• Alderman-Elect Anthony Napolitano’s been a tough man to reach since election day. “They only give you four weeks to find an office, staff it,” Napolitano says, apologizing for missing reporter calls, “Things have been crazy.” But the new 41st Ward alderman-to-be says his team’s found a ward office, with parking in front and back, right off Harlem and Milwaukee, 7442 N. Harlem Ave. “Everyone can get to it,” he says, audibly excited. It is part of his plans to be a more hands on, “customer service” oriented alderman than his predecessor.


    Napolitano came out on top in the April 7th runoff against incumbent Ald. Mary O’Connor with about 52% of the vote. During the campaign, both said their ward had been forgotten–from infrastructure problems to increasing noise from O’Hare airport. The ward is home to many city employees–police, teachers, fire. A description that also fits Napolitano and his entire family.

    A former Chicago Police officer who worked rapid response on the West Side and as a gang officer for four years in the Austin neighborhood, the Alderman-Elect left police work for the Fire Department, but now plans to serve as a full-time alderman. A lifelong resident of the 41st Ward, he says there’s two degrees of separation between every resident, “Everyone knows everyone’s business, we’re all working together or related.”


    But he still considers himself an independent in, “a pretty conservative ward that has very strong Democratic values as well.” 47% of the 41st Ward voted for Governor Bruce Rauner in the November elections.


    Here’s what Napolitano told Aldertrack about his upcoming term:


    Top legislative priorities citywide: Napolitano says addressing the city’s pension problem is going to be a big focus for his first term in office. Between the recent CPS scandal, the budget crisis, and Gov. Rauner’s declaration that Springfield wouldn’t bail out Chicago, he told his new chief of staff they, “picked a heck of a time to run for office.” His entire family, many friends, and much of the ward are relying on those pensions, he says, “People that have worked their butts off in some pretty dangerous jobs, the last thing you want to do is leave them high and dry.”


    Top local issues in the 41st Ward: Ward infrastructure, airplane noise, and a bigger police presence top Napolitano’s list of priorities. He says the ward is filled with potholes and some local parks have been neglected, with local residents often fixing things themselves. He says addressing his ward’s needs come before everything else, and airport noise has only gotten worse. “It is gonna be like running up against a brick wall, regardless if i’m the alderman or not. This is affecting my family, this is affecting my neighborhood. I plan on living here my whole life.”


    Potential caucus alignment: Napolitano says he’s been approached by several caucuses, including the Progressive, but he has no intention of joining straight out of the gate. He’s living by an old City of Chicago employee saying about picking union alignment, “Get some time on the job, kid.” He tells Aldertrack, “It’s disrespectful for me to walk in and say I’m with one group. I share a lot of great views that the progressive caucus shares. I’m a hardcore labor guy. I support the unions. My entire family, a majority of my friends and a lot of my ward are in unions. I’m excited about sitting down with them, but I can’t say I’m joining a group without knowing more about them.” At the same time, he says he’s ready to work with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This city doesn’t want any more rubber stamps. I’m excited to work with the Mayor, but I’m excited to put my ward first and foremost.”


    Ward Office/Staff: Aside from choosing his ward office location, Napolitano’s hired his Chief of Staff, former 36th Ward aldermanic candidate Chris Vittorio. He won the endorsement of the Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune, but finished in third place in the February general election (Gilbert Villegas ended up winning in the runoff). Napolitano says Vittorio is, “very good with people.” He tells Aldertrack the two ran in the same circle of friends for years, but grew closer during their campaigns.


    Alderman who have reached out: “I established a terrific relationship with Ald. [Nicholas] Sposato (38). He’s a great mentor,” Napolitano says. Ald. Joe Moore (49) and Ald. Joe Moreno (1) have both reached out and invited him and his staff to shadow theirs, without trying to influence him or tell him how to do the job. “You go into this thinking everyone’s trying to get their hooks into you. It’s the opposite.”


    Committee interests: Living close to O’Hare Airport, Napolitano says serving on Aviation Committee is a natural fit. He says he could bring, “a nice inside view” to the Committee on Public Safety, and as a father involved with three children in CPS schools, he’d be interested in Education as well.
  • Yesterday's City Council meeting included a memorial for the late Cardinal, remarks from the new Archbishop, passage of long-awaited restitution to Jon Burge torture victims, a gallery full of Chicago labor leaders and much more. But everything was overshadowed by Gov. Bruce Rauner's speech to Council, a last-minute addition to the agenda announced yesterday afternoon. Rainier's appearance before Council, unprecedented in recent memory, served to notify Council that no easy bailouts will be coming from Springfield, and that labor unions are his number one target.


    Latino Caucus Presser For CPS Intervention With UNO Schools


    Before Council kicked off, members of the Latino Caucus, backed by about 50 UNO charter school parents and activists, announced the introduction of a Council resolution, calling for the Chicago Board of Education, “to step in and settle this squabble,” according to former UNO President, Ald. Danny Solis. Text of resolution.


    The presser, which Caucus chair George Cardenas kicked off by warning "Chicago’s children’s future is at stake,” ultimately amounted to aldermen stating the importance of UNO schools in their overcrowded communities and their desire for the original United Neighborhood Organization and the UNO Charter School Network organizations to settle their differences. Their only option, to offer up a resolution, served to underline City Council’s lack of oversight and input on Chicago school’s operations. Since the 1995 School Reform, the Mayor has total control over Board of Education appointments and budgeting and Council is merely left to watch.


