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

February 5

At its meeting, the City Council Committee on Police and Fire reviewed Chicago Police Department (CPD) staffing and the most recent progress report on the status of reforms called for in the 2019 federal consent decree. The decree mandates “reforms that govern police training and policies,” notes an Illinois Attorney General website, “and provide officers the support they need to implement safe and constitutional policing practices.” The committee recommended passage of an ordinance that, if approved by the City Council, would commission a workforce allocation study of CPD. The goal would be to make staffing decisions more data-driven and strategic. Discussion on increasing the retirement age for police officers and firefighters—from sixty-three to sixty-five—was heated with clearly separate positions: fire department representatives were against it, police department and Fraternal Order of Police representatives were for it, and Council members were split. There was no vote at the meeting.

February 6

The Complete Streets Ordinance requires road improvements to include standardized bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Alderpersons and constituents reviewed the ordinance’s importance at a meeting of the City Council Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety. The program was implemented in order to “require streets to be planned, designed, operated, and maintained to enable safe, convenient, and comfortable travel and access for all anticipated roadway users, regardless of their age, abilities, or mode of travel,” according to the Complete Streets Toolkit from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Public commenters provided examples of how lack of pedestrian-and-cycling-friendly infrastructure has been dangerous for family members, especially children. Chicago’s 0.30 bicycling fatalities per 100,000 population puts it in a tie with three other large cities, according to the National Highway Transportation Administration. Tom Carney, acting director of the Chicago Department of Transportation, presented the elements of a “complete street,” such as ADA ramps, pedestrian islands, and protected bike lanes as well as plans to increase construction in 2024. Council members were positive about the report but questioned how equitable implementation could be ensured throughout the city. 

February 8                                                                                                                                     

At the Chicago Public Schools Bronzeville/South Lakefront 2023-2024 Educational Facilities Master Plan Community Roundtable meeting, CPS officials shared information and planning for facilities updates over the next five years. The plan is legally mandated to assess schools’ building needs and plan five years of maintenance, spending, and construction. As they have in past meetings, CPS officials assured attendees that the roundtables are not about closing schools. This meeting was one of sixteen such roundtables. CPS reported that, on average, schools in this planning area are at least eighty years old. Of the 15,443 students living in the Bronzeville/South Lakefront area, 10,071 attend school there. Of the $14.4 billion of estimated facilities updating needs, approximately $1.2 billion is needed for repairs alone for this area’s forty-four schools.

February 14

Members of the City Council Committee on Finance at their meeting heard about a multi-phase, mixed-income housing development from Deputy Commissioner Tamra Collins of the Housing Development Bureau. The project is in the 27th Ward, comprising the West Loop, which is represented by Council Member Walter Burnett Jr. The project has received approval for 270 condominium units, fifty-one units Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) public housing units, and sixteen affordable housing units. Fifty-six townhomes have been completed, including with twenty-one CHA public housing units and four affordable housing units. Rental properties will provide 431 units with 138 CHA units, 159 affordable housing units, and 134 market-rate units. The Committee also approved four settlements related to police activity ranging from $195,000 to $3.25 million.

February 15

For the second time, the City Council at its meeting rejected the police union’s proposed contract clause that would allow some serious disciplinary cases to be decided behind closed doors. Such cases are now decided publicly by the Chicago Police Board, whose members are appointed by the mayor. Under the new contract proposal, officers facing termination or suspension of a year or more could choose to have their cases decided by a third-party arbitrator out of public view. Mayor Brandon Johnson said he’s prepared for an expected legal battle with the police union. In voting against the measure, alderperson Jesse Fuentes (26th Ward) objected because it allowed “a very small percentage of individuals [to] make decisions that are expensive at best and fatal at worst on the dime of the City of Chicago.” 

February 16

At its meeting, the Chicago City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate approved Mayor Brandon Johnson’s appointment of Lissette Castañeda as commissioner of the Department of Housing (DOH). “Everyone deserves a safe, decent, affordable home and should have the right to make the best housing choice for themselves and their families,” she said. Castañeda has extensive experience in affordable housing work, including as executive director of LUCHA. Headquartered in Humboldt Park, LUCHA is an affordable housing advocacy and housing counseling group founded in 1982. The previous DOH commissioner, Marisa Novara, resigned last summer after four years as a Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointee. Displaced from Lincoln Park to Logan Square with her family as a child, Castañeda shared her experiences with gentrification and displacement. She believes that the city needs a holistic view of housing, saying, “I want to be part of the work of making that a reality for all Chicagoans.”

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This information was collected and curated by the Weekly in large part using reporting from City Bureau’s Documenters at

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