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

Public Meetings Report – August 05, 2021

A recap of select open meetings at the local, county, and state level for the August 5 issue

  1. Public Meetings Report – March 18, 2021
  2. Public Meetings Report – April 1, 2021
  3. Public Meetings Report – April 15, 2021
  4. Public Meetings Report – April 29, 2021
  5. Public Meetings Report – May 13, 2021
  6. Public Meetings Report – May 27, 2021
  7. Public Meetings Report – June 10, 2021
  8. Public Meetings Report – June 24, 2021
  9. Public Meetings Report – July 08, 2021
  10. Public Meetings Report – July 22, 2021
  11. Public Meetings Report – August 05, 2021
  12. Public Meetings Report – August 19, 2021
  13. Public Meetings Report – September 30, 2021
  14. Public Meetings Report – October, 14 2021

July 20

Land owned by the City of Chicago that was formerly the site of Michael Reese Hospital was approved for sale to the GRIT redevelopment team at the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate meeting in anticipation of the City Council meeting the next day. The base sale cost is $96.9 million, and the City will offer development incentives, including a $60-million infrastructure project. GRIT comprises Farpoint Development, Loop Capital Management, McLaurin Development Partners, Draper & Kramer, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, and Bronzeville Community Development Partnership.

The compromise ordinance to create a community commission for public safety and police accountability passed the City Council Public Safety Committee just in time to be included in the City Council agenda the next day. Commonly known as the Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS) ordinance, the measure would create a seven-member appointed commission tasked with civilian oversight of policies, leadership, and disciplinary processes related to the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Each of the City’s twenty-two police districts would have an elected three-member council to liaise with community members in order to advise the citywide commission.

The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) plans to sell thirteen unused properties in Washington Park that consist of nineteen “scattered site” residential units, two vacant lots, and a former Boys and Girls Club—pending approval by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. At the CHA Board of Commissioners meeting, these properties, along with nearly eighty other sites, were deemed non-performing assets because they have been vacant for two years and would cost more to redevelop than their market worth.

July 2

By a vote of 36–13, the City Council passed the ECPS ordinance creating a citywide commission and district-level councils to hold the police department to account. The mayor will retain the power to appoint commissioners, albeit at the recommendation of a civilian nominating committee. A vote of no confidence in the fitness of the CPD superintendent, a Police Board member, or the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) chief requires a two thirds vote of the commission. The mayor would be obligated to implement such a vote. The City Council also approved what the Department of Planning and Development is calling “the largest private investment project in South Side history” at the former Michael Reese Hospital site. The project is expected to take twenty years to build and will extend well beyond the boundaries of the site to about one hundred acres total.

During the Cook County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee mid-year budget hearings, Chief Judge Timothy Evans reported that the county’s courts have been open. His statement was a rebuke to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s repeated claims that crime is up because the Cook County Courts were “shut down” due to the pandemic. Lightfoot and CPD officials have also blamed recent violence on efforts to reduce the number of people jailed while on bond. Evans defended cash bail reform. He explained that although some individuals accused of murder were released on electronic monitoring over the Fourth of July weekend, they have not been linked to a surge in violence. Cash bail will officially end in Illinois effective January 2023. On average ninety-seven percent of individuals on pretrial release in 2020 did not commit violent crimes during that time, according to quarterly reports on the circuit court’s website.  Cook County Public Defender Sharone Mitchell also rejected the narrative that a sluggish justice system had fostered more crime, pointing out that the courts have processed 7,000 of some 13,000 backlogged cases. 

Ninety percent of current COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady reported at the Department of Public Health Board of Health meeting. Cases are concentrated in areas where vaccination rates among residents dip below fifty percent. Despite the overwhelming evidence showing the South and West Sides are undervaccinated compared to the city average, Arwady did not appear concerned about COVID spread at Lollapalooza, a festival that attracted at least 100,000 people per day to Grant Park for four days, and which the mayor allowed to proceed.

Youth participants from Austin were surprised by the City budget at one of two same-day events conducted by the People’s Budget Chicago and hosted by Chicago United for Equity and BUILD, Inc. In an exercise, one group chose to allocate $12 for every $100 to the carceral system budget, while another group set aside $1. At a follow-up cookout on July 23, one participant asked if People’s Budget Chicago has an official say in the City’s budget. Sarah Oberholtzer, a facilitator, explained that the project is not affiliated with the City. Its goal is to empower each participant to reach out to their elected alderman and say what investments they want to see in their ward.

July 27

In the first public hearing given by the City Council Committee on Public Safety to the Anjanette Young Ordinance, which would reform how police serve warrants by banning practices such as no-knock warrants, pointing guns at kids or displaying guns when kids are present during raids, and kicking doors open less than thirty seconds after knocking, CPD Chief of Operations Brian McDermott explained that the department has amended its search warrant policy to put limits and accountability on the practices, but refused to ban them. Public commenter Maira Khwaja of the Invisible Institute read a portion of her article co-written for South Side Weekly detailing other CPD raids gone wrong. Expert testimony was also collected at the meeting on a stalled ordinance that would halt CPD’s use of gang arrest cards, which were formerly entered into the department’s “gang database.” Police officials said an overhaul of the system “​​vetted through a new established criteria” would be ready in September.

July 29

Cook County has received $1 billion via the American Rescue Plan, though officials are still determining its allocation. Municipalities with populations over 50,000 will also receive their own federal funding, so Cook County plans to steer dollars toward regional “equity and infrastructure” initiatives. Forty-eight percent of the Cook County Jail population receives mental health services, a percentage that has grown steadily since April 2020, according to a quarterly behavioral health report presented at the Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting. The mental health division at Cermak Health, the jail’s clinic, consists of about a hundred staff serving 2,800 detainees. The report identified a staffing shortage on continuing mental health care for returning citizens.

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

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