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11th Ward Appointment Falters As Fossil Fuel Divestment, Demolition Fee Ordinances Kick Off Era Of Electronic Voting

City Council will meet Wednesday — but officials won't vote on a new alderman to represent the 11th Ward.

Alderpeople attend a City Council meeting on Sept. 14, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

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CITY HALL — The City Council is set to take up dozens of rule changes, development approvals, resolutions and appointments during its monthly meeting on Wednesday — but none of them will be the confirmation of a new alderman to represent the 11th Ward on the Near South Side.

Ordinances codifying the city’s divestment from fossil fuel companies and extending the life of a controversial anti-gentrification measure are set to be among the first votes taken through a new electronic voting system being rolled out by City Clerk Anna Valencia’s office. Aldermen approved the change (R2021-1487) last month and were trained on the new system last week.

Related: Remote voting comes closer to reality

Days after Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11) was convicted on federal tax fraud charges on Feb. 14, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she hoped to fast-track a nomination so that the City Council could vote to confirm their new colleague at Wednesday’s meeting. The process appeared on track at the end of last week, when Committee on Committees and Rules chair Ald. Michelle Harris (8) scheduled a special Tuesday afternoon meeting to take up the nomination.  

Related: With Daley Thompson ‘guilty’ verdict, clock begins ticking to appoint new 11th Ward alderman  

But on Monday evening, Lightfoot signaled she would need more time to nail down her choice.  

“Mayor Lightfoot is committed to finding a qualified candidate to become the next Alderman of the 11th Ward,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement. “And so, a bit more time is needed to ensure that the residents of the 11th Ward have the best representation possible.”  

The spokesperson declined to elaborate on how much time is “a bit more.”  

On Tuesday morning, the rules committee meeting was canceled.  

State law made Thompson ineligible for public office the moment he was convicted, setting off a 60-day legal window for the City Council to confirm a replacement nominated by the mayor. The deadline means the council has until April 14 to confirm her choice.  

The next regular council meeting is set for April 27, meaning Lightfoot will likely need to schedule a special meeting to meet the state legal deadline.  

The appointment process got off to a slow start almost immediately.   

On the Monday that Thompson was convicted, Lightfoot wrote in a statement that she would be “outlining an open and transparent process” to fill the vacancy “this week.” But it was not until nine days later, on Feb. 23, that the mayor’s office opened the gate on applications and finalized the appointment of a four-member search committee.  

On March 15, the mayor’s office released the names of the 27 people who sent in applications. They included multiple candidates with law enforcement backgrounds, like former Fraternal Order of Police leader Patrick Murray, and some with ties to the Daley political organization, including Denise McBroom, who was Thompson’s chief of staff.  

But the mayor has faced considerable pressure to appoint an Asian American candidate to the post, as the 11th Ward is virtually guaranteed to be redrawn to incorporate a majority-Asian American constituency before the next round of elections in 2023.  

Related: Advocates for city’s first Asian American-majority ward make final push for a stronger ‘voice in our democracy’  

The applicants include multiple Asian American candidates, including firefighter Donald Don, United Airlines executive Nicole Lee, attorney Meonith Hoan and Chicago Park District employee Wade Chan.  

The Sun-Times reported Tuesday that the selection committee presented Lightfoot with two finalists, including one Asian American candidate.  

Lightfoot acknowledged in a news conference last month that “there’s a lot of interest in picking someone who’s Asian,” but she stopped short of making any commitments, saying she is “going to pick someone who I believe is going to serve that community the best.”   

“I want to choose the best person who presents themselves as someone with great knowledge and passion for that community, which is very diverse,” the mayor said on Feb. 23. “There’s a number of things that are happening in that ward, particularly around economic development. So I want to make sure we choose someone who is ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.”  

As recently as Friday, Lightfoot said she was committed to lining up a new alderman for confirmation by this week.  

“The residents of the 11th Ward deserve to know who their alderman is so they can go back to business,” the mayor said on Friday. “There is work to be done. Streets need paving. We need to make sure they can get constituent services. It is not fair to have a very small staff now to shoulder that responsibility. So, yes, the goal is to get someone named and picked in time for them to be voted on at next week’s City Council meeting.”  

Additionally on Wednesday, the council is set to take up a resolution for immediate consideration to create a new Special Committee on for Casino selection to be chaired by Ald. Tom Tunney (44).  

Fossil fuel divestment ordinance, other City Council business  

The following citywide ordinances and resolutions are scheduled for final votes of approval during Wednesday’s meeting:  

O2022-672 — An ordinance forbidding the city from investing approximately $6.7 billion in assets with a list of major fossil fuel companies. The fossil fuel divestment ordinance, which is  sponsored by Ald. George Cardenas (12), Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), Ald. Maria Hadden (49) and Ald. Daniel La Spata (1), requires the Treasurer’s Office to develop a “written investment policy” with a “list of the top companies that are coal, oil, and gas reserve owners, ranked by the potential carbon emissions embedded in their reserves.”    

The ordinance would only apply to direct city investments and would not restrict bond proceeds held by city trustees or any of the city’s four pension funds. However, City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin has already divested more than $70 million in city-issued bonds from companies her office has identified as “coal, oil, and gas reserve owners,” according to her office.    

Related: Committees unanimously approve measure for Chicago to divest most assets from fossil fuels  

O2022-664— An ordinance allowing the Chicago Department of Planning and Development’s commissioner to “enter into land banking agreements” with the Cook County Land Bank Authority and claim properties directly from the biennial Cook County Scavenger Sale. The commissioner of the Department of Housing would have similar power. Officials from the city and land bank hope to harness the ordinance so both entities can pool together vacant properties under their care and jointly issue Requests for Proposal to look for private developers to buy them.    

