Chicago News

  • A $634 million pension payment for Chicago Public Schools means cuts for teachers and central office workers next year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel says Springfield is treating Chicagoans like “second-class citizens,” leading to “unconscionable” cuts to school services and staff numbers. At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Emanuel and the head of CPS, Jesse Ruiz, detailed those cuts. Three members of the Committee on Education, Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40), new Chair Ald. Will Burns (4), and Ald. George Cardenas (12) joined the mayor at the podium, but didn’t speak.

    Read Mayor Emanuel’s statement
    See the CPS fact sheet

    The mayor says class sizes won’t go up and the school year will start on time, but CPS will make the following cuts:

    • $17.4 million - network offices and teacher development programs

    • $15.8 million - startup funding for newly approved charter, contract, and alternative learning schools

    • $11.6 million - professional development funding for turnaround schools

    • $11.1 million - reduction in facility repair and maintenance budget

    • $9.2 million - high school classes will start and end 45 minutes later

    • $3.2 million - elementary schools will cut back on sports and stipends for 5,300 coaches

    • $2.3 million - changing transport of magnet students to school

    • Extra reductions - eliminating central office positions, reducing software licensing costs, reducing central office funding for freshman orientation, redistribution of Magnet and 1B funding, reducing attendance grants and funding for academic competitions

    The district is issuing layoff notices to CPS employees. 1,050 workers, most of whom work in the Central Office, will lose their jobs, and 350 vacant positions will be eliminated.

    The mayor offered two proposals to help address CPS pension payments. "Option A" would "create one uniform pension system for all teachers and all taxpayers in the state." “Option B” is what the mayor called a grand bargain. It involves a $175-$200 million dollar property tax increase and for teachers and the state to chip in for pension payments. “I am not asking Springfield to bail out Chicago,” the mayor said, just for the state to “treat us equitably like every other system in the state. Either merge them or do a grand bargain, all-in.”

    Asked what chance these options had in the middle of the stalemate in Springfield, the mayor said he’s been speaking with state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. He acknowledged State Sen. President John Cullerton’s current plan carries many aspects of his grand bargain, and added that he was open to it as the starting point for negotiations.

  • The Illinois House adjourned without passing a state budget last night, continuing a weeks-long stalemate that’s left state and city grant recipients' futures in limbo. Today, lawmakers are expected to vote on $2.2 billion in funding that will go towards “core services” like Medicaid, corrections, state police and child care. Governor Rauner is expected to veto the measure. At the moment, state funding for non-profit organizations like the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)is not budgeted for 2016. The group is planning a walkout and rally this morning at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago to protest.

    ICIRR says 70% of its network organizations will be forced to cut citizenship, translation, and human services for immigrants, many will lay off staff, reduce the number of people they serve, or shut down entirely. In the latest installment of our Chicago Influencer Series, we speak to Fred Tsao, policy director at ICIRR, about how the cuts affect immigrant communities in Chicago and across the state.
  • The election may be over, but Aldertrack is still tracking the money. Today we kick off a new series where we round up notable campaign contributions for the preceding week. This roundup will be a little bit longer than the rest, since we’re going all the way back to April 8, the day after the runoff election.

    Subscribers can review a complete searchable list of aldermanic contributions since April 8. You'll need your login and password.

    Ald. Ed Burke 

    Ald. Burke reported receiving several smaller donations, between $1,000 and $2,000, from companies that operate concession stands in some of the country’s largest airports, including Florida-based Areas USA, New Jersey-based Hudson Group (listed as Hudson New A/P), Virginia-based SSP America, and California-based High Flying Foods. The donations were made to the Burnham Committee, one of three committees Ald. Burke maintains.

    Registered as a political action group, The Burnham Committee does not follow the same regulations as the alderman’s campaign committee, Friends of Edward M. Burke, which received the least amount of donations. The Burnham Committee can receive up to $10,800 from an individual; $21,600 from a corporation, labor organization, political party committee or association; and $53,900 from a political action committee or candidate political committee.

    Ald. Brendan Reilly 

    Another busy fundraiser on the City Council, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) reported several donations on April 9th and 24th, including $10,500 from Scott Klithj, the CEO of, an online coupon company based in Indiana.

    Reilly also reported contributions from several hotel and real estate firms, including $5,000 from each of the following: First Hospitality Group, Inc., a Midwest hotel property management company with headquarters in Chicago; Golub & Company, a Chicago-based commercial and residential retail firm with assets valued at over $8 billion; Prairie Management & Development, Inc., the property management arm of Carroll Properties Inc. an affordable housing provider; and Illinois Hotel-Motel PAC, a political action committee that “supports legislatures that encourage pro business legislation.” The Hotel-Motel PAC is chaired by Marc Gordon, President & CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association. A majority of the contributions Ald. Reilly reported on the 9th and 24th were from companies that donated less than $2,000.

    Ald. Will Burns

    South Side Ald. Will Burns has also reported numerous donations to his candidate political committee, Friends of Will Burns, spread out over the weeks since the election. This includes a $5,000 contribution from Smart Hotels/Olympia LLC, a Delaware-based company behind the recently built Hyatt Place Hotel in Hyde Park.

    Other observations

    Conservative Wisconsin businessman Richard Uihlein, the CEO and founder of U-line, a multi-million dollar shipping and packaging company, donated $10,000 to both the 44th Ward GOP and 43rd Ward Republicans. Uihlein and his wife, Elizabeth, were the 5th biggest spenders in the national midterm elections, pouring at least $5 million dollars into conservative PACs.

    Superior Air Ground Ambulance Service, Inc., an emergency medical services provider in the greater Chicagoland Area, donated $5,000 worth of “Bulls tickets and food for suite” to the 12th Ward Regular Democratic Organization.

