OCT 25, 2021
Key committee sends Lightfoot’s proposed spending plan to full City Council with wide-ranging support
Ald. Pat Dowell (3) presides over Friday’s budget committee meeting.
Aldermen on Friday gave quick approval to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposed $16.7 billion budget plan with some added changes from the City Council, including the creation of an oversight subcommittee to monitor the city’s spending of federal stimulus money.
Members of the City Council Committee on Budget and Government Operations on Friday voted 27-5 to approve the budget recommendations (O2021-4238), sending the spending portion of the Lightfoot's budget to the full City Council for a final vote next week.
The City Council’s Committee on Finance during its Thursday meeting approved the funding portion of Lightfoot’s proposed budget, including a $77 million property tax hike.
The finance and budget committees’ approval of the budget-related ordinances sets them up for final votes this week in what has played out as a less contentious process than last year’s narrow passage of Lightfoot’s 2021 spending plan.
The City Council is set to meet at 10 a.m. Monday to consider the budget-related measures, but a final vote on the proposals will likely be delayed until Wednesday following a routine city budget procedure.
Multiple aldermen who for the past few months have been critical of the spending proposal gave their support to the plan on Friday, including Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), who chairs the City Council’s Democratic Socialist Caucus and is also a member of the Progressive Caucus and the Latino Caucus.
Ramirez-Rosa addressed how quickly the budget items were approved by the committee and said, “in truth, the speed at which it passed reflects countless hours of work behind the scenes between aldermen, departments, mayoral staff, working hard to move forward a budget that we believe will move forward interests of our communities.”
While Ramirez-Rosa also said there is “so much more investment that our communities need” and “there's no one budget that's going to deliver the justice... socially and economically that our communities need,” he noted there has “been a lot of progress in this budget.”
Ald. Sophia King (4), who chairs the Progressive Reform Caucus, also applauded the proposed spending plan. "This is a progressive budget, I have to be the first to say it," King said.
The 2022 budget proposal charted new territory for the City Council, much to the credit of Ald. Pat Dowell’s (3) leadership, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5) said on Friday. Dowell serves as chair of the budget committee.
“I think this is the first time in my history on the council that we have done this budget as expeditiously as we have,” Hairston said.
Proposed changes that made it into the spending plan the budget committee approved include the creation of a new City Council subcommittee that would be tasked with reviewing Lightfoot’s Chicago Recovery Plan initiatives and spending. Plans for the subcommittee are outlined under Lightfoot’s proposed management ordinance (O2021-4785), which was approved unanimously on Friday.
The 14-member budget subcommittee of the budget committee would examine the city’s “progress toward equitable goals, and potential course corrections, as necessary,” according to city documents.
The oversight body would be chaired by Dowell. and Ald. Matt Martin (47) would serve as vice chair. Martin had worked with Ald. Daniel La Spata (1) and Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20) to push for the subcommittee, he told The Daily Line.
The subcommittee will also include La Spata, Hairston, Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10), Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11), Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22), Ald. Walter Burnett (27), Ald. Jason Ervin (28), Ald. Felix Cardona (31), Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), Ald. Samantha Nugent (39), Ald. Michele Smith (43) and Ald. Harry Osterman (48).
The spending ordinance the full City Council is poised to vote on next week also adds 29 additional employees to the Chicago Department of Public Health’s budget for mental health, including 10 clinical therapists, five behavioral health assistants, three community outreach coordinators and two epidemiologists, among other positions, Budget Director Susie Park told aldermen on Friday.
The city has also committed to piloting a program that would send clinical therapists to “offsite locations,” including libraries and social service organizations, Department of Public Health Comm. Allison Arwady told aldermen on Friday.
An additional amendment adds positions to the city’s Department of Family and Support Services budget to create a homeless outreach program, Park said.
Another change to the budget adds 16 tree trimming crews to the Department of Transportation’s Forestry Bureau, bringing next year’s total to 30 tree trimming crews. The city currently sends out 14 tree trimming crews each day, and the original budget proposal sought to add 11 crews.
Budget amendments also add funding to the Chicago Fire Department to supply carbon monoxide detectors to residents in need, and add positions under the Department of Planning and Development to help with land sales of city-owned properties. Aldermen have agitated at how long it can take the planning department to work through neighbors’ applications to buy city-owned lots.
