At its meeting the Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA) Land Transactions Committee approved a land “banking” agreement, meaning designating specific land parcels for use in extending the Red Line from 95th Street to 130th Street by 2029. Calling the $2.3 billion extension “fundamentally an equity project,” Leah Mooney, the CTA’s director of strategic planning and policy, made a presentation on the Red Line Extension Project before the vote. The mostly-elevated route would add stations at 103rd Street, 111th Street, and Michigan Avenue. The banked properties are generally vacant or unimproved. No relocations would be required and no occupied parcels targeted. It’s estimated the extension construction would provide 30,000 jobs and, upon completion, 40,000 trips per day. The committee also learned that the West Garfield Park wellness center will be built and available to provide services in mental health care, financial literacy, nutrition, and for other community spaces.
A proposal to facilitate the development of a Chicago Fire Football Club training facility in the area generally bounded by Roosevelt Rd, Ashland Ave, 14th St, and Loomis St, passed at the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) Chicago Plan Commission meeting. A few speakers opposed it, stating that there are more pressing housing and employment issues at hand in the area that need to be addressed. CHA, which is aiding the development, reportedly procured support from local residents and said that it would not disrupt the other housing developments. A cannabis dispensary was also approved near the Roosevelt Red Line stop, as well as a five-story residential building at 25th and Federal that would include thirty-two affordable housing units. Developing a vacant lot near the Green Line station at 43rd and Prairie for residential and commercial use was also approved, among other items.
The need for training Local School Council (LSC) members was emphasized at the Local School Council Advisory Board meeting, especially since practically half of elected LSC members are new. Kishasha Williams-Ford, director of the Office of Local School Council Relations, explained that “our members need to know how to effectively conduct business [and] make decisions. It’s important that all of our members participate in the training.” In addition to conducting LSC elections, Ford’s office supports local school councils with training and mediation. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Officer Michael Brunson also supported training for school staff members as to LSC’s roles and responsibilities so that the LSCs can fully exercise their powers, which may otherwise be assumed by school principals.
At a meeting of the City Council Committee on Finance a proposal was approved to issue $20 million in tax-exempt bonds for construction of a $35.4 million affordable housing development near the police station at 3401-3423 West Ogden Avenue. Units will be available at sixty percent of the area’s median income. The committee approved approximately $25 million to settle cases against the City of Chicago involving wrongful convictions, police misconduct, and discrimination. Each case was thoroughly discussed, including numerous questions. Renovations costing a total of $4.75 million at two Chicago parks, Gompers Park and Touhy Herbert Park, include showers and restrooms, including playground modernization, landscaping, and other improvements.
There was discussion about how City Council committee leadership assignments are delegated. At the City Council Committee on Committees and Rules meeting, Aldermen Sposato and Vasquez remarked on how, with at least twenty-one 21 departures from the Council and twenty-one 21 new members (in what is being called “The Great Resignation” of city aldermen), that it seems that newbies are getting a lot of the assignments that perhaps more senior aldermen might want. Ald. Scott replied that the mayor said that she would take on the committees that her predecessor had been assigned to and that she believed that with twenty-one 21 alderpersons resigning there would be a lot of opportunity for being assigned to new committees. Ald. Cardenas (12th Ward) spoke in favor of assigning Ald. Timothy Knudsen (43rd Ward) to the Committee on Committees and Rules and finished by saying that he is one of the aldermen who will be leaving at the end of this term.
A guest speaker shared her concerns about an alcohol tracking system, SCRAM, a technology that has been in use for two years in Cook County without a contract. At the Cook County Board of Commissioners Criminal Justice Committee meeting, they discussed whether or not they should submit a request for the County to acquire a contract with this private company and whether or not the County should be profiting from the suffering of those that are under surveillance of SCRAM. A representative of the Public Defender’s office of Cook County warned the board that SCRAM is financially ruining some of the low-income people that end up wearing an ankle monitor. A representative from the Chief Judge office reminded the board that drunk driving can be tried as violent crime. They voted in favor of drawing up a contract.
During public comments, two court interpreters said they don’t feel their contracts are fair. For example, pandemic pay only applied to some interpreters but not others. Public commenter Briana Payton, of the Chicago Community Bond Fund, said that the bond fund is in favor of the 911 Alternative Task Force, but opposes the proposition that electronic monitoring could be expanded. Both were approved at the Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting. A labor rep for nurses at Jackson Park Hospital read a statement about the need for special resources for mental health services in hospitals and aftercare. She supported the 911 alternative being staffed only by healthcare professionals, not police who aren’t fully trained in this area. Another commenter said law enforcement is the first to arrive and they don’t know how to address overdoses or how to administer NARCAN.
At the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education meeting, there was a special presentation to honor the life of Manuel Sanchez, the city’s first Mexican-American school principal, who recently passed. CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said the district has received students from the busloads of asylum-seekers arriving from Texas. Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) recording secretary Christel Williams-Hayes said the board should reconsider alternatives to building a new $120 million high school on land set originally aside for public housing. The proposed high school was the subject of several more public comments. State Rep Theresa Mah (2nd District) said that it was a divisive idea to choose the site and that discussion should not continue. She cited many reasons including proximity to other schools whose decline in enrollment would be accelerated by the presence of a new school. “As the legislator who secured the $50 million in state funding for the construction of a CPS school in response to decades-long community advocacy to get the high school built, I nonetheless oppose the current proposal at the site on 24th and State.” Martinez said the proposal is not “either or” but “both and,” meaning that the City can invest in the school and the neighborhood together. The authorization to purchase property at 23rd Street and Wabash Ave. to construct a new Near South high school was approved 4-3.