City Council Members on Chicago’s Homicide Numbers, Upheaval at the Park District

Video: Alds. Pat Dowell, Michele Smith, Chris Taliaferro and Gilbert Villegas discuss the turmoil at the Chicago Park District and more on “Chicago Tonight.” Watch part two of our discussion

In the wake of the lifeguard sexual abuse and harassment scandal under former Chicago Park District Superintendent Mike Kelly’s leadership, 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith called for cleaning house at the Chicago Park District Board.

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Kelly stepped down the same day Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for his ouster. 

“I think that Mike Kelly’s resignation is a good first step, but we’re a long way from resolving this,” said Smith. ”We have to hear from all the victims and we have to really get to the root of what happened here.

“I believe that more resignations are in order and it does likely include the chairman of the board [Avis Lavelle].  I think, really, if possible, an entire new board has to come in to clean house in the park district,” said Smith who chairs the City Council Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight. 

But 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell said that it wasn’t necessary to clean house at the Chicago Park District board, especially since two new board members were approved last month.

They “are unaffiliated with the scandal that’s occurred at the Park District, so I believe that those [two] board members and perhaps others that are remaining on the board should be able to stay and work with the new director coming in,” said Dowell.

Meanwhile, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown appeared recently before the City Council to talk about the proposed increased police budget, but elected officials took him to task for Chicago’s pervasive violence. Dowell said she heard no new strategies from Brown to deal with violence. 

“Finger pointing is never going to work,” said Dowell. “It’s not putting a dent in our problems.”

During his City Council appearance, Brown also talked about the attrition rate on the police force and the fact that only 10% who apply to be a police officer are accepted to continue in the process.  

“We believe that we’ll be able to fill the vacancies,” said Brown. “The impact of what vacancies we do have on public safety, we don’t take lightly at all.”

36th Ward Ald. Gilbert Villegas said that “people need to wake up” to Chicago’s crime problem.  

“There’s a problem here. There’s five times the murders and shootouts than New York, three times than L.A.,” said Villegas.

Smith, a former federal prosecutor, believes that prosecutors need to be more aggressive and stricter on gun possession and gun violence. 

As far as Chicago fighting to keep the Bears in Soldier Field, Villegas said that the city is “not going to give away the farm” to keep the Bears.  

Dowell added that the city has to be thoughtful about financial assistance. “Times have changed and money is tight,” she said, adding if the Bears want to building something in the city, the team will have to kick in.

Video: Alds. Pat Dowell, Michele Smith, Chris Taliaferro and Gilbert Villegas discuss Chicago's violence on “Chicago Tonight.” Watch part one of our discussion. (Produced by Alex Silets)

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