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

Public Meetings Report – March 10, 2022

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

Feb. 22

Once slated for demolition, Bridgeport’s closed All Saints–St. Anthony Parish inches closer to becoming a daycare center for children and adults. In June 2019, the Chicago Archdiocese merged the congregation with St. Mary of Perpetual Help. At the City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards meeting, members approved a zoning change requested by building owner and developer Mao S. Mei of T2 Construction. As part of the plan, a convent on the site will be demolished to create additional parking space. The Seth Warner House, 631 N. Central Ave., is the oldest remaining house in Austin and was approved for historical landmark designation. It was built in 1869 by Warner, a “businessman, abolitionist, and music lover,” according to a report submitted to the Landmarks Commision last October. Warner made his fortune after he launched a blacksmith shop that later manufactured the Virginia Reaper, “[Cyrus] McCormick’s invention that revolutionized grain harvesting and that helped establish Chicago’s industrial might,” the report explained. As a landmark, the Italianate-style structure will become one of only thirteen to have survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The committee ignored letters of support for zoning changes in the 11th Ward from Patrick Daley Thompson, who is no longer the ward’s alderperson after being convicted of tax fraud. 

Feb. 23

The beginning of the City Council meeting focused on celebrating Secretary of State Jesse White, which tied in with recognizing other notable Black Chicagoans during Black History Month. The City plans to buy a closed Aldi grocery store in West Garfield Park listed at $700,000, a move designed to keep it out of the hands of non-grocer buyers. At the meeting, council members voted to greenlight the purchase. There have been questions about how the City decides to use its land acquisition power and whether this type of use is an effective economic development tool. Earlier this month, representatives of the City’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) reported that they had not yet identified a future tenant, meaning the store will remain closed even after the City buys it. The DPD owns more than twenty thousand lots across Chicago and manages several land sale programs. Critics argue that the City’s land management approach is inefficient and have proposed alternative models of land stewardship. In a controversial move, Andrea Kersten was confirmed as chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA). Kersten came under fire for her summary report on the Chicago Police Department’s wrongful raid on Anjanette Young. The report recommended discipline of Officer Ella French, who was killed in the line of duty after the report was completed and officially submitted. 

“We change the narrative, we write our own story” was the student chant that greeted the renaming of Agassiz Elementary School to Harriet Tubman Elementary School at the Board of Education meeting. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will renew its contract with Urban Prep Academy’s Englewood Campus, 6201 S. Stewart, formerly the campus of Englewood Technical Prep, for one year—with conditions. Staff explained that the charter school, which serves 188 male students, has not met benchmarks for academic, operational, and financial performance. The school must now submit to additional oversight from CPS, including review of a three-year financial plan and governance structure overhaul. Urban Prep staff, students, and alumni praised the community of care at the school. The standard CPS contract for charter schools is for five years with site visits and data analysis in the final year to determine whether the board should renew the contract. Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey restated that he will not be seeking reelection; his term will end in June.

Feb. 24

Now in its second of five years, a $25 million initiative to reduce violent crime through beautification and maintenance of vacant lots across South Side neighborhoods aims to double the land it maintains. At the Chicago Police Board meeting, president Ghian Foreman spoke about the initiative known as Terra Firma, which he is leading through Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative. Launched in 2021, Terra Firma focused on the 63rd Street and King Drive commercial corridors. The program covered about twenty acres of vacant lots and provided youth internships, job training, and $400,000 in local contracts. The program is modeled after the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s LandCare program. LandCare created jobs and reduced gun violence and feelings of depression in the targeted areas, Foreman said. This year, Terra Firma plans to clean, beautify, and maintain an additional twenty acres. By 2025, Terra Firma aims to include 205 vacant acres in Washington Park, Woodlawn, and South Shore and to collaborate with the neighboring Obama Presidential Center, Foreman said. Funding sources are the state’s Restore, Reinvest, Renew (R3) program, which itself is funded by cannabis sales tax revenue designed, in part, for communities experiencing incarceration, violence, and lack of investment. Several corporations and nonprofits are partners.

Feb. 25

The Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS) Board approved more than $85 million in twenty-eight contracts and purchases at its meeting. Included were funds for nursing contract services ($64.1 million); kidney care programs ($9.7 million); actuarial services ($6.6 million); and laundry services ($6.4 million). Some moves were controversial. A registered nurse at Provident Hospital said that retaining current staff would cost less than contracting with outside agencies: CCHHS “has done nothing to retain [currently employed] staff,” she added. Healthcare union employees asked that eighty hours of paid leave provided in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 absences be extended into 2022. Dr. Yvonne Collins, chief medical officer of CountyCare within CCHHS, offered data to make the case that food insecurity and housing access are linked to negative health outcomes. Residents in ZIP codes on Chicago’s South and West sides and in the south suburbs are disproportionately affected by health inequities, the costs of which increase the use of hospitals in the system. People living in ZIP codes with the highest rates of rental assistance, for example, are less likely to see primary care providers than residents who don’t need help with their rent. Forty-one percent of people with managed care plans are food insecure. Collins said evening and weekend appointments need to be offered, and that visits should consolidate appointments and services to avoid multiple trips to care centers. Too many eligible Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) members also fall under managed care programs but don’t benefit from SNAP, in part because they don’t know how to apply.

