Wednesday’s meeting of the full City Council may very well be the last time aldermen won’t have to listen to public testimony – a resolution codifying new public comment procedures for City Council meetings will be taken up by the Rules Committee this morning, an hour before the the full City Council.

Finance Committee also has some unfinished business to handle–an order from Ald. Brendan Reilly (42), co-sponsored by Finance Chair Ed Burke (14), that would block overnight pedestrian access to the lakefront at Ohio Street.  

Oddly, Finance and Rules are scheduled to meet at the same time, 9:00 a.m., in the Council Chambers.

And Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) has decided to hold off on a plan to force a vote on an SEIU-backed ordinance that would support their years-long effort to increase wages and benefits for airport service workers. (Details: Plan to Force Council Vote on Labor Protections for Airport Workers)

Mayor’s Office Amends Police Homebuying Program

Meanwhile, a plan to invest $3 million in a new homebuyer program for police officers has been amended ahead of today’s vote, following the lukewarm reception it faced from aldermen two weeks ago. Though the ordinance advanced out of Housing Committee by voice vote, some aldermen, including Ald. David Moore (17) and Ald. Pat Dowell (3), said they would only support it pending changes.

The program would encourage the city’s first responders to purchase homes in city’s community areas with the highest, consistent rates of violent crime. All Chicago first responders, including police officers, firefighters, and paramedics whose annual salary is between $82,950 and $118,500 could qualify for the city-funded $30,000, 10-year forgivable loans. One hundred loans would be made available on a first-come, first-served basis. That money could cover any of the costs associated with the purchase of a home, from appraisal to post-purchase rehab work.

The city had originally based the eligibility map on police district boundaries, even though the department tracks crime statistics down to the street level.

To the dismay of some aldermen, the Administration didn’t factor in where police officers currently live as a data point, nor did the city account for outliers, neighborhoods or clusters of residential blocks where crime isn’t an issue.

When it was presented in committee, eligible areas spanned across six police districts on the city’s South and West Side: the 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 15th. Those districts include portions of Auburn Gresham, Austin, Brighton Park, Chatham, East Garfield Park, Englewood, Gage Park, Greater Grand Crossing, Humboldt Park, New City, North Lawndale, South Lawndale, West Englewood and West Garfield Park.

Original police homebuying program map with eligible precincts in yellow.

 

Updated police homebuying program map, based on community areas.

Finance Committee Meeting

Between April and October, during the hours of midnight to five in the morning, the gates to the Ohio Street underpass would be locked under an order proposed by Ald. Reilly. When the downtown alderman directly introduced the item at Monday’s Finance Committee meeting, he said it was an issue of public safety: the 18th Police District is “stretched thin” and closing that access would allow more patrols at other pedestrian access points to the lake, from Navy Pier down to Oakwood Beach.

Rules Committee Meeting

Rules Chair Michelle Harris (8) recessed an earlier meeting of the committee because she didn’t have a quorum to vote on an ordinance mandating public comment at City Council meetings. Rules is the only Council committee that has all 50 aldermen as members. A quorum requires more than half be present.

Under the court-mandated proposal under consideration, 30 minutes of every Council meeting would be set aside for public comment, with each speaker allotted a maximum of three minutes. A new NBA-style countdown clock (the “Shot Clock”) has been installed on the wall of the Council Chamber to make sure they oblige to the time limit. The clock, which Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) called “tacky”, will only be in use for this portion of the meeting.

The resolution awaiting consideration amends the Rules of Procedure, carving out a public comment timeslot after the Clerk calls the roll, and before the parade of honorary resolutions submitted by aldermen.

Andy Thayer, one of the plaintiffs who sued the city for violating the state’s Open Meetings Act claiming he was denied access to two monthly City Council meetings last summer, characterized the 30 minute carve out as “totally inadequate” and threatened more litigation when he testified before Rules Committee last week. (Context: This court document of exhibits the plaintiffs submitted to the court includes detailed descriptions on the City Council’s seating policy )

“These proposed rule changes are totally inadequate and just invite further litigation and the city should not be wasting time on that, the city should just do the right thing and follow the Open Meetings Act,” Thayer said. “We need at least an hour of public comment at the meetings to ensure adequate input.”