  • The Committee on Education and Child Development approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointment of Lisa Morrison Butler as the new commissioner in charge of the Department of Family and Supportive Services (DFSS) and all of the Mayor’s picks for the governing body in charge of the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). Even though it was the committee’s first meeting since Ald. Will Burns (4) took over retired Ald. Latasha Thomas’ (17) seat as Chairman, and in a week with relatively few committee meetings, quorum was not established.

    Committee Members Present: Chairman Will Burns (4), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15), Ald. Matt O’Shea (19), Ald. Jason Ervin (28), Ald. Nick Sposato (38), Ald. Michele Smith (43)

    Mayor Emanuel announced Butler’s appointment at the beginning of the month, saying she will “help quarterback some of the most critical items on my second term agenda,” from progress on the Mayor’s universal pre-K program to an expansion of youth violence prevention programs. In a brief three minute testimony in front of the Committee, Morrison Butler said she was grateful for a chance to help the city’s most vulnerable populations.

    She also pledged to protect services amid increased state and federal budget cuts. But when Ald. Michele Smith (43) asked if she knew how proposed state budget cuts could impact city services from DFSS, Morrison Butler said she’s not a “budget expert” and is working on briefing with her staff. She said DFSS staff numbers more than double in the summer months–from 340 full-time to roughly 700 full-time and seasonal staff. DFSS delivers educational, homelessness, domestic violence, and workforce development programs to more than 300,000 Chicagoans.

    The committee also approved four new appointments and two reappointments to the Board of Trustees of Community College District No. 508, the governing body that operates and manages the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). When Mayor Emanuel announced the appointments earlier this month, he said the leadership change was part of CCC’s push to complete its Reinvention Initiative, a long-term plan to improve the school system and fill a skills gap in the city.

    None of the appointees were asked to testify before the committee and their appointments were approved as one item. The two reappointments include Clarisol Duque, Chicago Director and Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, and Marisela Lawson, a partner and founder at Sagence Group, a data analytics consulting firm. The four newly appointed trustees to the Board include:

    • Dr. Charles Middleton, who retired as president of Roosevelt University in April, exiting as one of the highest paid college presidents in the country. He succeeds Board Chairman Paula Wolff, an executive at the Illinois Justice Project and former president of Governors State University.

    • Gary Gardner, president and co-founder of the Chicago-based private equity firm PFG LLC. He succeeds Vice Chair Ellen Alberding, president and board member of the Joyce Foundation and founder of Advance Illinois, an advocacy group for public education reform in Illinois.

    • Sandy Goldman, a senior portfolio manager for Front Barnett Associates and a former Commissioner of the Chicago Housing Authority, to succeed Board Secretary Larry Rogers, Sr., a South Side native and founding partner of the Cook County law firm Power Rogers & Smith.

    • Karen Kent, the president of city’s hospitality workers union, UNITE HERE Local 1. UNITE HERE touts more than 15,000 hospitality workers, and gave Mayor Emanuel a TV ad push during the runoff with its “Rahm Love” ads. Kent will succeed Everett Rand, an airport contractor and part-owner of Midway Airport Concessions.

    George Blakemore testified against both items on the agenda.

  • We continue our Chicago Influencer Series with Wendy Katten, Executive Director of Chicago Public School parent advocacy group, Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education. Katten's organization has been often straddled the gap between teachers and CPS management while consisently advocating for smaller class sizes and a stronger school system. Katten discusses with us possible outcomes of the CPS and city budget crisis for schools.
  • The Committee on Education and Child Development meets this morning to discuss various mayoral appointments, including Lisa Morrison Butler as the new commissioner in charge of the Department of Family and Supportive Services. Butler currently serves as Executive Director for City Year Chicago, an organization that works with CPS to help at-risk students graduate from high school.

    Mayor Emanuel has also requested that the committee approve four new appointments and two reappointments to the Board of Trustees of Community College District 508, the governing body that operates and manages the City Colleges of Chicago

  • The Committee unanimously approved landmark designation for the Fulton Randolph Market, expansion plans for Hadiya Pendleton Park, construction of a new building for an existing University of Chicago Charter School, and construction of a residential and office high rise in downtown Chicago.

    While there was some community opposition to the park expansion and confusion as to whether Ald. Willie Cochran (20) supported the charter school construction plan in his ward, most ordinances passed with little discussion.

    Committee members present: Chairman Danny Solis (25), Vice Chairman James Cappleman (47), Joe Moreno (1), George Cardenas (12), Matt O’Shea (19), Walter Burnett (27), Deb Mell (33), Brendan Reilly (42), Tom Tunney (44), Ameya Pawar (47)

    Non-members present: Pat Dowell (3), Rick Munoz (22)

    Amended Landmark Designation approved for Fulton Randolph Market (27th Ward)
    Document #O2015-458

    No one from the Fulton Market community signed up to testify against the ordinance, a stark contrast to the public outcry during the Commission on Chicago Landmarks hearing in April. And at the last minute, it was revealed that Ald. Walter Burnett (27)had decided to remove one of the properties from the district’s landmark list: a large condo building at 1001 W. Randolph St.

    Neither the alderman nor any of his staff were present in the chambers when Chairman Solis first brought the ordinance up. Instead, it was Eleanor Gorski, the Director of Historic Preservation for the Department of Planning and Development, who told the Committee about Ald. Burnett’s decision to amend the proposal. Unclear about the new changes to the ordinance, Chairman Solis asked the committee to hold off on voting until Burnett or someone from his office explained the substitute. The committee moved on to other business until a representative from Ald. Burnett’s office, Askia Abdullah, joined the meeting and testified on the alderman’s behalf. He said the exempted property is on the edge of the district. Two people spoke in support of the plan: Ward Miller with Preservation Chicago and Will Tippens with Landmarks Illinois.

