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

Public Meetings Report – October, 14 2021

A recap of select open meetings at the local, county, and state level for the October 14th 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

Sep 14

The City Council approved a new contract for Chicago police that includes retroactive pay and an immediate 10.5 percent pay raise to cover the four years the police worked without a contract. Mayor Lori Lightfoot recognized Hispanic Heritage Month and essential workers at the meeting. The council passed a resolution honoring Jesus ‘Chuy’ Negrete, a Chicano “corrido” singer who recently passed away. Sarah Brune, Neighborhood Housing Services director, advocated for the Lending Equity ordinance, which passed. Brune said the rate of Black homeownership is thirty percent lower than the rate of white homeownership, and noted that hasn’t changed since the 1960s. The Committee on Health and Human Relations endorsed the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act currently in the U.S. Senate.

A $5.3 million TIF-funded project led by Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives to remediate one hundred City-owned lots to become single-family residences in North Lawndale and La Villita (24th Ward) was discussed at the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) Community Development Commission meeting. Commissioner Latasha Thomas said that a June proposal included 1,000 homes. Brian O’ Donnell, representing the Home Ownership Bureau from the Department of Housing, said this phase is just the first. The finished development would include 1,000 residences as proposed.

Sep 16

A residential and business development proposal was approved for the West Loop at the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) Plan Commission meeting. The proposed twenty-nine-story development would have 282 residential units and eighty-nine parking spaces. It would be located at 160 N. Morgan St., near the Morgan Green Line station. The developer, Sterling Bay, would provide only twenty-eight affordable units, and pay $5.3 million in affordable housing fees and $2 million into the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund. This development proposal is the first in which the new affordable requirements ordinance (ARO) is “playing out,” said Department of Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara. The proposal moved to the Committee on Zoning. 

Sep 17

The Just Cause for Eviction substitute ordinance was discussed at the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate meeting, but the committee did not vote on it. The Just Cause ordinance would require landlords to specify a reason for eviction and to provide relocation assistance in “no-fault” circumstances. According to Frank Avellone, the founder of the Chicago Housing Justice League, about 1.4 million Chicagoans live in some 600,000 rental housing units. An average of 24,000 eviction cases are filed each year, and about a quarter are not the fault of tenants. A variety of reasons account for the remainder—-a landlord’s desire to renovate a unit, for example, or rent it out for another purpose. Public health leaders spoke to the disproportionate toll of evictions and housing insecurity on Black and Latinx families. 

Sep 20

In what the City dubbed Chicago’s 2022 “Recovery Budget,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot submitted $16.7 billion in executive budget recommendations at the City Council meeting. Lightfoot’s proposals rely on pandemic relief money to fill revenue gaps, including $1.9 billion in American Rescue Plan funding.The proposal provides for more than $400 million for community safety programs such as wraparound services for justice-involved youth and violence intervention work. Police spending would increase to $1.9 billion, up from $1.7 billion this year. An overview of the 595-page proposal and first budget hearing began on September 24. A deferred cannabis equity ordinance was also discussed and approved by the City Council.

Sep 21

The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) has downsized its footprint in its headquarters building,  now occupies only floors seven through twelve, and intends to sublease the other floors, said Chief Operating Officer James Bebley at the CHA Board of Commissioners meeting. Other 2022 projections include the delivery of 282 new housing units, the conversion of 1,100 public housing units to Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) project-based vouchers, and $120.4 million toward planned capital expenditures. Due to the pandemic, there was only one in-person public comment event, but three virtual events. Commissioner Francine Washington noted that there is very little to any resident representation on the boards of associations for CHA’s mixed-income developments: “We can’t have folks make decisions for us without us. We are getting the short end of the stick…cut us in or cut us out.”

Commissioner Chris Brown said at the Chicago Public Libraries board meeting that fifty-five percent of library branches now offer Sunday hours, with the goal to have all branches open on Sundays by the end of the year. Over the summer, CPL staff was given a virtual tour of the library branch and the entire Obama Presidential Center (OPC), according to Commissioner Chris Brown. The next step is to work with OPC staff to plan an operational programming menu to inform the design of the library branch. Public commenters commended the staff and technological facilities at the Harold Washington Branch, which just had its 30th anniversary, for its ease of access for the visually impaired. 

Sep 22

A draft map of 2021-2030 voting districts was approved at the Cook County Board of Commissioners Rules and Administrative Committee meetings. The new map features minor adjustments, almost none of which involve population changes, according to Peter Creticos, director of bi-partisan staff for the board, who presented the map. The main change is to District 17, the county’s largest district, and to Districts 14 and 13, in the northern part of the county. More than half of 130 municipalities remain whole. Once approved by the full board, the districts will be implemented and used for the next county election. The maps “should not be drawn by the elected officials most impacted by the redistricting process,” the League of Women Voters of Cook County commented in writing, in part because the new districts were drawn to minimize changes rather than drawn from scratch.