    Attendees: Caucus Chair George Cardenas (12), Joe Moreno (1), Ald.-Elect Ray Lopez (15), Danny Solis (25), Ray Suarez (31).


    Remembrance of Cardinal Francis George


    The Council meeting began with a prayer and moment of silence in honor of Cardinal Francis George, who passed April 17th. A short prayer from Roman Catholic Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich was followed by a moment of silence, with live music from a pianist and violinist.


    Ald. Ed Burke (14) spoke at length honoring Francis George as a “true Chicagoan,” who “did not fear Chicago politics.”


    Ald. Bob Fioretti (2) says he worked with Francis George on 2nd ward issues, and praised him as a man of strong faith, quoting Einstein: “There are only two ways to live your life, one is though none is a miracle, the other as though everything is a miracle. Cardinal Francis George lived his life as though everything was a miracle.”


    Ald. Cullerton, Ald. Suarez, and Mayor Emanuel also spoke in praise of Cardinal Francis George’s life.


     

    Reports from the Committees


    The full City Council passed all reports from the standing committees. When retiring Ald. James Balcer (11), Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, finished submitting his report to the record he waved and shouted, “That concludes my report, and goodbye!”


    Highlights of passed ordinances:





    • Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed ordinance to create a $5.5M fund for Jon Burge torture victims and a resolution providing an official, citywide apology.




    • Two last-minute police-related settlements totaling $765,000 from Finance Committee.




    • Mayor Emanuel’s proposal to launch and maintain a so-called “People’s Plaza Program” through a joint public-private venture.




    • An ordinance co-sponsored by Mayor Emanuel and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) empowering the Police Superintendent to close bars and nightclubs that are chronic public safety threats, spurred on by the Dolphin Club murders.




    • Mayor Emanuel’s ordinance to amend the city’s red-light camera program. CDOT would have to hold community meetings before it installs or removes any future cameras and a payment program was created for violators.




    • A concession agreement that would extend Goose Island's agreement for three years to cater all concerts and special events at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion in Millenium Park.




    • Ald. Marty Quinn’s (13) proposed ordinance to crack down on the unauthorized sale of stolen catalytic converters.




    • An ordinance that would extend a dental program currently offered at all Chicago Public School students to private or parochial schools that operate in the city. Medicaid pays for the program.




    • An ordinance expanding language access to city services. Ald. Ameya Pawar(47) introduced an ordinance standardizing city translation services for people whose first language isn’t English, with a single paragraph appointing a working group to develop a new municipal ID for Chicago residents.




    • Three appointees to the Chicago Emergency Telephone System Board.




    The reports of the committees concluded with a report from Ald. Pat O’Connor (40), the Chairman of the Committee on Workforce and Development, regarding a resolution Mayor Emanuel introduced earlier this week in opposition to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to designate “right-to-work” zones around the state. At the start of O’Connor’s speech, Mayor Emanuel could be heard from the podium, saying of the Governor, “Where is he? Where is he?”


    O’Connor called jobs in right to work states are “half jobs,” and that Rauner’s plan would actually create a right for employers to hire low wage, low-benefit jobs that were stolen away from those who secured them through collective bargaining. Organized labor seated in the gallery balcony broke into wild applause. Creating half jobs is, “a great thing to do if you’re shopping in a supermarket, but when you’re playing with people’s lives… that’s a damn shame,” he said.


    Following Ald. O’Connor’s speech, one by one, aldermen stood up and seconded the sentiment. Ald. Pat Dowell (3) called on organized labor to consider fairness for minorities in creating new labor opportunities. Aldermen Bob Fioretti (2), John Pope (10), James Cappleman (46), Danny Solis (25), Timothy Cullerton (38), and Joe Moore (49) also played to the gathered union crowd, many referring to childhoods in union homes.


    Ald. Cullerton called the right to work zones “a leap backwards to the dark ages,” and said skilled labor helped build the city from the ground up. Ald. Moore said Chicago joins mayors and city councils across the nation in passing a similar resolution, but says Springfield and Chicago need each other and encouraged both parties to work together.


    Finally, Mayor Emanuel chimed, saying he’s opposed right to work his entire life. “This city of Chicago just hosted the NFL Draft, the James Beard Awards, Microsoft Ignite, and the cable industry… today Chicago’s number one in the hospitality industry.” He says the city and union workers made tough compromises at McCormick Place without lowering wages.


    Instead of moving on to scheduled business, Ald. Burke volunteered as the designated time-killer ahead of the governor’s appearance, comparing the governor’s unprecedented visit to City Council to the story of the Prince of Wales’ visit to Chicago in 1860, and Mayor “Long John” Wentworth’s famous introduction: “Boys, this is the Prince. Prince, this is the boys.” After a few minutes he explained, “You understand we’re just killing time here.” The Council burst into gales of laughter.



    Rauner's Speech To Council

    Gov. Rauner entered the chamber shortly after, to light applause. Some of the assembled organized labor members in the balcony booed. He asked for an “indulgence” before he started his speech and requested Republicans in the room raise their hands. Ald. Waguespack suggested to members around him that Rauner probably didn’t know Council was non-partisan. About four people in the gallery raised their hands.


    Rauner made reference to his outsider status several times throughout the speech, saying he was like Daniel in the lion’s den, and that having won just 20% of the vote in Chicago, it might be a good move for the city to secede. Peppered with references to how much the rest of Illinois citizens dislike Chicago and how he works for everyone in Illinois, including Chicagoans, Rauner's 10 minute speech laid out Chicago’s importance to the state, its dire financial straits, and the need for partnership with Springfield.