    University of Chicago’s Charter School Plan approved (20th Ward)
    Document #O2015-2680 & Document #O2015-2587

    After some confusion as to whether Ald. Willie Cochran supported the University of Chicago’s plan to build a new charter school in the 20th Ward, the committee eventually approved the zoning change. Ald. Cochran wasn’t present at yesterday’s meeting, but his Chief of Staff, Margaret Boyd, told the committee the alderman wouldn’t support the project unless additional on-site parking was added to the plan.

    The University of Chicago wants to build a new three-story school and athletic field for approximately 750 middle and high school students. The plan calls for 25 parking spaces. Boyd said local residents don’t think that’s enough. The new request blindsided representatives from the University, who testified they were under the impression Cochran was already in support of the plan.

    Boyd requested the committee table the item so she could call the alderman. Chairman Solis asked, “Why didn’t you take care of this before we brought [the item] up?” A representative from the Department of Planning and Development interjected, saying the parking satisfied the zoning requirement and any extra spaces would have to be submitted in a separate application.

    The application has been sitting in committee for several months. At the last Zoning meeting, it was deferred back to the Plan Commission, where it was approved last week. Ald. Joe Moreno suggested the committee pass the ordinance but hold off on submitting it to the full council until Ald. Cochran gave the okay. Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) invoked Rule 14 and abstained from the vote. His wife works for the University.

    At the end of the meeting, Chairman Solis said he got word that Ald. Cochran supported the project, which means it will go before the full Council next month.


    Hadiya Pendleton Park Expansion Approved (3rd Ward)
    Document #O2015-3739

    Despite community opposition, aldermen approved Ald. Pat Dowell’s zoning request to expand a South Side park that was recently renamed after a King College Prep High School student killed by two gang members.

    Originally proposed by the Chicago Park District, the Hadiya Pendleton Parkexpansion project would turn the former Buckthorn Park, a small quarter acre playlot, into a two acre park outfitted with a new playground, walking path and fitness stations.

    The vacant land around the park is currently zoned for residential use. Neighbors who testified against the expansion plan said they would rather have additional market-rate housing on the land, because the existing park is a breeding ground for gang violence. There was also concern that a bigger park would create more congestion and parking headaches.

    Ald. Dowell said that while she agrees the old park was an eyesore, she is working on addressing violence, parking and housing issues in the area.


    Downtown Mixed Residential & Office High Rise Approved (42nd Ward)
    Document # O2015-2625

    Developers got the green light from the Zoning Committee to rezone a large plot of land at Hubbard and Wells streets next to the L tracks so they can construct a 152 ft. office tower, 200 ft. residential building with 180 dwelling units, and retail on the ground floor. Rich Cloutier, with the law firm DLA Piper, testified before the committee on behalf of the applicant, 215 Hubbard LLC.

    Alderman Brendan Reilly (42) and James Cappleman (46) were very excited about this development project, because the developers pledged to make two big payment towards the City’s affordable housing and public transportation funds.

    According to the agreement, the development project will make a $1,169,228 contribution to the Transit Infrastructure Improvement Bonus and a $1,461,536 contribution to the Affordable Housing Bonus, commonly referred as the “ARO.”  Ald. Reilly said this project is the reason he introduced the Transit Infrastructure Improvement Bonus, which lets developers add extra square footage to a project if they pay into a fund earmarked for public transportation development. This high rise will be located close to the Merchandise Mart Brown Line stop.

    Ald. Reilly says the bonus money will be used to finish stalled CTA improvement projects around Franklin St. A few years ago, the CTA was in the middle of removing toxic, lead-based paint chips and fixing an “ugly structure” when they ran out of money, says Reilly. He expects money from this project and two other proposed development plans along the same corridor will help the CTA finish the stalled plans.


    Zoning Changes for Amusement Arcades Approved (33rd Ward)
    Document # O2015-4207

    The Committee approved Ald. Deb Mell’s ordinance to amend the Municipal Code to make it easier for internet and console gaming businesses to open. Current zoning law restricts these kinds of businesses to areas zoned for strip malls and taverns. Ald. Mell’s Chief of Staff, Dana Fritz, told Aldertrack the ordinance change is for a business in the 33rd Ward that doesn’t fit the ordinances narrow definition and doesn’t want to serve alcohol since most of its patrons are underage.


    New 22nd Ward Community Center Approved (22nd Ward)
    Document #O2015-4244

    An abandoned residential building in the 22nd Ward got the committee okay to become a community center. Ald. Rick Munoz’s (22) requested to rezone the building on 2653-59 S. Kildare Ave. for a project for Erie Neighborhood House, a community group that provides social services. Erie House will expand the neighboring site near their 25th St. location to add a computer lab, communal space and daycare facility. Ald. Munoz said the plan has widespread support in the community, but said there are no renderings of the proposed site. Ald. Moreno invoked Rule 14 and abstained from the vote, as his wife Celena Roldan, is the executive director of Erie Neighborhood House.


    Site of Former Crispus Attucks Elementary School Rezoned for Commercial Use (3rd Ward)
    Document # O2015-4243

    Ald. Pat Dowell was listed as the alderman sponsoring this ordinance, but when it came up early in the meeting, she expressed confusion and asked that it be deferred so she could confer with the Department of Planning and Development. After speaking with DPD, Ald. Dowell revealed that the property in question is the former site of the Crispus Attucks Elementary School, one of the nearly 50 public schools the Chicago Board of Education closed in 2013. She said the large building is currently split into two zoning categories, and the proposed zoning change would solidify the area into one zoning classification should CPS decide to sell it. “It’s really for planning purposes,” Ald. Dowell said.