Another $5 million is set aside for the preservation of single-room occupancy buildings, partially addressing a proposal (O2021-4762) Ald. Maria Hadden (49) had submitted to dedicate $70 million to their preservation.
And meeting the call from several aldermen during the Chicago Animal Care and Control budget hearing, the budget would allot an additional $10,000 to the department for marketing animals available for adoption.
Aldermen who voted “no” on the budget recommendations were Ald. Marty Quinn (13), Ald. Matt O’Shea (19), Ald. Silvana Tabares (23), Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38) and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42). The aldermen who voted “no” did not explain their votes during the meeting and also all voted against the $77 million property tax hike (O2021-4759) on Thursday.
Aldermen on Friday also unanimously approved the ordinance (O2021-4757) appropriating funds from the Motor Fuel Tax Fund, including setting aside more than $87 million for the city’s Department of Transportation, nearly $14 million for the Department of Assets, Information and Services, more than $18.7 million for the Department of Streets and Sanitation and nearly $12.7 million for “eligible debt service payments and related costs and fees.”
An intergovernmental agreement (O2021-4757) with the CTA and Cook County that would allocate $3 million from Chicago’s Motor Fuel Tax Funds for the CTA to use as a matching grant under the Regional Transit Authority’s 2022 fiscal year was approved unanimously.
And Lightfoot’s proposed salary resolution (R2021-1126), which in addition to authorizing the city comptroller to enter agreements “to implement a program allowing eligible employees to access earned, but unpaid, wages” would add Juneteenth to the list of official City holidays for both salaried and prevailing wage employees, got unanimous approval.
Housing, economic development proposals
Separately on Monday, aldermen are set to approve a slew of proposals related to housing and real estate and economic development that passed commitees this month, including a sweeping plan (O2021-3237) to build 100 new affordable single-family homes in North Lawndale.
The proposal authorizes the sale of 100 city-owned lots in North Lawndale for $1 each to Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation for the construction of a single-family home on each site. The developers plan to sell the homes at reduced rates.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the plan in June as part of her wider Invest South/West initiative. “We all have a responsibility to create a Chicago where every resident, no matter their ZIP code, has access to the resources that they need to lead stable lives and achieve upward mobility,” Lightfoot said during her June news conference. “Homeownership is a critical part of that journey.”
Additional items set for approval on Monday include:
A2021-157 — Lightfoot’s appointment of Luis Gutierrez, founder and CEO of the immigration legal services group Latinos Progresando, to the Chicago Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. Gutierrez is not related to the former Chicago congressman of the same name.
O2021-4066 — Sale of eight city-owned parcels at 6411-13 S. Cicero Ave. in the 13th Ward to GW Property Group for the development of a drive-thru Starbucks. The lot was appraised this year at $1.6 million but the city bumped down its sale price to $825,000 after discovering “environmental contamination…due to prior usage,” according to briefing materials. The site had previously been home to a used car sales lot but has sat vacant for years, Ald. Marty Quinn (13) said during a housing committee meeting. The city had sold the property to Culver's, but the restaurant chain "walked away" upon finding contamination, he said.
O2021-4132 — An ordinance authorizing the Department of Housing to issue $3 million in federally backed Multi-Family Program Funds to Chicago House and Social Service Agency so it can acquire and renovate a 13-unit affordable building at 1650 W. 63rd St. in the 15th Ward. The building was previously operated as Clara's Place by the late Clara Kirk, who was known as the "Mother of Englewood" for the transitional housing facilities that she established and operated, according to Kara Breems, financial planning analyst with the city’s housing department.
O2021-4195 — An ordinance granting developers R2 Companies and Blue Star Properties Class L historic tax credits to transform the Morton Salt shed at 1357 N. Elston Ave. in the 27th Ward. into a 4,000-ticket theater. The plan to remake the four-acre salt shed site while keeping the iconic exterior structure intact has steadily marched through a series of city approvals this year, including by achieving historic landmark status so that the “Morton Salt” logo and umbrella girl illustration remain to greet concertgoers. The plan also calls to add restaurants and 61,000 square feet of office space to the site.
All additional items included in The Daily Line’s coverage of the housing and economic development committee meetings are also up for approval.
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