    His main message: “For Chicago to get what it wants, Illinois must get what it needs.” Then, after more talk about how the rest of Illinois was Chicago to secede, Rauner laid down his terms, "We don't have the money to bail out Chicago. That's not an option." He suggested few olive branches, except that Chicago might want to have more local powers over issues like gaming.


    The Governor provided few specifics about how he would implement his Turnaround Agenda, but emphasized the difficulties of Illinois and Chicago's economies. “Over the last 15 years, Illinois has lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs. We can’t afford to let that continue. We must get more competitive. After years of overspending and overborrowing, Illinois and Chicago taxpayers are in a vice grip that is choking our ability to fund our schools, invest in our social services and recruit job creators.”


    He closed the speech by asking Chicago to help with the heavy lifting to, “accomplish so much more than we can alone.” After Rauner’s left the Chamber, Ald. Joe Moreno (1) stood up and gestured to the aldermen seated near him, Rebroyas and Ervin, then said off-mic in an exasperated voice, “Work together! Sacrifice!”


     

    Post-Rauner Speech Press Conferences


    Gov. Rauner and organized labor held press conferences in sequence immediately after Rauner’s remarks as Council continued its business. Not surprisingly, the messages and tenor of the events were diametrically opposite.


    Rauner’s availability, in a packed Room 201A filled with the Chicago and Springfield press corps, lasted slightly longer than his speech to Council. In it, he reiterated that he will not increase spending to bail out Chicago, and that much of his agenda is linked to reducing union influence at every level.


    On his priorities:  “Well in terms of what Illinois needs, I have been clear for two and a half years. We need local control, voter empowerment, pro-growth regulations and an overhaul of the government, empowering local voters and taxpayers to get more control of government costs, and that’s laid out crystal clear within our turnaround agenda. That’s what we need, and I’ve said that consistently.”


    To emphasize his statement, his office sent out a press release that evening, quoting the above and stating, “To be clear, the governor’s top priorities are listed below:





    • Term limits




    • Property tax freeze




    • Allow local control of ability to create employee empowerment zones




    • Allow local control of contracting and bargaining in schools and local governments




    • Allow local control of competitive bidding on taxpayer-funded construction projects




    • Pension reform




    • Worker’s compensation/tort/unemployment insurance reform




    • Ethics reform/end conflicts of interest in government”




    Then, directly refuting a regular stump speech item from Mayor Emanuel’s reelection campaign, about how it is unfair that Chicagoans pay into teacher’s pensions for all of Illinois, in addition to Chicago pensions:


    “There are some additional facts that need to be part of the conversation. There’s this statement, well Chicago’s different, it pays taxes to go into it’s own pension as well as pensions to go into other community’s teachers’ pensions. That’s true. It’s been true for a hundred years, I think….The City of Chicago, even adjusting for income level of students...Chicago receives a disproportionate amount of money, many hundreds of millions of dollars that no other community gets. That is true. we need to keep that in mind when we’re talking about how Chicago may be different when we’re talking about pension payments.”


    Finally, on Chicago Public Schools' financial straits:


    “Part of our recommendation, on our turnaround agenda on our schools, [they] belong to our families, not to the special interests, whether its the collective bargaining units or any influential group inside the schools or inside the government. Those groups should not dictate terms or decide what is done or not done. The schools don’t belong to them, they belong to the taxpayers. We don’t have a balance of power in Chicago or Illinois.The schools belong to the families and parents, not to the insiders. Right now the power is with the insiders. We’re recommending Chicago get to decide what should be collectively bargained and what shouldn’t. That’s a very big change and a very important one to decide what’s affordable over time.”



    A counter-press conference, held by the Chicago Federation of Labor and other labor organizations in the 2nd Floor hallway, was low on substance, but included well over a hundred chanting, shouting workers with “Save the Middle Class” signs. Kicked off by CFL President Jorge Ramirez, he set the tone, “Attacking the most vulnerable in our society does not make you a better governor….Illinois won’t get better by attacking our most vulnerable citizens.”

    Ramirez’ remarks, and then those from supporting speakers from labor-friendly organizations for the next ten minutes, were punctuated by loud cheers, leading up to a chant, “Turn back Rauner!”


     

    Farewells to Exiting Aldermen


    Following Rauner’s departure from the Chamber, and a few minutes of milling around, Ald. Ed Burke began this portion of the meeting by reading off the names of the retiring and outest aldermen of the City Council. He then turned to Ald. John Pope (10) and ask, “Do we know?” Pope shrugged it off and the farewells continued, with Clerk Susana Mendoza reading and entering into record resolutions highlighting the work many of those aldermen did during their time on the City Council. Reading the resolutions in order by ward, Mendoza also skipped over Ald. Pope.


    At one point, Ald. Carrie Austin (34) asked to speak, “I have laughed, cried, hollered, screamed and used some choice words with all of them.”


    Many of the retiring aldermen spoke at length as they reminisced about their time on the council, while others, had little to say. Ald. Ray Suarez (31) left the meeting early and was absent for this part of the meeting. Ald. Lona Lane (18), who is currently sick with a respiratory condition, missed the entire meeting. Ald. Deborah Graham(29), acknowledged her colleagues before walking out of the chamber. Ald. Bob Fioretti (2) choking up during his farewell, noted that the past eight years have been some of the best in his life, adding that he is especially grateful for his staff and their help while he was battling cancer.


