The full City Council meets at 10:00 a.m. today, but before they get into the regular order of business, aldermen will convene in the council chambers an hour earlier, at 9:00 a.m., to hear an address on the City’s police department from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Meanwhile, a “Citywide Walkout” calling for Mayor Emanuel and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to resign will commence outside Daley Plaza at noon. More than 1,700 people said they’ll attend the march, according to the organizers’ Facebook page.
Often shouting back their answers over a raucous crowd of about 200 residents, eleven South Side aldermen convened a “Public Safety Hearing” at the Liberty Baptist Church in Bronzeville last night and weathered multiple calls for theirs and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s resignations.
One typical exchange of the evening came when one audience member, addressing the aldermen said, “Sawyer, you’re in the back pockets. Tomorrow morning I want you to get to work and call for a vote of no confidence of the mayor.” The statement was met with loud cheers.
Ald. Sawyer then stood up and said, “No. Not because I don’t want to, but because you’re the the ones who voted for Rahm Emanuel. I didn’t!” Immediately, the room erupted in bedlam.
Harrison Coleman, a former CHA police officer, spoke about how he trusted the Chicago police officers who picked up his son in December 2012, “I helped put my son in the paddy wagon. That was the last time I saw my son alive."
Coleman’s opinion of police has markedly changed since the incident, as he then told the assembled, "We got two terrorist groups in Chicago, the gangs and the police… the police don't even get charged."
In the course of the meeting, Ald. Sawyer committed on behalf of the assembled aldermen to a pair of actions: to support Ald. David Moore’s (17) call for a City Council investigatory subject hearing on the Mayor’s Office and City Council’s role in the Laquan McDonald case, and to meet with the Community Renewal Society on their proposed FAIR COPS Ordinance.
Budget Chair Calls For “In Depth Hearings” On Minority Hiring
by Claudia Morell – firstname.lastname@example.org
The City’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Construction Program, set to expire at the end of this year, will continue through March 31, 2016, under an amended ordinance the Budget Committee passed yesterday. Budget Chairman Carrie Austin (34) allowed a temporary extension of the program so she could hold “in depth hearings” on how the City can strengthen it.
Renewed appointments to the City’s Library Board and a $700,000 federal grant for a new job training program also advanced in committee and will be reported out at the full City Council today. But Ald. Gilbert Villegas’ (36) ordinance concerning the city’s motor fuel tax was held in committee, because it wasn’t “in its proper form”, according to Chairman Austin.
Attendance: Chairman Carrie Austin (34), Brian Hopkins (2), Pat Dowell (3), Leslie Hairston (5), Marty Quinn (13), Toni Foulkes (16), David Moore (17), Matt O’Shea (19), Howard Brookins, Jr. (21), Rick Munoz (22), Michael Scott, Jr. (24), Jason Ervin (28), Deb Mell (33), Milly Santiago (31), Gilbert Villegas (36), Emma Mitts (37), Pat O’Connor (40), Brendan Reilly (42), Tom Tunney (44), John Arena (45), Ameya Pawar (47), Deb Silverstein (50)
Temporary Extension of M/WBE Program
The original ordinance Mayor Emanuel introduced in November would have extended the city’s M/WBE program in its current form through 2020, but Chairman Austin thinks the city can do better when it comes to implementing stricter M/WBE requirements for companies that want to do business with the city. She announced at yesterday’s committee meeting that she would allow for a temporary extension of the program through next March, so a Budget subcommittee can hold “in depth” hearings on how the city can increase M/WBE thresholds.
“I believe that what we’re looking to do is not some drastic of an increase that it would would jeopardize the program [...] we can move to those numbers. I don’t think it will hurt us, ” Austin said after the meeting.
“You always start high and then you go low,” she added, “We can move up, and if we can show that and without a court fight, I believe we can move our numbers up.”
“Its an aspirational goal,” Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36), who was standing next to Austin, chimed in.
The program was first implemented in 2004 and renewed in 2009. By law, renewal must be based on evidence of discrimination in the marketplace. The city retained the law firm of Pugh, Jones & Johnson, P.C. and economist Dr. David G. Blanchflower to conduct the review. Aldertrack obtained a copy of the nearly 300-page report that was sent to aldermen on Dec. 3, 2015, less than a week from yesterday’s committee meeting.
