• 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.

  • The City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to issue up to $1.1 billion dollars in general obligation bonds, after the city’s new Chief Financial Officer warned aldermen that it was the only way the city could avoid going into default.

    During Monday's Finance Committee meeting, the City’s CFO, Carole Brown, spent more than two hours assuring aldermen that the new borrowing plan was just one of several steps the Mayor plans to make to address the city’s debt problems and junk credit rating. She said the money would help pay off lawsuits and debts dating back to Mayor Richard M. Daley's administration. And while several aldermen raised concerns that they didn’t understand the language of the agreement or what was specifically at stake if they failed to approve the mayor’s plan, there was almost no pushback when it was brought before the full Council yesterday.

    Without debate or even a roll call vote, it took aldermen less than ten minutes to give Mayor Emanuel the authority to issue the largest bond deal of his tenure. Aldermen spent three times as long praising Mayor Emanuel's pick of Ginger Evans as Commissioner of the Department of Aviation before her appointment was called for a vote.

    Finance Committee Chairman Ed Burke (14) ushered through the bond vote’s passage using a familiar tactic that allows for quick passage: a roll call vote on the first agenda item applied to the rest of the committee ordinances. Burke requested roll call on uncontroversial appointments to Special Service Areas (SSAs). After Clerk Susana Mendoza called the roll, those appointments passed 44-0.

    Ald. Burke then brought up Mayor Emanuel’s bond ordinance, noted that it passed in committee with only one dissenting vote, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32). Burke offered the only testimony on the ordinance. “Your honor, clearly a lot has been said about the condition of the city’s finances. This is a step that is necessary to refund the existing debt and begin to take steps to claw out of the financial condition that we’re in at the present time,” Ald. Burke explained. “Unless there’s objection, I move to concur on the recommendation of the committee by the same roll call which applied to item one on the agenda [the SSA appointments].”

    Invoking Rule 14, Ald. Burke said he and Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11) would abstain. Ald. Thompson is related to the Morgan Stanley underwriter the city picked to underwrite the bonds (William Daley), and Ald. Burke’s law firm, Klafter & Burke, provides legal services for BMO Harris, another bank participating in the deal.

    Burke then turned to Ald. Waguespack and asked if he “wish[ed] to be shown as voting no.” He did and was joined by Ald. John Arena (45).

    Quickly banging the gavel to signify that the motioned passed, Mayor Emanuel signaled to Burke that he could move on to the next agenda item. As Burke started to read the report, Ald. Waguespack looked and gestured to Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who was sitting two seats away.

    Ald. Ramirez-Rosa, whose mic wasn’t turned on, quickly stood up and requested a rule suspension and to be recorded as a no vote. The Mayor acknowledged the freshman aldermen and requested the record reflect the third "no" vote.

    The Council then proceeded on to the rest of the scheduled agenda, approving ordinances to loosen alcohol restrictions on Navy Pier, appointing Ginger Evans as the City Department of Aviation’s new commissioner, and various other ordinances that passed in committee. (For more information on what passed, check our subscriber-only archived Committee Reports here.)

  • Before discussing the only item on the agenda–Mayor Emanuel’s proposed ordinance authorizing the expenditure of Open Space Impact Fees (OSIF) for Kennicott Par–the Committee’s newly appointed Chairman Tom Tunney (44), who dubbed his committee “The Party Committee”, thought it would be helpful if a representative from the Department of Planning and Development explain what OSIFs are and how they are used.

    Committee Members Present: Chairman Tom Tunney (44), Roderick Sawyer (6), Leslie Hairston (7), Patrick Daley Thompson (11), Marty Quinn (13), Derrick Curtis (18), Michael Scott, Jr. (24), Walter Burnett Jr. (27), Milly Santiago (31), Scott Waguespack (32), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), Michelle Smith (43), John Arena (45), Ameya Pawar (47), Debra Silverstein (50)

    Meg Gustafson, with the Department of Planning and Development’s Sustainable and Open Space Division, told the aldermen that the program enacted in 1998 is a fee on new residential development permits that is collected by one of the 77 designated community areas around the city. People can get credit for on-site open space, but most single-family and smaller residential permits tend to pay directly into the fund. A community area must get DPD approval before spending any money in the fund. DPD then submits those proposals to Ald. Tunney’s committee.

    Gustafson stressed that the fees can only be spent on new open space development projects, or proposals to expand existing open space. She adds that since since the program’s inception, community areas have collected $54M in open space fees, $4M of which is still available. The money helped pay for 47 new Park District parks, 20 Park District expansions, 6 campus parks, 25 neighborspace gardens, 25 school gardens built on “open land,” and 9 trail and riverwalk projects, like the new 606 Trail.

    Ald. Marty Quinn (13) asked what projects were not approved, and why they didn’t qualify. Gustafson said plans to transform existing open space, like turning a tennis court into a basketball court, get rejected. Quinn then asked that DPD provide a breakdown of how the fees were spent by wards. Gustafson said it was possible but noted that community areas, like TIFs, overlap ward boundaries.

    Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) says he has tried to get DPD to raise the open space fees to finance more projects, and asked if DPD was making any headway. Gustafson told him while the department has looked into it, “about four times in the last 5 years, there is never a good time to raise a fee.” She also said increasing the fee wouldn’t impact distribution, because areas that have a lot of new residential development collect more fees.

    Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) agreed the fee is too low and should be raised. Ald. Leslie Hairston (5) raised concern that while there is a lot more green development on the north side of Chicago, she has noticed that the Park District has been planting “wild grass” all around her South Side ward, which makes it impossible for residents to enjoy open space. When Ald. Tunney asked that the representative from the Park District elaborate on the process, he said he couldn’t comment.

    When the committee eventually moved on to the scheduled agenda, Doreen O’Donnell, the research and planning manager for the Chicago Park District, testified in support of the Kennecott Park Expansion Project in the 4th Ward. She said the the Park District would use the remaining $290,364 from the Kenwood Community Open Space Fees Fund to to expand the park on land it acquired years ago, close an alley, remove a light pole, and add new pathways, benches, greenery, and fencing.