Aldermen say the phone lines were burning up last night, as Council members and Mayoral staff whipped votes on three contentious issues due for a vote this morning: acceptance of the O’Connor Working Group’s Inspector General substitute ordinance; passage of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed tobacco tax that was delayed from Monday to a special Finance Committee meeting called for 9:15 a.m.; and a previously tabled $200 million bond issuance to pay for swap termination fees.

Two sources last night counted 25 “no” votes for the IG substitute, but as the night wore on, one source said some of those “no” votes may be wavering.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) a co-sponsor of the original ordinance merging the Legislative Inspector General’s office with the City’s Inspector General’s Office, told Aldertrack yesterday afternoon that while the working group ordinance was still a work in progress and he believes the one he crafted with Ald. Michele Smith (42) is “the right ordinance,” he’s content IG Joe Ferguson will be empowered to oversee City Council after two years fighting for reform. “You don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good,” he said.

Per Rule 41, 26 votes are needed to discharge Pawar’s original ordinance to the floor. A substitution or amendment, like the working group’s proposed changes, can be introduced at that time as well, Pawar says. It will come down to a simple up or down vote during the “Unfinished Business” portion of the meeting.

The Council’s Finance Committee is also meeting this morning, an hour before the full City Council meeting, to vote on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to raise the city’s smoking age to 21 and increase taxes on tobacco-related products. On Monday, a marathon-long hearing on the ordinance revealed that a significant number of aldermen oppose the plan for fear of how it will impact local businesses and crime.

Aldermen who represent wards along the city’s borders had expressed worry that the changes would drive out business to the surrounding suburbs and Indiana, where smoking products are cheaper. Others, predominantly from the city’s South and West Side, had expressed concern the high price of cigarette packs would fuel what they described to be a “booming” underground market of loose cigarette sales.

Members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus don’t like the ordinance either, because the $6 million in expected revenue from the new tax would go to a CPS-run summer orientation program for new high school freshman, instead of anti-smoking programs. Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) said he would prefer the money pay for anti-smoking programs in elementary schools. It’s possible, one source said, a substitute may be introduced today that would divert some of those funds to smoking cessation programs so the Mayor will have enough votes to pass the ordinance.

Items Awaiting Council Approval Today (Highlights)

  • Legal Settlements: A $3.1M settlement with the U.S. DoJ over a hiring practice no longer in use that allegedly discriminated against foreign-born candidates. Ald. Nick Sposato (38) voted against it in committee. Also up: a $220,000 settlement with Tiffany Hondras, who filed a lawsuit against the police department alleging unlawful search and seizure, and a $200,000 settlement toJonathan and Jesse Hadnott, Kevin Hunt and Brandell Betts, who filed a joint lawsuit against the police department also alleging unlawful search and seizure.

  • Bond Offering: The Second Lien Water Revenue Project and Refunding Bonds, Series 2016a ($200M) are listed on the Finance Committee’s list of ordinances awaiting a vote, but according to Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), it’s supposed to be held for another month. Chairman Ed Burke (14) tabled the bond deal at last month’s City Council meeting after the Progressive Caucus pushed back, because it would pay for swap termination fees on existing debt. The PC wants to sue the banks instead. An ordinance calling for legal action against banks just got re-referred from the Budget Committee to the Finance Committee yesterday.

  • Zoning Changes for the old Malcolm X City College campus for the newBlackhawks ice rink and Rush University Medical Center academic campus.

  • Fee Waivers for all city permits and public way use permits for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority

  • Anti-Discrimination Protections for vets as it relates to finding and securing housing in Chicago. This ordinance also provides anti-retaliation measures to protect tenants who file complaints against their landlords.

  • Sale Of City-Owned Land for $1 to the University of Chicago for a new campus for their existing Woodlawn Charter School. Ald. Sue Sadlowski-Garza (10) and Ald. David Moore (17) voted against it in committee.

  • The BACP Top Cabbie Award Ordinance: sponsored by Mayor Emanuel, would create an incentive program to find “Chicago’s Top Cabbie”. Top prize is a free taxicab medallion.

