Arena reportedly in line for city job; hiring could impact 19th District state rep. vacancy
by BRIAN NADIG
Former 45th Ward alderman John Arena may be back on the city payroll.
Several aldermen say Arena has been offered the job of labor standards director in the city Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. The hiring reportedly is contingent on the processing of final paperwork.
The job offer reportedly took place over the objections of department commissioner Rosa Escareno, but the Lightfoot administration has pushed for Arena’s hiring, according to several City Hall sources. A department spokesman said that the department does not comment on personnel matters.
Arena supported Mayor Lori Lightfoot during her mayoral runoff campaign against Toni Preckwinkle, allowing Lightfoot to use his campaign office at 4709 N. Milwaukee Ave. Arena’s support of Lightfoot came as a surprise to some political observers because Preckwinkle and Arena had been close allies in the past.
Arena, who could not be reached for comment, needs 2 more years on the city payroll to become eligible for a city pension.
As alderman, Arena was a supporter of affordable housing and sought disciplinary action against dozens of government workers who made what he claimed were racially charged comments about a planned mixed-income housing development at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy., which in May the state approved for low-income housing tax credits.
Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st), who was the only alderman to vote against the housing proposal, said that it is his understanding Arena is in the process of being hired. “I’m personally, adamantly against this guy being hired,” Napolitano said. “He’s extremely difficult to work with (and) believes it’s my way or the highway.”
Napolitano added that a labor-related position for Arena does not make sense given that a large number of labor groups abandoned Arena in the last election and instead endorsed Jim Gardiner, who defeated Arena in the Feb. 26 election by a vote of 7,570 to 5,382.
“He’s not a friend of labor,” Napolitano said of Arena.
Napolitano called for an end to what he described as patronage-style hiring of former aldermen. In 2015 Napolitano defeated incumbent Mary O’Connor, who was later hired by Rahm Emanuel’s administration.
Meanwhile, Arena’s hiring could clear the way for Lindsey LaPointe, an Arena ally who worked at a public interest law and policy center, to become the new 19th District state representative.
According to several Democratic committeemen, Arena has been seeking the representative position but was expected to recommend LaPointe if he were to get a city job.
Arena holds the largest percentage of the weighted vote among the area’s committeemen when they meet at noon Wednesday, July 24, at the Austin-Irving Library, 6100 W. Irving Park Road, to choose a replacement for former state representative Robert Martwick, who was recently named the 10th District senator.