The Forest Preserves of Cook County Conservation and Policy Council passed a resolution at its meeting opposing a bill to disband the Forest Preserves police and transfer jurisdiction to the Cook County Sheriff. The disbanding effort was spurred by a 2018 incident in which a Forest Preserves officer failed to intervene in harassment. Despite nods to wanting to improve the police force, council members argued Forest Preserves officers have conservation-related responsibilities that would make sheriff’s police a poor replacement.
The first week after Chicago Public Schools high schools reopened for in-person learning on April 19, around a quarter of students attended in person, according to data presented at the Chicago Board of Education meeting. Though far more students are learning virtually for the full school week, nearly a fifth of all high schoolers were absent entirely. More change is coming during this tumultuous time: days later, CPS CEO Janice Jackson announced her June resignation.
A plan to close three North Lawndale schools and open a new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) school is moving ahead, according to a report at a meeting of the North Lawndale Community Action Council. The proposal was delayed in December after some parents protested, calling for investment in existing schools instead. But a presentation highlighted recent work on logistics and engagement. CPS aims to hold a final vote on the plan by February 2022.
A proposal to rename outer Lake Shore Drive after Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, the first non-Indigenous permanent settler in Chicago, was approved at a contentious meeting of the City Council Committee on Transportation and Public Way. Ald. David Moore (17th Ward) called a last-minute attempt by the mayor to amend his proposal to honor du Sable, a Black man, “racist bullshit.” City Council committees have heard public comments supporting the renaming for months, but opponents had raised concerns about cost and convenience. Moore’s version of the proposal was passed unanimously and now awaits a vote by the City Council.
About a quarter of the more than 395,000 members of Cook County’s Medicaid health plan, CountyCare, are unhoused or housing insecure, according to data shared at a meeting of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System Board of Directors. CountyCare officials said they want to do more to identify those members and connect them to housing and mental health support. CountyCare’s enrollment has increased over twenty percent in the past year.
On May Day, five council members announced the formal creation of the Democratic Socialist Caucus of the City Council. The council members, which include South Siders Ald. Jeanette B. Taylor (20th Ward) and Ald. Byron Sigcho López (25th Ward), said in a statement that they have worked together informally in the past and are forming the official caucus “to center working class Chicagoans and their movements for justice in our legislative efforts” and “to address the shared challenges our communities face of wealth inequality, climate change, police violence, and structural racism.”
At a meeting of the City Council Committee on Health and Human Relations, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health Dr. Allison Arwady argued Chicago has had the most equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the U.S., but added that vast racial disparities remain. The percentages of Black and Latinx Chicagoans who received at least one dose as of April 29 (29 and 35 percent, respectively) are far less than the 51 percent of white Chicagoans who are similarly vaccinated. Ten of the fourteen least-vaccinated city ZIP codes are on the South Side.
Council members questioned Chicago’s strategies for addressing summer violence at a joint meeting of the City Council Committee on Public Safety and the Committee on Health and Human Relations. Norman Kerr, acting deputy mayor for public safety, said the City will be implementing a plan for the fifteen “most violent” police beats; other officials discussed summer jobs and youth programming. Public commenters argued increased investments in resources like parks, mental health services, and affordable housing are better ways to prevent violence than police.
The Systems Subcommittee of the Task Force on Infant and Maternal Mortality Among African Americans discussed advancing recommendations from its 2020 report during its meeting. One recommendation was to establish community-based programs to certify birth doulas, who are people trained to provide non-medical support during pregnancies. Some states pay certified doulas through Medicaid, the task force reported, and larger open meetings to develop detailed suggestions for Illinois are planned.
A proposal to prioritize “neighborhood anchors” for 2021 restoration grants was approved by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks during its meeting. Adopt-a-Landmark Fund applications will be evaluated on their potential “positive, catalytic impact.” Criteria will prioritize projects in communities targeted by the City’s INVEST South/West program, which includes ten South and West Side neighborhoods.
This information was collected in part using reporting from City Bureau’s Documenters at documenters.org.