  • Mobile Food Vendor Restrictions for Lincoln Park to restrict food cart vendors on nine separate stretches of restaurant-heavy sidewalks, including roughly quarter-mile spans of Armitage, Lincoln, Clark, Fullerton, and Halsted.

  • Expenditure of Open Space Impact Fee fund for Julia Burgos Park: The Logan Square Park would receive $235,000 in “Open Space Impact Fees,” which are taken from new residential developments to help expand and improve local park space. The money would help pay for environmental remediation costs at an adjacent vacant plot of land the city acquired.

  • TIF Money For Belmont Cragin Elementary School: transfers $287,000 in TIF funds for the construction of a new playground with rubber surfacing.

  • Changes To The City’s Procurement Goals For M/WBE Businesses: Would increase all city-funded contract goals from 24% to 26% for minority businesses and from 4% to 6% for women owned businesses. The ordinance originally called for 30% and 10%, respectively.

  • Divvy Expansion To Evanston And Oak Park: includes revenue sharing with Chicago. The City will pass through $320,000 to Evanston and $480,000 to Oak Park. Evanston will pay $80,000 in local matching funds, Oak Park will pay $120,000. Costs and revenues will be shared

Appointments

  • Julio Rodriguez as a member of the Commission on Human Relations; Reappointment of Naderh H. Elrabadi, Stephanie A. Kanter, David J. Mussatt, and Nabeela Rasheed as members of Chicago Commission on Human Relations.

  • Designation of of Blake P. Sercye as Chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals. The former chairman, Jonathan Swain, took a position on the Chicago Board of Elections. Sercye has been on ZBA for only a few months. Swain replaced Langdon Neal on the three-member board of commissioners.

Expected Intros: Ald. Moreno Demands Hearing on Prop. Tax Relief Plan, Hopkins Wants Legacy Buildings Protected

Ald. Joe Moreno (1) will be introducing a resolution demanding a hearing on an ordinance he introduced in September that would provide property tax relief to some homeowners whose homes are valued at $250,000 or less. The ordinance was introduced last fall in response to the Mayor’s historic property tax hike. “This [property tax increase] was approved with the caveat that the City would consider a citywide rebate program, if the state could not provide relief. As of this date, state action to provide relief to low- and middle-income homeowners has been stalled,” Ald. Moreno said in a release.

Moreno’s rebate plan is intended for households earning less than $100,000 a year. Homeowners would apply for the program with the Department of Finance, and the City’s Chief Financial Officer would establish and administer it. The CFO could call on the Office of Compliance to conduct eligibility audits.

Read the formula with an example here.

The dollar amount homeowners would get back is multiplied by the difference in the City’s real estate tax assessment rate from last year to this year, then multiplied by the equalized assessed value of the home. Which basically means a home with $50,000 a year in income worth $250,000 could be eligible for a rebate just over $208, delivered by check. The Chicago Tribune estimates that if Emanuel’s proposed increases were in effect this year, the total bill on a $250,000 home would go up by $342, to $4,504. About 270,000 Chicago households would be eligible to apply for Moreno’s program.

According to Ald. Moreno’s count, there are six co-sponsors: Ald. Pat Dowell (3), Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6), Ald. Michael Scott, Jr. (24), Ald. Danny Solis (25), Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30), and Ald. Joe Moore (49).

Ald Brian Hopkins (2) also plans to introduce an ordinance that will “allow any Alderman or the Mayor to nominate a longstanding business deemed an economic or cultural fixture to the community for at least 30 years,” to become a so-called “Legacy Business.” The designation is aimed in part to help longstanding businesses survive rising property tax rates.

Up to 300 legacy businesses could be nominated per year. A business has to have operated in Chicago for at least 30 years, contributed to the neighborhood’s history or identity, and committed to maintaining its, “physical features or traditions that define the business.” To be included on DPD’s list, businesses would pay a $50 administrative fee. Those fees and across the board business licensing fee hikes (most by $5), would help fund the program.

Legacy Businesses could apply for a special grant from DPD awarding $500 per full-time equivalent employee. Landlords with 10+ year lease agreements with Legacy Businesses could also apply for a grant, at $4.50 per square foot, maxing out at 5,000 square feet per location.