| by Kelly Tarrant and Abigail Hart

On Wednesday, September 6, the Chicago City Council held its monthly meeting of the full council. Multiple measures about city spending and city programs were debated and voted on, and new regulations were introduced. Important business discussed and voted on in the council and committee meetings includes:


 Chicago Community Catalyst Fund

City Treasurer Kurt Summers testified on the Chicago Community Catalyst Fund to the Committee on Finance on September 5. Summers’ testimony sparked controversy about the fund and its allocation of money. In March, Summers had announced an excess of earnings at $57 million, generated from investment returns. During the March City Council meeting, Alderman Ricardo Muñoz (22nd Ward) requested $25 million from these earnings for a summer program to fight violence on Chicago’s streets, proposing to allocate $500,000 to each of the 50 wards. This request was not granted. In the September 5 meeting, Muñoz confronted Summers about the unspent $57 million, asking where the money was allocated if not to prevent Chicago’s bloody summer.

The amended Catalyst Fund totaling $5 million passed at City Council unanimously and without discussion. The names of the fund’s board members will be disclosed by the next full council meeting.


Chicago Development Fund

The joint committee meeting of Budget, Government Operations and Finance recommended an ordinance to give the Chicago Development Fund tax-exempt status through the New Markets Tax Credit program (NMTC) as a community development equity fund.

The fund provides financing for commercial and industrial projects in Chicago’s low-income neighborhoods. Before approving the recommendation, aldermen requested that the fund provide detailed accounts of their finances and projects, a task which aldermen say the fund has not done to their satisfaction in the past.

The legislation passed City Council unanimously.


Protecting Chicago from rogue autonomous cars

A stalled hearing on autonomous cars was resurrected last month at a joint committee meeting of Finance and Transportation in which aldermen tried to prevent autonomous vehicles from being allowed to operate in the city. Alderman Ed Burke (14th Ward) co-chaired the meeting and showed a video clip from the movie “Back to the Future” to give credence to his concern that the autonomous vehicles would not be able to anticipate road hazards, or could potentially lose control around playgrounds and schools.

No vote was taken on the autonomous car measure.


Residential sound insulation windows

During the City Council meeting, Alderman Burke introduced a summons for Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans to appear before a joint committee of Aviation and Finance to explain “why she should not be held in contempt” for failing to appear at a previous hearing.

Earlier this week, a joint committee of Aviation and Finance held a meeting on the Southwestside near Midway airport to allow concerned citizens to discuss the problems that they are having with windows that were installed in their homes through the Residential Sound Insulation Program (RSIP). The windows were installed by now-defunct Sound Installation LLC and have apparently exceeded their warranty. More than 60 residents attended the hearing, many voicing their concerns about the noxious odor the windows emit. Co-chair Alderman Mike Zalewski (23rd Ward) has promised a swift course of action. More than 10,000 homes have participated in the RSIP program in Chicago.


Service providers at O’Hare

An ordinance passed a council vote to increase the minimum wage for O’Hare workers to $13.45 an hour. Union advocates, such as SEIU, supported the increase, but representatives from the airline industry questioned the legality of a labor peace agreement, saying it is unlawful to apply the rule to a small labor pool.


Home-sharing prohibition continues

Alderman Marty Quinn (13th Ward) continues gathering petitions precinct by precinct in the 13th Ward to ban house-sharing programs such as Airbnb.

Through the procedure of gathering at least 25 percent of residents’ signatures in each precinct, residents can outlaw house sharing. Chicago already requires all home-sharing hosts to register with the city. The city-wide regulation also includes an extra tax on home-sharing hosts, as well as a limit to the number of units in high rises that can participate in home sharing. Before the current measure, there were 14 precincts banning home sharing in the 13th Ward, an additional seven precients passed bans at City Council this month to bring the banned number up to 21. Alderman Quinn and Alderman Zalewski introduced another round of precincts to add to the home-sharing ban in their respective wards for next month’s meeting.


Lawsuits

City Council approved more than $10 million in lawsuit settlements against the city. There were four settlements, two involving the Chicago Police Department’s improper use of tasers. One plaintiff was left paraplegic, leading to the largest settlement of $9.5 million. Alderman David Moore (17th Ward) voted against allocating funds to the record settlement.


Secondary cell phone markets

City Council unanimously passed an amendment that creates strict regulations of secondary cell phone markets. The amendment attempts to prevent sales of stolen cell phones.


Voter data breach

Alderman Burke and Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward) introduced a resolution calling for a hearing with the Chicago Board of Elections to explain how a breach occurred that potentially exposed records of Chicago voters. The alleged breach of information of 1.8 million Chicago registered voters included their names, addresses, birthdates and last four digits of their Social Security numbers. The resolution has been referred to the Committee on Finance.


Regulations for waste removal

Alderman Burke introduced an ordinance to regulate waste haulers who remove waste and recyclables from private properties. The measure was referred to the Committee on Finance.


Banning firearms at city rallies

Alderman Ariel Reboyras (30th Ward) and Alderman Burke co-sponsored a resolution to prohibit firearms and weapons from public assemblies, such as protests and rallies. “Open carry can…be used as an act of intimidation,” the resolution says. The resolution has been referred to the Committee on Public Safety.


Honorable mention

The council honored the Chicago police officer who was shot in the leg during the robbery of a T-Mobile store in July. Two 9th District Chicago police officers responded to a robbery in progress, resulting in Officer Vicky Mendoza being shot in her leg. Officer Mendoza pursued the offender, and he and two others were immediately taken into custody.


The next City Council meeting is scheduled for October 11, 2017, at 10 a.m.