The City Council Committee on Workforce Development met to discuss pandemic-related hiring barriers and review resources for workers and employers during reopening. Restaurant and retail industry representatives highlighted a lack of vaccinated employees and affordable, consistent childcare, noting that childcare centers lost city funding in the 2019 budget and were among the businesses the pandemic most affected.
Commissioners approved selling the site of the former Michael Reese Hospital—unused since the City acquired the property in 2009—to developers of the roughly $3.5 billion Bronzeville Lakefront project at the Community Development Commission meeting. The proposed development is expected to cover almost eight million square feet, with the first building to be completed by 2024. The Commission also approved selling city lots in North Lawndale as sites for affordable housing.
Public commenters at the Chicago Park District meeting said Riot Fest in Douglass Park, and private events in other parks, infringe upon residents’ rights to enjoy their local parks. Paid entertainment events, residents complained, destroy the refuges they turn to for sanity, fresh air, grassy areas, exercise, and recreation. Residents lose full use of parks in the short, hot summer and must wait for them to regenerate. With some 600 Chicago parks, those not in neighborhoods should be used instead. Parks Supt. Michael Kelly responded, “I don’t take [these concerns] lightly.” He noted that “the revenue brought in by private music fests helps fund [Park District] programs.”
Back of the Yards residents were introduced to three proposals for INVEST South/West development at 47th and Ashland during a community presentation by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. The Back of the Yards Works proposal was from a group with strong neighborhood roots and focused on supporting homegrown entrepreneurship. Ald. Raymond Lopez criticized it for not including a housing component requested by the City. Proposals from New City United Yards and 1515 W. 47th Street LLC both recommended building fifty affordable apartments. New City United Yards proposed more housing designed for families and seniors.
The City Council Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy meeting focused on combating the urban heat island effect, in which limited green space and heat-trapping built environments raise temperatures in cities and negatively impact residents’ health. In Chicago, Black and brown populations are affected disproportionately. Council members discussed mitigation strategies such as bolstering the city’s shrinking tree canopy, encouraging “green roofs,” and investigating the impact of industrial corridors.
INVEST South/West proposals for a vacant lot in North Lawndale discussed at a community presentation by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development ran the gamut, including: a cosmetology school and an African-American hair museum; a performance space and a small grocer; and green terraces with a grocery store and restaurants. Each proposal included at least fifty affordable apartments. Three more proposals were presented the next day. Two combined commercial and co-working spaces with mixed-income housing; the third proposed a 200-room hotel.
A study on the racial wealth gap in Chicago was the focus of the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation meeting. UIC Prof. Amanda Lewis, an expert on race and public policy, noted that about a third of Black families in Chicago have net worths of zero, compared to just fifteen percent of white families. The racial wealth gap is multigenerational and has been increasing nationally, she explained, mostly because of past and present government policies. Reparations, more robust family support policies, and student loan forgiveness could begin to address the problem, she said.
The Chicago Plan Commission approved a proposed 120-unit affordable housing development in predominantly Latinx McKinley Park, by a 7 to 4 vote, at its meeting, despite reservations over its proximity to the controversial MAT Asphalt plant. For nearly three years, neighbors have voiced strong concerns about air pollution after the plant’s construction across from a park was approved with little community notice. Voting no, Commission Chair Teresa Córdova called the negative health risks for residents an “environmental racism” concern.
The Chicago Police Board reviewed a report on the outcomes of the Chicago Neighborhood Policing Initiative, which was piloted in two police districts since its 2019 launch. Lead researcher Northwestern University Prof. Andrew Papachristos explained in the meeting that the model created “district coordination officers” to foster more relationships with community members, though many residents felt that cops were there when they didn’t need to be, and not there when they wanted them there. Consistent with broader trends in Chicago, the program had no statistically significant impact on community trust in police. Papachristos and CPD Superintendent David Brown supported continuing the program with more resources.
This information was collected in large part using reporting from City Bureau’s Documenters at documenters.org.