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

Public Meetings Report – October 28, 2021

A recap of select open meetings at the local, county, and state level for the October 28 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

Oct 6

At a hearing of the City Council Committee on Budget and Operations, Rachel Arfa, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), reported that assistance finding jobs, making homes accessible, and using technology are the top requests the office receives. To date in 2021, MOPD has completed more than twenty home modification projects for people with disabilities. With a $7.85 million proposed budget for 2022 and thirty-six full-time employees, MOPD plans to round out its employment and housing support initiatives and audit City departments for physical and program accessibility.

Oct 7

Commissioner Marisa Novara presented the Department of Housing’s proposed $396 million 2022 budget to members during a hearing of the City Council Committee on Budget and Operations. When asked about the expiration of the eviction moratorium, which occurred October 3, Novara said it is all her office has talked about for weeks. In December 2020, the Lawyer’s Committee for Better Housing estimated that the lift of the moratorium would result in more than twenty thousand evictions. Novara provided some hope that the actual number will be lower. “Counties that lifted moratoriums earlier have not seen a spike in evictions,” she said, “We’re hoping that’s the same case here.”

Since Fall 2020, 910 debt-burdened students have returned to class via the Chicago City Colleges’ Fresh Start Debt Forgiveness Program. During meetings of the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) Finance Committee and Trustees, Vice Chancellor of Institutional Effectiveness Christian Collins explained that the program encourages students who did not complete their studies to return, forgiving fifty percent of participating students’ debt in their first semester back and fifty percent upon completion of their studies. It also supports them in building their credit score. The Fall 2020 cohort had a sixty-two percent retention rate. To date, $318,000 in debt has been forgiven, and 105 people have had all of their City Colleges student debt forgiven.

Oct 8

In-person visits to the Chicago Public Library (CPL) are about forty percent of pre-COVID rates, but “virtual visits” to the library’s website have doubled, Library Commissioner Chris Brown told alderpersons during a hearing held by the City Council Committee on Budget and Operations. Brown added that the website can be thought of as one of the system’s branches. The proposed 2022 CPL budget is $131 million and would serve one million cardholders. The budget includes a twenty-five percent increase for materials—the funds available to stock the shelves—to ten million dollars. That figure is more in line with materials budgets for other library systems of similar size across the country, Brown said.

Oct 12

At its meeting, the City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards approved Carlos Pineiro as a member of the Chicago Plan Commission, changes to the municipal plumbing code, and various zoning changes. Alderperson Jeanette Taylor (20th Ward) called the proposed Park Station development a “step in the right direction” for combating displacement and neighborhood change in Woodlawn as construction on the Obama Presidential Center moves ahead.

At the monthly meeting of the DPD Community Development Commission, commissioners signed off on the Department of Housing’s advertisement of the intended land sale, a prerequisite for selling City-owned land. Anna Booth, a financial planning analyst with the Department of Housing, presented the plans for the mixed-income, mixed-use Park Station development to be located at 63rd St. and Maryland Ave. Based on community feedback, the design was changed to include eight three-bedroom units and eliminate studio apartments. The structure is also designed to include two storefronts with loft-style living space for entrepreneurs.

Oct 13

In contrast to the all-day budget hearings of the previous two weeks, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s appointments to lead two City departments got the green light relatively quickly during a forty-minute hearing of the City Council Committee on Budget and Operations. Aileen Velazquez, who brings experience in purchasing for CNA Insurance and Chicago Public Schools, was appointed to serve as chief procurement officer. She said she aims to increase the City’s contracting with diverse vendors. Cole Stallard, a longtime employee of the Department of Streets and Sanitation, will step into the role of commissioner. He has served as acting commissioner since July. Stallard said he will focus on rodent removal and clearing alleyways.

