Finance Chairman Burke waived the reading of Law Department statements on the three settlements totaling more than $5 million, which the committee ultimately approved. But it didn’t stop Ald. John Arena (45) from sounding off the cost the city had incurred because of settlements related to CPD Commander Jon Burge. The committee also approved an amendment to the Michael Reese hospital site refinancing, a fee waiver for the Public Building Commission, and transfer of a bond cap to help an affordable housing development in the 24th ward.
Attendance: Chairman Ed Burke (14), Gregory Mitchell (7), Michelle Harris (8), Ald. Patrick D. Thompson (11), Raymond Lopez (15), David Moore (17), Derrick Curtis (18), Matt O’Shea (19), Willie Cochran (20), Howard Brookins (21), Walter Burnett Jr. (27), Jason Ervin (28), Scott Waguespack (32), Emma Mitts (37), Brendan Reilly (42), Tom Tunney (44), John Arena (45), Harry Osterman (48)
“What was concerning to me was that the officers involved had been involved in other settlements that related to the Burge era, and totaling somewhere in the range of up to $30 million, collectively,” Ald. Arena noted Tuesday. “I just think it’s important to publicly point out that while this is a $4 million settlement we’re dealing with now, that this particular era has been incredibly costly to the city of Chicago.”
He was referring to the $4 million settlement unanimously approved; the plaintiff, Shawn Whirl, alleged he was tortured into falsely confessing to the shooting death of a cab driver. Whirl spent about a quarter of a century in jail for that confession. There are a number of false confession cases still pending against the city, First Assistant Corporation Counsel Jenny Notz said.
“We have two cases pending, they’re called Wrice and Kluppelberg, in which case there are allegations against Jon Burge,” Notz said. “We have 25 wrongful conviction cases, not all of them involve Burge or officers who served under him.”
“Years later, decades later, the taxpayers of Chicago are still trying to make restitution,” Arena said. The public and aldermen should keep that in mind as the city makes its next decisions on police reform in light of the Justice Department’s investigation, he concluded.
Aldermen approved another police-related settlement in the shooting death of Willie Miller. Ald. Nick Sposato (38) voted against the $750,000 settlement. During testimony, Notz told him Miller was shot in the “rear right flank.”
“The shooting officer and his partner testified that the decedent had a gun in his right hand, turned to his left, and pointed back at them… The argument at trial would have been that that testimony is inconsistent with the Medical Examiner’s report,” she said. Defenders of Miller, including his mother, alluded that the gun found at the scene of the shooting was planted by CPD.
Aldermen also approved a settlement related to a disability suit brought against the city by a night watchman.
Michael Reese Site Refinancing
Another large portion of the meeting was related to the refinancing of the Michael Reese site. Aldermen already heard testimony on the refinancing in November, and gave the city’s CFO, Carole Brown, authorization to refinance. Yesterday’s discussion was related to an amendment to that authorization.
Brown testified again on the basics of the refinancing, which (after some market shifts since November) is expected to save the city at least $4.2 million on the original $91 million note. The city, anticipating winning the 2016 Olympics bid, was planning to flip the property. That bid ultimately went to Rio, and the former hospital site has been vacant since. The city has issued a Request for Proposals on the site, due later next month.
The existing loan has $72.8 million outstanding, and payments for that loan are estimated to be a total of $120 million without the refinancing. The current rate on the loan is 5.95%, and the city is hoping to get a full percentage point (or 100 basis points) in savings.
CHA Bond Cap
One of the only other agenda items to draw comments from aldermen was the reallocation of the city’s bond volume cap to finance a Chicago Housing Authority development in North Lawndale. The move won the support of local Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24). He said the agreement would “help housing stock in the 24th ward.”
The city is allocated a certain “volume cap” per calendar year to issue tax-exempt bonds, and is allowed to reallocate any portion of its unused allocation to other agencies, including to the CHA. The owner of New Sterling Park LLC, in the process of constructing a new building at 3301 W Arthington St., “experienced certain unanticipated costs in connection with the completion of the Project”. The group won approval from the city to reallocate up to $10 million to the CHA to help complete that building.
“This bond cap will help them get to the end of the line, they’re just about finished with this project, with this additional revenue they’ll be able to finish this project and move people in,” Ald. Scott said.