With far less than the 25 members needed for a quorum, aldermen on the Rules Committee advanced three non-binding ballot questions for the November election that would ask Chicago voters about strengthening penalties for illegal gun sales, if the city should issue municipal IDs for non-citizen residents and whether the state should provide “equitable” funding for Chicago Public Schools.

Attendance: Chair Michelle Harris (8), Pat Dowell (3), Howard Brookins, Jr, (21), Michael Scott, Jr. (24), Danny Solis (25), Ariel Reboyras (30), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), Marge Laurino (39), Pat O’Connor (40)

Ald. Scott Waguespack’s (32) proposed ballot question on whether an elected Independent Airport Authority should govern Chicago’s two airports, O’Hare and Midway, was not considered yesterday. It was the only ballot referendum proposed by an alderman not to advance to the Rules Committee. Instead, when Ald. Waguespack introduced the measure in May, at the same meeting the other three referenda were introduced, it was sent to the Aviation Committee.  

Further oversight at Chicago’s airports have faced major pushback in committee this year. In March, when Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41), whose ward includes O’Hare Airport, aggressively pushed for a hearing on his plan to put the City Council in charge of approving new runways, it got shot down with every member on the committee, with Ald. Napolitano voting against it.

The Mayor’s Office, the city’s Law Department and Aviation Department were vehemently opposed to that plan arguing it would disrupt day-to-day operations at the airport, hinder ongoing expansion plans and jeopardize millions of dollars in federal aid. Napolitano has also been publicly pushing to be included on the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission, to no avail.

The referendum asking Chicago voters about establishing a new airport authority was drafted in consultation with SEIU Local 1, which represents some airport workers, and is supported by most of Ald. Waguespack’s Progressive Caucus.

After yesterday’s Rules Committee meeting, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) told Aldertrack that the goal is to have the Aviation Committee consider and vote on the plan in time for the June 22nd monthly City Council meeting. That could give the supporters of the referendum the opportunity to convince other aldermen why that question is more important than the other three advanced by the Rules Committee yesterday.

State law limits the number of ballot referenda to three per jurisdiction. In Chicago’s case, the City Council has until August 22 to adopt the three advisory questions that will go to voters in the upcoming November election. And petitions to file an advisory question must be filed by August 8 with 8% of the total votes for governor cast in the last election within that jurisdiction, or 52,519 signatures for Chicago. Once the three slots are filled, no further questions may be submitted.

The three referenda questions the Rules Committee approved advanced fairly easily, although Ald. Rosa raised concerns that Ald. Danny Solis’ (25) municipal ID question could hinder work Cook County is currently doing to setup a countywide ID system.  

The proposed question would ask voters: “Should the City of Chicago consider creating a municipal identification card that will expand access to city services for residents unable to access other forms of identification?”

“I’m a strong believer of a municipal ID… but I have serious concerns about this question and the way that we are bringing it forward,” Ald. Rosa explained, referencing how the New York City Council, instead of posing municipal IDs as a question on the ballot, made it official city law.

Rosa said the question, depending on the outcome, could step on the County’s efforts, a message he said was relayed to him by county commissioners. “They feel strongly that this timing is not opportune for their efforts at the county level.”

But there is no official measure pending in Cook County to create a countywide ID. It’s still in the idea stage and was recently proposed as part of recommendations from Cook County Health Care Task Force. One of the suggestions is to create a countywide ID for immigrants or others without the means of getting a state ID in order to help them gain access to state subsidized care at county hospitals.

Rosa planned to make a quorum call to block a vote on the referenda, but said he changed his mind after receiving assurances from Ald. Solis that the Mayor’s Office would speak to and address concerns from county commissioners and local immigrant leaders, who he said are worried that the current political climate over immigration could lead to an unfavorable outcome.

Meanwhile, there was no pushback for the Mayor’s ballot question about illegal guns or Ald. Howard Brookins, Jr. (21) inquiry about the state’s school funding formula.

Police Commander Christopher Kennedy, who oversees the gang investigation division with the Police Department’s Organized Crime Bureau, testified on behalf of the mayor’s proposed ballot question, which asks voters: “Should the State of Illinois strengthen penalties for the illegal trafficking of firearms and require background checks for gun dealers and their employees?”

According to Commander Kennedy, since the start of 2016, the police department has seized approximately 3,900 illegal guns, or the equivalent of one gun per hour, making the collection greater than the combined total of illegal guns seized in New York and Los Angeles. “It’s critically important that we reduce the size of Chicago’s illegal gun market by holding the sellers of illegal guns accountable as well, by strengthening the penalties of illegal trafficking of firearms, and by requiring background checks for gun dealers, the state of Illinois would be providing additional meaningful tools in our efforts to reduce gun violence.”

The third referendum the committee approved, introduced by newly appointed Education Chair Ald. Brookins, would ask: “Should the State of Illinois provide full and equitable funding for Chicago Public Schools?”

Brookins said the question is aimed at putting pressure on the state to fairly subsidize Chicago Public Schools.  “We need a permanent solution, we need an equitable solution for funding of education in this state, particularly in the city of Chicago,” Ald. Brookins’ explained. “We believe that this resolution allows people of the city of Chicago to speak to that.”

And all four corrections to the Journal of Proceedings were approved together without discussion.

Health Committee

The Council’s Health Committee will meet at 10:00 a.m. this morning to conduct their annual hearing on ComEd’s progress report for 2015. Officials with the utility are also scheduled to discuss summer preparedness.