    Ald. Tim Cullerton (38), whose family has been on the council since the Chicago Fire, and Ald. Mary O’Connor (41), who only served one term, drew the biggest rounds of applause from fellow aldermen.


    In his final remarks to the members who were leaving, Ald. Burke channeled the, “original mayor Daley,” who, Burke said he was fond of saying, “The good Lord never closes a door that he doesn’t open a window. And I’ve served with 253 people in this chamber over the last 46 years, and I’ve come to learn the wisdom of that observation [...] And I know that will be the case in each and every one of your instances.”


    Ald. Burke then took a moment to personally praise Ald. Balcer. “There isn’t a more sincere person that I have served with in all those years.” Burke then recalled the first time he saw Balcer. It was back when Balcer was a private citizen testifying to the Council about the struggles he faces as a veteran in need of health support. Burke called it, “one of the most compelling pieces of testimony he ever heard in this chamber.”


    Later in his remarks, before he adjourned the meeting, Ald. Burke looked around the room at his colleagues, laughed, and said, “Finally, Fioretti said something profound.”


     

    New Business Highlights





    • Ald. Will Burns (4) introduced a resolution that would bar Spike Lee from using state tax credits to film his new project, Chiraq. Since the state manages the credit, the resolution would have little impact in preventing Lee from getting the $3 million credit.




    • Ald. Ed Burke (14), Ald. Danny Solis (25), Ald. Tom Tunney (44), and Ald. Margaret Laurino (39) introduced a resolution to hold hearings on the city’s fiber-optic infrastructure.




    • Ald. Joe Moreno’s (1) resolution regarding UNO Charter schools (story above)




    Mayor’s Presser


    In his typical post-Council meeting press conference, Mayor Emanuel stuck to his guns on Springfield’s need for Chicago, but says he saw some places where he and Gov. Rauner could work together, like workers compensation. “A strong Illinois is dependent on a strong Chicago.”


    But the two split on teacher’s pensions, a familiar refrain from Emanuel, who raised his voice when talking about so-called “double taxation. “As a Chicago resident, [Gov. Rauner] pays twice. One by paying property taxes, he pays for the teachers pensions in Chicago. Second, when he pays income taxes he pays for teacher’s pensions in Naperville, Schaumburg, Rockford… if you’re going to make fundamental change, here’s a great place to start.”


    He says one of the fixes for the teacher’s pensions crisis is a single educational pension system or getting rid of the “inequity on taxes.” He says he hopes to work together with the governor to increase education funding, a campaign promise Rauner made.

  • Five City Council Committees met Tuesday to approve several key items ahead of today’s final meeting of the full council. Agenda highlights included:





    • Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed ordinance and resolution for alleged Jon Burge torture victims in Finance Committee.




    • Two last-minute police-related settlements totaling $765,000 in Finance Committee.




    • Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to launch a so-called “People’s Plaza Program” in Budget Committee.




    • An ordinance co-sponsored by Mayor Emanuel and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) to crack down on businesses that are chronic public safety threats in License Committee.




    • A last minute addition to the Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety. Mayor Emanuel introduced a new ordinance to address the city’s red-light camera program thirty minutes before the meeting started.





    Budget Committee Report
    The day started with a 9:30 a.m. Budget Committee meeting that went 45 minutes over schedule after several aldermen raised concerns over Mayor Emanuel’s proposed ordinance to launch a so-called “People’s Plaza Program”.


    According to representatives from the Chicago Department of Transportation, the program would make better use of the city’s current public space by finding innovators to host community activities and cultural events at city plazas, malls and traffic triangles. It’s an offshoot of a previous City Department of Transportation (CDOT) initiative called “Make Way for People Program.”


    Luann Hamilton, Deputy Commissioner of Project Development at the Department of Transportation and Janet Attarian, the Livable Streets Director of the Department of Transportation, testified on behalf of the program. They said the goals are:




    1. Year-round activation of People Plazas

    2. Equitable geographic distribution of People Plazas–the city was divided into five regions and at least one plaza from each region must be activated each year with 10 plazas the first year and 10 plazas in each additional year.

    3. Local community events

    4. Generate revenue through sponsorships and "limited" advertising

    5. Cover maintenance and minor capital improvements


    CDOT needs Council approval on the ordinance so that they can sign a contract with Latent Design, the architecture firm picked to oversee the program. Council approval would also let the city move forward on a Bloomberg Philanthropies grant the city applied for to help build the program.


    Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) raised concerns over the “revenue component of the program” and asked CDOT what their revenue expectations are compared to the vendor’s expectations, and how that would lead to an equitable distribution of plazas, since some spaces are more valuable than others.


    Ald. Reilly was also concerned that cultural expression would take a backseat to retail advertising, and that the program sounds like CDOT is selling off public space for revenue. “The concern is that the vendor may have this incentive to really go all out in these people plazas and, frankly, making marketing, and advertising, and product distribution, and retail opportunities the thrust when in fact the Bloomberg grant is to support cultural affairs and bring more culture into the neighborhood,” Reilly said.


    The representatives from CDOT said that would not happen and the revenue would be invested back into the public space for upkeep, among other things.


    Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), Ald. Ariel Reboyras (31), Ald. Pat Dowell (3), Ald. Tom Tunney (44) and Ald. Jason Ervin (28) also expressed concern that the program would encroach on local community groups and aldermanic control over the public spaces.