Asked if she discussed her plans with the Mayor to expand the program, and if he was open to the idea, Austin quipped, “It’s his words only?” and later remarked that she isn't “pushing him to do anything.”
“If we can’t [change the requirements], then I believe we will come back to what we have,” she added.
When Chairman Austin was asked if the Mayor should see this as an opportunity to build trust in the African American community, given the recent fallout with the police department, Austin said it’ll take more than a commitment to beef up minority hiring.
“I think that everything he is doing is a way of trying to build trust, or rebuild trust, in the African American Community. Is this one way that he can do it? I believe so, but I don’t want to say that this is one thing that he could do. No, I don’t believe that. I think there are multiple things that can be done,” she responded.
$700k for Head Start Parents
The Committee also approved a $700,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help fund a new job training program for parents of kids enrolled in Head Start. The so-called “Performance Partnership Pilot for Disconnected Youth” program is open to young mothers (16-14 years old) who have a child five-years-old or younger enrolled in Head Start, according to Jacqueline Tiema, Director of Grants for the Department of Family and Supportive Services. Prior to the vote, Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30) asked for a city-wide breakdown of where those funds will be spent.
Villegas’ Motor Fuel Plan Tabled
Ald. Villegas wants to make sure revenue collected through the city’s gas tax is used for road repairs and infrastructure improvements, and not as a supplemental fund for general city services. Under the ordinance, motor fuel tax money not earmarked for debt service payments “shall be used strictly and solely to pay expenses incurred on the construction, repair, upkeep, and maintenance of roads, highways, bridges, alleys, crossings, tracks, and other public ways associated with transportation.”
Ald. Villegas told Aldertrack that given the poor state of the city’s streets and roadways, he wants to prevent the city from pulling gas revenue to fill funding holes for non-transportation related departments or services. But when it was brought up in committee, Chairman Austin said the ordinance was not “in its proper form” and that they will work on it and pass it at a later date. After the meeting, Ald. Villegas asked Chairman Austin to explain what she meant by “not in proper form”, and he said she told him the city needs to verify that the language doesn’t supercede state law.
Committee Gets Update on City's 5-Year Housing Plan
by A.D. Quig – email@example.com
The City’s lead agency for affordable housing hit 79% of its annual resource allocation goal ($200 million) and 75% of affordable units (6,187), according to the Third Quarter Report on City of Chicago's Five-Year Housing Plan. Lawrence Grisham, Managing Deputy Commissioner in the Housing Bureau at DPD, briefed the Committee on Housing and Real Estate Tuesday. Grisham and other DPD representatives updated members on new construction on affordable units and two DPD policy highlights: TIF-NIP and the Micro-Market Recovery Plan. In 2015, DPD’s slated to commit more than $254 million to assist over 8,200 housing units, according to its estimates.
Past Coverage: First Quarter Report, Second Quarter Report
Attendance: Chairman Joe Moore, Pat Dowell (3), Gregory Mitchell (7), Raymond Lopez (15), David Moore (17), Michael Scott, Jr. (24), Jason Ervin (28) Ariel Reboyras (30), Milly Santiago (31), Deb Mell (33), James Cappleman (46), Ameya Pawar (47)
DPD is the lead agency for affordable housing, housing preservation, and homebuyer assistance programs, and presents its Quarterly Report to the Committee on Housing and Real Estate in a hearing separate from normal committee meetings. The report is about 70 pages–less than 10 are narrative, the rest is raw data. Kevin Jackson, executive director of the Chicago Rehab Network, also provided an analysis of the Third Quarter Report after DPD testimony (Chicago Rehab Network Powerpoint, PDF Analysis).
Grisham outlined new and rehabilitated affordable housing DPD is supporting, including St. Edmund’s Oasis (DPD Powerpoint). The financial package for the 58-unit Washington Park rental development included $10.2 million in tax-exempt bonds, a $5.3 million loan, and tax credits. That package was approved by City Council in July. The townhouses will be built on 14 city-owned lots in the 20th ward, and is also supported by a CHA loan of more than $5 million. The property was valued at $630,000, but the city sold it to the developer for $14 in 2014.