Only two members out of nine were present during the Commission on Chicago Landmarks Program Committee  meeting. Nonetheless, all three nominees for designation on the National Register of Historic Places were moved forward to the full committee by members Suellen Burns and the Rev. Richard Tolliver. The nominees were the Altgeld Gardens-Phillip Murray Homes Historic District, the Ramova Theater, and The Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s house. Twenty new public nominations were introduced and included churches, banks, parks, school buildings, gardens, and homes as well as the former residence of Donda and Kanye West. If the James R. Thompson Center nomination is approved, it would be the first postmodern building in Illinois to be listed in the National Register.

The ongoing challenges facing Chicago Public Schools with the fall re-opening were addressed at the Board of Education meeting. “What’s been happening inside CPS has been a mess,” said Chris Baehrend, Chicago Teachers Union ACTS Division chair, about COVID-19 safety protocols. Since classes began in September, the district has been criticized for lack of contact tracing and a high number of cases. Twenty-nine new permanent contact tracers have been hired, and the district plans to retrain all employees involved in related protocols. More than one hundred school bus drivers quit before the academic year began, affecting the commutes of 3,300 students. Of those students, about one hundred have not yet attended school. CPS officials told the board that monetary compensation would be provided to families without transportation. CPS is also working with third-party vendors on alternative modes of transportation, including taxis and passenger vans.

Sep 23

At its monthly meeting, the Chicago Police Board unanimously voted to suspend Detective Jason Villareal for 180 days on charges of misconduct that were filed by First Deputy Superintendent Eric Carter. Superintendent David Brown recommended Villareal be discharged, but revoked that recommendation after the parties agreed to settle. Carter also reported on homicide clearances, which are at forty-five percent for the year to date. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) arrested 1,007 people on carjacking-related offenses this year. Carter explained that the vehicular hijacking task force has doubled in size to eighty officers and reported that 9,093 firearms were recovered. 

Sep 24

Users of CountyCare, Cook County’s no-cost Medicaid plan, could face interruptions in service  due to Cook County Health’s delay in issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for coordination of the plan. At the Cook County Health and Hospitals System board meeting, interim CountyCare CEO Aaron Galeener explained that the current contract expires on December 31. Several members of the board expressed concern that the RFP did not go out earlier. Cook County Health CEO Israel Rocha Jr. committed to turning the RFP around quickly. Although projected to fall, CountyCare membership has increased by about ten percent over the past year and, as of September 9, stood at about 411,000.

Sep 27

In the next year, the City plans to divest from fossil fuel investments, City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin reported during one of the City Council Committee on Budget and Operations Hearings. Fossil fuel investments now account for $20 million, down from $70 million in 2019. When asked whether the City can do more to prioritize socially responsible banking or create a public bank, Conyears-Ervin replied that she’s legally bound to make money and that relationships with big banks like Chase “run deep.” 

Sep 30 

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) sustained forty-four percent of the 600 allegations against Chicago Police Department employees it investigated in 2021, reported Andrea Kersten, the office’s interim chief administrator, at one of the City Council Committee on Budget and Operations Hearings. The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is making a comeback, Commissioner Mark Kelly told council members. DCASE receives most of its funding from a tax on hotel stays and lost half of its revenue during the pandemic. In 2022, thanks to a $10 million budget increase, Kelly said DCASE plans to provide more funding for cultural grants and public art, especially in connection with INVEST South/West. 

Oct 1

The City’s 911 call center is experiencing high employee turnover and is seeking to fill eighty-two vacancies, Richard Guidice, executive director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, reported at the City Council Committee on Budget and Operations Hearings. Guidice added that the co-responder pilot program began on September 30 in a North Side police district and, when operational, will send a crisis intervention team (CIT) to respond in some situations. CITs are to include a mental health professional, an emergency medical technician, and CIT-trained police officers. No CITs had responded to calls at the time of the hearing. The Department of Water Management is planning an 8.3-mile tunnel to reduce flooding and sewer issues on the Southwest Side, according to Andrea Cheng, the department’s commissioner. 

Oct 4

The average person will no longer be able to tune in to police scanners. The Chicago Police Department expects to begin encrypting its radio feeds to prevent interruptions by the end of the year, Superintendent Brown told council members at the City Council Committee on Budget and Operations Hearings. During the ten-hour hearing on the proposed $1.89 billion CPD budget, council members questioned Brown on topics ranging from carjackings and illegal firearm possession to recruitment of new officers and potential use of drones. About 150 written comments, many challenging the ShotSpotter contract, were submitted by members of the public. The president of the Chicago Police Board, Ghian Foreman, said that the board  is “more than willing” to pass some of its responsibilities on to the newly created Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, which is scheduled to be set up in 2022.

Oct 5

The Department of Buildings is modernizing the Chicago Building Code for the first time in seventy years, Building Commissioner Matthew Beaudet said during the City Council Committee on Budget and Operations Hearings. In 2022, the department plans to tackle sections on plumbing, natural gas, signage, and more. Beaudet also hopes to crack down on commercial property owners who receive tax breaks by keeping buildings vacant instead of leasing them. 

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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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