    But their concerns and frustration were nothing compared to Ald. Leslie Hairston (5), who declared it "ridiculous" that the ordinance is described as “equitable” but it only applies to existing public spaces. No new public areas would be created through the program.


    Since the Budget Committee ate into the Finance Committee’s time–both were held in the Council Chambers–many aldermen stayed for both meetings, since they were all moving in and out of the Chamber. The following aldermen who were present for Budget, Finance or both:  Bob Fioretti (2), Pat Dowell (3), Will Burns (4), Leslie Hairston (5), James Balcer (11), Marty Quinn (13), Finance Chairman Ed. Burke (14), Toni Foulkes (15), Latasha Thomas (17), Lona Lane (18), Matt O’Shea (19), Willie Cochran (20), Mike Zalewski (23), Walter Burnett (27), Jason Ervin (28), Ariel Reboyras (30), Scott Waguespack (32), Budget Chairman Carrie Austin (34), Emma Mitts (37), Margaret Laurino (39), Brendan Reilly (42), John Arena (45), James Cappleman (46), Harry Osterman (48), Debra Silverstein (50).


    Finance Committee Report
    The Finance Committee meeting started with the Jon Burge torture reparations ordinance and resolution. Unlike last week's meeting, when the settlement deal was first announced and almost a dozen people testified on the matter, only two people testified yesterday, both in opposition to the ordinance because of a section of the reparations fund that excludes family members of deceased victims from taking part in the fund. Those testifying included George Blakemore, who regularly provides citizen testimony, and Wallace “Gator” Bradley with United In Peace, Inc. Neither of the sponsors for the original ordinance–Ald. Joe Moreno (1) and Ald. Howard Brookins, Jr. (21)–attended the hearing.


    Later in the meeting, Chairman Ed Burke (14) announced two new items on the supplemental agenda, amounting to $765,000 in settlement payments. Leslie Darling, with the City Law Department, testified on the settlements, one of which is related to a sexual assault case involving two Chicago Police Officers.  The settlements included:





    1. Jane Doe v. Chicago Police Officer Paul Clavijo, Chicago Police Officer Juan Vasquez and City of Chicago, cited as 11 C 3502 [Amount $415,000]




    2. Rosaura Cordero v. Richard R Jeschke, individually and as an agent of the City of Chicago, a municipal corporation; and the City of Chicago, a municipal corporation, city as 10 L 14773 [Amount $350,000]





    License Committee Report
    Meanwhile, in Room 201A, the Committee on License and Consumer Protection discussed and passed Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Brendan Reilly’s proposed ordinance to enable the Chicago Police Department to close bars and nightclubs that are chronic public safety threats, spurred on by a murder at the Dolphin Chicago nightclub. Pat Doerr with the Hospitality Business Association testified against the measure.


    License Committee Members present: Bob Fioretti (2), Natasha Holmes (7), Marty Quinn (13), Deborah Graham (29), Ariel Reboyras (30), Chairman Emma Mitts (37), Mary O’Connor (41), Brendan Reilly (42), John Arena (45), James Cappleman (46), Debra Silverstein (50).



    Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development Report
    Later, in what was the quickest meeting of the day, the Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development listened to a 15-minute presentation from representatives of Chicagoland Beverage, a local coffee and tea distributor. The company had requested a 6b certification for a warehouse expansion in the 27th Ward. The ordinance passed by voice vote.

    Committee members present: Natasha Holmes (7), Toni Foulkes (15), Willie Cochran (20), Chairman Tom Tunney (44), John Arena (45), Ald. Walter Burnett (27) attended to support the project.



    Committee on Pedestrian Safety and Traffic Report
    Finally, at 1:30 p.m., it was the Committee on Pedestrian Safety and Traffic’s turn to meet in Room 201A. Nothing was listed on the online agenda for the committee–it had already met last week–but about a half an hour before the meeting was scheduled to start, Mayor Emanuel’s press team sent out a news blast announcing that the Mayor had just introduced a new ordinance to “reform” the city’s Red Light Camera program. The release listed Ald. Anthony Beale (9), Ald. Tom Tunney (44), and Ald. Walter Burnett (27), Chair of the committee, as co-sponsors.


    Text of proposed ordinance

    Many of the aldermen on the committee wanted to know why the ordinance didn’t include extended yellow lights or countdown clocks, despite Chicago Tribuneinvestigation highlighting the shorter yellow light times. CDOT’s Rebekah Scheinfeld said that’s because the those times are based on national regulations. Several Aldermen also asked, numerous times in numerous ways, if the city’s red light and speed cameras improve safety and prevent accidents on Chicago’s streets. Scheinfeld responded the same way every time, noting “numerous national studies” say they improve safety. She never cited local data, but did note that there are currently 149 intersections with red-light cameras and 362 cameras around the city, after factoring the 50 cameras that have been removed since Emanuel took office.


    Ald. Bob Fioretti (2) asked most of the questions and took up a significant portion of the meeting, which eventually prompted Chairman Burnett to remind Fioretti that he isn’t even on the committee and that he should yield the floor to aldermen on the committee.


    Ald. Beale and Ald. Tunney had previously introduced their own ordinance on the subject requesting for an extension of yellow light times and a City Council approval on all new cameras. While yesterday's introduced ordinance does neither, it does have a provision that says if the ordinance passes, CDOT can’t install or remove a red-light camera without holding a neighborhood meeting first. The meeting would be scheduled through the local alderman.


