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

April 25

Money was approved for Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District at the City Council Committee on Finance meeting.  Fifteen schools will receive $4.9 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district  funds to improve their building automation systems. Four parks in the Chicago Park District will receive about one million dollars in TIF dollars for improvements to tennis courts ($75,000), a baseball and softball practice tunnel ($40,000), restoration and site access improvements ($550,000 in addition to a previously approved $1.3 million), and various restorations ($400,000). Bond inducement language was approved for the Department of Water Management, in order to reduce the overall cost of issuing bonds for some $200 million in water and sewer projects scheduled for the spring and summer. To pay for these projects, the city could either issue bonds up front, explained Jack Brofman, the city’s deputy chief financial officer, or the department could pay the costs with its available funds and the city could then issue bonds afterward to repay the department. Issuing bonds after the fact is less expensive and more efficient.The committee also authorized two separate settlements for police misconduct: $400,000 for an incident in which an officer driving an unmarked police SUV allegedly struck a pedestrian and $200,000 for an officer firing at a civilian during an altercation allegedly initiated by the officer, who was subsequently stripped of his police powers and resigned.

April 27

Can Chicago government shed its reputation for corruption? In the wake of former Alderman Patrick Daley Thompson’s (11th Ward) tax-fraud conviction, Alderperson Michele Smith (43rd Ward) proposed changes to Chicago’s ethics code at the City Council meeting. Last updated in 2019 and enforced by the Chicago Board of Ethics, the ethics code intends to prevent abuse of political power and outlines how City Council members and other public officials should navigate situations that may pose a conflict of personal or financial interest. The proposed changes would ban public officials from using their positions to benefit family members or partners. They also propose violation fines of up to $20,000. The current maximum fine is $5,000. The proposal would also require independent city contractors to complete ethics training and limit how much they can donate in local political campaigns. Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward) referred the ordinance to the Committee on Committees and Rules, saying he wanted to read the proposal more closely. Such a move can delay or destroy legislation.

April 29

Cook County Health nurses continue to criticize understaffing and low pay, citing a study that shows employing more nurses would save lives and money. The nurses attributed high turnover to low compensation and burnout from working understaffed floors. Local members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) said they twice sent a list of demands to Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and have not received a response, according to written public comment submitted at the Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS) Board of Directors meeting. They also cited overreliance on temporary agency nurses, who are paid significantly higher wages, as a problem. According to the letter, the patient-to-nurse ratio at Stroger Hospital can be as high as 8:1. The public comment also cited a one-year study conducted in Illinois in 2021 that found that if medical and surgical hospital units had been staffed at a 4:1 patient-to-nurse ratio, they could have avoided 1,595 deaths and saved $117 million. Chief Human Resources Officer Valarie Amos has previously said Cook County Health is addressing long-standing staff shortages and hiring backlogs by updating its recruitment technology and workflow. Their aim is to hire one hundred external candidates for a variety of positions each month to offset staff departures and retirements. 

May 4

Encouraging “mode shift” is the goal of the “Better Streets for Buses” initiative, Chicago Transit Authority officials reported at a public meeting about the program. The idea is that improvements to bus stops, streets, and intersections will lead to increased use of public transportation and decreased use of automobiles. For example, city bus service would become more efficient thanks to designated lanes and priority crossings at intersections. At the first of three scheduled virtual public forums, attendees were surveyed on how they use buses and how their experience could be improved. Most attendees said they take buses to run errands, visit friends, and travel to entertainment. Improving frequency and reliability, and reducing transit time were priorities. The CTA plans to gather feedback on general and route-specific improvements through May and hopes to introduce a final plan in the Fall. Staffing shortages plague riders with “ghost” buses or trains that appear on transit tracking software with estimated times of arrival only to disappear or arrive at unscheduled times. For example, a recent analysis of Blue Line arrival times found that, on average, only fifty-two percent of scheduled service was operating. Since 2019, CTA ridership has dropped nearly fifty percent–from 237 million to 121 million riders.