Feb. 28

With low risk of community transmission of COVID-19, Chicago is entering a new phase of the pandemic, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said at a meeting of the City Council Committee on Health and Human Relations. Arwady said the city’s daily COVID case count peaked after Christmas at 10,032 but is now averaging 250 cases per day—the lowest since July 2021. Seventy-seven percent of Chicagoans had received at least one vaccine dose and “most” had some level of immunity against the virus from vaccination or infection. Vaccination rates in the Latinx community have increased, with seventy-five percent of Latinx Chicagoans having gotten at least one COVID shot—the same rate as white residents. Vaccination rates in the Black community continue to lag at sixty-one percent. Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th Ward) questioned whether the City’s mask mandate should be dropped in higher risk communities. While Arwady remains concerned about unvaccinated people, who are likely to experience more severe illness should they catch COVID, she maintained that the current risk level is low enough to ease up on citywide masking.

Mar. 3

Muddy Waters’ North Kenwood house will receive a $250,000 grant for repair of its brick facade, windows, and entry door. At its meetings, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved the use of Citywide Adopt-A-Landmark Fund money, which receives ten percent of zoning and density fees that downtown developments pay the City. The grant does not cover replacement of the home’s iconic steel flamingo storm doors, which were special-ordered by Waters. The doors are no longer on the building but can be seen in photographs. Commission Chair Ernie Wong suggested that perhaps Mick Jagger or Eric Clapton, who both drew inspiration from and performed with Waters, would be willing to foot the bill for replica flamingo doors. The Monumental Baptist Church at 729 E. Oakwood Boulevard has been given a preliminary landmark recommendation status and moves to the next phase of getting historical landmark recognition. Black community leaders bought the building in 1925. Headed by several civic-minded pastors, it went on to host events during the civil rights movement, collaborating with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Cleophus Lee, the current pastor, joined the meeting to say that the congregation is excited to restore the building and work for community revitalization.

How can local governments support building wealth in communities? The Cook County Commission on Social Innovation has been exploring this question since it was created in 2016. During the commission’s meeting, representatives from the Chicago Community Trust (CCT) shared how they are using their role as a public foundation to close the racial wealth gap, catalyze neighborhood investment, and build collective power. Ja’Net Defell, director of CCT’s Community Desk Chicago initiative, said the initiative conducted eight months of research on community investment vehicles (CIVs). Defell explained that a CIV is an entity through which neighbors can collectively own and profit from local commercial and residential real estate. While the commission isn’t aware of CIVs in Cook County, commission members discussed how they could modify regulations and taxes to encourage them. In January, the commission heard about a pilot CIV in Portland, Oregon, in which participants can invest between ten and one hundred dollars a month in a commercial real estate property owned by the CIV, with guaranteed loss protection, annual dividends, and the option to cash out at any time.

Mar. 4

This year’s property Scavenger Sale ended on March 2. Nearly 30,000 parcels were offered; the Land Bank successfully bid on 1,951 properties. Deputy director Darlene Dugo said it was very competitive this year, especially among tax buyers bidding on particular properties. Sometimes bids went in increments of $100 or $1000. A vacant lot at 6104 Roosevelt Road is the planned site of a charging station to serve the rising number of electric vehicles on the road. At its meeting, the Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA) Land Transactions Committee sold the property for $115,000 to Oak Park entrepreneur Yves Hughes. He said the T-Station will fulfill a future community need while creating a more sustainable environment, as fifty percent of all cars sold in the U.S. will be electric vehicles by 2030. Since an electric vehicle can take hours to charge, Hughes plans to offer restaurants and other entertainment for drivers while they wait. 

The City is testing a 911 response team that includes a mental health clinician, a community health paramedic, and a police officer. At a meeting of the City Council Committee on Health and Human Relations, representatives from various city departments shared updates on the pilot, also known as the Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE) program. Public commenters called for an alternative responder model without police officers, but presenters emphasized that police officers enable the team to respond to potentially violent situations. Latisha Newsom, a licensed clinical social worker, mentioned Quintonio Legrier, who called 911 and was fatally shot by a responding Chicago cop in 2015. Other commenters expressed support for the Treatment Not Trauma campaign. Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady compared the pilot, launched in September 2021, to the first phase of a clinical trial. The University of Chicago will be assessing the safety and feasibility of the hybrid model. A same-day walk-in clinic and prescriber services, 24/7 community crisis beds, a housing referral network, and care for intoxicated people are other supports being planned, she said. 

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

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