Allison Arwady was fired, even after a strong endorsement from the Chicago Board of Health. Why? Because she crossed the Chicago Teacher's Union and suggested that perhaps their members go back to work during the pandemic.
Can't have a health commissioner advocate for Chicago kids!
Arwady's unceremonious ouster
Allison Arwady, former commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, speaks about COVID-19 in 2022. Photo: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
There's a leadership void in the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Driving the news: Mayor Brandon Johnson fired health commissioner Allison Arwady on Friday, a day after the Chicago Board of Health urged him to keep her in the post.
Why it matters: After leading the city through the pandemic, Arwady became Chicago's best-known health chief in recent memory.
Context: Despite Johnson's campaign vow to remove Arwady, some thought she might stick around, given her eagerness to stay and the mayor's post-victory statement acknowledging the importance of her expertise.
So the commissioner's firing late Friday seemed abrupt. Arwady suggested in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, that she couldn't even say goodbye to her staff.
CDPH's second-in-command, chief medical officer Jennifer Seo, has also announced her resignation.
That leaves first deputy commissioner Fikirte Wagaw, who oversees CDPH finance and is not a doctor, in charge in the interim.
The intrigue: Other Lori Lightfoot-era commissioners have recently stepped down on their own timelines.
Arwady's unceremonious ouster right after the Board of Health endorsement is raising questions about whether it was a power play gone wrong.
Between the lines: Crain's posits that Johnson's main beef with Arwady involved not reopening public mental health clinics.
Others point to Johnson's strong ties to the Chicago Teachers Union, which clashed with Arwady and Lightfoot during the 2022 work stoppage over COVID safety.
What they're saying: The Johnson administration didn't respond to Axios' questions about why Arwady was dismissed.
But when asked at a Monday press conference if it was connected to the CTU standoff, Johnson responded, "Transition is difficult for everyone. … I don't know how many times you're allowed to quote Tupac in a press conference, but you can't always go by the things that you hear. Real eyes, right, realize real lies."
The other side: "My top priority has always been protecting the health of all Chicagoans," Arwady said in a statement. "Public health must always be driven by science and medicine, and never politics."
What's ahead: The Johnson administration has not said when it will appoint a new commissioner.