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

Public Meetings Report – June 2, 2022

A recap of select open meetings at the local, county, and state level for the June 2 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

May 11

“Put an instrument in a child’s hand, or a paintbrush, or a basketball. That will keep a gun out of it,” Margaret Murphy-Webb, founder of the South Side Jazz Coalition, told the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners at its meeting. “The more programs you have, the more kids you can bring off of the street.” The district is celebrating ten years of its Night Out in the Parks program, which started with free movies and concerts. It’s now an annual program that offers free cultural events in the parks, said event program director Krista Bryski-Richard. She also introduced Luna, the Night Out in the Parks mascot. The meeting also saw the Park District gain a permanent superintendent and CEO: the board voted to approve the appointment of Rosa Escareño. She has served as the interim parks chief since October 2021, when superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly resigned amid a lifeguard sexual abuse scandal; and was previously the commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. The board also heard praise and concerns from park advisory councils, including the need for more recognition of their work, the poor condition of Douglass Park (site of Riot Fest), a fourteen-year delay in acting on requests for a community center in Kells Park, gratitude for $10,000 to fund community gardens from the president of the Skinner Park Advisory Council (and a request for more), and a call to preserve the Japanese garden and koi pond in Jackson Park. 

May 12

The Cook County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution at its meeting denouncing racially discriminatory real estate covenants; heard a request from Cook County Health (CCH) for the board to continue funding payments for staffing agency nurses; and requested a report next month from CCH CEO Israel Rocha Jr. about efforts to improve human resources operations. It also passed a resolution honoring physicians Dr. Rachel Rubin and Dr. Kiran Joshi, co-leads and senior medical officers at the Cook County Department of Public Health, for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic (they received standing ovations), and heard a statement from Commissioner Kevin B. Morrison supporting transgender rights. 

May 13

Council members who spoke at the City Council Committee on Committees and Rules meeting expressed relief that a compromise was reached on competing ward map proposals. The agreement, which was then approved at the May 16 Council meeting, avoided a public referendum on the competing proposals. Several committee members argued such a vote would have been an unnecessary burden and cost. Alderperson Carrie Austin, who plans to retire next year, was widely praised for supporting a split of her ward, the 34th, in part to preserve nearby majority-Black wards. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one,” she said, “and I was the one.” At least two public commenters disagreed with the map. “This map represents what is wrong with Chicago politics,” said Georgette Floss of United Northwest Side. Argued Evelyn Mix of West Ridge Community Organization, “The whole process to create the map is undemocratic.”  

May 17

Chicago Public Schools students will now automatically receive Chicago Public Library (CPL) accounts after a motion to establish a new CPL patron type for students was passed at the CPL Board of Directors meeting. Known as the CPS Student Success Account, it’s intended to address COVID-related student learning loss and build on new opportunities created by CPL’s decision to go fine free. The account will give students access to a limited number of physical items and direct access to CPL’s online services, including tutoring, databases, homework assistance, audiobooks, ebooks, streaming videos, and music. Two public commenters praised assistive technology and services at Harold Washington Library, and they pointed out ways in which neighborhood branches and certain resources were not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible. An employee asked whether the board has discussed restoring extended library open hours reduced by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2012. Library Commissioner Chris Brown said a newly hired chief data analyst would be reviewing this issue.

The City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate recommended approval of several items during its meeting. Among them was an agreement to allow the Chicago Police Department to rent or use a helipad for its marine and helicopter unit, a church parking lot for driver training, and office space at McCormick Place for a bike unit. The sale of City-owned land in Englewood to Beloved Community Family Wellness Center for parking space was also approved, as was continuing to contract with local firm DataMade for upkeep of the Large Lots website. The Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance went into effect about a year ago. It expanded the types of residences that can be built or rented to include garden units, attics, coach houses, and others. Despite some accessibility and financing issues, the ordinance has sparked increased interest in preserving such naturally occurring housing, the Department of Housing reported. 

Improving air quality and transportation for low-income and minority residents are two goals of prioritizing the conversion of City garages to “electric only” on the South and West Sides, the Chicago Transit Authority reported at theCity Council Committee on Economic, Capital, and Technology Development meeting. Also explaining plans to electrify Chicago’s vehicle fleets by 2040 were the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Department of Assets, Information, and Services. The committee recommended a $13.6 million tax break over twelve years for Assemblers, Inc., in return for the company maintaining a presence in the Ashburn neighborhood. Even though Assemblers plans to create fifty jobs, a departing company had forty-five employees, so Ashburn is likely to receive a net gain of five jobs.

May 19

Are non-competitive sole-source contracts too common in the Cook County Health and Hospitals System procurement process? That question was on the minds of some members of the Finance Committee during Cook County Health’s board committee meetings. The system has contracted with Deloitte, a consulting firm, to explore ways to increase competition and transparency in procurement. Another question considered during the meetings was why only two percent of prime contractors are minority-and-women-owned business enterprises (M/WBE) while twenty-one percent of subcontractors are M/WBE. Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer believes CCH should mentor M/WBE subcontractors to help them develop into prime contractors. 

Two police misconduct settlements totaling more than $16 million were approved and sent to the full Council by the City Council Committee on Finance at its meeting, although Council members Jason Ervin (28th Ward) and Howard B. Brookins, Jr. (21st Ward) questioned legal procedure and strategy. The settlements were in connection with cases against the City brought by Daniel Taylor, imprisoned more than twenty years for a 1992 double murder he didn’t commit, and the estate of Angel Felipe Nieves, who was shot and killed by an off-duty Chicago police officer in 2017. A hearing on changes to speeding and red light camera ticketing (O2021-1227) proposed by Alderman Anthony A. Beale (9th Ward) was postponed until the committee’s June meeting. Chair Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) said Beale had asked for the postponement due to a personal issue. Twelve agenda items, which took up most of the meeting, were about approving the use of TIF funds for improvements at several various public schools, such as new turf playing fields. Alderpersons Brookins and George Cardenas (12th Ward) pointed out that some schools don’t have this source of funding because they aren’t located in TIF districts. Cardenas called for a five-year capital plan to help such schools make needed repairs, upgrades, and other investments.  

May 25

The City Council approved the Bally’s casino proposal, with more than forty alderpersons voting in favor, paving the way for Chicago’s first casino. The casino plan will now go to the Illinois Gaming Board, which oversees the regulatory and tax collection system for riverboat and casino gambling in the state. The vote came just over two months after the City announced three casino finalists and followed a May 12 town hall on the plan hosted by the Office of the Mayor and a May 23 meeting of the Council’s Special Committee on the Chicago Casino. If Bally’s receives final approval, its $1.7 billion casino is expected to open in River West in late 2025 or early 2026, with a temporary casino operating in River North starting in mid-2023. At the meeting, multiple members of the Progressive Caucus criticized the process of vetting the casino as rushed, but said the agreement to put an upfront payment from Bally’s toward pensions won their votes. When Alderperson Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th Ward), who voted against the casino, went further, calling the process “failed,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot yelled that he was a “liar.” 

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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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