Grisham also offered an update on the J. Michael Fitzgerald Apartments, a new senior apartment building to be constructed in the 39th ward with 63 affordable one-bedroom apartments for seniors. The City authorized a 75-year ground lease agreement with Fort Lauderdale-based Elderly Housing Development & Operations Corporation (EHDOC) for $1 per year. The project is funded by HUD and Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity from the state.
Assistant Commissioner Bryan Esenberg also detailed a DPD pilot program in 13 neighborhoods: the Micro-Market Recovery Program (MMRP), which Esenberg says has affected 6,229 units of housing. Esenberg said the program’s goals are to improve market conditions, strengthen weak home values, and work against the effects of foreclosure block by block in at-risk neighborhoods. The program has helped the city reclaim an entire block of in Humboldt Park and turn it into affordable housing for veterans, and a similar plan in North Pullman is in the works, he says. Grisham said the program so far has stayed micro, but “we’re trying to figure out how to use learning [from the program] in a broader context.”
The TIF-NIP (Tax Increment Funding Neighborhood Improvement Program), which provides home repair grants of up to $30,050 for single-family residences, was also explained by Assistant Commissioner Irma Morales. Since 1999, TIF-NIP has provided over $33 million for grants in eligible TIF Districts. This year, DPD rolled out new NIPs in four TIF Districts: Bronzeville, 47th/King Dr., Woodlawn and West Woodlawn. There are planned roll-outs in Commercial and Central/West TIFs, too.
Ald. Pat Dowell (3) told DPD representatives, “I’ve utilized TIF-NIP a number of times, and I think it’s an excellent program... but I’m concerned about their capacity, whether they can continue to take on as many TIF-NIPs as I can foresee coming forward.” Grisham assured her the two employees currently working on the program have been able to handle the workload, and should be able to going forward.
Dowell also asked Grisham about the impact of the recently-changed Affordable Rental Ordinance (ARO), which was updated in October. The ordinance applies to residential developments of 10 or more units on city-owned land, and requires that developers provide 10 percent of their units at affordable prices or pay in-lieu fees to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Grisham said “It’s too soon to tell how many units that will result in, but it will result in more units. It's going to take another six months to get a feel for this.” Grisham says he also expects more funding for the trust to open up as a result of a court case.
Kevin Jackson of Chicago Rehab Network reminded the committee and DPD of the importance of neighborhood investment to offset the cost of the upcoming property tax hike. He said half of Chicago renters are cost-burdened, or paying more than 30 percent of their income toward housing costs. “If we can get investments into neighborhoods, that will grow the city’s resources, it will grow the property tax. It’s a repopulation strategy.” Hinting at gentrification, an issue Ald. James Cappleman (46) brought up earlier, he said, “There certainly is a very escalating investment in certain parts of the city. Our challenge is to make sure there’s equitable investment.”
License Committee OK’s BACP “Clean Up” Ordinance
by Claudia Morell – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Council’s License Committee approved what Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Maria Lapacek called a “clean up ordinance” amending various fines, fees and regulations under BACP’s jurisdiction.
Attendance: Chairman Emma Mitts (37), Gregory Mitchell (7), Marty Quinn (13), Michael Scott, Jr. (24), Chris Taliaferro (29), Ariel Reboyras (30), Scott Waguespack (32), Pat O’Connor (40), Michele Smith (43), Tom Tunney (44), Deb Silverstein (50)
Increased Fines for Unstamped Cigarette Cartons: If a store sells cigarette cartons without the appropriate stamps, they would be hit with a $2,000 fine, double the current penalty. If more than 40 packs are found unstamped, the violation increases from $25 per pack to $40 per pack. Fines for second offenders would also double to $4,000. “The fines have become a cost of business and we are advocating raising the fines in order for them to have more of a deterrent effect,” Lapacek explained.
SNAP Fraud Means No Business License: The ordinance adds a new provision to the municipal code as it relates to recipients of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program who apply for business licenses with the city. Lapacek told the committee the change was part of the city’s effort to target bad businesses. “We’ve realized that many bad businesses also have SNAP (LINK) privileges and engage in fraud with those privileges,” she said, adding that the city has teamed up with CPD and and the USDA to enforce the new rule. The USDA oversees the program, approves stores and handles investigations of alleged fraud. BACP will pull from USDA’s list of fraudulent businesses and bar them from applying for city licenses. “If you are fraudulent in one space, we don’t necessarily want you as a business in the city,” she added.
