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Ald. Carrie Austin Slumps Over During Chicago City Council Meeting

by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) slumped over in her chair during Wednesday's City Council meeting, prompting Mayor Lori Lightfoot to halt the meeting while an ambulance was called.

Austin was still sitting, her head down, her arms folded on the desk around 1 p.m. as her colleagues surrounded her in the Council chambers, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot called a brief recess for a "medical emergency."

Lightfoot joined aldermen in rushing to Austin's side on the council floor.

Austin appeared to be conscious as an ambulance was called to City Hall.

The meeting resumed around 1:20 p.m., with Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) leading a prayer for Austin's health.

"In times like these, we take life for granted. We don't know when and where anything can happen to any one of us," Mitts said.

Asked for an update on Austin's condition after the meeting, Lightfoot said she didn't think it was appropriate for her to comment on the alderman's condition, referring questions to her staff, but said "we wish her Godspeed."

Austin's medical episode came as the mayor was in the midst of a debate with two aldermen over a procedural issue during the meeting, and Lightfoot praised aldermen for immediately putting aside their differences to tend to Austin when she fell ill.

"I think sometimes there's too much attention paid to the gamesmanship and politics and the back-and-forth. I know that makes for interesting articles in the media, but I think what you saw today was an outpouring of our humanity. People rallied immediately, every single alderman was there, was concerned. And Alderman Austin's been through a lot," Lightfoot said. "I wish her Godspeed, but I think really it spoke to the humanity that we can never lose, even as public officials, even as we're going through challenging issues and  contentious issues at time. We can have our passion, but we can never lose our humanity."

Austin is the second-longest serving member of the City Council, and last year was hospitalized with COVID-19. Five years ago, she had surgery to repair a torn aorta.

Her late husband, Lemuel Austin, was her predecessor as alderman of the 34th ward, and died in office in 1994.

Carrie Austin is one of three sitting aldermen facing a federal indictment. She and her chief of staff were indicted earlier this year on federal charges accusing them of taking bribes from a construction company seeking Austin's support for a development in her ward. She later resigned her post as chair of the City Council Committee on Contracting Oversight and Equity, at Mayor Lightfoot's request.

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