| by Kelly Tarrant

This week the Chicago City Council held its monthly full council meeting for January. A new contract for many unionized city workers, city TIF funding for a Presence Health headquarters and settlements for police misconduct cases were among the issues that were voted on and discussed.

City Council has passed new 5-year union deals for more than 31 labor unions with more than 7,700 workers from 15 city departments, including Streets and Sanitation, Water Management, Aviation, Buildings, Transportation, and Fleet and Facility Management. In 2017, Joseph Ferguson, Chicago’s inspector general, recommended that the city negotiate union salaries “to predetermined scheduled increases.” Mayor Rahm Emanuel rejected that recommendation; instead, nearly half of the 7,700 workers will receive annual raises of 2.1 percent over the next five years. Additionally, all will have to pay more for healthcare. The Fraternal Order of Police and several other unions remain to be negotiated.

Presence Health is receiving the $5.5 million TIF it was promised in 2013 when courted to keep its corporate headquarters (200 S. Wacker Drive) in Chicago. Council members debated for more than two hours on whether the city should provide tax dollars to a private agency that restricts access to reproductive health and birth control measures. Presence will build health centers in four underserved areas in Chicago. The measure passed City Council 31-18, making it the closest vote since Mayor Emanuel took office in 2011.

A settlement in the amount of $9.3 million has passed the council, related to the John Burge torture scandal. James Kluppelberg, who spent 25 years behind bars from the false allegations of setting a fire and killing a woman and her five children in 1984, received a certificate of innocence in 2013. Kluppelberg’s case was assisted by the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School.

City Council passed a fee increase to remove a boot on vehicles in private lots. Sponsored by 1st Ward Alderman Proco Joe Moreno, the removal fee will increase from $140 to $170. While it will be easier for private towing companies to operate parking boots on private lots, the licensing fees for towing companies will increase from $250 to $1,000. Alderman Moreno had tried to pass this same ordinance in August 2017; however, the council took no action on the subject then.

Funds will be shifted from the Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund to create a Flexible Housing subsidy that will help provide more resources for the growing homeless population. The subsidy will provide rental assistance and streamline the shelter process for homeless people. A recent count in 2017 indicates that there are more than 5,600 homeless people in Chicago, with approximately 70% using shelter assistance.

City Council has passed a non-binding resolution to recommend that the Food and Drug Administration revoke the ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with other men in the previous year. Gay advocates claim the ban was originated out of stigma rather than scientific facts. Other countries, such as the UK, have already modified the ban to three months, by using advanced detection screening.

City Council has passed the appointment of John Tully as commissioner of the Department of Streets and Sanitation. Tully is a 23-year veteran of the city and will be replacing retiring commissioner Charles Williams. Mayor Emanuel credits Tully for having worked alongside Williams, who implemented the grid refuse collection and other reform measures, including graffiti reduction and tree trimming.

The 13th Ward has expanded its condemnation of house-sharing (Airbnb) to 26 precincts, with an additional petition introduced at the council meeting on Wednesday. Alderman Marty Quinn has said he is banning house-sharing due to a tremendous outcry in his ward. The neighboring 23rd Ward has also successfully petitioned to ban house-sharing, currently with bans in 8 precincts.

Aldermen Ed Burke (14th Ward), Patrick O’Connor (40th Ward) and Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward) introduced an ordinance to seek licensing of in-home healthcare agencies within the city of Chicago. Such agencies will have to obtain a city license in addition to their state licenses issued through the Department of Public Health. There are 759 home health agencies licensed by the State of Illinois to date. This move stems from a Chicago Tribune report that exposes the lack of oversight, including no criminal background checks required. If passed, this license will be regulated by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

The next City Council meeting will be held February 28, 2018, at 10 a.m.