The first influx of funding for the city’s new Community Catalyst Fund–$50 million–is one of the Finance Committee’s biggest agenda items Tuesday. Aldermen are also set to consider one of the largest single payouts for police excessive force in recent history.  

Police Settlements Totaling $10.2 Million

The committee’s supplemental agenda includes $10.2 million in legal settlements,the bulk coming from a $9.4 million settlement to Jose Lopez and his wife Sandra Cardiel. The plaintiffs alleged excessive force by Chicago Police, who tasered Lopez. Lopez fell, hitting his head, leading to a coma. Lopez’ friend called an ambulance when Lopez said he was having chest pains walking down a sidewalk the night of the incident. Police said he resisted help and swung at an officer.

A $395,000 settlement is also on the agenda for 2008 election night revelers who say they were pepper sprayed and beaten by Chicago Police on the West Side while they were celebrating Barack Obama’s presidential victory.

Changes to the Catalyst Fund Ordinance

The committee will consider changes to the Community Catalyst Fund ordinance and its initial funding round of $50 million. The Catalyst Fund, brainchild of Treasurer Kurt Summers, has been on hold for some months and no appointees to the Fund’s board have yet been named. Many of the ordinance amendments move enactment dates.

Summers heralded the move in a July statement. “Today marks another important step by securing the initial funding of $50 million towards solving a multi-generational economic problem by investing in sustainable economic growth. I look forward to September’s City Council meeting when we can finalize the creation of the Catalyst Fund.”

Three aldermen voted against an ordinance that contained the fund’s creation, citing transparency concerns over appointments to the fund’s board, investment returns, and whether the fund’s activities would be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the state’s Open Meetings Act, and oversight from Inspector General Joe Ferguson.

The three aldermen–Rick Muñoz (22), Scott Waguespack (32), and John Arena (45)–were quick to reference the shortcomings of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust (CIT) and the city’s Tax Increment Financing system in the hearing at the time.

Per the changes, money for the fund would only come from the Corporate, Service Reserve, or Concession Fund “which are not subject to Other Investment Restrictions as determined jointly by the Comptroller and the Treasurer,” and cannot include debt obligation proceeds or money from the Enterprise Fund.

Those eligible funds would start flowing in 2020 instead of 2019. The changes also include amendments to the start dates of the first appointees, procedures for filling vacancies, and some perplexing conflict of interest changes.

The amendment defines financial interest as “an interest held in an Affiliated Entity by such Voting Member or Advisory Board Member that is valued or capable of valuation in monetary terms with a current value of more than $1,000.”

Voting members and Advisory Board members serve as fiduciaries to the Catalyst Fund “and accordingly are strictly prohibited from making decisions or recommendations on behalf of the CCCF for personal financial gain.” But “other investors” who contribute personal money to the overall investment vehicle are exempt.

The changes also give the mayor power to determine when and how big money transfers to the fund would be. The liquidation, merger, sale, or bankruptcy of the fund would be subject to a City Council vote, and the ex-officio members (the treasurer, chief financial officer, and planning commissioner) will decide where the books are kept.

County Assessor, Board of Review Reforms

Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios remains in the spotlight, as the committee considers a resolution from Ald. Anthony Beale (9) calling for the city’s Law Department to file a complaint against Cook County. The goal is “to revise any real-estate tax under-assessment which entails more than a seven percent (7%) negative variance from the market value of the property.”

The resolution, R2017-661, also asks the Assessor and Board of Review to present “proposed Revised Rules to address and resolve the inequities associated with the current assessment system” before November 30, 2017.

Berrios, and to a lesser extent, the Board of Review, have been under scrutiny since the Chicago Tribune’s series, “The Tax Divide,” suggested the county’s assessment system unfairly burdens homeowners in poor areas.

Landmark Tax Break in (No Surprise) Fulton Market

A Class L property tax incentive for renovation of a former meatpacking building in Fulton Market (933-943 W. Fulton Market) is on the agenda, O2017-5782. The $10 million investment is part of a larger land buy in the neighborhood by New York-based Madison Capital and its partner, ASB (MC ASB 939 Fulton, LLC).

The Class L is a 12-year tax break intended to encourage the preservation and rehabilitation of landmark properties. Owners must invest at least half the value of the landmark building in an approved rehabilitation project.

New Fees for Multi-Year Vacant Properties

Ald. George Cardenas’ (12) proposed ordinance, O2017-3889, on the agenda imposes climbing fees for owners of properties that have been vacant for multiple years. Fees to renew vacant building designations “shall be based on the total number of years that the property has been vacant from the original registration date.”

The schedule:

  • $500 for properties that are vacant for at least one year but less than two years
  • $1,000 for properties that are vacant for at least two years but less than three
  • $2.000 for properties that are vacant for at least three years but less than five
  • $3,500 for properties that are vacant for at least five years but less than 10
  • $5,000 for properties that are vacant for at least 10 years, plus an additional $500.00 for each year in excess of 10 years.  

Letting City Employees Donate to Red Cross via Payroll

Chairman Ed Burke’s (14) resolution,R2017-668, urging the City of Chicago to allow its employees to donate directly to the American Red Cross and other blood donation groups through automatic payroll deductions is also on Tuesday’s agenda. Doing so would add organizations such as the American Red Cross to a list of 30 approved organizations to which city employees may designate donations from their paychecks.

The blood shortage in Chicago and in Illinois “mirrors a nationwide drop in supply that has left it 61,000 donations short of what it has needed to keep up with demand for the past two months,” Burke’s office said in a release.

The resolution also calls upon the Chicago Department of Public Health to appear before the Committee on Finance “to address current or potential efforts to combat the blood donation shortage.”