Former Chicago School Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz easily won approval to head up the Chicago Parks Board, marking a big political transition in his long career in education statewide. “I would have preferred to see you serving at the Chicago Board of Education a while longer,” Ald. Milly Santiago (31) told him to laughter from the room before she was chided by Chairman Tom Tunney (44).

Attendance (13/20 Committee Members Present): Chairman Tom Tunney (44), Brian Hopkins (2), Leslie Hairston (5), Roderick Sawyer (6), Patrick Daley Thompson (11), Marty Quinn (13), Derrick Curtis (18), Michael Scott Jr. (24), Walter Burnett (27), Milly Santiago (31), Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35), Michele Smith (43), Ameya Pawar (47)
Other Aldermen Present: Marge Laurino (39)

Ruiz fielded congratulations and tame questions on privatization, underutilized parks, and allocating the department’s $458 million budget, which Ruiz says largely goes to programming.

He told aldermen he’d work to increase ties with Chicago Public Schools and Libraries to, “have more seamless programming between winter breaks, summer breaks, and just year round,” and that he would “always take a marketing and customer approach to serving the constituents of the City.”

Ald. Brian Hopkins (2) said he’d like to work with Ruiz on two parks in his ward where the private sector has offered to help with capital improvements: Seneca Park and Lake Shore. His appointment won unanimous approval and will be reported out at Wednesday’s full City Council meeting.

The committee also approved the use of up to $191,000 in Open Space Impact Fee funds to help pay for the construction of bridges associated with North Branch Trail Extension in the 39th ward. The 18-mile-long hiking and bicycling trail starts north at the Chicago Botanical Gardens and ends at the Cook County Forest Preserve in Edgebrook. The City and the Forest Preserve are working on a four mile long extension south, and hope to complete the second stage of the project by the fall.