    This ordinance struck a personal cord with City Hall fixture George Blakemore, who said, “once upon a time, a long time ago,” he was a teacher at Attucks. He demanded the City reopen the school instead of possibly turning it into a commercial property.


    Rear Coach House Partial Demolition Approved (1st Ward)
    Document # O2015-344

    The Commission on Chicago Landmarks submitted a request to demolish the rear portion of the historic landmark on 1935 W. Shiller St. in Wicker Park. Eleanor Gorski, the Director of Historic Preservation for the Department of Planning and Development, testified on behalf of the property owner. She said the homeowner wants to add a new rear addition and renovate parts of the house. The landmarks commission had already approved the renovations, but since it is a landmark, demolition or renovation of 40% or more of the property needs City Council approval. When Chairman Solis asked Ald. Joe Moreno if he wanted to speak on the record, since the building is in his ward, Ald. Moreno gave the ordinance two thumbs up. “We need some sort of verbal articulate response to this,” Solis joked. Moreno laughed and said it’s an, “excellent use for the ward.”


    Additional Items Approved

    Citywide: [DOCUMENT # O2015-4193] Mayor Emanuel’s proposed compost expansion. This ordinance would expand the list of compostable materials community gardens and urban farms can turn into fertilizer.  The legislation would also create a city-wide registry of community gardens and urban farms. Farms that want to make their own compost would have to pay the city $3,000 for a three year permit. Non-profit farms could apply for a discounted, $300 annual permit.

    36th Ward: Motorcycle Shop [DOCUMENT # O2015-4178] A motorcycle repair company asked for a zoning change at 5800 W. Addison so that it could build a shop at the existing property. The application was filed by an LLC and the attorney on record is Samuel VP Banks. Freshman Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36) submitted a letter of support and it passed without any questions.

    40th Ward: Standard Zoning Changes [DOCUMENT # O2015-3741] Ald. Pat O’Connor’s (40) request to rezone several properties that were added to his ward as a result of redistricting. A representative from his office said the alderman wanted one unified zoning classification to conform to the, “residential feel of the neighborhood.” It passed without any questions.

  • Zoning Request for Proposed Downtown Office High Rise to be Deferred

    The long-delayed plan to construct a 53-story office tower in the Loop may be on today’s agenda, but it won’t see any action. The zoning committee will defer a rezoning request from real estate developer Tishman Speyer, who has been trying for years to turn the surface parking lot and surrounding vacant land at 130 N. Franklin into a glass, angular high rise.

    Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (43) reportedly promised to expedite the project. He held a community meeting in April inviting the developers to present their plans to local residents (slideshow presentation and traffic study). A month later, the applicant, 130 N. Franklin LLC, submitted an official zoning request to redesignate the 65,000 square foot property as a Planned Business Development site, a requirement for large-scale construction projects. The proposed building would be approximately 1.3 million square feet, with office space, retail, and parking.

    But all “T1” designated Planned Development projects need prior approval from the Plan Commission before the City Council can take action, and since this item wasn’t discussed at the Commission’s monthly meeting last week, it will have to be deferred.

    When asked about the status of the ordinance, Ald. Reilly said he wouldn’t submit the developer’s proposal to the Plan Commission until he was satisfied. “I’m not done negotiating the final project,” Ald. Reilly said in an email, “so timing could get pushed out a bit longer. [It] Depends on how negotiations over the site plan goes.”

    South Side Hadiya Pendleton Park Expansion
    Document #O2015-3739

    Another item on the agenda, if approved, would green-light the Chicago Park District’s plan to turn a quarter acre play lot into a two acre park. The site formerly known as Buckthorn Park was recently renamed Hadiya Pendleton Park in honor of the King College Prep High School student who was fatally shot by local gang members in 2013. Pendleton performed as a drum majorette in President Barack Obama’s second inauguration and earlier this month, First Lady Michelle Obama gave the commencement speech to Pendleton’s classmates. Ald. Pat Dowell’s (3) ordinance would rezone the vacant land around the park from a residential zoned district to a neighborhood park zone. Plans include a new playground, interactive water feature, a walking path, and fitness stations.

    Fulton Market Landmark Designation
    Document # O2015-4588

    The Fulton Randolph Market District could be one step closer to obtaining landmark designation if the Zoning Committee approves Mayor Emanuel’s ordinance on behalf of the Department of Planning and Development.

    The Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved landmark designation for Fulton Market last month, despite opposition from local business and property owners who argued landmark status would reverse decades of economic investment in the neighborhood. The Near West Side community, historically known for its industrial buildings, meat and produce markets has become one of Chicago’s trendiest neighborhoods. DPD said the city must recognize and preserve the historic significance and importance of the district’s historic streetscapes and buildings. The City Council will get the final say. If approved, 142 properties would be affected by the change. Here’s a brief FAQ on Landmarking from Preservation Chicago.

    Citywide Composting Expansion
    Document # O2015-4193

    This ordinance would expand the list of compostable materials at community gardens and urban farms to include biodegradable food packaging and utensils. The ordinance would also create a city-wide registry of community gardens and urban farms. Farms that want to make their own compost would have to pay the city $3,000 for a three year permit. Non-profit farms could apply for a discounted, $300 annual permit.

    Proposed Arcade Restrictions
    Document # O2015-4207

    Ald. Deb Mell’s (33) ordinance would change the zoning requirements for amusement arcades. The Municipal Code defines an “amusement arcade” as any place that offers four or more games that patrons have to pay to play.

