At its meeting, the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate voted to sell a former city firehouse in Pilsen to the National Museum of Mexican Art for one dollar. The museum plans to redevelop the property into a community center for Yollocalli Arts Reach, which provides free arts programs for thirteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds. Translated from an Aztec language, Yollocalli stands for “heart house.” Programs include drawing, painting, audio, photography, murals—fifty of them in public spaces, according to the organization’s website—and graphic design. Council members Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th Ward) and Daniel La Spata (1st Ward) supported the sale.
At their meeting, members of the Chicago Community Development Commission approved a motion allowing the Department of Housing to negotiate redevelopment of the former Earle Elementary School building in West Englewood to affordable family housing. The item was deferred from a previous meeting due to questions around the developer’s experience and lack of engagement with local organizations. Partial funding of $4.2 million is to come from the 63rd/Ashland Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district. Those TIF funds account for less than fourteen percent of the total development cost. Plans call for the project to create 117 construction jobs and twenty permanent jobs.
Mayor Brandon Johnson presented his proposed 2024 “People’s Budget” at a special Chicago City Council Mayoral 2024 Budget Address meeting. Johnson’s $16.6 billion budget seeks to satisfy campaign promises, especially to invest in housing, mental health, and community safety. It also aims to close a $538 million budget deficit without raising property taxes. A new element in this year’s budget is $150 million for welcoming and accommodating arriving migrants. Critics were concerned that the proposed funding would cover only six months of service and that the budget maintains a contract for ShotSpotter, a controversial gunshot detection technology. Departmental hearings and budget negotiations are to be conducted through mid-November, when the City Council will vote on the proposed budget.
A meeting of the 4th Police District Council—Avalon Park/South Chicago/East Side/Hegewisch provided community members with updates on the most recent nominating committee meeting. That committee is tasked with giving the mayor a list of potential appointees to the seven-member Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA). The 4th Police District Council discussed some of the requirements for representation. At least two seats must be filled by attorneys with at least ten years of experience in civil rights, civil liberties, criminal defense, or prosecution, for example. Another seat must be filled by someone with at least ten years of community organizing experience. Two spots are reserved for people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four.
Proposed remedies for individuals affected by the extreme rain and flooding in July were announced to the City Council Joint Committee: Environmental Protection and Energy & Public Safety at its meeting. Committee members learned that the deadline for individuals to apply for federal assistance had been extended to October 30. A plan to resolve damages, including hazardous basement mold, divides the city into four areas of underground tunnels and prioritizes the South and West sides, a City representative explained. The Thornton Reservoir is to be used for overflow. Short-term solutions (six to twelve months) include repair of private sewer drains and grid-based cleaning of the catch basins and sewer mains hardest hit during the floods. Twelve-to-eighteen-month, or medium-term, solutions include downspout disconnection to temporarily relieve the sewer water system and prevent basement flooding. Long-term solutions of two to five years envisage a regional tunnel system covering the city. Residents and committee members were concerned about a perceived lack of support at both the local and federal levels.
The addition of a major new event—this past summer’s NASCAR street race—sparked support for a liaison position to serve the City Council and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). The suggestion came during the 2024 City Budget Hearings of the Dept. of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and the Dept. of Planning and Development meeting. Council Member Monique Scott (24th Ward) noted that the new event necessitated moving the Taste of Chicago from July to September and that the race cost the City $3.5 million but brought in only $620,000, as the Weekly reported. Most of that revenue, she said, came as Park District fees, which don’t count as City revenue. DCASE Commissioner Erin Harkey suggested that the Chicago Department of Finance could supply financial information about future NASCAR races. The 2024 DCASE budget discussed at the hearing totaled about $84.9 million, though there was uncertainty about the exact amount of the increase from FY2023.
City Clerk Anna Valencia implored Council members for more funding to better staff her department and expand programming during a budget meeting: “My team is drowning.” Her request came during 2024 City Budget Hearings of the City Clerk and the Dept. of Public Health as she described a few of her office’s most successful programs, including one that serves both homeless residents and newly arriving migrants. CityKey enables United States citizens and non-citizens to obtain government identification using a birth certificate or identification provided by a consulate. Through the first half of the year, 16,412 CityKey IDs have been issued and demand continues to run high. The program serves as a library card, CTA Ventra Card, and a Chicago Rx discount card. Businesses in the city also offer discounts to cardholders. The program is free, and new funding would enable the program to be moved online.
A highly popular home and business protection program used its complete allocation of $1.8 million in the first three months of this year and might not be renewed, City Council members learned at a meeting for the 2024 City Budget Hearings of the Chicago Public Library and Dept. of Family and Support Services. The federal funding came from the American Rescue Plan and COVID-19 grants, explained Acting Commissioner of the Department of Public Health (CDPH) Fikirte Wagaw. Launched in August 2022, the program gave rebates to businesses and homeowners who purchased private security cameras for their properties. Praising Phalanx Family Services, another grant-funded program, Council Member Ronnie Mosley (21st Ward) asked Wagaw what would happen to the workforce development opportunities Phalanx offers in his community when its grant money ran out. The CDPH commissioner couldn’t provide an answer.
Planting and trimming trees was a key topic at a meeting of the 2024 City Budget Hearings of the Dept. of Streets and Sanitation, Dept. of Procurement. The Our Roots Chicago program is on schedule to plant more than 18,000 trees this year to “expand the tree canopy in Chicago through an equitable approach to every neighborhood,” explained Department of Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Cole Stallard. A new, more efficient way of scheduling trimming enabled the department’s Bureau of Forestry (BOF) to trim 53,188 trees to date compared to 19,525 in the same period last year. The department’s proposed $345 million 2024 budget is a 9.4 percent increase that could add sixteen positions, thirteen in the BOF and three for rodent control.
This information was collected and curated by the Weekly in large part using reporting from City Bureau’s Documenters at documenters.org.