Yesterday’s City Council meeting was one for the history books. Not only were there an unprecedented number of divided roll call votes during the nearly five hour meeting, there was also an attempt to adjourn the meeting early and reconvene Friday after two aldermen tried to block a vote on Uber regulations.
As Council debated, City Hall endured two of its largest protests in recent memory. One group calling for a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) to replace the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) took over the 2nd floor lobby, chanting so loud they could be heard in the Council Chambers. Hundreds of Chicago Teachers Union members dressed in red overwhelmed the City Hall 1st floor lobbycalling for more school funding and removal of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Ald. Ed Burke (14), surprising many on the Council, made a motion to adjourn the meeting and pick up the agenda again on Friday afternoon after two aldermen, Scott Waguespack (32) and Chris Taliaferro (29), tried to use parliamentary procedure to block a vote on Ald. Anthony Beale’s (9) watered-down ride-share ordinance, citing their preference for the more strict regulations, including fingerprinting.
After Ald. Waguespack made the motion, which would have normally delayed a vote on the Uber and Lyft regulations for a month, Burke suspended the rules to bring up the agreed calendar and adjourn the meeting early. He announced the next City Council meeting would be 1:00 p.m. Friday afternoon. Adjournment would have stopped the meeting cold, before aldermen had a chance to consider other big ticket items like Airbnb, paid sick leave, and the new Wrigley plaza.
It all happened in a matter of minutes, confusing and annoying several Council members. Several looked puzzled and asked each other what was going on. One asked out loud, “Is that a special meeting or is that going to be a regular meeting?”
Housing Chairman Joe Moore (49) then made an attempt to report out his items, but was stopped because of all of the commotion. Mayor Emanuel then asked the Clerk to again read Ald. Burke’s request to reschedule the meeting and announced the meeting was done for the day. “City Council is adjourned until that time,” he declared, pounding the gavel.
“Wait!” Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) yelled from the Council floor.
“No, no, no,” Corporation Counsel Steve Patton said, loud enough for the Mayor’s microphone to catch it. But Burke seconded the motion to adjourn, and City Clerk Susana Mendoza began reading the roll to close out the meeting. Mayor Emanuel stopped her by the time she got to Ald. Milly Santiago’s (31) name, just as Ald. Waguespack was approaching the dais to tell him that he’d withdraw his motion to delay the Uber vote. Ald. Taliaferro (29) also withdrew his motion, and then followed by Ald. Burke, who also backpedaled on adjournment. The regular order of business continued.
But several on the Council were not happy with how the Emanuel Administration went about drafting and releasing regulations for Uber/Lyft and Airbnb. In fact, most of the debate over the ride-share ordinance had more to do with the procedural aspects of how it came about, than the actual details of the regulations themselves.
“Your ordinance for the ride-share came to us, most aldermen, early this morning. It removed all of the protections that were put in and passed in the last meeting of Ald. Beale’s committee. So, to come forward with an ordinance that takes all of that out this morning, and expect aldermen to vote on it is not the way to run City Council,” Ald. Waguespack told the mayor after withdrawing his motion to defer and publish. He conceded the Mayor’s version would have passed through the Council on Friday, regardless. Waguespack received a round of applause from the gallery for his comments. Soon after, the Mayor’s Office distributed copies of the new ordinancealong with a one-sheet explainer detailing the changes to the press corps.
“The concern I had was more procedural than substantive, quite honestly,” said Ald. Rod Sawyer (6). “Quite frankly, it’s hard for us to stomach this as Council members getting something minutes or hours ahead of time and being pressed to vote on it. Even if it is something we fundamentally agree with.”
But amid all the division among aldermen on Airbnb and Uber, there was common ground on paid sick leave. It was the only controversial matter to receive unanimous approval by roll call vote. It passed out of Council yesterday 48-0. Other divided votes are detailed below.
Breakdown of Divided Roll Call Votes
Montrose-Clarendon TIF Redevelopment Agreement: The first and second most divided roll call votes of the day were for a redevelopment agreement with JDL Development, the company behind a plan to convert the former Cuneo Hospital/Maryville Academy site into luxury apartments. The conflict was over TIF funds, as detailed in this committee report.
Under the redevelopment agreement, the city would reimburse JDL with $11.2 million in TIF funds for constructing the high-rise development, in addition to dispersing $4.6 million in TIF funds for improvements at neighboring Clarendon Park. The money would come from the Montrose/Clarendon TIF, created specifically to encourage redevelopment of the long vacant site. All property currently within the TIF is tax exempt. All property tax revenue collected through the TIF would come from the new residential high-rise.
