses to LGBT Chicagoans to win contracts with the city and reinstated a pilot program designed to set aside a portion of city contracts for veteran-owned businesses in 2020.

None of these elements was controversial.

In addition, the Market Watch and Fairness Committee extended the city’s program which reserves until September 26% of the city’s contracts for companies owned by black, Latino and Asian Chicagoans and 6% for women-owned businesses to give city officials more time to complete a disparity study needed to re-authorize the program.

But it was not controversial, and the vote took place without debate.

In June, Lightfoot proposed a six-year extension to the program that keeps the same portion of city contracts reserved for businesses owned by black, Latino, and Asian Chicagoans, but changes some of the requirements for companies to qualify for. the program.

Less than a week after Lightfoot introduced the measure, which is likely to be the subject of a court challenge, Austin was charged with four counts of accepting bribes in the form of improvements. Homeowners, including a developer’s new kitchen cabinets and granite counters, and lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigative Agents.

Even though Chicago City Council is due to act before the end of September, the Market Watch and Fairness Committee has yet to schedule a meeting to consider Lightfoot’s proposal.

In fact, even though the Market Watch and Fairness Committee’s budget for 2021 is the same as in 2020 – $ 191,500 – it has yet to meet in the first eight months of the year. .

Lightfoot also did not respond to questions about whether it was appropriate for a city councilor indicted for accepting a bribe from a company doing business with the city to oversee the A permanent extension of the program designed to ensure that businesses owned by Blacks, Latinos and Asian Chicagoans get their fair share of the city’s lucrative contracts.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]




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