    Deferred Agenda

    University of Chicago’s Charter School Proposal
    Document # O2015-2587

    The University of Chicago requested a zoning change to construct a new charter school, The University of Chicago Charter School-Woodlawn, on the city-owned property known as Residential Planned Development Number 723. The University originally proposed expanding their Woodlawn campus, but eventually decided to build a new facility on the property which expands over several addresses, or about 2 acres of land (1101-1145 East 63rd Street; 1100-1144 East 64th Street 6300-6336 South University Ave; 6301-6337 South Greenwood Ave ). According to the application, the school for middle-school and high-school students and will be three stories tall and about 70,000 square feet. It will also include “extensive green roof space, outdoor activity space, on-site parking, and community space”.

  • The owners of three proposed medical marijuana dispensaries in Chicago will have to continue waiting for their permits, after the city’s Zoning Board of Appealsrescheduled hearings for two applications into the winter, while delaying a final decision on the third.

    More than a hundred people showed showed up to the zoning panel’s monthly meeting Friday to provide testimony on proposed dispensaries in their neighborhoods, but only one of the applications, 420 Capital Management, LLC’sproposed shop in West Rogers Park, actually got a hearing, which lasted for well over an hour.

    The three member zoning panel grilled Bob Kingsley, the applicant seeking to open up a dispensary on the site of a former car dealership on 6502 N. Western Ave.

    Local Alderman Debra Silverstein (50) has gone on record saying she isn’t a fan of the dispensary because of its close proximity to Warren Park. But when it came time for her to testify, she gave no opinion on the matter and deferred public comment to her constituents.

    It was Kingsley’s second time before the panel. Citing a change in legal counsel at the the May meeting, Kingsley requested a continuance to August so that his new attorney, Thomas S. Moore, could have more time to prepare.

    But after lengthy questioning from the board, the applicant failed to receive unanimous support. With Commissioner Sol Flores casting the lone no vote, Chairman Jonathan Swain said a final decision would be held until the 4th member could cast a vote.

    Union Group of Illinois, LLC, the company behind a proposed dispensary in 41st Ward, wasn’t as lucky, as Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41) delayed their application for the second time until the end of December.

    “We were kind of set to go today,” the freshman alderman explained to the board, “but then we started comparing our [survey] numbers with the Union Group, who has been awesome during this whole ordeal. We don’t feel that our numbers are adding up properly and we don’t feel that we’re really advocating for the ward properly.”

    His office has said most residents oppose the dispensary, while the applicant’s numbers tell a different story.

    The North Side alderman has made his opposition to the dispensary known, often saying he wouldn’t want his kids living near a marijuana shop. When he made his first deferral request at the May hearing, soon after being sworn in, he needed more time to review the proposal and gauge public opinion. The attorney for the applicant, Joseph P. Gattuso with Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, reluctantly accepted the August date.

    On Friday, Gattuso was clearly peeved.

    “We believe that we have been as cooperative as we could possibly be,” Gattuso said, citing the three community meetings the company has had since Ald. Napolitano assumed office and the “numerous conversations back and forth and the sharing of volumes of reams of information”, as he put it. Union Group has applied for two extensions with the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, Gattuso added. His office is concerned they won’t get a third extension, which could derail the project all together.

    And when Chairman Swain refused to budge on the December date, Gattuso sighed audibly and walked out of the Chambers. Shortly after, Gattuso, Ald. Napolitano, and his Chief of Staff Chris Vittorio were seen arguing in the cloak room behind Council Chambers.

    But neither of those dispensary proposals were as heated as Harborside Illinois Grown Medicine, Inc.’s application to open a dispensary in Chatham. 8th ward residents packed the gallery and were outraged when James Vasselli of Del Galdo Law Group, the applicant’s attorney, requested a continuance to November, so his clients could conduct additional community outreach.

    The heckling was so loud that Chairman Swain stopped the attorney, scolded the gallery for being disrespectful, and demanded a head count. Approximately 70 people were there to testify against the dispensary and around 45 people were there in support, according to Swain's estimate.

    He then turned to the local alderman, Michelle Harris (8), a City Council heavyweight, and asked her to speak on the topic.

    “Today, my community is here,” Ald. Harris declared, requesting permission to allow a couple of her constituents to speak on the matter. Opponents were worried about crime and accused the owner of having a rap sheet. Supporters touted economic development and the fact that Harborside is a minority-owned business.

    This was the second time Harborside’s application has gone before the Zoning Board. They faced over an hour of questioning in May, but the consideration derailed over the accuracy of economic disclosure statements and the company’s registered name. There seemed to be a mixup between IGM LLC, which is related to the dispensary, and Illinois Grown Medicine LLC, which is related to a separate cultivation business. Swain refused to deliberate on the matter until the error was fixed.

    On Friday, he accused the applicants of delaying the application because of the overwhelming number of people that showed up to testify against the shop. He reluctantly approved a continuance until November.

    Divided Roll Call Votes:

    In addition to the split vote on the medical marijuana dispensary in the 50th Ward, three of Laura Holtz’s applications to make extensive renovations to her house on 173 N. Walcott St. failed to receive unanimous support– ZBA member Sam Toia voted against all three–delaying a final decision until Sheila O'Grady, the 4th ZBA member who wasn’t at the meeting, casts her vote.

    Toia did not ask any questions during homeowner Holtz’s testimony. She planned to renovate her Bucktown home to add a breezeway from a proposed garage to her home, as well as a roof deck on top of that garage. She told the committee she wanted to install the breezeway to keep her 75 year-old mother and 16 year-old son safe from “being jumped.” She had been a robbery victim in the area, as had a friend.

    Attorney Mark Kupiec of Mark Kupiec & Associates said Holtz had won approval from her neighbors and that a breezeway would be in character with the rest of the neighborhood.

