Chicago alderman’s sister chosen by mayor to replace him
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s choice to replace West Side Ald. Michael Scott on the City Council is his sister, Monique Scott, the mayor announced Monday.
“Monique Scott has been a dedicated and active member of the North Lawndale community for her entire life,” Lightfoot said in a news release announcing the appointment. “There is no one better suited to lead the residents of the 24th Ward at this critical time for recovery and development. Furthermore, Monique has the resourcefulness and community connectedness to work across sectors to get things done. I look forward to working with her as she takes on this new role.”
Monique Scott, 50, works at the Chicago Park District, previously owned a boutique clothing store and is a cheerleading coach for the Lawndale Eagles. Before taking a job at the Park District, Scott worked as an account manager at UPS, and served as a consultant at the Lawndale Christian Health Center, according to the resume she submitted to the city.
She’s also been a volunteer for her brother’s ward organization, where she says she helped with campaign fundraising and canvassing, and volunteered with the city’s My Chi My Future Bronzeville Committee as well as the Westside Cultural Foundation. Scott has a Master of Business Administration degree from National Louis University and received a marketing degree from Jackson State University, according to the resume.
The Scott selection is the latest example of a Chicago mayoral tradition of appointing the relatives of aldermen to be their replacements, which has been criticized as nepotism.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for instance, appointed Deb Mell to succeed her father, Dick Mell, as 33rd Ward alderman. Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Carrie Austin to the position her husband, Lemuel Austin, held as 34th Ward alderman and also appointed Margaret Laurino to succeed her father, Anthony, as 39th Ward alderman.
Eighteen others applied for the position and were narrowed down by a four-member selection committee, which included Rules Committee chair and Lightfoot ally Ald. Michelle Harris. The list included former aldermanic candidates Vetress Boyce and Creative Scott, Ald. Jason Ervin’s former chief of staff Trina Mangrum, former Chicago Bull turned businessman Wallace “Mickey” Johnson and Scott’s current chief of staff, Charles Rice.
While Lightfoot argued that Monique Scott was the best choice of the candidates who applied, her selection raises the likelihood that the mayor will be criticized for practicing the insider politics she ran against.
As a reform candidate in 2019, Lightfoot railed against a political culture where insiders get a leg up on opportunities, but the selection underscores her ongoing transformation from outsider raging at the political machine to more traditional Chicago politician eager to maintain good relationships with established power players.
Monique and Michael Scott’s father, Michael Scott Sr., was Daley’s cable commissioner and later president of the Park District board and the Chicago Board of Education. The Scott family is well-known on the West Side.
Appointing Scott could add to criticism of the mayor’s good government credentials. As mayor, Lightfoot has faced criticism that she’s abandoned core issues on openness, ethics and political reform that she campaigned on.
Detractors cite her pledges to support an independent ward remapping process and to rein in the controversial developer-subsidy program known as tax increment financing. She has also so far failed to substantively tackle aldermanic prerogative, which gives City Council members tight control over building and development in their wards.
The 24th Ward appointment is the second Lightfoot has made to replace an outgoing alderman during her tenure, and may not be the last, as other members of council — including aldermen Chris Taliaferro, Gilbert Villegas, Pat Dowell, David Moore and Howard Brookins — are running for other offices in the upcoming 2022 election.
When Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, 11th, was convicted earlier this year of lying to federal officials about loans he’d received from a failed Bridgeport bank and filing false tax returns, he was forced to step down. Lightfoot chose Nicole Lee to replace him out of more than two dozen applicants. Similar concerns about insider politics cropped up then too, which Lightfoot dismissed. Lee’s father, Gene Lee, was once a top aide to Mayor Richard M. Daley and was known as the “Mayor of Chinatown” for his philanthropy. Nicole Lee was confirmed unanimously by her colleagues on the council and sworn in at the end of March.
Lightfoot’s handling of Monique Scott’s appointment differed markedly from how she unveiled Lee as Thompson’s replacement. In that case, Lightfoot held a news conference announcing her choice. For Scott, Lightfoot simply released a news release hailing the move.
Michael Scott worked for more than a decade at the Chicago Park District and emerged from a crowded 2015 field to replace retiring Ald. Michael Chandler on the City Council. Scott was reelected in 2019 and has since been a reliable Lightfoot ally.
She tapped him to chair the Committee on Education and Child Development, a body that has rarely convened despite several pressing issues, including repeated COVID-19 clashes between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union and major upcoming changes to the structure of the Board of Education.
Michael Scott announced May 24 he would be stepping down from the City Council to join Cinespace Studios, which operates soundstages where shows such as “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D.” film.
Cinespace has been in the news in recent years after former Teamsters boss John Coli pleaded guilty to extortion charges. According to his plea agreement, Coli extorted a total of $325,000 from Alex Pissios, former president of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios on the West Side, by threatening a union work stoppage.
Michael Scott told the Tribune he never spoke with the selection committee about his sister, though he was familiar with all the members and his preference for her was clear.
“Everybody knew that I wanted my sister there, so there was no reason for me to muddy the waters” with the committee or the mayor’s office, he said. He acknowledged that he was proud that if confirmed, his sister would continue the family’s legacy.
He said he understood those who would criticize the choice as a continuing legacy of nepotism in the city. “I get that. Chicago has had its share of corruption, has had its share of nepotism and family names and all of that kind of stuff. What I would say is if my sister had another name she would still be qualified for this job.
“Your name opens the door for you,” he added. “You still have to walk through the door and perform. … She’s an accomplished woman in her own right, and I think not only will she be able to sit in this room, she will master the room.”
Asked whether he discussed with his sister her running on her own merits in the upcoming local elections in 2023, Michael Scott said she would have been at a disadvantage. Sitting aldermen typically support each other and “it’s a much tougher job to do. If I can give my sister a hand, I would like to be able to do that.”