A squabble over the confirmation of a new city comptroller and approvals of seven ordinances, $25 million to settle claims against the City, and requests for charities to solicit funds on city streets occurred during a meeting of the Chicago City Council Committee on Finance. Chasse Rehwinkel, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s choice for comptroller, was confirmed after three Committee members expressed concern over Rehwinkel’s political beliefs and whether his background qualified him. The comptroller heads the Department of Finance and manages city revenue and debt. Council Member Raymond Lopez, Jr., (15th Ward) voiced concerns over Rehwinkel’s past support of candidates who advocated defunding the police. Members Daniel La Spata (1st Ward) and Jeanette Taylor (20th Ward) responded that a comptroller’s personal politics should not trump their qualifications. Rehwinkel has also served as director of banking for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Rehwinkel’s appointment was unanimously approved by the City Council on September 14.
At its meeting, the City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards approved more than twenty-six ordinances or amendments to ordinances, including: requirements for electric vehicle charging stations, expansion of the Blackhawks Fifth Third Arena, large-sign permits at twenty-six locations for twelve different organizations or businesses, landmark fee waivers, karaoke entertainment at restaurants to revitalize business, daycare services, outdoor vehicle storage, signage at two elementary schools, and construction of a seven-story, ninety-eight-unit residential building. The purpose of the electric vehicle ordinance amendment is to ensure that at least twenty percent of parking spaces for new residential construction be EV-ready. A Committee member referenced a 2020 Council resolution recognizing climate change as a crisis and then emphasized the need to build an EV-friendly infrastructure. More than an hour of EV-related discussion followed. Committee members covered a variety of topics and questions, such as how to make sure EV readiness is adequately distributed, how the chargers combat climate change since electricity is generated through fossil fuels, and how the City can monetize charging stations.
A decision to approve plans to house and provide wraparound services by adapting an Englewood school for unhoused individuals or those at risk of homelessness was deferred by the Chicago Community Development Commission at its meeting. The project calls for the former Earle Elementary School to be converted to thirty one-bedroom and twenty two-bedroom units of affordable housing. Funding for the first two phases would come from $4.2 million in tax increment financing (TIF). The project is also slated to include a computer lab and fitness room. Commissioners held off on approval because no local organizations are involved and concerns over the amount of experience the developer has with these specific kinds of projects. Potential remedies could include ownership shared with appropriate local organizations.
At its meeting, the Chicago Housing Authority Board of Commissioners approved a $3-million loan to Forward Communities Development, LLC, for the rehabilitation of nineteen vacant condos built as market-rate units on the former site of Rockwell Gardens housing in East Garfield Park. The renovated units are to be used for low-to-moderate homebuyers. The CHA plans to partner with the Chicago Housing Trust (CHT), a City-run nonprofit that supports affordable homeownership. Tracey Scott, the CHA’s CEO, reported that more than 500 families are to receive housing in seven new developments and that $2,000 scholarships are being awarded to 187 CHA residents for post-secondary education. Eligible are high school seniors, current students in two or four-year institutions, and other adult applicants. Scott also announced that the first LevelUp Program participants have graduated. LevelUp helps individuals to “increase financial stability” and “move forward . . . toward economic independence and well-being.”
At its meeting, the Chicago Plan Commission approved last-minute changes that would add forty-one units to a $230-million housing development on the Near West Side in the Fulton Market Innovation District (FMID). The change puts the number of affordable units at 123, or thirty percent of 406 total units. Those figures meet the standards of the City’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) revised in 2021 to “address rapid development and gentrification to prevent displacement of low-income residents.” To meet the standard, forty-one units were added after urgent discussions between the developers and Council Member Walter Burnett, Jr., (27th Ward). Burnett criticized the City for previously not honoring its commitment to support the ARO standards for developments in the FMID: “To me, it’s disingenuous.” The twenty-three member Commission is responsible for reviewing proposals for developments in connection with manufacturing districts, protection of Chicago’s lakefront, and tax increment financing (TIF) districts.
A dramatic plea for justice, the exit of a controversial interim police superintendent, and activity statistics punctuated a meeting of the Chicago Police Board. In his final Police Board presentation as interim superintendent, Fred Waller reported that 250 individuals had graduated from the Police Academy in August (about a third women and just over eighty percent identifying as people of color) and the department had hired five hundred employees so far this year. Andrea Kersten, chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), then reported that in August her office received 412 complaints and notifications, 102 of which fell under COPA jurisdiction. Complaints about improper searches and seizures again constituted the greatest number. During public commentary, Lolita Hendrix pointedly asked the Board: “When does a Black woman’s death matter?” Her niece, Treasure Hendrix, was found dead just over two years ago in a van owned by a police officer, who resigned a week after Hendrix’s death. She and others at the meeting are not satisfied with CPD’s explanation or investigation.Kersten told Hendrix the case no longer falls under COPA’s jurisdiction. Outgoing CPD Superintendent Waller said that he was not familiar with the case but would look into it.
During its meeting, the Chicago City Council Committee on Police and Fire recommended that the Council confirm Larry Snelling as the sixty-fourth Chicago Police Department superintendent. Committee members quizzed Snelling on a range of issues, including a spike in armed robberies (up twenty-four percent this year, according to CPD), Mexican Independence Day crowd and traffic conflicts, a lack of police officers on the streets, use of technology, immigration, and the future direction of the department. Solutions to crime would include surveillance technology and more positive opportunities for young people. Snelling’s appointment was later confirmed unanimously by the City Council during a special meeting on September 27, as reported by the Weekly.
This information was collected and curated by the Weekly in large part using reporting from City Bureau’s Documenters at documenters.org.