    Approved Items:

    306-15-S: A charter school moving to South Side’s New Beginnings Church won approval from ZBA after quick testimony from Dr. Nancy Jackson, Chief Executive Officer of Prologue Inc. Prologue is a charter school service based in West Town, and was represented before ZBA by Mark Kupiec. Prologue operates four alternative charter high schools, mostly in the South Side.

    Jackson says they want to relocate the Charles H. Houston School at 7847 S. Jeffery Blvd. to a space rented out of of New Beginnings Church at 6620-30 S. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Jackson said the school ran out of space, and it’s a more convenient location for more than half of the student body.

    The pastor of the church and an active force in local and state politics, Corey Brooks, came to testify, but did not speak.

    20th Ward Ald. Willie Cochran did, saying moving the school to New Beginnings would be a boon to the Greater Grand Crossing, Woodlawn, and Englewood communities. “I think that this model is a growing model across the country and it is ideally located in this institution where the pastor here has reached out to a population of the community that is in strong need of additional supports,” he said. “It’s located in an area where the population has a number of dropouts that find that this institution and the leadership of this institution welcomes them.”

    Prologue provides alternative education programs that operate alongside wraparound services to low income students between 17 and 21, helping students get GEDs or high school diplomas. New Beginnings Church also operates Project H.O.O.D., a non-profit that seeks to end violence in Englewood and Woodlawn.

    286-15-S: Despite some persistent questioning from the Board, a $5M “spa-like” physical fitness center will go forward at 770 N. Halsted. The applicant is Acqua Ancient Baths Chicago, LLCKatriina S. McGuire of Thompson Coburn LLCdescribed Acqua Ancient Baths as a mix of a spa and gym.

    The owner operates four similar bath facilities out of New York and Spain. This location would be a non-members club, open from 11am-9pm, 7 days a week.

    312-15-S:  An eating disorder recovery center in Streeterville will move forward at 150 E. Huron Ave on the 12th and 13th Floors. Insight Behavioral Health Centers, partnered with Denver’s Eating Recovery Center, LLC, applied to open a 24-bed transitional residence near Northwestern Hospital, who provides about 25% of referrals. Insight operates treatment centers in Streeterville, Oak Park, Northbrook, Evanston, and a separate eating recovery center at Millennium Place.

    Dr. Susan McClanahan is a licensed clinical psychologist and the President and Founder of Insight Behavioral Health Centers. She testified that a typical patient is a woman between 12 and 35 years old with bulimia, anorexia, or obesity problems. She says the average stay is 30 to 45 days.

    Denied Applications:

    298-15-Z: There was just one denied application to dramatically reduce setbacks for a new four-story, three-unit building with a rooftop deck and fourth floor, front open balcony and a rear attached three-car garage with a roof deck in the 44th Ward.

    Meg George with the law firm of Neal and Leroy represented Seamus Mornan, the applicant. The team testified it was a short lot with a single family home in poor shape. They want to transform the site into a masonry three flat, and the building’s first and second stories would only jut out into the rear setback. Mornan said without the variance, he wouldn’t get a good return on the investment.

    A group of neighbors next door to the site at 722 W. Melrose St. testified adding on to the rear lot would cause them to lose significant light and ventilation. They said other buildings in the neighborhood with similar lots rented apartments without a problem and the applicants should go back to the drawing board.

    Ald. Tom Tunney (44), while recognizing the proposed site does have a short lot, said he had communication problems with the redevelopment team. “I don’t feel comfortable not supporting my neighbors on this particular case.”


    20-15-S: Industrial Metal Enterprise, Inc’s application for a special use permit to establish a Class IV-A recycling facility on 901 N. Kilpatrick Ave. in the 37th Ward.

    100-15-S: Health Elements Foot Spa, Inc.’s application for a special use permit to open a foot massage salon on 1125 W. 31st St. in the 11th Ward.


    Continuances for ZBA are now stretching into January, aided in large part by objections from Ald. Michele Smith (44). Here’s the full list:

    315-15-Z, 316-15-Z, 317-15-Z: A house renovation in 43rd Ward will be put off. Ald. Michele Smith’s office asked to defer for community review. It will be heard November 20th.

    318-15-S: Lawyers for Cermak Recycling, Inc. say their client might be changing the site of a Class V recycling facility, currently slated for the 25th ward.

    164-15-Z: A knockdown renovation in the 43rd ward that was filed in January and faced some pushback from Ald. Smith in the Spring be continued until November because of the need for an extra relief request.

    187-14-S: An absent client postponed a hearing for a parking lot in the 4th ward until November.

    301-15-S: Ald. Matt O’Shea’s office asked the board to defer so he could do research on a salon in the 19th ward. Chairman Swain moved up the continuance, because the applicant, Kaiisha Dear, is already paying rent on the place.

    321-15-Z: Ald. Smith requested a continuance until November for a proposed garage and roof deck in the 43rd ward behind John and Anne Moroney’s home.

    314-15-Z: Adjacent landowners in the 44th ward couldn’t get a lawyer in time to push back against a renovation at 3528 North Janssen Avenue. The attorney for Chicago Title Land Trust, No. 8002366263 was ready to go, but the two sides couldn’t work out a compromise Friday.

    308, 309-15-Z: Ald. Smith’s office asked for continuance so she could talk to condo board association before Robert Matteson’s renovation could move forward.
  • New chiefs of staff are getting a crash course in how city government works this week.

    A two-day training session for the new City Hall staffers started yesterday and will continue today. Led by Ald. Carrie Austin’s (34) chief of staff, Chester Wilson, Jr., and conducted in the Council chambers, City Clerk Susana Mendoza and commissioners from various city departments are also leading a series of meetings to break down how legislation is passed and points of contact for staffer questions.

