Public Meetings Report. Illustration by Holley Appold/South Side Weekly
Public Meetings Report. Illustration by Holley Appold/South Side Weekly
  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
  31. Public Meetings Report – June 30, 2022
  32. Public Meetings Report – July 14, 2022
  33. Public Meetings Report – July 28, 2022
  34. Public Meetings Report – August 11, 2022
  35. Public Meetings Report – August 25, 2022

Feb. 8

Lynne Turner was appointed secretary to the Cook County Board of Commissioners during a meeting of the board’s Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee. Turner has served as the interim secretary for the past seven months and as deputy secretary for several years. Former board secretary Matt DeLeon spoke during public comment, praising Turner’s experience and expertise and noting that she is the third Black woman to hold this position. The secretary’s role is to balance the needs of the board, residents, and news media and to manage legislative record-keeping, scheduling, public access, and the board’s administrative budget. Other appointments included four to the Cook County Land Bank Authority, one to the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation, and one to the Norwood Park Street Lighting District.

Two proposed affordable housing developments–Encuentro Square and Garfield Green–got the go-ahead to negotiate with developers at a Department of Planning and Development (DPD) Community Development Commission meeting. Commissioners recommended that the City Council give the Department of Housing authority to work with the Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA) and Evergreen on Encuentro Square. The eighty-nine-unit project, to be located at the western end of “The 606” trail, seeks $9 million in tax increment financing (TIF) from the Pulaski Industrial Corridor TIF district. Encuentro Square would incorporate trauma-informed design, an approach to the “built environment” that aims to evoke feelings of comfort and safety. Garfield Green is planned for two City-owned lots at 5th and Kedzie avenues. Commissioners recommended that the City Council grant the Department of Planning and Development the authority to negotiate the land sale and redevelopment. The proposal, which includes solar panels, green roofs, and other carbon neutral elements, was the winning entry for the site in the C40 Reimagining Cities Initiative, a global competition focused on sustainable development. The site is located in another TIF district known as the Midwest TIF District, or Midwest TIF, and developers expect to use $6.5 million in taxes generated from it.

Feb. 9

Members of the Conservation and Policy Council of the Cook County Forest Preserves District (CCFPD) presented a draft of their report on racial equity, diversity, and inclusion (REDI) in the district. The REDI report recommends that CCFPD conduct outreach and engagement to historically excluded groups, diversify its workforce, shape an inclusive organizational culture, evaluate spaces for disability access, and “recognize the special obligation to Native Americans who have a historic and ongoing relationship with the lands within the Forest Preserves.” The district’s stewardship program coordinator, Raquel García-Álvarez, explained that the team disagreed with previous feedback to ignore the history of racism in the preserves. Council member Emily Harris shared 1939 Sauk Lake construction drawings for a “white beach” and “colored beach.” Speakers used accessibility best practices, verbally describing images and pausing until an issue with the closed captioning was resolved. The Conservation and Policy Council is collaborating on REDI efforts in part to implement the district’s Next Century Conservation Plan. The plan’s goal is to restore native landscapes and promote public engagement with the forest preserves.

During Cook County Board of Commissioners meetings, the Health and Hospitals Committee heard updates from several Cook County Health departments. The Department of Public Health obtained $5 million in federal funds for opioid services. Between October 2020 and November 2021, the department worked with thirteen law enforcement agencies and eight community-based organizations. For example, more than 400 naloxone kits were distributed, and eighteen were used to prevent opioid overdoses. Between March and November 2021, three clients were referred for addiction treatment, a seemingly low number attributed to the difficulty of developing client trust. The Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) Correctional Health Services uses a mental health roster to ensure that individuals receive appropriate care. The JTDC’s mental health population averaged 168 in 2021 and, like that of the county jail, has been increasing.

Killed in 1997, resurrected in 2016, and killed again in 2018, the #31 bus route just won’t die. The route runs on 31st Street from the Ashland Orange Line station to the Museum Campus and is one of three routes serving the South and West sides given permanent status. At its monthly meeting, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Chicago Transit Board voted to approve permanent adoption of the route. Michael Connelly, CTA’s chief planning officer, explained that while the route did not meet initial ridership goals, use has increased and it fills a transit gap for minority, low-income riders, many of whom are essential workers. Service runs every thirty minutes on weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Annual operations costs are $573,000. The board acknowledged that the route’s newest life is due to more than a decade of work by residents and community organizations, including the Bridgeport Alliance, the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, First Lutheran Church of the Trinity, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), and The People’s Lobby.

