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Today’s City Council Preview: Police Reform, Michael Reese Overhaul, Aldermanic Power And More On Tap

Chicago aldermen meet Wednesday to take on a host of proposals including creating a civilian oversight board for Chicago Police.

Twenty-eight aldermen attend the Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall in person, while 22 aldermen chose to appear virtually, Wednesday morning, April 21, 2021. Wednesday marked the first in-person council meeting since the start of the coronavirus pandemic more than a year ago.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times/pool

Get more in-depth, daily coverage of Chicago politics at The Daily Line.

CITY HAL — A modified plan to expedite business permits, approval of a $4 billion mega-development on the Near South Side and a years-in-the-making civilian police oversight plan are among dozens of items set for consideration by the City Council on Wednesday during its last meeting before the council’s August recess. 

Officials in the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection sent an email to aldermen Tuesday afternoon announcing that they had reached a “compromise” with Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), who objected to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposal to strip permitting power over sidewalk permits from the City Council. The resulting measure mostly retains aldermen’s power to veto permits, representing a setback in Lightfoot’s long campaign to rein in the unwritten rule of “aldermanic prerogative.” 

The 91-page “Chi Biz Strong” business relief package (O2021-2182) approved by the City Council last month included a provision that would have empowered the business affairs department to approve public way permits, which are required for awnings, signs and other exterior storefront fixtures. Lightfoot said the provision was designed to make life easier for businesses, who under existing rules must wait up to four months for each permit application to be approved via ordinance in the City Council.  

But some aldermen objected to the measure, saying it would strip their ability to reject bad actors whom City Hall regulators may otherwise miss. The council opted in a razor-thin 25-24 vote last month to separate out the public way permit provision from the rest of the ordinance, and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) joined Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33) in a “defer and publish” maneuver to put the proposal on ice until the next council meeting. 

Related: Lightfoot’s business recovery package passes without sign permitting overhaul; Du Sable Lake Shore Drive approved 

City Council Committee on License and Consumer Protection chair Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) filed a Rule 41 motion this week to force a vote on the expedited sign permit proposal this week. That prompted a rebuke from Reilly, who told the Sun-Times on Monday that he was “surprised” and “disappointed” the mayor would not instead work to iron out a compromise.   

However, city officials circulated a substitute ordinance on Tuesday that empowers the department to approve the permits — but only if they have an affirmative “recommendation” in hand from the alderman who represents the site. Aldermen would have 30 days to issue the recommendation after license officials send them a completed application. 

If business affairs department officials want to approve a permit over the alderman’s objection, they would be able to submit an “applicant-sponsored ordinance” to move the permit approval through the City Council.  

The “compromise” ordinance resembles a scenario Reilly pitched last month as a way to keep aldermen in the driver’s seat without forcing business owners to wait months for full City Council approvals. 

Related: Aldermen advance business relief package, accepting blow to ‘aldermanic authority’ 

Reilly celebrated the end product in a statement to The Daily Line on Tuesday. 

“We have continued to negotiate with the Administration to achieve our shared objective: to reform an antiquated process to better serve businesses by getting them their permits much faster, while preserving aldermanic authority in the process,” Reilly wrote. “I believe we have arrived upon a fair compromise with a more reasonable ordinance that will greatly reduce the time it takes for businesses to receive their approved permits.”   

Lightfoot praised the updated version of the ordinance on Tuesday, writing in a statement that the revised plan “will eliminate an unnecessary burden for thousands of our small business owners and strengthen our post-COVID recovery efforts moving forward.” 

Officials in Lightfoot’s administration said the updated plan “will be offered as a substitute for consideration” at Wednesday’s meeting. 

Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, told The Daily Line’s CloutCast last week that his group has no preference as to whether permit power resides with aldermen or department officials — as long as businesses can get their permits adjudicated within 30 days.  

Bronzeville Lakefront 

The $4 billion Bronzeville Lakefront development planned for the former Michael Reese Hospital site also gained key approvals from aldermen on Monday and Tuesday and is set to be considered by the City Council on Wednesday. 

The City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards on Tuesday granted zoning approval (O2021-3001) for the 7 million-square-foot “Bronzeville Lakefront” mega-development. And the Committee on Housing and Real Estate during its Tuesday evening meeting approved the $96.9 million sale (O2021-2897) of the Reese property to the development team known as GRIT Chicago. 

Ald. Sophia King (4th) during the zoning committee meeting thanked city staffers, developers and the Michael Reese Advisory Council. She said the approvals are “really just the beginning” of the project, which has “been a group effort.” 

Bronzeville Lakefront “will be a sustainable development” with residential, retail and commercial space “that’s going to impact the entire city, probably the world,” King said, adding the development will provide “economic stimulus” and take vacant land “off the tax rolls.” The zoning approval will allow up to 5,000 new homes, at least 1,000 of which will be required under the city’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance to be rented at affordable rates.  

Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) commended King’s work and display of the “appropriate patience to get this done right” in working with labor, business and community groups and in keeping aldermen informed. “This is a model for making this type of development work for our city,” he added. 

“You have done the work of at least 10 aldermen,” Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) told King. 

Aldermen in the finance committee on Monday unanimously approved the development’s infrastructure agreement (O2021-2897), which King said “just lays a foundation for what’s to come.”  

Related: Reese site redevelopment plan set for final test after years of city-led negotiations 

The Bronzeville Lakefront project will encompass a “mixed-use sustainable development” including residential, retail, commercial and open space and will benefit not only the Bronzeville community but it will be a “strong economic development for the entire city,” King said.  

Related: Vote on Reese redevelopment paused at alderman’s request; Fulton Market, South Loop apartment towers set for approval   

The city paid $91 million to buy the Michael Reese property in 2009 so it could be used as a base for the 2016 Olympic Games, and taxpayers have since paid about $13 million each year to pay down the city’s debt on the site. 

CPD Settlements 

Separately, aldermen on Wednesday are set to approve nearly $2 million in payments to settle three lawsuits brought against the city for incidents related to the Chicago Police Department.  

Members of the finance committee in a 13-8 vote on Monday approved a $1.2 million payment to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of 16-year-old Pierre Loury, who was shot to death by a Chicago police officer in 2016. 

Related: Aldermen approve $1.9M in police misconduct settlements in split votes 

Officer Sean Hitz, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, shot Loury as he was running away from a parked car in North Lawndale in April 2016. Assistant Corporation Counsel Jeff Levine told aldermen on Monday that the pistol Loury had was later found to not have been loaded at the time he was shot, and it was found to be linked to a drive-by shooting that had occurred earlier that day.    

Loury had fled on foot after the car he was in was pulled over by police, Levine said. While he was stuck at the top of a wrought-iron fence, a gun dropped from Loury’s waistband, and after Loury cleared the fence and dropped on top of the gun, the officer “yelled at him to show his hands,” at which point Loury “turned over with the gun pointed” at the officer, who “fired two shots killing Loury,” Levine said.  

Separately, alderman are poised to approve a $400,000 city payment to settle a 2016 lawsuit brought by Jwan Yawer alleging that her son, Shawn Yawer, was the victim of “malicious prosecution” after he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation after being charged with aggravated battery of a police officer.   

“The core of this is really that the officers who responded used more force than was appropriate, which resulted in his head wound, and his serious arm injury, and his mental health deterioration,” Levin said on Monday.  Yawer died by suicide four years after the incident, according to Levine.   

The council is additionally set to approve a $300,000 payment to settle a lawsuit brought by an anonymous woman who alleged that a Chicago police officer “solicited sex from her and sexually assaulted her when she was minor,” according to her legal complaint.  

The following additional measures are set to be considered by the City Council on Wednesday:  

O2021-2862 — An ordinance proposed by Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) that will carve an opt-out provision into the city’s temporary cap on fees that third-party delivery apps may charge restaurants. The “Chi Biz Strong” business relief package (O2021-2183) approved by the City Council last month extended through December the city’s fee cap at 15 percent of each order in an attempt to protect small restaurants from price-gouging by delivery apps. O’Shea’s ordinance will allow restaurants to pay higher fees in exchange for preferential marketing by the apps.  

O2021-2863 — An ordinance introduced by Lightfoot in June that would require the city to mail car impoundment notices to the car’s owner or lienholder if the city finds out the impounded car is owned by someone other than the person originally identified. The city would be required to mail the notice within 10 days of learning the owner or lienholder’s identity.  

A2021-84 — The appointment of Nanette Doorley as a member of the Police Board.  

O2021-2874 — An ordinance allocating $113.4 million in grant money including more than $100 million in federal housing assistance from American Rescue Plan passed in March.  

O2021-1995 — A proposal from Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) to transfer funds within the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate. 

O2021-2878 — An ordinance from Mayor Lori Lightfoot authorizing administrative hearings to be held remotely at the discretion of the Director of Administrative Hearings, which has already been the case under the emergency health order issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

O2021-2824 — An ordinance from Lightfoot to extend from two years to five years the term of the agreement between the city, Cook County and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office that would commit the city to providing surplus equipment to the sheriff for office’s Restoring Neighborhoods Workforce Program in exchange for tapping crews from the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program to work on city projects. The original intergovernmental agreement began June 29, 2018. 

O2021-2871 — An application from Dwight Avram for a Class C tax incentive for the property at 221 N. Wood St. in the 27th Ward. Avram converted the former industrial building into Great Central Brewing Company in 2017, and the incentive would save him about $2 million in property taxes each year. 