    In committee Ald. Tunney questioned whether there had been “fudging around with the yellow time” and demanded to know why CDOT needed to do another comprehensive review of the cameras, another provision in the ordinance. “A lot of studies have been done, why do we need another?” he said.


    The Committee passed the ordinance and it is expected to go before the full Council today. Chairman Burnett ended the meeting reminding everyone that Mayor Emanuel was not responsible for the cameras and that most of the discussion about red light cameras this past election was, "a bunch of lies that hurt a lot people," in the Council.

  • The Committee on Education and Child Development passed an ordinance that would extend a dental program currently offered at all Chicago Public School students to private or parochial schools that operate in the city. Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced the ordinance to the full Council in April noting that cavities are the single most common disease among children. Agenda.


    Committee members present: Chairman Ald. Latasha Thomas (17), Ald. Jason Ervin (28), Ald. Pat Dowell (3), Ald. Matt O’Shea (19), Ald. Walter Burnett (27), Ald. Harry Osterman (48).


    Chicago Department of Public Health Deputy Commissioner Jaime Dirksen testified in support of the ordinance and fielded questions from several aldermen on the committee about the City’s current program. According to Dircksen, every CPS school has a designated dentist that provides dental exams, dental cleanings and fluoride treatments. The program is also revenue neutral for the city because it is funded by the state through Medicaid. Dirksen says once the program is brought to the school, it is offered to all students, including those on private insurance.

    An average of 115,000 CPS students take advantage of the program every year. Some schools have a 90% participation rate while other schools have a 5% participation rate. Dirksen believes the disparity is due to a lack of consent forms and information reaching parents. Most of those points were made in response to questions from Ald. Harry OstermanAld. Matt O’Shea and Ald. Jason ErvinAld. Pat Dowell also asked Dircksen to name all of the dental providers that work with CPS. Dirksen responded that 17 contracted dental companies are picked from a competitive RFP bidding process that opens every three years. CDPH Program Director Mary Pat Burgess coordinates the program.


    Six aldermen passed the ordinance and requested that CDPH provide the following information by the end of the week: A list of current dental providers (requested by Ald. Dowell), Information on the next RFP (also by Ald. Dowell), and a list of participation rates by schools and by ward (requested by Ald. Ervin).

  • The Committee on Special Events and Cultural Affairs and Recreation quickly discussed and approved a concession agreement for Millenium Park before sitting through a lengthy presentation on a science and tech festival planned for the end of the month. Agenda.


    Committee Members Present: Chairman Joe Moore (49), Ald. Leslie Hairston (5), Ald. John Arena (45), Ald. Bob Fioretti (2), Ald. Michele Smith (43), and Ald. Walter Burnett (27).  Ald. Deb Mell (33) and Ald. Marty Quinn (13) walked in at the very end and were not present for the vote.


    Six aldermen approved a concession agreement that would extend Goose Island's agreement for three years to cater all concerts and special events at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion in Millenium Park. Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced the ordinance at the last general council meeting in April. Dave McDermott, Chief of Staff of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events provided testimony in favor of the agreement on behalf of the city. He said Goose Island was selected after a publically advertised Request For Proposal and the term of the agreement is one year with two one-year extensions.


    Ald. John Arena (45) asked for more information on expected revenue to the city. McDermott responded that for the first year Goose Island will pay a base fee of $90,000 plus 15% on sales over $400,000. If the contract gets renewed, Goose Island will pay a base fee of $100,000 and 15% on sales over $460,000 for the second and third year. Ald. Leslie Hairston (7) asked that Goose Island look into concession opportunities in her South Side ward. Ald. Bob Fioretti (2) asked how many events are planned at the pavillion over the next year. Ald. Michele Smith and Ald. Walter Burnett praised Goose Island for being such a successful company. Goose Island operates facilities in both of their wards.


    The rest of the meeting was dedicated to a presentation on an upcoming science and tech festival the Illinois Science Council will host in downtown Chicago the weekend of May 28th-30th. It was a last minute addition to the committee agenda and the presentation was for information purposes only. Council regular George Blakemore walked into the meeting half an hour late and got into argument with Chairman Ald. Joe Moore about his right to testify. He eventually testified against both agenda items and stayed for the other committee meetings, where he also gave dissenting public comment.

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    The Board of Elections conducted a discovery recount of ballots from nine precincts in the 10th Ward yesterday. Conducted at the request of Ald. John Pope, representatives from Ald. John Pope and Ald.-elect Susan Sadlowski Garza's campaign attended the day-long count of ballots at the BOE warehouse in Archer Heights. The recount is used to determine a factual basis for adequate grounds to pursue a full recount, says Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen.

  • Twenty-six-year-old community organizer Carlos Rosa surprised observers by beating Ald. Rey Colon with 67% percent of the vote on February 24. Rosa was the only challenger to beat a sitting alderman in the general election.


    When asked how he managed his feat, Rosa said he knocked on a lot of doors and promised voters that he would be accountable to them and not make decisions, “because the Mayor told him to vote a certain way or because someone cut him a big campaign check.”


    The 35th Ward includes Avondale, Irving Park, Albany Park, and parts of Logan Square, which has gentrified significantly. “More than half of the ward is brand new, and so Colon didn’t have the power of the incumbency there,” Rosa explained. “So he had to take a lot of time reintroducing himself, and I beat him at that.”


    Without the stress of a runoff, the outspoken progressive activist from the Northwest Side of Chicago turned his attention to the Mayor's race and put his energy into Jesus “Chuy” Garcia campaign. Garcia may have lost, but Rosa says his campaign spokesperson, Monica Trevino, will have a permanent position on Rosa's staff.