Spending $1.9 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds was the focus of  the first of six planned meetings and hearings of the City Council Committee on Budget and Government Operations and Chicago Recovery Plan Subcommittee. The City plans to invest $190 million of the COVID-19 economic relief funds in housing and homeownership initiatives, reported Department of Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara. Describing the department as typically “credit rich and cash poor,” Novara explained that this historic influx of cash can be used to take full advantage of the annual four percent Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs)—or about $800 million—to build affordable housing. The Chicago Recovery Plan will invest $1.2 billion in community services and economic recovery, the City’s budget director, Susie Park, explained at an informational committee hearing. Novara and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) Commissioner Erin Harkey also shared how the funds will be used not only to promote affordable housing but also to support artists and arts organizations. Month to month, other recovery plan elements will be reviewed and prioritized for spending. Such elements include violence prevention, youth opportunities, community development, small business and workforce support, assistance to families, city infrastructure and parks, homeless support services, health and wellness, tourism and industry supports, environmental justice, and community and climate investments.

By a vote of nine to six, City Council members approved Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s appointment of Andrea Kersten as chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA). The vote occurred at a meeting of the Committee on Public Safety. Kersten has served as COPA’s deputy administrator and as interim head since Sydney Roberts’ resignation in May 2021. Her appointment has stalled repeatedly because some council members believe she does not respect police officers. Kersten authored a report on the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) wrongful raid on Anjanette Young that called for a three-day disciplinary suspension of Officer Ella French, who was present at the raid. French later lost her life in an unrelated incident in August 2021. Although completed before French’s death, the report wasn’t made public until November 2021 and, by state statute, could not be altered “after the fact.” Kersten has publicly apologized to the family, maintaining that her hands were tied.

Feb. 10

Eleanor Gorski, executive director of the Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA), estimated that the agency will obtain tax certificates for five thousand properties in this year’s scavenger sale. She spoke at the Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting. The Cook County Board created CCLBA in 2013 as a “clearinghouse” to facilitate sale and redevelopment of vacant, abandoned, or otherwise tax-delinquent properties. While Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas and other local civic leaders have criticized CCLBA for dominating the scavenger sale with no-cash bids, Gorski defended CCLBA’s purchase of so many properties. While anyone can participate in the County’s biennial scavenger sale, she has noted, it’s challenging for municipalities and smaller developers to compete with hedge funds, banks, and other large buyers.

Feb. 14

Council members expressed support for Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty in light of recent concerns about Russia’s military buildup along Ukraine’s border. At a meeting of the City Council Committee on Health and Human Relations, Nubia Willman, director of the City’s Office of New Americans, highlighted the cultural significance of the Ukrainian Village neighborhood and Chicago’s sister city relationship with Kyiv, Ukraine. The twenty-minute meeting ended with Chair Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward) apologizing for the brief agenda and acknowledging that the committee had several items pending. One was a proposal to create a pilot program to expand public restrooms across the city. Another was a request from Alderperson Michael Rodriguez (22nd Ward) for release of the complete copy of the Inspector General’s investigation report about the botched smokestack implosion that blanketed Little Village in dust in April of 2020. A summary of the investigation was released in January.

Feb. 15

The City intends to purchase a recently closed Aldi grocery store in West Garfield Park listed for $700,000. At its meeting, the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate heard Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) staff note that there is no interested tenant or buyer. Their goal is to ensure that the building is available to serve as a neighborhood grocery store. The committee voted to advance the item to the full City Council. Several members questioned the “speculative” approach, noting similar instances in which the City did not intervene in a South Side grocery store or other business closing. Chair Harry Osterman (48th Ward) said he would work with DPD to share a land acquisition policy. The Aldi store closed in October 2021 and sparked discussion of inequitable food access on the West Side. A City inspection had temporarily shut down the only other local grocer, a Save A Lot, leaving West Garfield Park without grocery stores. A proposal to purchase a 6.3-acre lot in Pilsen for $12 million to build affordable housing headed to the full City Council for approval. Alderpersons on the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate approved granting DPD the authority to negotiate purchase of the site. Pending a final green light from the Council, the City expects to complete the purchase in the spring and then begin environmental remediation of the site, which had housed a lead plant. The selection of an affordable housing developer through a request for proposals (RFP) would begin at the end of the year.

