A roll call vote on a proposed ballot question on infrastructure spending ended in a rare tie roll call vote, leaving aldermen unsure if the motion carried or failed. The stymied motion called for creating a referendum to ask Chicago voters this November whether state and federal government should invest more money in local road repairs and new infrastructure projects.

Attendance: Chair Michelle Harris (8), Brian Hopkins (2),  Sophia King (4), Rod Sawyer (6), Sue Sadlowski Garza (9), Patrick Daley Thompson (11), Mary Quinn (13), David Moore (17),  Michael Scott, Jr. (24), Walter Burnett, Jr. (27), Ariel Reboyras (30), Scott Waguespack (32), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), Anthony Napolitano (41), Michele Smith (43), Deb Silverstein (50)

Aldermen on the Rules Committee were sharply divided on the last-minute proposed ballot question from Ald. Walter Burnett (27). Most committee members had not seen the ordinance language until the morning of the meeting, which convened 30 minutes behind schedule.

Aldermen were originally slated to consider a referendum question from Ald. Joe Moore (49) asking voters if the city of Chicago should divest in fossil fuel companies. But environmental groups opposed the ballot question, saying that putting it to the voters as a non-binding referendum would delay their efforts.

“In Chicago, there is an active campaign for municipal divestment from fossil fuels,” the group Chicago 350 said in a letter addressed to aldermen and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “But the proposed referendum could have the effect of delaying this important effort. The nature of climate change and the science behind it are no longer a matter of debate, and thus divestment is not an issue to take to the electorate. The power to divest lies in the executive and the legislative branches.”

In explaining the reason behind his new ordinance, Ald. Burnett said that he has been trying to get the city’s Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to invest in new L stops in his Near West Side ward.

“CTA is [trying] to get me to use TIF money to do it, instead of the federal government and the state government [trying] put cash on it,” said Ald. Burnett. “We need our TIF dollars for something else. And I feel as though everybody else should pitch in. It should not just be burden upon the city and the TIF dollars in those communities.”

But the question Ald. Burnett wants to pose to Chicago voters is vague, a point that Ald. David Moore (17) was quick to point out. “I don’t know what all of that means. It’s all words to me,” said Ald. Moore, adding that the city has “always been pushing for new funds” and that a ballot question on the matter was redundant.

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