- Public Meetings Report – March 18, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – April 1, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – April 15, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – April 29, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – May 13, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – May 27, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – June 10, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – June 24, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – July 08, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – July 22, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – August 05, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – August 19, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – September 30, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – October 14, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – October 28, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – November 11, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – November 25, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – December 9, 2021
- Public Meetings Report – January 13, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – January 27, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – February 10, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – February 24, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – March 10, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – March 24, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – April 7, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – April 21, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – May 5, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – May 19, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – June 2, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – June 22, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – June 30, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – July 14, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – July 28, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – August 11, 2022
- Public Meetings Report – August 25, 2022
- Public Meetings Report — October 20, 2022
- Public Meetings Report — November 17, 2022
- Public Meetings Report — December 1, 2022
- Public Meetings Report — January 12, 2023
- Public Meetings Report — January 26, 2023
At its meeting, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) Board of Commissioners acknowledged the fiftieth anniversary of both the Clean Air Act, which Congress passed in 1972, and the MWRD’s adoption of Chicago’s own Deep Tunnel project the same year. Deep Tunnel is one of the largest civil engineering projects in the world. It comprises 109 miles of tunnels built 150 to 300 feet underground serving the city and fifty-one suburbs. It was designed to improve water quality and protect Lake Michigan from pollution from overflowing sewers. Commissioner Mariyana T. Spyropoulos praised the Clean Water Act: “Wildlife in the Chicago River has almost doubled since the act started.” Commissioner Cameron Davis raised concerns that Chicago taxpayers are paying for forever chemicals to be cleaned out of Chicago waterways. He wants producers of PFAS (a type of forever chemical) to bear more financial responsibility for the clean-up, saying that “taxpayers are left holding the bag.” Davis also asked about legislation to ensure such accountability. Executive Director Brian A. Perkovich said he would apprise the Board of such legislation at its next meeting.
The morning session of the City Council 2023 City Budget Hearing covered the Department of Ethics and the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Council members asked a few questions about the ethics department. CPD Superintendent David Brown spoke to several issues raised by Council members, including: violent crime, especially on the CTA; carjackings and catalytic converter thefts; recruitment and hiring of officers; access to mental health resources for CPD officers and staff, which are apparently not yet at ideal capacity, though CPD is hiring a director of wellness; and overtime (CPD is about $12 million over budget, Brown said). The committee’s vice chair, Debra Silverstein, said several people have been murdered in her ward recently. “My community is scared and they’ve been asking for a long time and are continuing to ask again today for more police.” She also mentioned an increase in hate crimes targeting the Jewish community. “Can you tell me your plan for that and can you tell me the number of police officers we have in those districts and where we were a year ago and where we are now?” Brown said he would provide those numbers to the committee’s chair.
A morning City Council 2023 City Budget Hearing on libraries, law, and transportation focused on the Chicago Public Library (CPL) and the Law Department. Transportation was considered in the afternoon session. Both areas are facing significant staff vacancies of as much as twenty-five percent, reported Chief Librarian Chris Brown and the City’s corporation counsel and head of the Law Department, Celia Meza. Both cited their departments’ accomplishments and their current and upcoming needs. Budgeted for 1,380 positions, the Library has 345 open slots. Chief Librarian Brown explained that the large increase in the staffing budget supports returning twelve information technology (IT) staff positions from the city’s Department of Assets, Information, and Service to CPL to serve the library’s unique needs. The programming brings in speakers of different languages and provides education on getting green cards. Council members emphasized continued support for advancing equity and serving as a “book sanctuary” against book banning. Next, Celia Meza of the Law Department advocated for salary increases, explaining that the department is not competitive in recruiting diverse, experienced talent. The department employs lawyers who manage litigation, transactional and legislative projects such as public finance, civil rights, land use, and labor relations for the City. The law department also files lawsuits against entities that are harming Chicago residents or suing the city. Meza reported that the department has collected millions of dollars through its work.
In the afternoon session of the City Council 2023 City Budget Hearing, Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi presented. She noted that CDOT oversees one of the largest and most complex transportation networks in the country: 8,000 miles of sidewalks, 4,000 miles of streets, 3,000 signalized intersections, 2,000 miles of alleys, and 300 bridges, citing several projects. The Smart Lighting Modernization Program, for example, completed its first year and is designed to improve nighttime visibility, operational efficiency, and energy consumption to save the City $100 million in electricity over ten years. The City also implemented several pedestrian and bike safety construction programs, Biagi reported, as well as breaking ground on projects such as the Jackson Park Mobility Project, which is to employ fifteen percent local hires, and the Damen/Lake Green Line Station. Committee members expressed interest in lowering speed limits and complained that the new smart lights are too dim on the South and West sides, which is a safety hazard for drivers and pedestrians. Biagi responded that Chicago is at the national average on speed limits and that other factors, such as street and sidewalk design, influence speed and safety. A nagging theme for Council members was that uneven communications with CDOT made it more difficult for them to serve their wards. For example, a lack of centralization in reporting problems such as potholes, street construction needs, and lighting (sidewalk and traffic) creates time-consuming work for members, they said.
Public commenters took up most of the City Council 2023 City Budget Hearings portion of a regular Council meeting. In general, speakers supported more efficient funding for specific issues through various means, including reallocation, reduction, and increases. Topics covered were homelessness, Chicago Public Schools, transparency in the police budget, HIV/AIDS funding, the Treatment Not Trauma program, and ShotSpotter. Timothy Bell, speaking in favor of the Bring Chicago Home proposal, said that although Mayor Lightfoot says she has allocated $217 million toward homelessness, $174 million of that money consists of unspent funds from last year. There was little participation by Council members. Much of the budgeting process is handled by separate Council committees.
Two issues received significant attention during the City Council 2023 Budget meeting for the Committee on Budget and Government Operations: the re-establishment of a Chicago Department of Environment, dissolved by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and concern from public commenters about the lack of sidewalk snow plowing in winter and support for a citywide plowing ordinance. Commenters stressed that people with disabilities face dangerous conditions and limited mobility. The City plows streets and salts streets, but sidewalks are the responsibility of homeowners and landlords. “I am a very active, well-traveled person with disabilities,” said Sheryl Nellain, “and during the winter months, my whole social life, activities are halted because of the snow.” A smaller Office of Sustainability replaced the Department of Environment and carries out the City’s climate agenda. Activists argue that the larger department needs to be re-established. Three speakers supported the establishment of a memorial to victims of police brutality.