• Michael McDevitt
    FEB 22, 2024

    Council refers mayoral bond proposal to rules committee; confirms new housing and water management commissioners

    Mayor Brandon Johnson is pictured at a press conference in January. [Don Vincent/The Daily Line]

    The City Council approved millions of dollars in police-related legal settlements, two mayoral appointments and a bag tax amendment Wednesday. But Mayor Brandon Johnson’s proposal for a $1.25 billion borrowing plan is in limbo.

    A plan from the mayor to invest $1.25 billion over the next five years into housing, businesses and cultural development was referred to the Committee on Committees and Rules during the meeting. The proposed investment would be made possible from the proceeds of a bond issuance. 

    If the Housing and Economic Development Bond is approved, $625 million would be dedicated over the next five years to housing initiatives and the other $625 million would go to business and cultural development in neighborhoods citywide. 

    “These are funds that our residents and community areas need and deserve,” Johnson said during a news conference after the council meeting. “The best thing that we can do for the people of Chicago is to invest in them, and this proposal will help us reach our vision.” 

    The principal and interest, which the city estimated to be $2.4 billion over the next 37 years, would be paid back from revenue gained from the expiration of many of the city’s tax increment financing (TIF) districts. 

    Johnson said Wednesday that “we’re not completely moving away from TIFs. There is a mechanism (by) which some of them could be sustained.” 

    “This is to make sure that there’s a variety available to my office to address these inequities,” the mayor added. 

    Alderpeople also approved a $3.25 million settlement to the estate of Martina Standley, who was allegedly struck by a Chicago Police Department SUV driven by Officer Brian Greene in 2019. Standley died of drug toxicity two years later.  

    Alderpeople also approved a $195,000 agreement to settle a lawsuit from Kevin Lusk, who alleged he was injured when he was rear-ended by Chicago Police Officer Phillip Renault in 2018. Lusk reportedly required shoulder surgery because of the accident. 

    A $400,000 settlement to Aisha Hurston, who alleged that she was injured when CPD Sgt. Darren Easterday ran over her foot with a segway during a 2017 rally, was approved by the council with three no votes from Alds. Marty Quinn (13), Anthony Napolitano (41) and Jim Gardiner (45). 

    The council also approved a $425,000 agreement to settle the lawsuit brought by Tony Pearson against the city and Chicago Police Officer Michael McInerney stemming from a 2015 incident in which the officer’s pursuit of suspects in a stolen vehicle led that vehicle to hit Pearson’s car. Six alderpeople, including Quinn, Ald. Silvana Tabares (23), Napolitano, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15), voted no. 

    The council also gave final confirmation to two mayoral appointments. 

    The appointment of Alfonzo “Randy” Conner Jr. as commissioner of the Department of Water Management was approved. Conner was rehired as the water management commissioner in December after he left the post in 2020. 

    “Commissioner Conner is a proven leader,” the mayor said during a news conference after the meeting. “There's nothing more foundational to our collective health than clean drinking water. And Randy brings the type of compassion, the type of collaboration and competency that leadership in the city of Chicago deserves. His ability to manage our systems and to do it in a very safe and healthy way is impressive.” 

    Alderpeople also confirmed new Department of Housing Comm. Lissette Castañeda, a former executive director of the Humboldt Park-based Latin United Community Housing Association, who was appointed by the mayor in December. Castañeda succeeds former Comm. Marisa Novara, who left last summer. 

    “I firmly believe that housing is a human right, and I look forward to working with [Castañeda] to ensure that everyone in our city has access to affordable housing and homeownership as well as opportunities to build our communities,” the mayor said during the news conference. 

    Alderpeople also gave final approval to an ordinance (O2024-0007355) that adds a new business exemption to the city’s paper and plastic bag tax ordinance. The measure was sponsored by Ald. Jason Ervin (28) and was approved by the Committee on License and Consumer Protection last week.   

    Under the city’s bag tax ordinance, shoppers are charged a 7-cent tax per paper and plastic grocery bag they use at a store. There are numerous exemptions already in the bag tax ordinance, and the new ordinance exempts bags given to customers to carry out shoes at a shoeshine or shoe repair business. 

    Finally, alderpeople approved a measure that calls for the Chicago Police Department to contract with a third party to conduct a study of staffing deployment and assignment decisions. The measure, sponsored by Ald. Matt Martin (47), passed the Committee on Police and Fire a few weeks ago and is similar to studies performed in other large cities.

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