In a surprise move, Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th), Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s hand-picked Education Committee chairman, is resigning his City Council seat to accept a private sector job he would not disclose.
Scott said details of his new position would be disclosed shortly by his new employer.
He’s hoping to give his appointed successor a leg up in the aldermanic election just nine months away. But he refused to say whom, if anybody, he is recommending Mayor Lori Lightfoot appoint to replace him.
“I have three children — two that are under the age of 12 that I have not been able to spend a good portion of time with because of the demands of a life of an alderman,” said Scott, 46.
“Being at home with them every day over COVID, I was able to see that I was not able to pour as much as I think that I should into raising my two boys. When this opportunity afforded itself, I wanted to make sure I was being unselfish in relation to my family and giving them more access to me.”
When a burgeoning lifeguard scandal at the Chicago Park District forced the resignation of CEO Mike Kelly, Scott let Lightfoot know he planned to pursue that position. He called his “dream job” having worked his way up through the ranks of the Park District.
After promising to conduct a nationwide search that never materialized, Lightfoot chose to hand the permanent job to Interim CEO Rosa Escareño.
On Monday, Scott acknowledged disappointment, but said the appointment of Escareño had nothing at all to do with his decision to forfeit his aldermanic seat.
“Coming from the parks and cutting my teeth at the parks for quite some time, it was something that I thought would be a natural fit and something that I would be good at. But Rosa is a more-than-capable leader over there and has done a magnificent job of righting the ship,” Scott said.
“Disappointed? Yes. Upset with the mayor? No. It was her pick. I understood why she chose a capable leader like Rosa. You have dreams. You have to wake up from dreams sometimes when it doesn’t happen. I wasn’t upset with the mayor at all. It is the board’s decision to make with the help of the mayor. They chose to go in a different direction. I’m OK with that.”
During Scott’s nearly two terms as alderperson, the city identified a developer for the notorious Silver Shovel dump site at Roosevelt and Kostner.
The plan is to turn the site into a project that includes a last-minute distribution center and light manufacturing that creates at least 250 new jobs.
The Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, in partnership with Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, has an ambitious plan to build 1,000 homes over the next 10 years on what are now city-owned vacant lots in the eastern portion of the 24th Ward. A groundbreaking is scheduled this summer.
East Lake Management and Grace Memorial Development Corp. plan to build a 56-unit, totally affordable residential building on the site of a police parking lot at Ogden and Homan.
The West Side ward decimated by the riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has also been buoyed by the plan known as Lawndale Redefined. It’s a mixed use development, complete with affordable and market rate housing, a restaurant and a small convenience market. It’ part of Lightfoot’s signature Invest South/West program.
The North Lawndale Employment Network got a $2.5 million Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant to build a state-of-the-art workforce campus at Roosevelt and Homan.
And Cinespace Studios, the family-owned film and television production center partially located in Scott’s ward, was sold to TPG Real Estate Partners for $1.1 billion and is now planning a major expansion.
“The next alderman will have plenty of groundbreakings to attend,” Scott said.
“There is so much activity going on, it puts North Lawndale in a position to be successful — not just until the end of this term, but for years to come.”
As Education Committee chair, Scott watched as the Chicago Teachers Union battled constantly with Lightfoot. There were strikes and standoffs during the pandemic, as staff refused to report in person over safety concerns, leading to weeks of missed classes.
Now that Stacy Davis Gates has been elected the CTU’s new president, Scott said Lightfoot will “have to get her ducks in a row because the union is very organized.”
“All of the things they do aren’t wrong. But, all of the things that they do aren’t right, either. I would like to see a balance,” Scott said.
“I don’t want to talk about what was done wrong or place the blame on anybody’s shoulders. It’s been a cantankerous relationship on both sides and, for the benefit of the children of Chicago, both sides will have to sit at the table and play nice.”
Michael Scott Sr. was an all-purpose troubleshooter for former Mayor Richard M. Daley and once served as Park Board president.
The retiring alderperson said his father “would be happy to see me get out of this life and start a new chapter.”
“He told me before I got into this game that there’s no money in running for public office. That it’s a thankless job and that, if I really wanted to do that, I should make money before running for office,” Scott Jr. said.
“I did the exact opposite because I thought my community needed help.”