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

Public Meetings Report – November 25, 2021

A recap of select open meetings at the local, county, and state level for the November 25 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

Nov. 10

Public commenters called for the creation of an Asian-majority ward at the second redistricting hearing held by the City Council Committee on Committees and Rules. A speaker from the Chinatown community quoted Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” While Chicago has had an Asian American Council member before—Ameya Pawar represented the 47th Ward from 2011 to 2019—Asian communities in Chinatown and parts of the North Side have historically been an afterthought when alderpersons draw the lines for the city’s fifty wards every ten years. 2020 Census data show that Chicago’s Latinx population has surpassed the Black population and that Asians are the city’s fastest growing racial demographic. In current redistricting efforts, the City Council’s Black and Latino Caucuses are sparring over two wards. The Black Caucus wants to retain its eighteen Black-majority wards while the Latino Caucus seeks to increase the number of Latinx-majority wards from thirteen to fifteen to reflect population growth. Another map, proposed by the Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission and created by nonprofit organizations, would leave sixteen Black-majority wards and fourteen Latinx-majority wards.

An Office of Protection will be created to intake and investigate all allegations of discrimination, harassment, and abuse in the Chicago Park District, the district’s Board of Commissioners learned at its meeting and public budget hearing. Unexpectedly, after a closed session, Chair Avis LaVelle announced that she would immediately step down from the board. This resignation came less than three weeks after the board pushed Parks Superintendent Michael Kelly to resign over his handling of allegations of sexual abuse among Park District lifeguards. LaVelle said she took responsibility for the toxic culture because it came to light during her leadership. She maintained that Mayor Lori Lightfoot did not ask her to resign. Interim Parks Superintendent Rosa Escareno, who signed a ninety-day contract in October, noted that more than 3,000 park district staff will have participated in sexual harassment training by the end of the year. Escareno also presented the Park District’s 2022 budget proposal. The budget totals $510.9 million, an increase of 2.4 percent. About twenty-five percent is allocated to restoring programs to pre-pandemic quality.

At its meeting, the City Council Committee on Budget and Government Operations recommended for approval an ordinance proposing an appropriation amendment for Grant Fund 925. This grant serves programs across several departments. Through the Mayor’s Office, for example, “My Chi. My Future.” helps connect youth with resources for continued education and employment. Through the Department of Public Health, the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant Program aims to improve the health and well-being of mothers and children. In response to a question, Department of Public Health Deputy Commissioner Christina Hildreth Anderson explained that funds for data collection were being used to modernize data systems to improve calculations and projections. Director of Program Operations Jessica Wilkerson reported that hospitals working with the Family Connects Chicago program are Mt. Sinai, Rush, University of Chicago, and Humboldt Park Health. There were no public comments.

The Cook County Health (CCH) and Hospitals System Finance Committee and Quality and Patient Safety Committee meetings focused on financial issues. The Finance Committee reviewed twenty-one requests for funding totaling more than $60 million. About sixty percent, or $37 million, came from two requests for temporary staffing. A third request was for $12.5 million for clinical engineering services. The remaining eighteen requests made up the balance of $12.5 million. Questions from committee members focused on the ownership of non-emergency medical vehicles (County or vendors), whether $12.5 million in biomedical services could be brought back in-house (staff to update the committee within nine months), and how the budget is developed. CEO Israel Rocha, Jr. explained that budgeting is based on historical expenditures, the pandemic, the national nursing shortage, and unforeseeable future events. In addition, there was some concern over potential staffing shortages across CCH. In reviewing nineteen contracts for women and minority-owned businesses, the committee learned that only four incorporated measurable goals.

Nov. 17

During the public comments section at the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education meeting, parents, school and union staff, and other community members urged the board to agree on school closure criteria in case of increasing COVID infections. They also advocated for seven and ten-year renewals for community charter schools, arguing that the schools are good for the students and communities they serve. School closures during a pandemic would be especially harmful, they believe. Vaccine Awareness Day on November 12 increased access and doubled the vaccination rates of Black and Latinx children. CPS cancelled classes and provided vaccines at four high schools, and a mobile vaccination van offered vaccinations at other schools. CPS is working toward a goal of providing transportation to school for all students who need it. CPS is focusing on students with disabilities, who are especially impacted, and hiring more drivers, partnering with outside driving services, and providing financial aid to families for self-transport

Members of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Coalition for community areas around the planned Obama Presidential Center called for follow-through during public comment at the meeting of the City Council. The CBA Coalition is requesting a meeting with the city’s Department of Housing and Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor (20th Ward) to make progress on securing fifty-two City-owned lots, specifically, those east of Cottage Grove Avenue on 63rd Street zoned for high-density development. While the City Council passed the neighborhood-specific Woodlawn Housing Preservation Ordinance in September 2020, speakers said they hadn’t seen much movement. Alderman Raymond Lopez (15th Ward) delayed the vote on Lightfoot’s nomination of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) interim chief administrator Andrea Kersten to a permanent position. Twenty Council members had signed a letter opposing her nomination based on the COPA report about the Anjanette Young raid that recommended the suspension of Officer Ella French, who was involved in the case, but who was later killed in an unrelated traffic stop. The Council members said the report was an “insult to the memory of Officer French.”

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently created a Syndemic Infectious Disease Bureau, consolidating its programs to address HIV, sexually transmitted illnesses, viral hepatitis, and tuberculosis into one effort. The term “syndemic” means that these epidemics are often synergistic and occur at the same time or sequentially: a person may come down with two or more of these diseases due to interrelated biological and/or social factors. At a meeting of the CDPH Board of Health, Deputy Commissioner David Kern explained that the department is working with stakeholders to approach health care in a coordinated way that tackles the underlying causes of disease. According to CDPH’s Healthy Chicago 2025 Plan, which was formally adopted at this meeting, infectious diseases contribute six months to the 8.8-year life expectancy gap between white and and Black Chicagoans.

Nov. 18

The City Council gave the Chicago Police Board the green light to develop a process for people to appeal their listing on CPD’s Criminal Enterprise Information System (CEIS), the City’s new gang database, which will be discussed at length at the Board’s next meeting. At the most recent meeting, COPA’s interim chief administrator, Andrea Kersten, expressed sympathy for Ella French’s family and emphasized that the Anjanette Young report was not disrespectful of a fallen officer. Officer French, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop in August, was also present at the botched raid of Young’s home in February 2019. While the COPA report praised French for taking Young to her room to put on some clothes, it also recommended she be suspended for three days for failing to turn on her body-worn camera and file documentation of the raid gone wrong.

At the fourth redistricting hearing held by the City Council Committee on Committees and Rules, geographic information specialist Frank Calabrese presented a detailed overview of the amended version of the “Coalition Map” proposed by the Latino Caucus. It would draw 11th Ward lines with a population that is forty-nine percent Asian, up from the forty-one percent in its initial proposal. These new lines would unite the Asian populations in Bridgeport, Armour Square, and Chinatown that are currently split between the 11th and 25th Wards. If demographic trends hold, the 11th Ward—formerly the Daleys’ home base—would likely become a majority-Asian ward within a few years, according to Calabrese. Most recently, the Black Caucus presented their own map that proposes seventeen Black-majority wards and fourteen Latinx-majority wards. Council members have a December 1 deadline to vote on a final map, with a last-minute “informational hearing” scheduled for the Saturday after Thanksgiving by Alderperson Michelle Harris (8th Ward).

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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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