With a long couple of months debating regulations for ride- and home-sharing platforms, aldermen didn’t spend too much time drafting new legislation this past month, as there were only a handful of big ticket items introduced yesterday. Here are some highlights from the Mayor’s Office and aldermen.

Repealing Police Exam Fee
Committee Assignment: Workforce Development and Audit.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced an ordinance on behalf of the Commissioner on Human Resources that would eliminate the $30 registration fee for the entry-level police exam. The ordinance was introduced following a review of the Police Department’s recruitment procedures, which found a significant number of African-American and women applicants had applied to be on the force, but never sat in for the test because of the associated costs, according to the Mayor’s Office. The review was part of last year’s targeted minority recruitment campaign for CPD. The Department of Human Resources (DHR) worked with CPD, aldermen, and “community leaders” to “find ways to break down the barriers allowing more to apply,” said Michelle Levar with DHR. 

By removing the fee, the city hopes to make the police exam more accessible to minority applicants. “This ordinance removes a potential financial hurdle and makes the police hiring process more accessible to all, particularly those who may not have taken the exam otherwise,” said a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Human Resources. Eliminating the fee won’t strain the budget, said a spokesperson in the Mayor’s Office, because the test costs about $2 million to administer and the city recoups less than a fourth of that from the fee. The entrance exam is administered by an outside vendor.   

Proposed Changes to IPRA Investigations
Committee Assignment: Public Safety

Ald. Ed Burke (14) and Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29), a former police officer, want theIndependent Police Review Authority (IPRA) to pick up the pace on investigations into police misconduct. Under their ordinance, IPRA would be required to complete an investigation within two years. The agency would also be required to initiate any new investigation within five years of an incident. The ordinance would apply to “all charges for which removal or discharge, or suspension of more than 30 days is recommended must be brought within 5 years after the commission of the act upon which the charge is based.”

According to a press release from Ald. Burke’s office, the ordinance is based on recommendations made in a police report Mayor Rahm Emanuel commissioned and shelved around the Christmas holiday in 2014, entitled “Preventing and Disciplining Police Misconduct.” Following a record number of homicides in 2012, Mayor Emanuel commissioned the report as part of a series of efforts to improve policing. It’s colloquially referred to the Safer Report after lead author, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Safer. Burke’s Office also references an opinion from the Illinois Appellate Court in which the court called the police department’s decision to wait six years to file charges against an officer an “unreasonable length of time.” 

Medical Marijuana Expansion
Committee Assignment: Zoning

Ald. Brian Hopkins (2) introduced an ordinance that would permit medical marijuana dispensaries in the Elston Corridor (Planned Manufacturing District # 2b). As the zoning code is currently written, a dispensary would need to apply for a special use permit with the Zoning Board of Appeals. If the ordinance is approved, dispensaries would be allowed as of right. But opening a cultivation center would still require a special use permit. 

Limiting Massage Parlors
Committee Assignment: Zoning

A plan to require a special use permit to establish a massage parlor in any “C” designated zoning district was introduced by Ald. George Cardenas (12). Under the current zoning code, these businesses are allowed as of right. The ordinance was drafted in order to stem the proliferation of massage parlors, some of which operate as covert brothels, according to a former aide for Ald. Cardenas who drafted the ordinance. By requiring a special use permit, any operator seeking to open a parlor would have to go through the same checks and balances as nail salons: a detailed review by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Call for Hearings On Safe Water
Committee Assignment: Public Safety

Thirty aldermen have signed on to Ald. Chris Taliaferro’s (29) resolution calling on the Council’s Public Safety Committee to hold hearings to determine the state or Chicago is in violation of the federal Safe Water Drinking Act, the Clean Water Drinking Act or “any other applicable federal or state laws.” Elevated levels of lead were found in the water at 14 Chicago Public Schools since the district began testing drinking fountains, and tests for “hundreds of other schools” have yet to be completed, the preamble states. 

Aldermen are calling for the hearings to verify those tests conducted by CPS were in compliance with EPA standards and to get a better understanding of the “financial, legal, and social consequences that that taxpayers of Chicago may incur as a result of the emerging crisis of lead contaminants in public water sources.”

Revamping The City’s Recycling Program
Committee Assignment: Health and Environmental Protection

Mayor Emanuel wants to revamp the city’s recycling program, putting the brunt of the changes on high-rise residential buildings. The ordinance would repeal the existing chapter of the municipal code related to recycling and replace it with a new set of guidelines focused on “source-separated recycling.”

Under the ordinance, which would take effect January 1, 2017 pending council approval, residential buildings with more than four units would be required to place recyclable material in designated recycling containers and keep the material separate from waste until collection. Building owners would be required to set up “clearly identified” recycling containers that display a written and/or pictorial list of the recyclable material. They’d also be required to implement an “ongoing education program” to notify tenants about the new recycling policy through flyers. 

Buildings could apply for an exemption if they feel the recycling program would be unduly burdensome “due to the configuration, location or unique characteristics” of their building. The Commissioner of Streets and Sanitation, or a delegate of their choosing, would be in charge of determining exemptions. The application fee for the exemption would cost $500. Interestingly, the mayor, at his most recent fundraiser in May, received a $10,000 donation from the Astor Company, a recycling consulting firm. 

Billboard Signage Changes
Committee Assignment: Zoning

Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1), Danny Solis (25) and Scott Waguespack (32) jointlyintroduced an ordinance concerning replacement of certain nonconforming signs. The ordinance would put the owner of a building, not the sign company, is charge of signage on billboards. This would allow smaller sign shops to compete for the advertising space.  According to Ald. Moreno, the ordinance isn’t new. The idea was kicked around 5 to 6 years ago but it never made it out of committee, due to strong objections from large billboard companies.