Hairston discusses work on women’s rights and law enforcement measures

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) talks to a constituent after her June 25 ward meeting at the South Shore Cultural Center. (Photo by Aaron Gettinger)

Staff writer

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) focused on her recent legislative work in City Council concerning women’s rights and law enforcement at a June 25 ward meeting at the South Shore Cultural Center.

She also said she would meet this week with the coalition pushing a community benefits agreement (CBA) regarding the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) before introducing an ordinance to the Council in July.

“Under the new administration, I remain energized and optimistic about working with Mayor Lightfoot. I think that my knowledge and experience in government goes a long way in navigating the processes and procedures as I continue to fight for the services and resources that we deserve — and that I have done for the last 20 years,” she said.

She announced she was joining with South Side Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) to co-sponsor a resolution condemning attacks on Roe V. Wade as other states have been passing anti-abortion rights legislation. “I believe that women are not truly free in this country if we have no control over our own reproductive organs,” Hairston said. “We are not going back to the days when women risked their lives to determine their futures.”

She also praised Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) for signing legislation creating a “fundamental right” to abortion in Illinois: “We will be on the right side of history.”

With Ald. Sophia King (4th) and the mayor, Hairston also passed a resolution proclaiming June 10 “Day to Celebrate Women’s Right to Vote,” commemorating the centenary of the 19th Amendment, which Illinois was the first state to ratify. Hairston also co-sponsored a resolution calling for hearings on the efficacy of anti-sexual harassment programs, policies and procedures in the city government and bureaucracy before the Health and Human Relations Committee, upon which she does not serve.

Hairston filed a resolution earlier this month calling for hearings into the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) and its chief administrator, Sydney Roberts, but it is unclear if hearings are yet scheduled. Nevertheless, Hairston referenced questions about Roberts’ bias in favor of police and that 30 COPA staffers have left the office.

Neither resolution has yet resulted in scheduled hearings.

She also said she has introduced an ordinance requiring the Chicago Police and the superintendent to maintain in police stations and other facilities an updated list of all nonprofit and government legal service providers that give free legal representation to arrested people, with officers informing an arrestee about their right to free legal counsel, the list and access to a telephone within one hour of their arrival at the station.

Hairston said that the legislation had been introduced during the Rahm Emanuel mayoralty but did not make it out of committee. “We should not still be having these issues in this day and age,” she said.

Regarding the Chicago Board Ethics’ proposed amendments to the city’s ethics ordinance, with stiffer fines for violations, restrictions on campaign contributions from labor unions and developers, restrictions on secondary employment and nepotism, the prevention of lobbying on the City Council floor and a rule that aldermen who have recused themselves must leave the committee rooms when discussions and voting take place, with aldermanic recusals and reasonings posted on the Board’s website, Hairston said they would “not be a problem if you’re doing what you’re supposed to do in the first place.” The ordinance is before the City Council with Lightfoot’s support.

On the CBA, Hairston noted the planned ordinance’s five goals: an affordable requirements ordinance requiring a 30% affordable housing set-aside on all new or rehabilitated housing within two miles of the Obama Presidential Center, a race-aware community engagement process with a housing and displacement study, a right-of-first-offer for current tenants seeking to buy their homes, a community trust fund and a tax-relief program that includes an anti-displacement task force.

However, Hairston identified the right-of-first-offer as being potentially unconstitutional and has said before that it may have to be amended as the CBA ordinance is drafted. Hairston and Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) have said that an all-stakeholders meeting to draft the CBA will eventually occur, but no information is available at this time. Hairston said she anticipates a report from the CBA Coalition later this week, and she said “we will figure it out from there.”

“Nobody deserves to be pushed out of the community where they live, work and play. I will continue to be your advocate, making smart decisions to protect and secure our future,” she said.

A 30% affordable housing set-aside would have profound implications for housing and development in Hyde Park, given its affluence, but Hairston said she would fight for its inclusion in the ordinance.

“I think it’s a really good thing, and I think that’s where we should start,” she said. “One of the points about Hyde Park is that it’s not affordable, so we’re talking about making sure people can stay in their homes, that people can move in, and I think that’s a good thing.”

Hairston urged constituents to continue communicating with her office, 2325 E. 71st St.; 773-324-5555; — and promised that a new website was forthcoming.

She also announced that the much-anticipated Shop and Save market in South Shore has exceeded the city’s benchmarks for minority- and women-owned construction contracting and pledged to hold them to do the same in hiring locally for permanent and part-time jobs at the grocery once it opens this fall. “This is not my first rodeo with working with businesses and developers: I’ve got 20 years of experience in making sure that they do the right thing.”