    Rosa was also the first of the freshman class of aldermen to commit to the Council’s Progressive Caucus. When Aldertrack recently spoke with Rosa, he said that he’s already met with several senior members and is “150% committed” to building the Caucus over the next four years.


    “We need to make sure that we are addressing the city’s budget and pension crisis in a way that protects Chicago’s working families,” Rosa said. “So, I am going to be working aggressively to make sure that solutions that are being brought to the table ask that the big corporations and the super wealthy pay their fair share.”


    Progressive aldermen aren’t the only ones courting Rosa. At the last general City Council meeting, Ald. Tom Tunney (44) and Ald. James Cappleman (46) approached Rosa and asked him if he would be interested in joining an LGBT Caucus, should it form. He's also meeting with the Latino Caucus’ new chairman, Ald. George Cardenas (12).


    Rosa had strong union support heading into the February election, most of which came in the final month. According to the D-2 Rosa filed with the state Board of Elections for October 1st through December 31st, he barely raised $11,000. At that time, State Sen. William Delgado was his biggest funder. But the following quarter, unions bankrolled 85% of his campaign with $41,000 in contributions. The Chicago Teacher’s Union was his biggest contributor.


    Citywide Priorities: Since Rosa will be working closely with the Progressive Caucus, he declined to detail specific agenda items until the Caucus finalized their list of priorities.


    Local Priorities: Rosa says he’s received 265 applications from people interested in working in his office. Once he finalizes his team and gets his constituent services office up and running, he and his team will take a complete inventory of the state of the ward. Rosa says he wants to catalog all the available commercial real estate and vacant properties in the ward, “to get a real sense where the different neighborhoods stand.”


    Office Space: Rosa has not finalized a lease for his Ward office and has yet to pick a chief of staff.

  • Members of the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety swiftly approved without objection three of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed appointees to the Chicago Emergency Telephone System Board, while some aldermen raised concerns over Ald. Marty Quinn’s (13) proposed ordinance to crack down on the unauthorized sale of stolen catalytic converters. (Complete agenda here.)


    Mayor Emanuel seeks to extend the term of Michael E. Callahan and appoint two new members to the board, Charles Stewart III and Daniel Casey. Council regular George Blakemore was the only person to testify in opposition.


    As for the catalytic converters, Ald. Quinn wants to amend the Municipal Code to make it illegal for someone to “purchase, collect, transport or dispose of any catalytic converter that is not attached to a motor vehicle, or any portion of a dismantled catalytic converter.” He says it’s in response to numerous complaints from car owners who’ve had the exhaust system stolen from their cars. But Ald. Willie Cochran (21) and Ald. Anthony Beale (9), who represent wards with numerous auto shops and junk yards, wanted to make sure the ordinance wouldn’t negatively impact those businesses. Quinn said those retailers could still buy and sell used catalytic converters as long as the seller brings documentation proving ownership. The committee passed the ordinance by voice vote.



    Committee Members Present: Ald. James Balcer (11) Chairman, Ald. Nick Sposato (36), Ald. Matt O’Shea (19), Ald. Marty Quinn (13), Ald. Ariel Reboyras(30), Ald. Natashia Holmes (7), Ald. Anthony Beale (9), Ald. Willie Cochran (20), Ald. Debra Silverstein (50). Ald. Walter Burnett (27) stepped in for a moment before heading over to the Landmarks Commission hearing on the Fulton Market proposal, which is in his ward.
  • Aldermen praised each other and new ordinances in the 4th and 27th Wards at Wednesday’s meeting of the Committee on Housing and Real Estate. It was the last for the Chairman Ald. Ray Suarez, who lost his re-election bid in the 31st ward to Milly Santiago, and three other members of the committee.


    “This committee works hard and it’ll continue to do the job,” Suarez told Aldertrack after his final meeting. The project he’s proudest of? The redevelopment of the old Macy’s warehouse in the 31st ward, “No alderman outside downtown has brought a project that big in their community. No one. And it is going to be the anchor for the northwest side, not just the 31st ward.”


    Committee Members Present:  Ray Suarez (31) Chairman, Pat Dowell (3), Will Burns (4), Natashia Holmes (7), James Balcer (11), Marty Quinn (13), Walter Burnett Jr. (27), Scott Waguespack (32), Ariel Rebroyas (37), Timothy Cullerton (38), James Cappleman (46).


    Aldermen passed every ordinance on the agenda by voice vote.


    Suarez took a moment at the end of the meeting to recognize other exiting aldermen who serve on the committee, Ald. Cullerton and Ald. James Balcer, who are both stepping down. He also said goodbye to Ald. Holmes, who lost her re-election bid. “I know you’re going to be missed... One door closes but God opens up another.”


    Ald. Burns drew laughter in his salute to the three aldermen leaving, thanking Ald. Cullerton for his humor and good nature, Ald. Suarez for his focus on affordable housing, and Ald. Balcer, “for reminding me that I’m fat and I need to go work out.”


    Ald. Balcer spoke in favor of the acquisition of 4001-59 S. Halsted St. to 41 Venture LLC. The property would be turned into a 40,000 square foot industrial space that would house 2 tenants. The property is worth $692,000, but was sold for $342,000 to 41 Venture LLC. The rest of the cost will be put in escrow.


