Public Meetings Report. Illustration by Holley Appold/South Side Weekly
Public Meetings Report. Illustration by Holley Appold/South Side Weekly

Public Meetings Report

A recap of select open meetings at the local, county, and state level for the June 10 issue

May 24
The final redevelopment phase of the former Henry Horner Homes site on the West Side will receive up to $27 million from the city in multi-family revenue bonds. In the City Council Committee on Finance meeting, Chicago Department of Housing project manager Jim O’Connell said that this Plan for Transformation site was the first to be demolished. It will undergo complete redevelopment as Westhaven Park and is expected to create about one hundred units, approximately thirty percent of which would be public housing. 

The third version of an ordinance to create a city-maintained police misconduct database remains in committee after discussion during a joint meeting of the City Council Committees on Finance and Public Safety devolved into confusion. It specifies that completed disciplinary investigations would be included in the database regardless of outcome. Also included would be records from the Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs and oversight agencies created before the Civilian Office of Police Accountability was established in 2017. Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, whose office would maintain the database, wasn’t invited to the meeting, said Ald. Scott Waguespack, the chief architect of the ordinance.

Tree roots don’t disrupt sewer lines—that’s an urban myth worth dispelling, said Malcolm Whiteside Jr., who manages the Bureau of Forestry under the Department of Streets and Sanitation. Whiteside and other city employees spoke at the City Council Committee on Finance meeting in favor of creating an Urban Forestry Advisory Board comprising thirteen relevant officials to protect the city’s tree canopy. 

During the Cook County Board of Commissioners Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee meeting, descendants of Black people enslaved by Native tribes who traveled the Trail of Tears called in from Oklahoma to delay the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Cook County. Black Freedmen drew attention to their fight for acceptance in Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Seminole nations and demanded recognition. Many public commenters said replacing Columbus Day was anti-Italian but supported a separate day for Indigenous peoples. DePaul Professor John Burton pointed out Columbus was arrested when he returned to Spain due to his unjust treatment of Native Americans.

May 25
The Forum, the historic Bronzeville jazz venue near the 43rd Street Green Line stop, was rezoned from a residential multi-unit district to a community shopping district. Owner Bernard Loyd continues to work on needed building renovations and envisions ground floor retail space, with restaurants, a bookstore, art gallery, and music school. The zoning reclassification passed the vote of the City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards and the full City Council this week.

May 26
An affordable housing development near a McKinley Park asphalt plant got the City Council votes needed for rezoning as a planned development and neighborhood mixed-use district, The new zoning paves the way for renovation into lofts and commercial space. Thirty-six Council members voted in favor and sixteen against after a motion to reconsider failed. Previously zoned light industrial use, the property contains two unused warehouses. Meanwhile, Council members deferred a vote on an ordinance to rename outer Lake Shore Drive after Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable for another month. Sponsoring Ald. David Moore retaliated by redirecting two dozen newly proposed ordinances to the Committee on Committees and Rules. 

How to use surplus funds from the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District—including supporting school improvements—was discussed at the Hyde-Park Kenwood Community Action Council meeting. Ideas included a pedway connecting Canter Middle School to Kenwood Academy, lighting for the Nichols Park baseball field, and parking lot repairs at Reavis High School.

May 31
The Illinois General Assembly unanimously passed an Affordable Housing Omnibus bill, which will create a $300 million program to build over 3,500 new units of affordable housing over the next three years and create property tax incentives for landlords who preserve and create affordable housing. A provision would improve income-based property tax assessment policies for housing financed with federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

Jun 1
The city will excavate about 17,400 cubic yards of radioactive soil in Bronzeville, pack it in sealed bags, and ship it to a lab in Texas, officials said at a community meeting hosted by the 4th Ward Office and the Department of Assets, Information and Services. The site is near several senior housing apartments. From about 1915 to 1921, Carnotite Reduction Company’s elemental radium separation and refining facility operated at the north end of the former Michael Reese Hospital site. In 1979, state agencies determined that the contaminated soil was not a health threat but that dust raised during construction might be. Water misting will minimize spread of dust during the excavation, project representatives said, and because the level of radioactivity is not volatile, the work team will not install  a circus tent over the site. City environmental engineer Abby Mazza added that weekly reports, daily data readings, and a live video feed will be posted publicly online.

The Illinois Senate voted to pass an amendment for HB 2908, which would create an elected and representative school board for Chicago. Co-sponsor Rep. Delia Ramírez said she intends to call the bill for a concurrence vote by the House when it reconvenes in the coming weeks. “I am disappointed that the timeline for implementation is not what the community has demanded,” she said. “However, this bill still gets us to a fully elected board.”

Jun 3
The 2020 electric scooter pilot was a logistical and traffic safety headache for many Council members, who expressed frustration during a hearing by three City Council committees (Transportation and Public Way, Pedestrian and Traffic Safety, License and Consumer Protection). Some e-scooters were equipped with a safety quiz or technology to discourage riding on sidewalks (they would beep and slow down), but many instances of reckless riding on sidewalks and in bike lanes occurred. “I’m not going through another guinea pig situation,” Ald. David Moore said.  An evaluation by the city reported that the second pilot, which ran from August 12 to December 2, used 10,000 e-scooters. Based on roughly 4,391 trips per day, the average ride was 18.5 minutes and cost about $8.

Homeowners who opt in to the Affordable Homeownership and Housing Pilot program will not necessarily receive lower property taxes, board members explained at the Chicago Community Land Trust meeting. This program benefit has been touted as a way to stabilize gentrifying neighborhoods. But staff and board member calculations  show that houses with a market rate value of less than 120 percent of the area median income are less likely to see lower taxes. The board agreed to emphasize other benefits of the opt-in program, which include grants of up to $30,000 for building renovations. 

This information was collected in large part using reporting from City Bureau’s Documenters at documenters.org.

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