Thayer wasn’t the only member of the public to trash the plan, and some sympathetic aldermen questioned if the three minute time limit should be reduced or the public portion extended to an hour.   And the  administration has had a reputation for handing down 11th hour re-writes of controversial legislation minutes before a vote (see: Uber, Airbnb), but this item doesn’t have the broad, and monied lobbying efforts to pressure changes.  

No amendments have been added to the rules, a spokesperson from the city’s Law Department confirmed on background. The Law Department official added that Thayer would need to file a new lawsuit against the city if he wants to challenge it.

Items Awaiting Committee Vote, Before Full Council

  • R2017-389: Changes to public comment rules at full City Council meetings (Preview, Committee Report)
  • Order: [Record # Unknown] An Order requesting the Department of Transportation ban pedestrian access to the lake under Ohio Street.

Ordinances

  • [Direct Intro/No Rec#] Amendment to Chicago Prepaid Wireless 911 Surcharge Act  – A telecommunications bill in Springfield that would renew Chicago’s 911 surcharge on prepaid wireless services, as well as increase city’s 911 surcharge on wireless and landline phones, from $3.90 to $5, is under threat of veto or inaction by the governor. This ordinance would give the city two paths: authorize the Illinois Department of Revenue to continue collecting the tax on the prepaid service, though at a lower, 7% rate, or collect at the higher 9% rate should the bill be signed into law. ( 911 Surcharge Briefing Sheet / 911 Surcharge Direct Introduction)
  • O2017-3906: A $3 million Homebuyer Assistance Program for city police officers, firefighters and paramedics that would award up to 100 eligible applicants $30,000 toward their housing costs if they commit to purchasing a home in one of 14 community areas with the highest crime rates. The program would be funded through the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (See more above, as well as this Preview, Committee Report)
  • O2017-163: Changes to the city’s amusement tax as it relates to tickets sold on the secondary market. Originally portrayed as code cleanup by the mayor’s budget office, it was revealed that the city would lose about $200,000 in revenue. Several alderman, Harry Osterman (48), Patrick Daley Thompson (11) and David Moore (17) have already committed to voting it down (Committee Report / Briefing Document)
  • O2017-3859: Reduction in overnight staffing requirements for coin-operated laundromats. Mayor Emanuel sponsored this legislation to reduce what the industry described as a costly, and burdensome that requires at least two employees present for the overnight shift at 24-hour, self-serve locations.  (Preview, Committee Report)
  • O2017-3911: Massage parlor crackdown in response to “Operation Hot Towel” sex trafficking sting introduced by Ald. Matt O’Shea (19). Currently, massage parlors in Chicago can employ persons as young as 15-years old. This ordinance imposes various licensing requirements, as well as a new age minimum of 18 years old. (Preview, Committee Report)
  • O2017-3933, O2017-3928, O2017-3938, O2017-3940: About $5.5 Million in TIFs for CPS School Construction. Three of the four TIF ordinances would reimburse the Board of Education for capital costs associated with bringing three schools on the city’s North Side up to compliance with federal accessibility standards. Amundsen High School and Chappell Elementary School, both located in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of the 40th Ward, would receive up to $1,083,069 and $760,137, respectively from the Western Avenue North TIF.  Carl Schurz High School in Jefferson Park, which CPS spent $4.9 million to build ADA compliant features, would receive $2.9 million from the Portage Park TIF. And Manuel Perez Elementary School in Pilsen would benefit from $800,000 from the Pilsen Industrial Corridor TIF to cover the cost of removing and disposing existing playground equipment for a new basketball court.  (Preview)
  • O2017-3898: Establishment of a new bid incentive program for veteran owned businesses (Preview)
  • O2017-3884, O2017-3904: A slew of ordinances from Ald. Marty Quinn (13) that’d ban residents who live within the boundaries of four voting precincts from renting out their homes on Airbnb. The process is similar to that of imposing a moratorium on packaged good license.  (Precincts: 10th, 48th, 12st, and 45th)

Appointments

Resolutions

  • R2017-302: Call for President Trump and the U.S. Congress to support mission of the EPA and maintain operation at Region 5 office in Chicago (Coverage)
  • R2017-213: Call for opposition to the reduction in federal funding to EPA and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
  • SR2017-297: Call for Department of Transportation to adopt Federal Highway Administration provisions regarding use of post-consumer recyclable materials in roadway projects
  • R2017-291: Reaffirmation of commitment to restricting non-essential City-funded employee travel to State of North Carolina