The last City Council meeting of the session began after 10:30 a.m. yesterday with over an hour of memorials to the late-Ald. Berny Stone (50), a discussion of the importance of chess in Chicago Public Schools and a lengthy tribute to local high school sports teams. But then the Council swiftly voted without objection on over a hundred pieces of legislation, including an ordinance to approve millions in legal settlements drawing attention to the Chicago Police Department. A complete break down the meeting is at the bottom of this report.

For several retiring and ousted aldermen, it was their last vote, since the May 6 Council meeting will be dedicated to goodbyes to leaving alderman; two of those aldermen, Natashia Holmes (7) and Lona Lane (18), were no shows yesterday.

Several aldermen-elect, Raymond Lopez (15), David Moore (17), Michael Scott Jr. (24), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) and Gilbert Villegas (36) watched the three-hour long proceedings from the packed Council gallery. Cook County Finance Committee Chairman, Comm. John Daley also attended part of the session.

Missing from the packed agenda was Ald. Ed Burke’s (14) proposed ordinance that would let strippers dance topless in strip clubs that serve alcohol. At the close of the meeting, Burke told reporters he didn’t bring the vote to the floor because he didn’t think he had the votes. [More on this from the Tribune]

Emanuel discusses Burge Reparations, Rauner, CPS Probe, & Chiraq  

Mayor Rahm Emanuel held his usual, quick post-Council briefing where he made sure to highlight his resolution in opposition to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to create right-to-work zones across the state. Emanuel said, “As long as I’m mayor, Chicago will not be a right to work city.” Emanuel added that Chicago is not on par or in competition with Southern right-to-work states like Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama. “Our competition is other world class cities,” Emanuel said listing New York, London, and Shanghai as examples.

Emanuel also touted his re-vamped and much scaled-down reparations package to Police Capt. Jon Burge’s alleged torture victims (reported in yesterday’s Aldertrack Update), which was formally introduced in Council today and sent to the Finance Committee. The original settlement ordinance called for allocating $20 million dollars to the alleged victims and their families and sat without a hearing for over two years. When later asked how the city managed to find the money to pay for the proposed $5.5 million fund, especially at a time when the city’s finances are of major concern, Emanuel said, “This is going to be paid out over a set of years as we go through the set of cases […] it’s not one lump sum at one time.”

Regarding the federal probe into Chicago Public Schools, Emanuel said he was not privy to the details of the investigation. “It’s an ongoing active investigation at this time […] CPS is fully cooperating,” Emanuel said, adding that he has, “very little information,” because Federal investigators do not share information during an investigation. Emanuel closed the matter, after being pressed numerous times to divulge details, that it is, “a CPS matter.” [probe details from Catalyst Chicago]

Mayor Emanuel also responded to Gov. Rauner’s suggestion that CPS consider bankruptcy to deal with its projected $1.1 billion budget deficit. “Regardless of friendship,” the mayor said about his relationship with Rauner, “I think it’s wrong […] The idea that you’d go to bankruptcy and you’d leave in place a tax code that has dual taxation on Chicago citizens is wrong.” The mayor was referring to the fact that Chicago residents pay a local property tax, which contributes to Chicago teacher pensions, and also a state income tax, which helps pay for education across Illinois.

Emanuel also said he’s not a fan of Hollywood director Spike Lee’s new project, Chiraq, a movie about gun violence in Englewood. “I was clear with him that I am not happy with the title,” Emanuel said, adding that he told Lee there are “very good people” and a lot of “positive things” happening in the South Side neighborhood.

Communications highlights submitted by the Mayor and various city departments:

  • Mayor’s Office: Resolution stating opposition to a recent proposal by Governor Bruce Rauner to create right-to-work zones–referred to Committee on Workforce Development & Audit.

  • Mayor’s Office/Department of TransportationOrdinance to create more public space by creating a “People Plaza Program.” The public-private partnership will be launched in ten locations this summer and will be expanded by ten additional locations each year under the ordinance introduced to the City Council.

  • Commissioner of Cultural Affairs and Special Events: An ordinance authorizing the execution of concession agreement with Goose Island regarding the Pritzker Pavilion. It was referred to Committee on Cultural Affairs and Special Events

  • Mayor’s OfficeThe Amended Jon Burge Reparations Package, originally announced and discussed during Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting, was officially introduced and re-sent to the Finance Committee. The package includes a $5.5 million fund for alleged victims, a formal City Council apology, the creation of a permanent memorial recognizing the victims of torture and curricula about the Burge case and its legacy for CPS eighth and tenth grade history classes.