    Attendees are taught everything from how to submit an ordinance to more rudimentary technical advice like setting up official email accounts and getting connected to the 311 network. Each new alderman gets four computers (two for their City Hall office and two for their ward office), but only City Hall computers get direct access to certain internal networks, like the 311 system.

    It’s similar to the start-of-term info session for new aldermen led by Ald. Ed Burke (14), which included a rundown of aldermanic budgets (known as Menu Money) and TIF funding.

  • Less than half of City Council members receive extra income from outside work, according to mandatory Statements of Financial Interest filed with the City Board of Ethics. Most of the work was billed as legal or consulting services for companies they own or were employed with before joining City Council. Just two freshman aldermen, Patrick D. Thompson (11) and Susan Sadlowski Garza (10), reported receiving supplemental income: Ald. Thompson from his partnership at the law firm, Burke, Warren, Mackay & Serritella, P.C., and Ald. Garza for her job with Hegewisch Community Committee.

    Click to download a PDF of Aldertrack's full report.

    Every year, aldermen are required to file Statements of Financial Interest with the Board of Ethics by June 1st. Incumbents filed statements for FY 2014. Newly-elected aldermen, unless otherwise stated, filed statements as candidates for FY 2013, a required step to get their name on the ballot.

    Ald. Walter Burnett, Jr. (27) reported owning more property, being involved with more community organizations and sitting on more boards than any of his colleagues. Ald. Ed Burke (14) and Ald. Matt O’Shea (19), followed close behind on community involvement. Ald. Burke and Ald. Tom Tunney (44) are the only sitting Council members who own businesses that work with the city.

    Two aldermen reported returning or donating “improper gifts,” including cupcakes, cookies, and perfume. Five aldermen are related to registered lobbyists or people who’ve had a cut check by the city. Those lobbyists include Ald. Deb Mell’s (33) father, former Ald. Richard Mell, who works for a long list of real estate and construction firms, Ald. Pat O’Connor’s (40) sister-in-law, Meredith O’Connor, who lobbies on behalf of United Airlines and Bank of America, and Ald. Thompson’s cousin, William R. Daley, who works on behalf of Morgan Stanley.

    Fourteen aldermen, including six recently elected to the council, reported that they don’t have any outside jobs, additional real estate or a spot on a board or commission: Ald. Brian Hopkins (2), Ald. Pat Dowell (3), Ald. Raymond Lopez* (15), Ald. Derrick Curtis (18), Ald. Willie Cochran (20), Ald. Michael Scott, Jr.(24), Ald. Milly Santiago (31), Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), Ald. Carrie Austin (34), Ald. Emma Mitts (37), Ald. Nick Sposato (38), Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41), Ald. John Arena (45), and Ald. Debra Silverstein (50).

    *Ald. Raymond Lopez (15) reported income he received in 2013, when he was a Skycap for Southwest Airlines. Since that was his full time job at the time (and not a form of supplemental income), Aldertrack did not count it as additional income.

  • The city and state budget crises are endangering smaller social service agencies and some might not make it through the year, says Craig Maki, who leads up the North Side's Asian Human Services. Today, we're kicking off our new interview serieswith leaders who work closely with city government as part of their business with a discussion of how the budget crisis impacts social service delivery in Chicago.
  • As the city and state approach financial doomsdays, Mayor Emanuel evaded budget-fix specifics at a 20 minute post-Council press conference Wednesday. The state’s budget deadline is July 1, and Chicago Public Schools owe a $624M payment to the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund by June 30.

    There’s been talk in City Hall of the city making a partial payment of $200M to the Teachers’ Pension Fund, but the Mayor deflected requests for confirmation, blaming Springfield. “Obviously, deadlines have the ability to focus people’s minds. I do think as it relates to CPS… a lot of the challenges are the structural inequities that are built into the system.” He says the state spends $2,200 per student outside Chicago, and only $177 on Chicago students.

    “Springfield has to step up and help in this case, as it relates to not just the pension payment, the educational opportunities of our children,” he said, refusing to confirm if the city would submit a partial payment, whether a deal was being struck with Springfield, or if bankruptcy was an option for CPS. “What’s bankrupt are the taxing and funding ideas of the state,” he said.

    Ald. Pat O’Connor (40), an Emanuel ally, has echoed the mayor’s line on inequality between city and state school funding. At a City Club breakfast last week, he floated the idea of combining state and city pensions, “so we’re all in the same boat.”

    The Mayor also drew attention to the city’s own budget negotiations, in a week where several aldermen have pitched their own solutions, from an income tax to ending free trash pickup at big residential buildings. He said Wednesday he’d move up the release of the city’s budget to September, and has asked all aldermen to propose their own ideas for this year’s markup.

    Other tidbits from the presser:

    On the Crain’s Editorial Board calling for Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to step down: “I would remind everybody under his tenure, overall crime in the city of Chicago is down by about 31-32%. Last year, we had a record low homicide rate in the city of Chicago, historically, since the early 60's. And what I would say is not only does he have my full confidence, we should focus on the challenges the city has, which are both easy access to guns and the easy access repeat offenders have to those guns. That’s where the solution is.”

    On the Blackhawk's celebration being held at Soldier Field instead of Grant Park: “I’m not responsible, although only you and my mother would agree that I was responsible for the rain the other day. And it would rip it up in a way that would create millions and millions of dollars in damage.” He announced there’ll be screens outside Soldier Field for overflow crowds. A couple hours later, the city announced it would double the size of the parade route. Those that missed the lightning fast sale of rally tickets can buy (possibly scam) tickets on Craigslist and Ebay.

  • Mayor Emanuel introduced a number of new ordinances Wednesday, including asking the Council to establish an advisory committee for Pullman National Park, build new affordable housing in the Washington Park community, and expand the city’s Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF). The Mayor’s office detailed those items and more in a series of press releases issued after the meeting.

