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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
CST Editorial Board

Lightfoot’s knee-jerk firing of city’s labor negotiator was a needless flex

Jim Franczek (left) and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Sun-Times files)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot can’t be blamed if she was taken aback when the city’s longtime chief labor negotiator, attorney Jim Franczek, glowingly talked up Paul Vallas to veteran Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman.

Sure, publicly calling Vallas a “clear choice” to lead Chicago could be seen as tacky and inappropriate since Franczek is still working for Lightfoot — although it’s not like he was praising her opponent, since she was eliminated in the first round of the mayoral race in February. 

But no matter how much Franczek’s comments stung, the mayor’s response in giving him the pink slip strikes us as petty, especially given Franczek’s long track record with the city. The knee-jerk directive was also emblematic of why many voters and City Council members didn’t want Lightfoot, viewed as thin-skinned by a good chunk of folks, back at the helm for a second term.

On the night she lost her bid for reelection, veteran political strategist David Axelrod summarized that it was Lightfoot’s “uncompromising nature” that cost her.

“...She favors the clenched fist over the outstretched hand. And when you’re mayor, you need both,” Axelrod told Spielman. “She’s antagonized a lot of people, and those chickens are coming home to roost.”

Neither Franczek nor Lightfoot would comment. But a source told Spielman that a vacationing Lightfoot fired Franczek on Monday in retaliation for the recent interview he gave on a Sun-Times podcast.

While some might see Franczek’s endorsement as simply bad taste, it could be argued it was also unethical for him to discuss highly sensitive negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police when Vallas served as an unpaid adviser for the union.

This week’s podcast wasn’t the first time Franczek showed his support for the former Chicago Public Schools CEO. 

Illinois State Board of Election records show that Vallas’ campaign received a $1,000 contribution from Franczek on April, 10, 2019 — weeks after Vallas was eliminated from the mayor’s race earlier that year and just days after Lightfoot defeated Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in the runoff election.  

Franczek has served under four mayors, and while his experience can be seen as an asset, it could also be time for him to finally hang up it.

But that should have been up to the next mayor to decide.

We welcome letters to the editor and op-eds. Check out our guidelines for both.

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