But Ald. Harry Osterman (48), who voted against it in Finance Committee on Tuesday and argued that the city shouldn’t spend valuable resources on a luxury high-rise development, urged his fellow colleagues yesterday to join him in voting against the agreement, saying priority should be given to the beleaguered Chicago Public Schools. Uptown Ald. James Cappleman (46), whose ward includes the hospital, shot back at Ald. Osterman, saying the public benefits, like the park upgrades and new taxable rental property, far outweigh the issue over TIFs. “Politics is politics. But children should not pay the cost of making an alderman look good,” said Cappleman.
No Votes: Proco Joe Moreno (1), Brian Hopkins (2), Sue Sadlowski Garza (10), George Cardenas (12), Rick Munoz (22), Scott Waguespack (32), Deb Mell (33), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), Brendan Reilly (42), Michele Smith (43), John Arena (45), Ameya Pawar (47), Harry Osterman (48)
Motion To Consider Substitute Ordinance On Ride-share Regulations: This motion would have swapped out the original ordinance, which included the beefed up regulations with fingerprinting and city administered background checks. That version passed through committee in less than five minutes, but the Mayor and Beale worked out a watered down compromise after the weekend.
Those who voted no on this motion wanted the more strict regulations. Some questioned the process the Administration used to change the regulations, criticizing the mayor for making last minute changes to ordinances and giving aldermen limited time to review new language. Debate over this ordinance was the longest of the day, with many senior aldermen complimenting Ald. Beale’s hard work on compromise, and urging others to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
No Votes: Leslie Hairston (5), Sue Sadlowski Garza (10), Raymond Lopez (15), Toni Foulkes (16), David Moore (17), Rick Munoz (22), Roberto Maldonado (26), Chris Taliaferro (29), Milly Santiago (31), Scott Waguespack (32), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), Nick Sposato (38), Anthony Napolitano (41), John Arena (45), Harry Osterman (48).
Abstentions: Gilbert Villegas (36) and Howard Brookins, Jr. (20)
Vote To Consider Pared Down Regulations On Ride-share Operators: After the motion to consider the original ordinance failed, a roll call vote was called on the substitute ordinance, which removed the fingerprinting aspect and the 5% handicap accessibility requirement. Under the new ordinance, an independent study will be conducted on the feasibility of fingerprinting, and Uber and Lyft will have six months to come up with a plan to make their fleet of cars more handicap accessible, followed by an additional six months to implement the plan.
No Votes: Leslie Hairston (5), Susan Sadlowski Garza (10), Raymond Lopez (15), Toni Foulkes (16), David Moore (17), Rick Munoz (22), Roberto Maldonado (26), Chris Taliaferro (29), Milly Santiago (31), Scott Waguespack (32), Nick Sposato (38), John Arena (45)
Vote On Airbnb Regulations: Despite vocal concerns from Ald. Michele Smith(43), who has some of the highest concentration of Airbnb rentals in her Lincoln Park ward, the Airbnb ordinance passed out of Council with seven aldermen voting against. Even one the most vocal opponents of Airbnb and its business practices, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42), voted in favor. He did warn he’d be keeping a close eye on the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to make sure the company adheres to the new policies. “I suspect when Airbnb shows their true colors, we’ll be back here in a few months to put more strict regulations in place,” he said.
No Votes: Sue Sadlowski Garza (10), Patrick Daley Thompson (11), Marty Quinn (13), Derrick Curtis (18), Scott Waguespack (32), Michele Smith (43), John Arena (45)
Other Divided Votes (Where Roll Wasn’t Called)
Four Aldermen Vote Against Aviation Contract over Minority Hiring Issues:There was no roll call vote on an ordinance amending an agreement with Aero Chicago LLC for a new 400,000-square-foot cargo facility at O’Hare Airport, but four aldermen asked to be recorded as no votes. The debate was largely over minority hiring. When the item was brought up in committee on June 15, Ald. Dowell scolded John Leach, the Chief Operating Officer at the Department of Aviation, and Juan Manzano, a representative from Aero Chicago, for not having a detailed breakdown of minority hiring numbers. She had asked for that information ahead of yesterday’s vote.
At the full City Council meeting, Ald. Dowell explained she was voting no on the item, “to send a message to the Department of Aviation and Commissioner [Ginger] Evans, that we must have a greater and stronger commitment to real diversity at contracting at the airports.” Noting that the contractor had “dismal participation from African Americans, only five out of 50 contractors for the company are African American, Ald. Dowell urged Aviation Chairman Mike Zalewski (23) to hold committee hearings to discuss how the Department of Aviation could do more outreach to minority-owned contractors. Three aldermen joined her in voting against the agreement.