  • Mayor’s Office & Department of Public Health: Ordinance to expand a Chicago Public Schools-run dental program to all CPS Schools. According to the release, more than half of Chicago’s third-graders have had a cavity and 30% have tooth decay. Medicaid would pay for the expansion.

Filed in Clerk’s Office:

Application by Comcast of Chicago, Inc. for state-issued authorization to use construction facilities in the public way for delivery of cable service in Chicago Area 1.

Introduced by Aldermen (Highlights):

  • Ald. Joe Moreno (1) obtained a suspension of the rules to have the Clerk read a resolution about the importance of chess and the need to expand chess programs at Chicago Public Schools. “It teaches us so many other life skills other than just winning a chess game,” Moreno said. Ald. Latasha Thomas (17) and Ald. Ed Burke (14) spoke in favor of it, saying he’d never learned the game. Mayor Emanuel then joked that Burke, “plays another form of chess.”

  • Ald. Danny Solis (25) obtained a suspension of the rules to read a resolution “honoring children.” He would make April 30th Dia Del Nino, or Day of the Child, in the City of Chicago. Clerk Susana Mendoza and Mayor Emanuel are co-sponsors. “Like Mother’s Day, like Father’s Day, we would like to see this,” Ald. Solis said. Ald. Tim Cullerton (38) also spoke in favor.

  • An ordinance to expand mortgage interest tax benefits to middle class and lower income homeowners, referred to Committee on Housing and Real Estate. Ald. Will Burns (4), Ald. Latasha Thomas (17), Ald. Pat Dowell (3), Ald. Deb Mell (33), Ald. Walter Burnett (27), Ald. Ameya Pawar (47), Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26), Ald. Joe Moore (49) are sponsors.

  • Ald. Ed Burke and Ald. Joe Moore introduced a resolution calling for the council to, “officially go on record opposing,” State Rep. Joe Sosnowski’s (R-Rockford) plan to reduce the number of free days at Chicago museums. State law mandates that museums in the city must be open a minimum of 52 days for all Illinois residents. Sosnowski wants to cut that number in half.

  • Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) introduced an ordinance that asks that the Commissioner of Transportation remove a portion of the protected bike lanes on Kinzie Ave. Clerk Mendoza first sent Reilly’s proposal to the Committee on Transportation and Public Way. Someone then yelled, off mic, “and Traffic!” Since two committees were called, Mendoza referred the ordinance to Rules. [Read this Sun-Times article for background]

Committee Reports:

All reports of the City Council committees passed in a 47-0 vote, following the first roll call vote of a proposal from Finance Committee to donate an ambulance to Honduras. Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) and Ald. Rick Munoz (22), however, requested to be put on record in their request to “defer and publish” Zoning item #18279.

Notable pieces of legislation that passed:

  • Dr. Julie Morita was confirmed as the new City Health Commissioner. She has been CDPH’s Acting Health Commissioner since January 15. Following passage, Mayor Emanuel praised her for her work in leading the city’s Ebola preparedness plan.

  • A Keep Chicago Renting ordinance introduced by Ald. Ray Suarez (31) that will provide tenants and landlords with clear timelines and processes for ensuring tenants aren’t dislocated if their building goes into foreclosure. Banks that legally take over the properties would have to notify tenants within 21 days. It will take effect in 90 days.

  • An ordinance to lease 15 vacant parcels of land in the South Shore community. [The parcels are located at 6927-67 South Kenwood directly adjacent to the former ComEd building]. Theaster Gates’ Rebuild Foundation owns the property and plans to turn it into a performing arts space.

  • An ordinance proposed by Ald. Carrie Austin (34) that incentivizes contractors to hire their subcontractors locally. It expands the Local Business Preference Ordinance.

  • An ordinance that extends the amount of time and reduces red tape for outdoor food vendors who can get a permit for special events like street festivals and concerts.

Unfinished Business:

Ald. Ed Burke said there was one more item from the Committee on Transportation and Public Way, but when he turned to Ald. Anthony Beale (9), the chair of the committee, to explain the matter, which was an amendment to the municipal code to allow review and sunset provisions for traffic violations, Ald. Beale responded, “I have no idea, Mr. Chairman.”

Burke then questioned, partially off mic, why it was even on the agenda. It was likely this amendment, originally introduced by Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6), that has been sitting in committee since October. Members of the Progressive Caucus tried but failed to force a floor vote on it during the March meeting.