    Some of his other introduced ordinances not included in the document dump:

    • [02015-4685] Amends the City’s ethics code as it relates to the definition of “financial interest.” The ordinance cuts several paragraphs relating to city employees that own stock and adds new exceptions to what constitutes financial interest.

    • [O2015-4652] A ban on perchloroethylene, a hazardous chemical often used at dry cleaners and auto body shops.

    • [O2015-4657] Amends the municipal code to give the the Aviation Commissioner authority to negotiate and execute airport access agreements with any off-airport parking service provider that picks up or drops off customers at the city’s two airports.

    And as is the case at the start of every new term, most of the items Mayor Emanuel introduced involve various appointments and reappointments to city agencies, governing boards, and Special Service Areas. This includes a recommendation to appoint Lisa Morrison Butler as the new Commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services and Judy Frydland as the new Commissioner of the Department of Buildings.

    The Department of Planning and Development also introduced an ordinancerequesting the City Council approve the Landmark Commission’s recent decision to designate Fulton Market as a historical landmark.

    Aldermanic Ordinance Introductions: Mandatory Lactation Rooms, Hearings on Uber, Balloon Safety
    Aldermen called for hearings on ride share app drivers, domestic violence victims, gas line inspections and the dangers of balloons (yes, balloons apparently cause a lot of damage), among other issues. Ald. Margaret Laurino (39) made most of the hearing requests.

    • Hearing on Rideshare Apps: [R2015-479] Half of the City Council is backing a resolution Ald. Pat Dowell (3) sponsored requesting the Committee on License and Consumer Protection hold hearings on rideshare apps and how they are impacting the taxi industry.

    • Hearing on Domestic Violence Abuse: [R2015-480] Ald. Laurino and Ald. Matt O’Shea (19) introduced a resolution requesting the Committee on Public Safety hold hearings on how the City could better serve victims of domestic violence. The resolution points to a training program in Ohio teaching salon workers how to identify these victims, so they can help them report the abuse to the local authorities. The resolution asks that Public Safety Chairman Ariel Reboyras (30) invite advocacy groups, law enforcement experts and trade associations to see if Chicago could do something similar.

    • Hearing on Gas Inspections: [R2015-476] Ald. Laurino also requests that the Committee on Public Safety hold hearings to shed light on how the City inspects gas lines and addresses complaints of gas odors. She points to a recent incident in New York City where a gas explosion occurred 30 minutes after routine gas inspection.

    • Hearing on Balloons: [R2015-475] Ald. Laurino also wants the Public Safety committee to conduct hearings to address the environmental hazards of Mylar balloons. The request stems from an April 2015 incident where a stray balloon got caught in power lines and caused an outage at multiple businesses and homes in the area.

    • Resolution Related to State’s Proposed Medicaid Cuts: [R2015-477Ald. George Cardenas (12) is calling on the Illinois General Assembly to oppose Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed Medicaid funding cuts to hospitals across the state. Since it is a resolution, it is more of a request than plan of action, and it was referred to Ald. Cardenas' Health and Environmental Protection committee. According to Cardenas, Chicago area hospitals support over 100,000 direct and indirect jobs.

    • Airport Lactation Rooms: [O2015-4679Ald. Leslie Hairston (5) introduced an ordinance, with Ald. Ed Burke as the co-sponsor, that would require private lactation rooms in all airport terminals. The ordinance calls for Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans to designate a room at every terminal behind airport screening for breastfeeding. Each lactation room would have a lockable door, a chair, a table, an electrical outlet, and a sink. According to the press release Ald. Burke’s office issued before the meeting, the legislation mirrors Cong. Tammy Duckworth’s proposed federal Friendly Airports for Mothers Act, and aldermen plan to invite Duckworth to testify about the proposal. It was referred to Finance Committee.

    • Antibiotics in Food: [O2015-4678] Ald. Ed Burke introduced an ordinance to increase regulations on antibiotics in food sold in Chicago.

  • Members of the City Council’s newly-formed LGBT Caucus say they will be a united front to preserve city services important to the LGBT community when the City starts planning next year’s budget.

    The five openly gay members of the City Council officially announced the group’s formation after yesterday’s City Council meeting. They’re in the process of filing articles of incorporation with the state and say they hope to bring additional members into the fold.

    Ald. Tom Tunney (44), the first openly gay aldermen elected to the City Council, first floated the idea of a new LGBT caucus after two more openly gay members, Ald. Raymond Lopez (15) and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) were elected to the City Council.

    The group, which also includes Ald. Deb Mell (33) and Ald. James Cappleman (46), plans to ask for more funding for HIV prevention and housing for homeless LGBT youth. The group also wants to work with local area police commanders and Superintendent Garry McCarthy to address policing issues.

    “LGBT issues are no longer a North Side issue,” Ald. Lopez said. Ald. Tunney had also joked that until now, LGBT-related issues ended up on his desk because his peers would tell constituents, “[if] it’s a gay issue, go talk to Tunney.”

    Ald. Tunney will serve as caucus chairman, with Ald. Mell and Ald. Lopez serving under him as vice chair and secretary, respectively. Ald. Cappleman does not have a leadership role.

    While the Caucus plans to hold another press event ahead of the annual Pride Parade, Ald. Tunney took advantage of the presser to address concerns he has about policing and crowd control. The annual celebration in Lakeview has grown ten-fold over the last decade, says Tunney, and he worries that the police department’s resources are already stretched thin. Parade organizers are planning to hire 90 off-duty cops to supplement the police presence next Saturday. There will also be extra open container checkpoints, and Ald. Tunney has asked Boystown bars to voluntarily close two hours early.