No Votes: Ald. Pat Dowell (3), Sophia King (4), David Moore (17), Willie Cochran (20)
Abstentions: Ald. Ed Burke (14)
Vote On Transgender Access to Public Restrooms: This ordinance, drafted in response to North Carolina’s controversial law by Mayor Emanuel, the Council’s LGBT Caucus, and Ald. Ed Burke (14), would prohibit a private business or public venue from requiring that patrons show ID proof of gender when using the restroom. The item wasn’t called up for a roll call vote, but five aldermen asked to be recorded as no votes.
Those aldermen who voted against it raised concerns over enforcement of the changes when it was brought up in committee. They said it would be hard for police to determine if someone was abusing the law (Ald. Thompson had given the example of a person at a White Sox game choosing which bathroom to use based on wait times, not gender identification. Ald. Napolitano had questioned what would prevent a man from going into a woman’s locker room to watch women shower and telling law enforcement officials, when questioned, that he had a right to be there because he is transgender.)
No Votes: Patrick Daley Thompson (11), David Moore (17), Willie Cochran (20), Nick Sposato (38), Anthony Napolitano (41)
Proposed City-Wide Ballot Referenda: Municipal ID Question Held
Only two of the three proposed ballot referenda for the November Election made it out of Council yesterday: Mayor Emanuel’s question on gun control and Education Chairman Howard Brookins, Jr.’s (20) question about equitable funding of Chicago Public Schools.
Rules Committee Chairman Michelle Harris (8) held Ald. Danny Solis’ (25) question about Municipal IDs for undocumented immigrants living in Chicago, after immigrants rights groups lobbied the mayor to remove it from consideration. The groups were concerned that given the political climate over immigrants, largely due to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, the ballot question could lead to unfavorable results, and that civil rights issues should not be put on a ballot.
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), who almost made an attempt to block the Municipal ID question when it was brought up in Rules Committee by requesting a quorum call, told Aldertrack yesterday that the question would set a dangerous precedent. City’s shouldn’t legislate civil rights through referendum, he explained, noting that other cities, like New York, bypassed that step and made it official city law.
Since state law limits the number of ballot referenda to three per jurisdiction, there’s still one spot open. That could give the Progressive Caucus another opportunity to put pressure on Aviation Committee Chairman Mike Zalewski (23) to bring up a proposed ballot referendum question asking voters if Chicago’s airports should be governed by an independent body instead of the Department of Aviation. It was the only proposed ballot question not sent to the Rules Committee. But it’ll likely face an uphill battle, as Ald. Joe Moore (49) yesterday introduced yet another ballot question, which was sent to Rules Committee. It would ask voters: “Should the City of Chicago establish a policy of not investing City funds in corporations that produce fossil fuels?”
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.
Unscathed: Paid Sick Leave, Towing Bill of Rights, Wrigley Plaza
Three ordinances with a big impact on business passed the Council unchanged and without debate. There was no comment for Ald. Tom Tunney (44) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s compromise ordinance establishing limits for the new outdoor plaza at Wrigley Field. The item sailed through License Committee earlier this week, despite concerns from representatives from the Chicago Cubs, who said their hands were tied by limits on big events. It joined the towing bill of rights ordinance championed by Ald. Ameya Pawar (47). The ordinance is aimed at cracking down on ill-reputed companies like Lincoln Towing. Pawar has argued the company should be stripped of its license by the Illinois Commerce Commission. Both the plaza and the bill of rights passed easily during committee reports.
Paid sick leave passed with more pomp, including short speeches from the ordinance’s lead sponsors, Ald. Pawar, Ald. Toni Foulkes (16), and Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1), as well as the mayor. Each aimed squarely at accusations from big business groups–the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce–that the ordinance overburdens businesses in Chicago.
“I know that the opponents of this will say that all we’re doing is continuing to layer on one thing after another to businesses,” Pawar said. “We are also layering good public policy that helps people get out of poverty.” He says the rules establish a “baseline of decency” that build on five years of progressive citywide ordinances including minimum wage, protections against wage theft, and the Chicago Transit Authority’s ex-offender program.
“I consider this a pro-family policy,” he the mayor said, not anti-business. “While this is a contribution and complement to the minimum wage… it is my fervent hope that the state of Illinois catches up. There are a lot of people in the city of Chicago that work outside the city that are making less than the minimum wage here in the City of Chicago.”
After the vote in a statement to Aldertrack, Mike Reever, VP of Government Operations for the Chamber, said he was encouraged by a brief mention by Ald. Pat O’Connor (40) yesterday that there was still room for negotiation. “It was clear to me that there’s work that remains to be done… and there’s an opportunity to address that in the rulemaking,” O’Connor, the Chair of the Workforce Development and Audit Committee said. “When we pass something, it doesn’t mean it’s over, it means it’s part of a dynamic and it continues.”
Reever said his organization, which will be included in the rule making process, will have to wait and see how much wiggle room they’re allowed. “If it’s the same rules process that got us the cloud tax, it’s not a good rules process.”