Related: Aldermen advance land banking ordinance after pushing for assurance they won’t be ‘bulldozed over’  

O2021-364 — An ordinance to bar people who are charged with or convicted of hate crimes and treason from doing business with the city. An amended version of Ald. Gilbert Villegas’ (36) ordinance added hate crimes to the list of convictions or charges that would disqualify someone from doing business with the city. The ordinance defines hate crimes as “any crime committed on the basis of the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin of an individual or group of individuals.”   

Related: Proposal banning people charged with hate crimes, treason from doing business with city clears hurdle  

O2022-273 — An ordinance proposed by Ald. Brian Hopkins(2) that would exempt “charitable food vendors” from most city sanitation rules that apply to food trucks. The proposal was designed as a “carveout” that would exempt certain non-profit groups from many regulations in the city’s food truck ordinance. It was written to spare volunteers from organizations like the 511 Club and the Red Cross, who “attend large-scale fires” and “provide hot coffee, hot chocolate” and “prepackaged snacks” to firefighters, from the city’s “very stringent requirements” for food trucks that prepare food on the spot, Hopkins said.  

Or2022-87 — $450,000 payment to settle a lawsuit brought by Dennis Burris, whose brother Jack Burris was killed in a collision with an unmarked Chicago Police squad car that was engaged in a chase in 2017.    

Or2022-88 — A $175,000 payment to settle a lawsuit brought against the city by Krystyna Poczatek, who suffered severe injuries when she was hit by an office driving a squad car in 2017.  

O2022-670 — An ordinance amending the Emergency Rental Assistance Program software contract with Unqork, Inc. to raise the compensation cap from $600,000 to $1.2 million to accommodate the second tranche of Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding.  

R2022-146 — A resolution sponsored by Ald. Pat Dowell (3) supporting President Joe Biden’s decision to nominate a Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.   

R2021-209 — A resolution by Villegas that calls on credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian, and Transunion to “allow a 60 day grace period for reported late payments before factoring those payments into credit scores.”   

R2021-996 — A resolution from Villegas calling for the city to “include Middle Eastern or North African Americans as [a] minority group.” A tweaked version of the resolution also calls on the city “to conduct a study regarding the inclusion of [Middle Eastern or North African] Americans as a minority group for the purpose of the city’s construction” minority hiring program, Villegas said.      

The following location-specific measures are set for approval:  

O2022-885 — An ordinance extending a surcharge on demolitions in Pilsen and the area surrounding the 606 Bloomingdale Trail through April 1, 2024.  

O2022-883 — An ordinance authorizing the expenditure of about $2.5 million in tax-increment financing for road work surrounding the ongoing “Salt District” theater rehab at 1357 N. Elston Ave. in the 27th Ward.  

Related: Anti-gentrification measure, TIF for Morton Salt shed road work advance to City Council  

O2022-668 — An ordinance to transfer about 202 acres of city-owned land along the west edge of O’Hare Airport to the Illinois Tollway Authority to make way for the construction of the new I-490 tollway, which is planned to connect the I-90 Jane Addams Tollway to the north with the I-294 Tri-State Tollway to the south. It would create a feeder for the I-390 highway to eventually open more direct access to the airport from west suburbs like Itasca and Elk Grove Village. The tollway will pay the city about $107.8 million for the land in four installments, a payment the city may only spend on airport infrastructure.   

Related: Land deal moves forward to ‘create a backdoor to O’Hare’ with new west tollway  

O2022-667 — An ordinance allowing the city to transfer up to $90 million of the city’s bonding authority to the Chicago Housing Authority to facilitate the issuance of tax-exempt bonds for the rehabilitation of the 500-unit Albany Terrace Apartments, an affordable senior housing complex around 3700 W. Congress Pkwy. in the 24th and 28th wards.  

O2021-5745 — An $11.05 million tax-increment financing payment to replace the mechanical system and roof at Otis Elementary School at 525 N. Armour St. in the 1st Ward. The project also calls for masonry work and the shortening of the school’s chimney stack.    

O2021-5727 — An $8.9 million tax-increment financing disbursement to replace the mechanical system and roof and fund masonry repairs at Carter Elementary School at 2908 W. Washington Blvd. in the 27th Ward.    

O2022-671 — The renewal of Cook County Class 7(c) tax status for Chris Pappas of CPMOK Properties, LLC for the 25,659-square-foot medical office building at 10749-10801 S. Western Ave. in the 19th Ward. The renovation project was initially completed in 2018, and the tax incentive is expected to save the applicant $155,276 over five years.  

O2022-669 — An ordinance allowing Housing Community Partners III LP to restructure a $4.3 million Multi-Family Program Fund loan for a 12-building, 167-unit affordable housing complex around the intersection of 67th Street and Stewart Avenue in the 20th Ward.    

The restructuring will allow a potential new owner, the Englewood-based firm 5T Englewood Inc., to buy and rehab the site while maintaining the units as affordable, according to briefing materials given to aldermen.    

(O2022-673 — An ordinance authorizing the sale of a city-owned lot at 508-10 S. Cicero Ave. in the 29th Ward to Christ Ministries Apostolic Church, which plans to use the space as a parking lot. The land will be sold for $10,000, which was its appraised fair market value, according to city documents.    

The council is also set to approve all items that passed the council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards during its regular meeting on Tuesday.  

Related: Zoning committee to hear plans for two Fulton Market towers, new pot dispensary in Wicker Park  

Finally, the council is set to hold a delayed vote on a $1.7 settlement to end a lawsuit by Mia Wright, who was dragged out of her car and beaten by Chicago police officers at the Brickyard Mall in 2017. A group of police-allied aldermen deferred and published the payout last month.