Chicago aldermen no longer enjoy unlimited power in their wards as Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s initial attempt to roll back aldermanic prerogative took full effect Friday.
Lightfoot issued the executive order just hours after she took office in May, giving city departments and aldermen 60 days to weigh in on the change designed to root out corruption at City Hall, where at least three apparently separate corruption investigations are underway.
Lightfoot’s administration will no longer no longer require letters of support from aldermen to issue a host of permits and licenses, ranging from the location of Divvy stations to the construction of off-site units to fulfill the city’s affordable housing rules.
Lightfoot’s Chief of Policy Dan Lurie told The Daily Line that the change will fundamentally change how City Hall has operated for “generations.”
After Lightfoot briefed aldermen on the change, several complained that it went too far, even as administration officials said the new rules required them to notify aldermen “of items affecting their wards” and encourage them to “continue to provide meaningful feedback based on their knowledge of the needs facing their communities.”
“These reforms under the order are the first step in a series of good governance reforms led by the mayor, and her team is committed to working with the City Council to make city government more responsive and to ensure fair and efficient services for residents and businesses in every community,” said spokesperson Lauren Huffman.
More changes that will require City Council approval are in the works, Lurie said. That will include changes to the city’s Zoning Code, which determines what can be built and where — and is at the heart of aldermanic power.
Based on plans crafted by city departments and vetted by the mayor’s office, letters of support from aldermen will no longer be required to approve:
- Landmark designations, Landmark permit fee waivers
- Class L property tax breaks
- Demolition applications
- Plan Commission action
- Land sales
- Lease of city property
- Designations, redevelopment agreements and intergovernmental agreements
- Small Business Improvement Fund grants from Tax-Increment Financing districts
- Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grants
- Special Service Association appointments and budgets
- Permission to build off-site units to fulfill the Affordable Requirements Ordinance
- New Divvy stations
- New People Spots
- Open Space Impact Fee expenditures
- Preserving Communities Together grants
- City Lots for Working Families grants
- Parade of Homes grants
- Multifamily financing grants
- Outdoor special event permit
- Tax Increment Financing district designations and redevelopment agreements
In addition, aldermen can no longer make a call to replace a resident’s black garbage cart, a service aldermen delight in touting at election time.
The policy will also change the way tree trimming requests are handled. No longer will aldermen be able to call on city crews to remove as many as 20 trees annually at his or her discretion, according to the policy.
Instead, all requests will be entered into the city’s system and aldermen should notify the Department of Streets and Sanitation of “particularly urgent needs related to public, health, safety, etc.,” according to the policy.
However, aldermen will still have the sole authority to grant permits for block parties, Lurie said. Officials decided they were best equipped to resolve any disputes that arise between neighbors, Lurie said.