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

Public Meetings Report – February 10, 2022

A recap of select open meetings at the local, county, and state level for the February 10 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
  15. Public Meetings Report – October 28, 2021
  16. Public Meetings Report – November 11, 2021
  17. Public Meetings Report – November 25, 2021
  18. Public Meetings Report – December 9, 2021
  19. Public Meetings Report – January 13, 2022
  20. Public Meetings Report – January 27, 2022
  21. Public Meetings Report – February 10, 2022
  22. Public Meetings Report – February 24, 2022
  23. Public Meetings Report – March 10, 2022
  24. Public Meetings Report – March 24, 2022
  25. Public Meetings Report – April 7, 2022
  26. Public Meetings Report – April 21, 2022
  27. Public Meetings Report – May 5, 2022
  28. Public Meetings Report – May 19, 2022
  29. Public Meetings Report – June 2, 2022
  30. Public Meetings Report – June 22, 2022

Jan. 20

Several public commenters entreated the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) Board of Commissioners at its meeting to resolve issues in connection with Carl Malinowski’s traumatic experience as a survivor of a 2018 methane-gas explosion at Calumet Water Reclamation Plant. Malinoski was buried under tons of rubble and underwent several surgeries after being rescued. Unresolved issues, according to speakers who included Malinowski’s sister, his physician, and former supervisor, are workers compensation, treatment for PTSD, case delays, and unpaid medical bills. The board granted a five-year permit extension to NeighborSpace for LaPointe Park in Ravenswood to continue community stewardship agreements. This month is Vice President Barbara McGowan’s last African-American History Month (also known as Black History Month) with MWRD. Members thanked her for contributions, including visibility for Asian and Latinx communities, which forwarded diversity for the board.  

At its meeting, the Chicago Police Board learned that the Narcotics Arrest Diversion Program has expanded to all districts and deflected 830 individuals from jail and into treatment. The program is a collaborative effort between the police department, the University of Chicago Crime Lab, and recovery service provider Thresholds. Interim Chief Administrator Andrea Kersten reported that the Civilian Office of Police Accountability has launched a mediation program that offers civilians who have lodged a complaint against a police officer the opportunity to meet with the officer to discuss the interaction. The goal is for both parties to gain perspective. Unlike similar programs in other cities, police officers choose to participate. 

Jan. 21

A revised version of the proposed civil asset forfeiture ordinance would narrow the definition of street gang membership and allow family members to petition to keep a vehicle. During an informational meeting of the City Council Committee on Public Safety, City officials argued that the “Victims’ Justice Ordinance” would bring Chicago in line with state legislation and expand the City’s powers for legal recourse against gang activity. The revision also provides for fines of up to $15,000 for a first violation. Subsequent violations within twelve months would carry fines of up to $30,000, plus potential incarceration for up to 180 days. Some committee members questioned whether the revised ordinance would effectively address crime, violence, and inequality.

Jan. 24

The “Encumbrance Ordinance,” which aims to revitalize disinvested areas of Chicago by forgiving building-related City debt, was approved at a meeting of the City Council Committee on Finance. As part of its work on this proposal, the City’s Department of Housing conducted an analysis of the 7th Ward, identifying at least ninety-seven buildings whose debts to the City prevented renovation. The debts can be forgiven only when a building’s most recent owner has died or otherwise can’t be reached. The City overcame what Commissioner Marisa Novara and Assistant Commissioner Will Edwards described throughout their presentation as a major obstacle to affordable re-development: the city itself. Namely, the thousands of dollars of City fees and fines levied against owners of neglected and blighted residential properties who are unavailable for or unwilling to appear in court. With previously no way to vacate these debts, both the city and developers looking to make a buck in the housing game had to contend with otherwise sound business opportunities blocked by outstanding debt. Ordinance sponsor Ald. Greg Mitchell spoke enthusiastically about what he describes as a tool to finally take slumlords to task and for rescuing otherwise inaccessible houses from a quagmire of red tape. 

Jan. 25

Have a lot of reading to do? Library cardholders will now be able to place a hold on up to twelve resources at a time, thanks to a vote by the Chicago Public Library Board of Directors (CPL) at its meeting to increase the previous limit of eight items. CPL staff also discussed the year’s planned renovations and upgrades to library branches in Brainerd, Brighton Park, Greater Grand Crossing, Jeffery Manor, and West Lawn. CPL Commissioner Chris Brown noted that capital improvements could lead to an increase in the use of those locations for up to ten years. During public comment, two speakers urged CPL to make its programs more accessible–for example, by providing subtitles for live-streamed events.