May 5

Commissioner and Board Vice President Barbara McGowan backed-off a proposal that would increase the amount of business going to small, minority or woman business enterprises (S/M/WBE) via subcontracts at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District  (MWRD) of Greater Chicago. McGowan said she was moving to delete the item from the board meeting agenda, thus avoiding a vote, after people close to her had received “threatening” or “unpleasant” messages and phone calls. The MWRD’s current policy, which is set to expire in June, requires that a percentage of subcontracts go to S/M/WBEs. A proposed update of the policy introduced in March would prevent a prime or main contractor with an S/M/WBE designation from counting its own involvement toward the participation goals. McGowan said that she was “sorry to see this item go down that road” but hoped to revisit it after an outside analysis of the legality and efficacy of the policy to reduce disparities in the local construction contracting industry.

After Evanston became the first governmental body in the country to pass a reparations plan, officials are encouraging other cities to consider reparations initiatives. Evanston’s Mayor, Daniel Biss, made a presentation at the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation meeting as did Robin Rue Simmons, founder and executive director of FirstRepair and a former alderperson who supported the plan. Simmons said she was inspired by a map of redlining in Evanston that corresponds to present-day disparities in health and income. Emphasizing the years between 1919 and 1969, Evanston committed $10 million toward reparations, beginning with $400,000 for residents impacted by redlining and other forms of housing discrimination. The Evanston program was informed by meetings in churches and barbershops and beauty shops. at which residents shared issues they thought reparations should address (housing discrimination and marijuana convictions, for example) and where the funds should come from. Simmons added that Evanston could provide more wraparound services and financial guidance to complement reparations. “Wraparound” services focus on supporting children experiencing mental, emotional, or behavioral challenges. Sixteen Evanston residents were selected by lottery in January to receive $25,000 grants toward buying a residence, home, fixing it up, or paying off their mortgage. 

May 9

At a hearing on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s selection of the Bally’s casino proposal, City Council members sought to slow the process. The mayor’s office has urged the council to greenlight the development planned for the Tribune Freedom Center at 560 West Grand as soon as possible. During a five-and-a-half hour meeting of the City Council Special Committee on the Chicago Casino, alderpersons repeatedly asked the city to reconsider the other four casino proposals as well as factors such as location and projected benefits for the city. But the city pushed back; without a signed casino deal, property taxes will need to be increased to pay police and firefighter pensions, explained Jennie Huang Bennett, Chicago’s chief financial officer. Speedy approval, she noted, would allow potential revenue to be factored into the city’s fall budget process. (An $867 million shortfall has been projected for fiscal 2023.) Bennett projects receiving tax revenue from a proposed temporary casino at Medinah Temple in 2023 and then $200 million annually once a permanent casino is up and running. Several council members compared the proposal to Chicago’s controversial parking meter deal in 2008. Alderman Andre Vasquez (40th Ward) said that the parking meter deal was billed as a way to pay off pensions, but much of the money went elsewhere. Also present were the Chicago Federation of Labor, UNITE HERE Local 1, and minority business owners. They praised Bally’s approach to minority involvement and willingness to compromise with labor unions.

May 10

City officials and Council members shot down “Water for All,” a proposed ordinance intended to ban shutoffs and make water more affordable for low-income residents during a meeting of the City Council Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy.  A competing ordinance proposed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot had previously been introduced at the meeting. The proposed “Water for All” ordinance was supported by grassroots groups, who said they were not consulted about the mayor’s version. They also said they had revised their version to reflect feedback from the administration and that the city’s proposal provides limited water bill relief. Water Commissioner Andrea Cheng and other municipal finance officials said that “Water for All” would require costly technology and financing changes and might result in higher rents. The mayor’s proposal could meet the same goals, they said, by building on the city’s existing water meter installation and utility bill relief programs. The Department of Water Management is resuming MeterSave, a free water meter installation program, after a three-year pause due to lead-level concerns. The program will decrease water bills, according to the department. Meter installations and lead service line replacements are far behind schedule.

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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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