    An ordinance authorizing the acquisition of 100 S. Racine Ave. in the central west TIF area to Chicago Children's Theatre passed with support from Ald. Burnett The site used to be a police headquarters, was sold for $1, and will cost $15 million to renovate. When completed, the theatre will have a main stage theater that will seat up to 299 people, a 149-seat studio space, and parking for 30. It’ll be paid for with fundraising money, a state grant, and developer equity.


    Ald. Burns supported an ordinance authorizing an Intergovernmental Agreement between the City of Chicago and the CHA for the Quad Communities Arts and Rec center. The 30,000 square foot center will have a gym with a basketball court, fitness center, indoor pool, and multi-use art, educational and community spaces.


    The $17.5M space broke ground in February, and is funded in part by the CHA, TIF funds and New Market Tax Credits from the Community Builders. Burns said it’s because of the “creativity and ingenuity of CHA that we could come up with complex layered financing to bring this project to fruition.” The community center is less than a mile away from Ald. Pat Dowell’s ward.

  • Brian Hopkins emerged from a crowded field in the newly gerrymandered 2nd Ward on April 7th, topping his runoff opponent, attorney Alyx Pattison, with 56% of the vote. More than $1M flowed into candidates’ campaigns during the race. “The New 2” now encompasses some of the wealthiest and up-and-coming neighborhoods in the city, which Hopkins says he’s well equipped to address. “Vetting and development is a process that’s community led,” Hopkins told Aldertrack, “I’ve been doing that with [the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents] for 16 years.”


    Hopkins might not have an office or staff yet, but he’s already been fielding service requests from 2nd Ward residents. The transition from Ald. Bob Fioretti’s tenure to the new ward has been hectic, he says. “A lot of things fell through the cracks… it’s a little bit like trying to build a new house while you’re living in it.” Hopkins is already checking out possible sites for offices in the west side of his ward, searching for staff, and looking ahead to committee assignments.


    Top legislative priorities citywide: Hopkins says addressing the budget, the deficit, the long term debt, and the pension crisis is an “urgent need.” Hopkins formerly served as Chief of Staff of the Cook County Finance Committee. On his campaign website, he says he worked closely with Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle on the county’s budget deficit, refuses to raise property taxes, and is, “committed reducing city bureaucracy and pushing government to operate within its means.” He says he’s already spoken with Special Events Committee Chairman Joe Moore (49) about joining, and is also interested in joining the zoning committee.


    Top local issues in the 2nd Ward: Hopkins says he’s working hard to establish relationships with community organizations in the 2nd Ward. Addressing upcoming big developments in the ward, including the redevelopment around Lake Shore Drive near Navy Pier, the addition of 60 acres of green space around the lakefront, and straightening the S-curve near Oak Street Beach are all on his list. “I’m going to be spending a lot of time with a community process on decisions that’ll affect development in the neighborhoods. That’s going to be time consuming.”


    Potential Caucus Alignment: Hopkins says he’s been approached by the Progressive Caucus, but won’t be joining. “Not at this time. I do think that I’ll be supporting a number of their issues. I’m not necessarily against their agenda.”


    Ward Office/Logistics: Hopkins says as someone who’s more familiar with Streeterville on the east side of the ward, he’s working to establish relationships with the west. He hasn’t landed on a campaign office yet, but is looking in Bucktown/Wicker Park, which he says is a bit pricey: “As a potential tenant it does present a challenge because you can’t really afford everything you’d like.” He has not hired any office staff yet.


    Some highlights from our interview:


    Who are you going to be working with?


    Obviously I’ve had a good relationship with Ald. [Brendan] Reilly (42). I’m relying on his advice and council. Also met recently with Ald. Joe Moore, whom I’ve known for many years. I’m interested in joining his committee, Special Events. The 2nd Ward is home to numerous street festivals. I’ve talked to Moore about that and said he would support me in seeking to get on his committee. Haven’t talked much to new colleagues, the incoming freshman class is scrambling to establish an office and hire staff, so we haven’t had too much of a chance to get together as a group.


    I haven’t heard from [outgoing 2nd Ward Ald. Bob] Fioretti. I ran into him at a White Sox game and had a brief pleasant conversation, but didn’t get into any substance.


    What do you expect to be your biggest challenges?


    The same things we discussed for many months on campaign trail: Getting a handle on the city budget, addressing spending deficit, pension crisis, long term debt. These are looming fiscal issues that City Council has to deal with, that’s a pressing, urgent need. In addition to that, the development questions in the 2nd Ward. I’m going to be spending a lot of time with a community process on decisions that’ll affect development in the neighborhoods. That’s going to be time consuming.


    I’ll be hosting an On The Table event with Chicago Community Trust, we’ll be discussing proposed redevelopment of the area around Lake Shore Drive near Navy Pier and North Ave. The addition of 60 acres of green space around the lake front, straightening out the S curve at Oak Street Beach.


    Do you think of your ward as Republican?


    No, but it’s closer to a Republican majority than many areas of the city, although it’s not. The 2nd Ward did vote for [Former Gov. Pat] Quinn over [GOP challenger Bruce] Rauner in November 2014, although by a much more narrow margin than most of the city of Chicago, so that is something to keep in mind. It’s a ward full of professional working people. Increasingly it’s a ward full of families with young children, that’s very encouraging to the future of the city. It’s the ward characterized by people who are recent college graduates about to start a family or hoping to start a family, too. They’re making the choice to raise their family in the city instead of fleeing to the suburbs. For young couples, the 2nd Ward seems to be a top choice.