Expanded Transit Oriented Development rules, a new Chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority Board, a new mobile food cart license, and $2.6 billion in new bonds all made it through yesterday’s full council meeting. Shortly after, aldermen in the Latino and Black caucuses adjourned to discuss plans ahead of Monday’s budget hearing kick-off with Chief Financial Officer Carole Brown, Budget Director Alex Holt, and City Comptroller Dan Widawsky.
Did Bond Issue Pass Finance Committee Without Quorum?
One of the most contentious committee issues, $2.6 billion dollars in new bond issuances, got two no votes at Thursday’s meeting. Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) and Ald. John Arena (45) voted against three ordinances authorizing the city to issue $500 in general obligation bonds to help pay down the city’s debt, $2 billion in Chicago O’Hare Revenue Bonds to pay for capital improvements, and $125 million in Wastewater Transmission Revenue Bonds to terminate previous swap agreements. Ald. Burke and Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11) invoked Rule 14.
Waguespack said he voted no for procedural reasons. “The vote actually failed [in committee], but it passed anyway,” Waguespack said, noting the ordinances should have never advanced to the full Council yesterday because only 8 of the 35 aldermen on the Finance Committee were present when the bonds were voted out of committee. And of those 8 aldermen, five voted against the bonds (Ald. Waguespack, Ald. Willie Cochran (20), Ald. Pat Dowell (3), Ald. Gregory Mitchell (7), and Ald. Arena).
“We were basically saying, next time if you want us to pass [a $500 million general obligation bond], get everybody in this room,” Waguespack said.
After the full Council passed all three bond issuances, Mayor Emanuel and CFO Brown praised the move. “We continue to manage our debt portfolio in a way that seeks to improve our position in the bond market and find savings for Chicago taxpayers without sacrificing capital investments,” Brown said in a press release. “But the City’s difficulties can’t be reversed overnight. The upcoming issuance converts expensive variable rate debt, identifies savings, and invests in O’Hare Airport and our water and sewer system.”
The City anticipates issuing the bonds over the coming months.
Former CHA Employee Ald. David Moore votes against CHA/CPD Agreement
Ald. David Moore was the lone vote against a renewal of an intergovernmental agreement between the Chicago Housing Authority and Chicago Police Department. The deal provides supplemental police services for CHA properties and programs in an amount not-to-exceed $6 million but with an option to bump up to $8 million annually, subject to CEO approval and budget authorization.
At Monday’s Budget and Government Operations meeting, Moore, a former CHA employee, said he didn’t think it was appropriate for the committee to approve the agreement without being given a breakdown of cost. Vice-Chair Jason Ervin (28) insisted it was a routine matter at Monday’s meeting, “Ultimately, this is essentially CHA paying the City of Chicago for services it is rendering on the city’s behalf.”
Moore worked at the CHA from 1999 to 2008 as a development manager and senior advisor to operations. He said he wasn’t given sufficient data on how much CPD has charged CHA historically for those services, and why that number hasn’t gone down as CHA has demolished more buildings. “They gave me three invoices from 2015, which did not show what I was asking for,” he told Aldertrack. “In good conscience, I can’t vote for it.”
John Hooker Appointment To CHA Chair
The Council approved the appointment of former ComEd executive John T. Hookeras the new Chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority Board. Ald. Burke testified on his long relationship with Hooker, recalling inviting him to Beverly Country Club for games of golf, “many decades ago,” during an era when members, “were not opening and welcoming to minorities…. In fact, some of those members might even have been hostile. But we were proud to welcome John Hooker to play golf with us despite what anybody might think.”
Both Burke and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5) heaped praise on Hooker, complimenting Mayor Emanuel on an “outstanding” appointment. “With John Hooker’s long history of civic and community building in Chicago, he will play a crucial role in helping to lead CHA as the agency works to meet the ongoing affordable housing needs for families throughout the city,” Mayor Emanuel said in a press release.
CHA is facing pressure from community groups like Chicago Housing Initiative, who want a hearing on the “Keeping the Promise” Ordinance to tighten funding and management of the Authority, which currently has a $423 million surplus. By the end of 2015 the City says CHA plans to provide affordable housing vouchers to more than 43,000 families.
After being temporarily held in Zoning Committee this month, Council also approved rules that double the distance Transit Oriented Developments (TODs) can be built away from CTA and Metra stations and allow for up to 100% efficiency units in new developments within a block of stations.
Aldermen wrestled over details like floor area ratios, parking allotments and the community input process. Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) praised the amendments the committee agreed to, including greater aldermanic control. “Transit Oriented Development truly is the future of our city,” Ald. Ramirez Rosa said, “but we also have to ensure that we maintain local control, that we protect local residents’ ability to have a say over the zoning and development changes that occur in their community, via their elected official, the alderman.”
Food Carts Legalized
Food cart vendors and supporters who filled the upper floor gallery looked on as Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26) asked council to approve his ordinance legalizing mobile food cart sales in Chicago, which he says will have “a powerful long term impact” on the city. The Illinois Policy Institute estimates the ordinance, which council passed Thursday, could generate as many as 6,000 new jobs and $8.5 annually in new local sales tax revenue. 1,500 food cart vendors are already operating in the city, Maldonado says.