As the Chicago Police Department (CPD) revamps its existing gang-data practices to create a more centralized Criminal Enterprise Information System (CEIS), the Chicago Police Board plans to create a process for people to appeal their inclusion in the new database. During a meeting of the City Council Committee on Public Safety, Police Board Executive Director Max Caproni and President Ghian Foreman explained that if CPD rejects a request for removal from CEIS, the rejection could be appealed to the Police Board for a confidential review. While the committee voted to approve this new function, members left the meeting with many remaining questions about CPD’s rollout and design of CEIS.

Oct 14

Electric scooters will ride again in Chicago after passing a City Council vote at the Council’s meeting. Under the addition to the municipal code, as many as three scooter companies can operate in Chicago at one time, with a maximum of 12,500 scooters on the streets. Scooters must have sidewalk-detection software and hardware. About an hour of this meeting was spent on a resolution celebrating the eightieth birthday of the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Alderperson Walter Burnett (27th Ward) recalled Jackson’s visit to Burnett’s childhood home of Cabrini-Green. Alderperson Michael Scott (24th Ward) said he encountered Jackson while his father worked with him on Harold Washington’s mayoral campaign. Alderperson Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th Ward) shared that she marched in the 2011 Wisconsin labor protests with Jackson and actor Susan Sarandon.

Oct 15

The sale of one hundred City-owned empty lots west of Douglass Park, phase one of The Reclaiming Chicago Communities Initiative (formerly known as INVEST South/West 1,000 Homes), was approved at the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate meeting. Each lot is valued at “under $50,000” and will sell for a dollar each to a development team made up of the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation (LCDC) and Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI). LCDC and CNI will perform environmental remediation and build one hundred homes at an affordable price point of $250,000 each. United Power for Action and Justice has received ten million dollars in state funding and will subsidize up to thirty thousand dollars of the cost of each home. The proposed sale will go to the November meeting of the City Council for approval.

Oct 20

The Chicago Community Land Trust will become the Chicago Housing Trust Board. Members of the board discussed elements for a new logo design and voted to adopt the name change at their meeting. Previously, the board determined that the City-run nonprofit trust’s name did not clearly communicate its purpose: to promote and support affordable homeownership. The trust plans to re-launch with its new branding in 2022.

A proposal from Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd Ward) to invest ten million dollars of $151 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds in the City’s mental health clinics conflicts with what Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady proposed at the Chicago Board of Health meeting. The board oversees the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). The proposed 2022 City budget would allocate the ARP funds to the CDPH. Rodriguez Sanchez introduced an amendment, co-sponsored by twenty-five other Council members, to earmark a portion of those dollars for City-run community mental health clinics. Arwady and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have emphasized funding mental health service providers, while Rodriguez Sanchez and others advocate bringing the services back in-house and reopening public mental health clinics. Arwady and board members discussed contacting alderpersons directly to express their opposition to the amendment. In 2021, the City tripled its investment in mental health services to thirty-six million dollars.

Oct 21

The funding mechanisms for Lightfoot’s proposed 2022 budget passed their first hurdle when the City Council Committee on Finance voted approval at its meeting. The committee met to consider three ways the City generates revenue: property taxes, bonds, fines and fees. This year’s property tax ordinance would increase the City’s tax revenue by seventy-seven million dollars, or an increase of about 1.4 percent for an average homeowner. The City plans to borrow up to $660 million in government bonds to fund COVID recovery efforts. The City also intends to increase fines for environmental and building hazards and reform other fines and fees, such as those related to City vehicle stickers and utility bills. Council members questioned how money in the Chicago Recovery Plan, and the City’s COVID relief program would be used. The plan is not listed in the budget.

The former Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) public housing complex known as LeClaire Courts, which was allowed to fall into disrepair and remained vacant for fifteen years, will be transformed into a mixed-use development. The proposal presented at a Chicago Plan Commission meeting and backed by Alderperson Michael Rodriguez (22nd Ward) included 725 apartments, more than half of them considered affordable housing, along with a clinic, a charter school, and other commercial space right off of the I-55. CHA is reserving a fraction of units for former African American residents who were displaced, but acknowledges that reaching those families will be a challenge.

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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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