O2021-2873 —  A Class L historic tax incentive application from Prime Group to convert five floors of the former Continental and Commercial National Bank Building at 208 S. LaSalle St. in the 42nd Ward into a hotel. The incentive will amount to an approximately $3.1 million city tax break over 12 years, but the renovation will result in $2.7 million in additional annual property taxes, according to officials. 

SO2021-2791 — An ordinance that would tweak the language of the city’s Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance to salvage city renter protections that an Illinois court struck down earlier this year. The City Council passed the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance in 2013 but the measure faced a lawsuit from a New York-based bank, and on April 30 the state’s 1st District 5th Division appellate court ruled that the rent limit provision violated Illinois’ 1997 Rent Control Preemption Act. 

O2021-2880 — An ordinance from Mayor Lori Lightfoot authorizing an intergovernmental agreement conveying an 87,500-square-foot portion of Durkin Park at 8445 S. Kolin Ave. in the 18th Ward to the city. The site would be used to build subsurface and surface-level facilities necessary for the city of Chicago to supply water to the city of Joliet in accordance with a pending supply deal.  

O2021-2888 — A lease agreement between the city and All Things Through Christ Outreach Ministries allowing the not-for-profit to establish a community garden on 5,174 square feet of land on city-owned space at 6537 S. Wood St. in the 15th Ward. 

O2021-2899 — A ground lease agreement between the city and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago for a portion of the new Joint Public Safety Training Academy to be located at 4443 W. Chicago Ave. in the 37th Ward. The Boys and Girls Club would build, own and operate a recreational facility and an outdoor area for children and would pay the city $1 per year for the ground lease.  

O2021-2988 — An ordinance that toughens the COVID-19 Eviction Protection Ordinance, which the City Council passed last June. The new ordinance requires landlords who are covered under the original ordinance to sign an affidavit pleading they have “fulfilled the requirements of the ordinance” before moving forward with an eviction filing. 

O2021-2882 — A loan agreement with Casa Durango LP and Casa Durango GP for $5.6 million in Multi-Family Program Funds to be used to build a 53-unit residential building with one-to-three bedroom units for low- and moderate-income families at 1850-58 S. Racine Ave. and 2008-12 S. Ashland Ave. in the 25th Ward.  

O2021-2889 — An agreement to restructure a loan made to Roosevelt Tower-1 at 3440 W. Roosevelt Rd. under the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program. The original loan was made in 2004 for the acquisition and building of a 126-unit senior residential facility. 

O2021-2891 — An agreement to restructure a loan made to West Ridge Senior Partners under the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program. The original loan was made in 2002 for the acquisition, building and equipping of a 99-unit affordable housing senior rental apartment building at 6142 N. California Ave. In the 50th Ward.  

O2021-2892 — An agreement to restructure a loan made to Kedzie Partners under the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program. The original loan was made in 2014 for the acquisition, construction and equipping of a 51-unit mixed-income senior rental apartment building at 4054 N. Kedzie Ave. In the 33rd Ward. 

O2021-2894 — An agreement to restructure a loan made to Eastgate Village Partners under the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program. The original loan was made in 2008 for the acquisition, construction and equipping of a 118-unit mixed-income senior multi-family building at 300 E. 26th St. In the 4th Ward.    

O2021-2881 — A redevelopment agreement between the city and Nath Construction to acquire nine parcels under the City Lots for Working Families Program to develop 10 single-family homes at 600 N. Central Park Ave., 636 N. Trumbull Ave., 643 N. Trumbull Ave., 639 N. Trumbull Ave., 637 N. Trumbull Ave., 3401 W. Fulton Blvd., 428 N. Troy St., 625 N. Christiana Ave. and 640 N. Trumbull Ave.   

O2021-2814 — An ordinance authorizing the city to acquire parcels within the Avalon/South Shore Redevelopment Project Area near the intersection of East 79th Street and South Exchange Avenue. 

O2021-2819 — An ordinance authorizing the city to acquire vacant property at 3625 W. Chicago Ave. within the Chicago/Central Park Redevelopment Project Area.  

​​O2021-2823 — An ordinance authorizing the city to acquire the former Pioneer Bank site at 4000-4006 W. North Ave., 4008 W. North Ave. and vacant parcels on the 1600 block of N. Pulaski Road and tax-increment financing for mixed-use development.  

O2021-2866 — An ordinance authorizing the negotiated sale of city-owned property at 1201-1205 W. 63rd St to Inner-City Muslim Action Network for $50,000.  

O2021-2867 — An ordinance authorizing the sale of city-owned property at 5136-5152 S. Carpenter St. and 5156-5158 S. Carpenter St to Neighborspace for $1 to expand the Stockyards Community Garden.  

The council is also set to approve all items that passed out of the zoning committee on Tuesday, including a controversial apartment tower proposed for the Weiss Hospital parking lot at 4600 N. Marine Dr. in the 46th Ward.