| by Kelly Tarrant

On Wednesday, June 28, the Chicago City Council met for the monthly meeting of the full council. The controversial vote on public comment limits, many ceremonial speeches, ordinances regulating certain business licenses, proposals aimed at commenting on President Trump policies and many more items were debated and voted on.

Some of the significant items included in this month’s meeting include:

Only 30 minutes

Despite significant public pushback, the City Council passed the 30-minute limit on public comments for full council meetings. Last year, a Cook County judge ruled that Chicago was violating the Open Meetings Act and ordered the city to provide an opportunity for members of the public to comment and ask questions during the monthly full City Council meetings. In response to the order, aldermen proposed only 30 minutes of public comment time at each meeting, with 3 minutes per person to speak. Meaning that 10 people would have the opportunity to speak during each meeting. The ordinance passed, with two dissenting votes by Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) and Alderman Ameya Pawar (47th Ward).

In response to the vote, Project Six issued a statement: “The city’s excuse for passing this unacceptable proposal was that there were already ample opportunities for people to comment at committee meetings, and that any more time for comment would be ‘redundant.’ This is not true. The full City Council meeting is one of the best outlets for members of the public to address the city’s leaders on the record and in front of the media.”

Safer massage parlors

The council passed an ordinance to increase license regulations and requirements for massage establishments. Alderman Matt O’Shea (19th Ward) sponsored the proposal. The ordinance will raise the minimum age from 15 to 18 to work in a massage business and will increase prostitution-related fines from $500 to as much as $5,000. O’Shea says that problematic massage parlors rely on prostitution, instead of the employees, whom he said are often immigrants and the victims of human traffickers. Recently, 10 massage parlors were shut down during a raid dubbed “Operation Hot Towel” in the 19th Ward.

Partially banning Airbnb

The council passed an ordinance to ban home sharing in four precincts in the 13th Ward. According to Alderman Marty Quinn (13th Ward), many residents of his ward have signed petitions in favor of restricting shared housing, better known as Airbnb. Alderman Quinn sponsored the four amended ordinances that will no longer allow shared housing units and vacation rentals. Alderman Quinn has also introduced an additional 10 amended ordinances proposed to block shared housing in precincts 6, 4, 11, 20, 22, 31, 32, 33, 38 and 42 of the 13th Ward.

Home loans for police and firefighters

The City Council passed an ordinance that would give up to 100 police officers, firefighters and paramedics $30,000 forgivable loans for buying property in eligible neighborhoods in the city. Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced the proposal to the Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund. It aims to gives first responders incentives to purchase homes within specified boundaries to help bring about stability. The purchase must be located within specific police districts and census tracts within the city. An eligible location must be located within one of these Chicago police districts, which include the Humboldt Park, Austin, Garfield, Lawndale, Chatham, Brighton, New City, Gage Park, Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Avalon Park neighborhoods. Some aldermen voiced concerns that the program would give police and firefighters money for purchasing properties in nice parts of the city instead of the more violent areas.

Tax money for pension payments

Mayor Emanuel introduced an ordinance that would allow the city to use money from 911 system fees and water and sewer taxes and fees to start ramping up payments into the retirement funds for city workers.

Less taxes for ticket resellers

City Council passed an ordinance amending the amusement tax and ticket resellers tax. The ordinance is intended to ease the tax burden and ambiguity for ticket resellers in the city. Alderman Patrick Daley Thompson (11th Ward) and Alderman Harry Osterman (48th Ward) voted no on this item, citing the city’s lost tax revenue from ticket resellers. The Illinois state tax rate is 9% of charges paid. For certain live theatrical, musical and other cultural performances held in an auditorium, theater or other space whose maximum capacity (including balconies) is more than 750 persons, the Illinois tax rate is 5%. The ordinance proposes to change the flat rate of 3 1/2% on ticket resales to 3% for larger events and 2% for smaller ones (all on top of the 9% taxed ticket). Alderman David Moore (17th Ward) expressed concern that this may be double taxation. Corporation Counsel said that it is not double taxation when the tax is not the same amount and changes as the ticket sale changes hands.