Regs for Immigration Service Providers: This clarifies disclosure requirements in order to ensure ease of immigration enforcement, saying service providers must spell out their scope of services and prices prior to taking on a new client. BACP does a lot of undercover work in this realm, but has a hard time getting their citations to hold up, according to Lapacek. The changes would only impact immigration service providers who are not licensed attorneys, as the city has no jurisdiction over regulated professions.
Regs for Tax Preparers: Similar to the immigration service provider ordinance, it requires a uniform disclosure form listing services provided and the cost of those services. Under the city’s existing rules, tax preparers are allowed to send their own disclosure forms, which makes it hard for a uniform system. This ordinance lets BACP draft one uniform disclosure form to be filled out by tax preparers and returned to the city.
Taxi Chauffeur License: The 2016 budget allowed for a two-year taxi chauffeur license. The amendment clarifies how BACP will implement that system. The license renewals would stagger over two years. It will be an odds and evens system based on the licensee's birthday, so BACP can renew half one year and the other half the following year. “And that’s going to make it so my staff isn’t boom and bust every other year,” Lapacek said.
Produce Merchant Pilot Program: This ordinance extends a pilot program allowing sidewalk produce sales for six months in order to complete a review of the program. The review will evaluate the effectiveness of the program and is scheduled to be released in April.
Discussion of U of C’s New Charter School Dominates Transportation & Public Way Meeting
by Claudia Morell – email@example.com
Questions about a new charter school the University of Chicago wants to build on the South Side took up the bulk of the Committee on Transportation & Public Way’s meeting yesterday, as Committee Chairman Anthony Beale (9) and others on the committee wanted to know who would be picking up the tab.
Attendance: Chairman Anthony Beale (9), Pat Dowell (3), Marty Quinn (13), Matt O’Shea (19), Willie Cochran (20), Deb Mell (33), Gilbert Villegas (36), Michele Smith (43), Anthony Napolitano (41)
The University of Chicago is in the midst of purchasing 19 parcels of city-owned vacant land to build a new “state-of-the-art” school for 650 middle and high school students. The land is valued at $755,000, but the city is selling it to the University for $1.
Yesterday the committee approved U of C’s application to authorize the Department of Planning and Development to vacate approximately 11,600 square feet of two alleys forming a “T”. The change would bisect the blocks bounded by East 63rd Street, South University Avenue, East 64th Street, and South Greenwood Avenue, according to Michelle Nolan, who testified on behalf of DPD.
But Chairman Beale seemed less interested in the ordinance to vacate and more concerned with the bill. After asking how much the total project is expected to cost ($27.5 million), which charter organization will oversee the school (U of C’s Chicago Urban Education Institute), he then asked if CPS money would go toward construction costs. At that point, Nolan deferred the question to Todd Barnett, Director of Partnerships for U of C’s charter school network.
“We are a public charter school, but the funds to develop the building will be done through private dollars.” Barnett explained the school is in the midst of a massive fundraising drive.
“Are those considered to be philanthropic dollars? Any loans?” Ald. Michele Smith (43) followed up, to which Barnett said all of the money would be private money.
“What is leading to this construction project? What provoked this?” Ald. Smith then asked. Barnett said while the facility will be brand new, the students will be relocated from Wadsworth Elementary School.
Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41) asked about the operational costs and who would pay for that once the school was built. Since the schools is considered a public school, it will get the standard per-pupil funding CPS uses to allocate money at the start of each school year.
By this point, Ald. Willie Cochran (20), whose ward encompasses the property, walked into the meeting and testified in support. “We see this facility as a way of being a catalyst for continued development in our community and I support it 100%,” Cochran said, touting the school's high graduation rates.
The Chicago Plan Commission approved a zoning change for the charter school in June, as did the full City Council in July. The plan also went before the Community Development Commission in June. (More details can be found in DPD’s official staff report on the project).
Mayor Emanuel’s proposed appointment of Dr. Byron T. Brazier
, pastor of the Apostolic Church of God, to the Chicago Transit Board for a term expiring September 1, 2021, also passed in committee. Brazier made a brief statement prior to his confirmation highlighting his work in the community. Chairman Beale told Brazier the Red Line expansion to the South Side is of particular importance to him.