Jan. 26

Alderpersons agreed at this meeting that the City Council would benefit from having dedicated legislative counsel but continued to clash on specifics. An ordinance proposed by member Anthony Beale (9th Ward) would empower the Council to contract with an independent advisor in parliamentary procedure, separate from the City’s corporation counsel, who works more closely with the mayor and administration. But that proposal stalled. Residents from the Southwest Side urged the City to reject the renewal of Sims Metal’s permit, concerned by the effects of pollution which causes asthma, lung disease, and respiratory issues, confounded by the respiratory pandemic virus, and encouraged the City to have a town hall with residents. A resolution for the International Remembrance of the Holocaust passed.

About 700 diverse learners still don’t have reliable transportation to school amid persistent local (and national) school bus driver shortages, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) transportation field manager Kimberly Jones reported at the CPS ​​Board of Education meeting. Currently, 12,754 students are getting to school via 650 yellow buses, 156 Pace vans, and sixty-four taxis. Jones said she aims to set up transportation for the remaining students by February 28. Federal and state laws require that CPS provide diverse learners and other vulnerable students with transportation to school. CPS may reroute buses to meet this requirement. 

Rosa Escareno’s ninety-day term as interim superintendent of the Chicago Park District was extended through April 30. At a meeting of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners Vice President Tim King praised Escareno’s work to support the creation of the Office of Protection and Accountability to address sexual abuse and other misconduct among staff, topics also discussed at this meeting. Later this month, the City Council is expected to vote on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s appointment of former Library Commissioner Andrea Telli to the permanent park district commissioner role. During public comment, several speakers called on the board to look into a contentious proposed amendment of the Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC) bylaws. The amendment that would limit who can vote at meetings. It might exclude people with disabilities or who are unable to attend meetings due to the amendment “work” requirement.  Neighborhood residents spoke out against music festivals in Douglass Park, which cause violence and destruction of the park and private property.

Jan. 28

The Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) remains focused on COVID-19 activities but is resuming other initiatives, co-leads Kiran Joshi and Rachel Rubin reported during a meeting of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System Board of Directors. Specifically, contact tracing, reporting, and treatment of other communicable diseases like tuberculosis and measles had lapsed and are to be reinstated. Joshi and Rubin anticipate case numbers to increase as the department renews its attention to these illnesses. Routine CCDPH inspection programs related to food safety, sewage, and lead in homes were also put on hold or reworked due to COVID-19 concerns. CCHHS CEO Israel Rocha reported that a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner was recently installed at Provident Hospital, which was previously thought to be unfeasible because of the building’s age and design. An on-site MRI scanner significantly expands the hospital’s services. Healthcare workers spoke during the public comment period on the need to improve compensation, benefits, and hazard pay for hospital nurses. The Human Resources Committee is working with an external company on an analysis of their recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and offboarding processes.

Jan. 31

Economic and public finance experts had a wide-ranging discussion of county finances at a meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners Independent Revenue Forecasting Commission. The commission’s role is to analyze and strategize about county revenue streams, including taxes and grants. County finance officials have also been working with the Cook County Health and Hospitals System to streamline reimbursement processes. The commission discussed Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s plan to alleviate inflation with grocery, gas, and property tax cuts, which he announced during his annual State of the State address on Feb. 2. 

Feb. 2 

The Cook County Board of Commissioners Environmental Commission plans to discuss food waste composting with sports arenas and hotels, Cook County Board Commissioner Bridget Degnen (12th District) reported at the commission’s meeting. Degnen noted that little local infrastructure exists for large-scale composting efforts. The goal is to begin conversations with potential resources before drafting legislation. The board also intends to explore tax incentives for composting companies, installation of larger anaerobic digesters at Stroger Hospital and Cook County Jail, and by-product uses. In 2022, the commission will focus on restoring Cook County’s tree canopy and exploring industrial composting programs.

Feb. 3

In 2021, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved seven of ten applications for landmark status and awarded $4.3 million in preservation grants, historic preservation architect Dijana Cuvalo reported at the commission’s meetings. Commissioners approved granting $100,000 in Adopt-A-Landmark funds for Glessner House, which in 1970 was one of the first structures to receive Chicago landmark designation. To qualify as a Chicago landmark, a building must meet at least two of seven criteria related to architectural, cultural, or historical significance. A landmark site is eligible for tax incentives and Adopt-A-Landmark funds. The Permit Review Committee approved four construction proposals, including for a downtown storefront, a Beverly Metra station, and an historic building at Six Corners in Wicker Park.  

Feb. 4

Entrepreneur Corey Gilkey intends to buy an abandoned Englewood property (937 W. 59th St.) from the Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA). Gilkey, a Boxville collaborator and CEO of Leaders 1354, Friistyle and Chenille Factory, plans to create a mixed-use development and community space for his businesses, with residential units on the second floor. Members of the Land Transactions Committee approved this sale for $50,000. Also at this meeting, the committee approved the $59,000 sale of a vacant lot in North Lawndale (4532-36 W. Grenshaw St.) for the expansion of Aries Charter, a bus company based in the neighborhood.

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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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