Longer notice for hourly workers

Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) and Alderman Ameya Pawar (47th Ward) introduced an ordinance and call for hearing(s) to try to remedy problems of scheduling and employment practices for low-wage workers and jobs. The proposal would mandate hourly workers get at least two weeks’ notice of any scheduling change for their work or they would be entitled to extra pay. Proponents say it would let workers plan and schedule their jobs and life better; opponents say it would put an unavoidable burden on small businesses, such as restaurants, that regularly deal with changing schedules and needs. 

Chicago opposed to high-priced drugs

Alderman Ed Burke (14th Ward) and Alderman Sophia King (4th Ward) introduced an ordinance to make pharmaceutical manufacturers disclose any price increases 90 days in advance of the increase if the drug is sold in Chicago. No word yet on what impact the proposal would have on drug prices or drug availability in Chicago.

Chicago possibly suing banks

The Committee on Finance held discussions on a proposal to join with the City of Miami in a resolution to sue banks under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 for predatory lending practices. The Supreme Court ruled that federal anti-discrimination law allows cities to sue a bank over lending practices they allege led to urban blight.

Chicago cutting ties to North Korea

Alderman Ed Burke (14th Ward) introduced an ordinance that would make the City of Chicago sever ties with any airline or financial institution that has ties to North Korea, in the wake of the death of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier. It’s unclear what “ties to North Korea” entails.

No loitering

Alderman Jason Ervin (28th Ward) introduced an ordinance that would prohibit street gang loitering​. The proposal would amend Municipal Code Chapter 8-4.

Deadline for domestic partnerships

Mayor Emanuel introduced an amendment of Municipal Code Section 2-152-072 setting a deadline for filing of Affidavit of Domestic Partnership by City of Chicago employees.

 Chicago supports the EPA

City Council passed an ordinance sponsored by Alderman Proco Joe Moreno (1st Ward) and 39 other aldermen that would support the mission of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and maintain operation of the Region 5 office in Chicago. The ordinance is in response to President Trump withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Chicago supports funding for the EPA

City Council passed a Call for opposition to the reduction in federal funding to EPA and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) and 44 other aldermen sponsored the proposal. The proposal is in response to President Trump’s reduction in funding for the EPA.

Reducing gun violence

The Committee on Public Safety held a hearing on Project Safe Neighborhoods, a federally funded program. Yale Professor Andrew Papachristos testified at the hearing via Skype and gave testimony to the merits of this program thus far. Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is a nationwide commitment to reduce gun and gang crime in America by networking existing local programs that target gun and gang crime and providing these programs with additional tools necessary to be successful.

Chicago opposes a Muslim registry

Mayor Emanuel introduced Ordinance 2-178 entitled “Prohibition on Participation in Registry Program.” The ordinance states that “No Agent or Agency shall use City monies, facilities, property, equipment, or personnel to participate in or provide support in any manner for the creation, publication, or maintenance of a Registry Program. Notwithstanding any other law, no Agent or Agency shall provide or disclose to any government authority Personal Demographic Information regarding any individual that is requested for the purpose of (1) creating a Registry Program; or (2) requiring registration of persons in a Registry Program. This includes a prohibition on making available Personal Demographic Information from any Agency database for such purposes, and includes any City database maintained by a private vendor under contract with the City.”

Chicago opposes travel to North Carolina

City Council passed an ordinance to restrict non-essential city business travel to North Carolina until North Carolina acknowledges the rights of the LGBTQ community.

Hate crimes commission

The City Council passed a resolution that would call for Governor Bruce Rauner to fill the 20-seat Illinois Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes. The ordinance was sponsored by Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd Ward).

The next full City Council meeting is scheduled for July 26.