Alderpersons recommended a property tax break of up to $500,000 over twelve years for a Brighton Park-based manufacturer of metal pieces for lawnmowers and harvesting equipment. The tax concession could keep forty to fifty jobs in Chicago, according to Tom Hoppensteadt, a representative of the manufacturer, Siegal Steel Co. A brief meeting of the City Council Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development saw members approve a Class 6b Sustainable Emergency Relief (SER) tax break for the company. Siegal Hoppensteadt said the company has been at the 4747 S. Kedzie Avenue location for sixty years. In 2017, an Indiana company bought Siegal Steel and was considering moving operations, along with forty to fifty jobs. In return for reduced property taxes, Siegal must retain forty-nine jobs in Chicago and invest at least $2,826,500 in the facility over three years. The SER tax incentive was created in 2013 to encourage industrial businesses to remain in the county.

Feb. 16

At the City Council Committee on Budget and Government Operations meeting, City Deputy Budget Director Latoya Vaughn reviewed appropriations of $19 million as additions to and reallocations of grants in connection with the Council’s 2022 annual appropriation ordinance. Based on departmental requests, a few examples of changes included $3.421 million to address STD-related outbreaks and other preventative measures and money to expand HIV surveillance by developing an automated reporting structure (Department of Public Health); $425,000 for the Reducing Risk in the Juvenile Justice System for Girls to provide behavioral support services for about one hundred girls (Family and Support Services); $25,000 for hazardous materials releases training (Office of Emergency Management and Communications); $229,000 in hazard mitigation for building code enforcement (Buildings); and approximately $41,000 in reallocations among various departments from a 2021 Department of Homeland Security grant that Vaughn described as “terrorism preparedness funding” (Office of Public Safety Administration).

At a meeting and public hearing, the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners increased the district’s pension fund by $40 million using a supplemental appropriation. During Black History Month in February, a park district website slide show is celebrating forty-six parks named after noted Chicago Black history makers. Two regional Black History Month celebrations are planned for February 24 at Foster Park, 4 to 5pm, and at Austin Town Hall, 6 to 7pm. A third is scheduled for February 27 at Loyola Park, 12:30 to 2:30pm. The famed South Side Gately Park’s new $59 million track and field center was officially named for the late activist Dr. Conrad Worrill to honor his vision and active involvement in its construction. A resolution honored the late state senator and Congressman Harris W. Fawell, who created the district’s special education recreation program. The program has grown from a staff of fifteen to more than 175 and from fifteen sites to twenty-five, serving more than 3,000 people with cognitive disabilities. Mr. Fawell was responsible for the first International Special Olympics Games in 1968, which were held at Soldier Field.

Feb. 17

City funding for the next phase of Roosevelt Square, a Near West Side mixed-income housing development, was approved at the City Council Committee on Finance meeting. The proposed development would add affordable homes to the development on the former site of the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) ABLA Homes (Jane Addams Homes, Robert Brooks Homes, Loomis Courts, and Grace Abbott Homes). If the move is approved by the City Council, developers can receive a financial package of more than $140 million, including $17 million in TIF funds and more than $35 million from the CHA. The funds will support construction of 222 mixed-income rental units, rehabilitation of 184 existing scattered-site units, and relocation of the National Public Housing Museum. In 1999, the City demolished high-rises, including Cabrini-Green and ABLA Homes, and pledged to provide homes and allow residents to move back to “mixed-income” communities where affluent and low-income families could live side-by-side. The process is more than a decade behind schedule.

A revised version of Mayor Lightfoot’s controversial proposal to fine and sue suspected gang leaders passed during the City Council Committee on Public Safety meeting. It headed to a final vote at the upcoming full City Council meeting. The updated ordinance, touted by the administration as “victim’s justice” would empower the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to fine and sue suspected “street gangs” and “adult gang leaders” for their property. To appease critics, the administration added a mechanism for family members impacted by CPD’s seizure of assets (such as a shared car) to appeal the decision. CPD representatives argued that seizing gang-related “ill-gotten gains” will be a more effective crime deterrent than incarceration. Progressive Council members remained unconvinced that the measure’s potential benefits outweigh the negative impact it might have on communities of color. CPD has previously labeled Black and Latinx people “gang members” without verification. Alderwoman Maria Hadden (49th Ward) called the proposal “completely financially worthless.”

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

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