SEP 15, 2023
City Council accepts $33M in federal grants to help migrants, approves measure to buy Northwest Side property to house migrants
The City Council met at City Hall on Thursday. [Don Vincent/The Daily Line]
The City Council on Thursday approved a measure allowing Chicago to accept $33 million in federal grants to help the city pay for shelter and services for migrants, and a separate measure granting the city permission to purchase property on the Northwest Side that could house up to 550 migrants.
The federal grant funding ordinance spurred a brief discussion as some alderpeople raised concerns that the city has not received federal grants for other urgent issues facing Chicago including flood damage from July storms.
Mayor Brandon Johnson addressed the migrant crisis during a news conference after Thursday’s City Council meeting.
“We did not choose this reality, but we must act,” Johnson said. “The cost of inaction could cause far more desperation in a situation that could be unmanageable.”
The ordinance (O2023-0002925) alderpersons approved in a 45-4 vote during Thursday’s council meeting allocates $33 million in federal grant funds for migrant services — a tranche of money city officials have been waiting on for months.
The measure was approved by the Committee on Budget and Government Operations on Tuesday and designates $13 million from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and $20 million in federal pass-through grant funds to the city’s Department of Family and Support Services for its Shelter Services Program.
The new federal grant funding will be put toward both costs already incurred by the city and some costs going forward.
Of the $33 million in funding, $19.8 million will go toward costs of food for migrants and $13.2 million will be put toward the cost of shelter space for migrants, according to city officials.
Ald. Desmon Yancy (5), Ald. Anthony Beale (9), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15) and Ald. Jim Gardiner (45) voted “no” on the ordinance.
Yancy explained his “no” vote on the ordinance telling The Daily Line he is “really concerned about the lack of attention paid to the Black community, and it's a tough position to be in.”
Yancy said he knows migrants need help and that the federal government could do more, but I ran for office because I wanted to make sure we're able to help bring some relief to black families and I haven't seen that come across the desk.”
“This is more of a symbolic vote at this point because I know that there's care and concern is needed for the migrant community and for the greater city as well,” Yancy said.
Lopez encouraged his colleagues to vote against the measure in part because he said there are still questions left unanswered regarding details of how the federal grants will be spent.
But Ald. David Moore (17) urged members of the City Council to accept the federal money the city has been asking for.
“I cannot turn money away that I told you to go get, that helps us here in the city,” Moore said, adding that if he is fighting against using city money, “I cannot fight against federal emergency dollars.”
Turning away the money wouldn’t help the city solve its challenges, Ald. Jason Ervin (28), who chairs the budget committee, said.
“Not accepting the money we’ve asked for…does not make a lot of sense to me,” Ervin said on Thursday. “Turning down $33 million that’s coming to us as a grant does not make sense fiscally for us.”
Separately during Thursday’s meeting, the City Council approved the city’s purchase (O2023-0003069) of property near the North Branch of the Chicago River in the 39th Ward that could soon house as many as 550 migrants.
The Committee on Housing and Real Estate on Monday gave a preliminary OK to the proposal for the city to spend $1.5 million — likely in tax-increment financing (TIF) funds — to purchase the 10.7-acre property from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Cook County.
The complex at 3034 W. Foster Ave had been leased to the Marine Corps Forces Reserve but they recently vacated the buildings and are in the process of terminating the lease.
Funding for the $1.5 million purchase will likely come in the form of TIF dollars through the Lawrence/Kedzie TIF district — a plan which the local Ald. Samantha Nugent (39) fully supports.
The City Council in May approved an ordinance allowing the city to use $51 million in surplus from 2021 to help fund services for migrants.
Johnson on Thursday commended Nugent’s work on helping the city buy the property.
Bring Chicago Home introduction
Johnson and alderpersons formally reintroduced a proposal (R2023-0004166) that would raise the real estate transfer tax for some sales and lower it for others and use the expected at least $100 million in annual revenue to curb homelessness.
The latest proposal means more than 95 percent of real estate transfers would see a drop in the transfer tax rate while transactions for higher end properties would see an increase, Johnson said in a news release last month.
While the original Bring Chicago Home proposal would have enacted a flat increase on the real estate transfer tax on the sale of all properties over $1 million, the new proposal takes a tiered approach that includes lowering the transfer tax rate on properties that sell for under $1 million.
- Bring Chicago Home coalition still supporting flat tax as city suggests marginal rate
- Alderpersons voice support during housing committee hearing on Bring Chicago Home proposal
The original version would have kept the city’s real estate transfer tax rate of $3.75 per $500 of the sale price — or 0.75 percent — for sales under $1 million and raised the rate to 2.65 percent for sales over $1 million.
But the version being shopped around to alderpersons this week lowers the rate to 0.6 percent for properties under $1 million, raises the rate to 2 percent for sales between $1 million and $1.5 million and raises the rate to 3 percent for property transfers above $1.5 million.
Ald. Maria Hadden (49), the lead sponsor of a previous version of the Bring Chicago Home measure introduced under the Lightfoot administration, urged for the proposals support.
“There isn’t a ward in this city, there isn’t a community member, who isn’t touched by homelessness,” Hadden said, adding the proposal has been hard-fought and hard compromises have been made.
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) during a news conference Thursday said a majority of alderpersons support the ordinance.
Wrongful conviction settlement
The City Council with no discussion approved a $25 million payment to settle a lawsuit brought by two men who were wrongfully convicted of murder in 1993 and were later issued certificates of innocence after one man spent 22 years in prison and the other spent 12 years in prison.
Committee on Finance on Monday approved the $25 million settlement — $17.5 million of which would be awarded to Tyrone Hood and $7.5 million of which would be awarded to Wayne Washington.
Hood and Washington were both incarcerated for the murder of Marshall Morgan Jr. after they allege detectives Kenneth Boudreau and John Halloran engaged in actions including coercing a false confession, making up evidence and encouraging people to testify against Hood and Washington, according to reporting from CBS 2.
In addition to the cases brought by Hood and Washington, there are currently 10 similar cases pending against Boudreau, who is now retired, according to the city’s law department.
It was later found that Morgan’s father, who just before his son was found dead took out a $50,000 life insurance policy on him, was Morgan’s actual killer, according to CBS 2.
The following alderpersons voted “no” on the settlement: Ald Brian Hopkins (2), Ald. Marty Quinn (13), Ald. Silvana Tabares (23), Ald. Bill Conway (34), Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41) and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42).
The City Council also approved the following measures:
- A2023-0002895 — Johnson’s appointment of Chasse Rehwinkel as the city’s comptroller. Members of the council’s finance committee approved the appointment on Monday after some aldperpeople grilled Rehwinkel on his background. Johnson appointed Rehwinkel, who previously served as director of banking for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and chief economist and director of the Bond Division for the Illinois Office of Comptroller, to the position in June. Ald. Greg Mitchell (7), Ald. Marty Quinn (13), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15), Ald. Silvana Tabares (23) and Ald. Jason Ervin (28) voted “no” on the appointment.
- A2023-0002901 — A measure approving the reappointment of Angela Tovar as the city’s chief sustainability officer.
- O2023-0001253 — An ordinance that would add a section to the city code requiring the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) to conduct a “timely analysis” of every fatal traffic crash in Chicago reported to the Chicago Police Department. Related: Pedestrian and Traffic Safety committee approves measure requiring city to compile, study fatal traffic crash data
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