Chicago’s City Council held its monthly meeting on Wednesday February 28, at City Hall. A new renovation deal for O’Hare Airport, restrictions on body armor, police misconduct settlements and many other items were discussed and voted on. Some of the items included:
Questionable O’Hare expansion deal
Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced an $8.5 billion expansion deal for O’Hare Airport but with criticism by American Airlines that an inside deal was made. American Airlines claims the deal gives Chicago-based United Airlines an unfair advantage. Emanuel said no taxpayer funds will be used to expand the airport. Additionally, new amended lease agreements of cargo facilities and hangars at O’Hare will increase the annual revenue from those leases from about $4 million to about $41 million and help in the O’Hare expansion. The proposal will be debated and voted on at next month’s council meeting.
Vienna Beef headquarters
City Council passed a proposal to allow Vienna Beef to acquire property at 1880 W. Fullerton in the 32nd Ward for $765,000 after the expansion of Elston Avenue realignment. Plans are to develop the less-than-one-acre plot with a Chick-fil-A and a Panera Bread. The Vienna Beef land sale was surrounded with controversy when, after Alderman Ed Burke, 14th Ward, brokered the tax break deal for the Vienna Beef company and their new headquarters, his private law firm was hired by Vienna to reduce their property tax bill with the county.
Police misconduct settlement
City Council members passed a $20 million settlement referred to as the “Code of Silence” case. The settlement passed regarding off-duty Chicago Police Officer Joseph Frugoli. Frugoli smashed his SUV into a car nine years ago, killing Fausto Manzera, age 21, and Andrew Cazares, age 24, while under the influence of alcohol.
Controversy surrounded this settlement among several council members, because the incident occurred while Frugoli was off duty. The case was already on trial when it was revealed during Frugoli’s testimony that not all of the discovery was provided to prosecutors. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall admonished the city and is considering sanctioning the city. Under Mayor Emanuel, Chicago has been sanctioned eight times for a total of more than $1 million for failing to turn over evidence in other police misconduct lawsuits. Three aldermen cast “no” votes for the settlement: Aldermen Ray Lopez, 15th Ward; David Moore, 17th Ward; and Jason Ervin, 28th Ward. Members of the Manzera and Cazares families provided a press conference at City Hall immediately after the vote, calling their settlement a “movement” to hold police accountable. Frugoli is serving an eight-year sentence in prison.
Ending body armor sales in Chicago
Alderman Burke and Alderman Pat O’Connor, 40th Ward, introduced an ordinance banning the sale or possession of body armor in Chicago. Called the “Paul Bauer Act,” this ordinance came as a result of the recent shooting of 18th District Commander Paul Bauer, who was fatally shot on February 13 by a four-time felon who wore body armor.
Burke also recalled the 1988 shooting of Police Officer Irma Ruiz, a then-40-year-old mother of four, who was shot and killed confronting an armed offender at an elementary school filled with children. Already inside the school, Officer Irma Ruiz learned of the situation and confronted the gunman. Despite being wounded, Officer Ruiz’ partner was able to return fire and kill the gunman. Burke asked City Clerk Anna Valencia to add the names of all members of the council as sponsors to the new proposed ordinance. Council stood for a moment of silence to honor fallen officers, including Officers Bauer and Ruiz.
Sexual harassment in Chicago workplaces
A special Finance Committee meeting was held to discuss the recently revealed allegations of sexual harassment at Chicago’s Ford plants. Keith Hunt, attorney for the class-action lawsuit against the Ford Plant, testified along with three plaintiffs. A New York Times investigation in late December 2017 revealed ongoing abuse and harassment for decades at the two Chicago plants. Back in 2002, Ford spent $10 million to train managers and male autoworkers and established a tip line, after the EEOC found proof of harassment. This latest lawsuit filed identifies the same two plants, Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant and Ford’s Chicago Heights, Illinois, stamping facility.
Additional witnesses spoke to council about their Ford harassment experiences, and Lorna Brett, former president of the Chicago Chapter of NOW (National Organization for Women), also testified on the need for better regulations in the workplace. Brett now serves as spokesperson for Alaina Hampton, the woman accusing Madigan aide Kevin Quinn of sexual harassment.
Potential Amazon site
City Council passed an incentive package for the Old Main Post Office, a proposed site for Amazon’s second national HQ. The site has received a Class L Incentive. Building owner The 601W Companies will save $100 million over the life of the project due to the tax incentive. In September 2017, Mayor Emanuel and The 601W Companies revealed the new plans for the site, including offices and amenities such as a fitness center, roof-top space, and meeting rooms. The building, located along the Chicago River, will also have outdoor cafes.
Municipal ID used for voting
A Memo from City Clerk Valencia dated February 16, 2018, was distributed to aldermen announcing that the city’s new Municipal ID program, called the “CityKey,” can be used as a form of identification to register to vote or “in some cases, to vote.” Designed for undocumented immigrants, the homeless or those recently released from prison, concerns are that non-citizens will be able to vote. Several aldermen voted against the Municipal ID Program for that reason. Alderman Anthony Napolitano, 41st Ward, has asked for a special hearing on this issue. The CityKey also serves as a library card and Ventra card, as well as offering discounts.
City Council passed a proposal to have Sterling Bay bring a much-needed Chicago public library to the 27th Ward, to be located at 118 N Aberdeen. Alderman Walter Burnett, 27th Ward, applauded Sterling Bay’s commitment and welcomed a new library in a part of his ward that needs a library. Sterling Bay will help design and build the library and will donate the building to the city when it’s done. Neighborhood Opportunity Funds will also be used for the renovation. The Sterling Bay company has also brought Google offices and the new McDonald’s headquarters to the 27th Ward.
New Park District land
City Council passed an agreement for a site on the Little Calumet River in the 9th Ward that will be donated by ArcelorMittal. This 14-acre land donation to the Chicago Park District comes with the understanding that the land will be preserved as a habitat for migrating and breeding birds and other wildlife common to the area.
The City Council passed additional shared-housing bans in Ward 13. Alderman Marty Quinn, 13th Ward, now has a total of 27 out of 48 precincts banning Airbnb. Alderman Michael Zalewski, 23rd Ward, has 8 precincts out of 39 precincts that ban Airbnb. In total, shared-housing is now banned in 35 city precincts in Wards 13 and 23.
The next City Council meeting will be held March 28, 2018, at 10 a.m.