Chicago aldermen attempted Wednesday to address equity in housing, justice in police settlements and the ethics rules that govern their own behavior.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposal to tackle the harms of segregation by spurring residential and job development along Chicago’s public transit lines was approved during Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
Aldermen voted 36-10 in support of the ordinance, with scant discussion. Council members Marty Quinn, Raymond Lopez, Nicholas Sposato, Anthony Napolitano, Brendan Reilly, Brian Hopkins, Silvana Tabares, Jim Gardiner, Edward Burke and Michele Smith voted no.
The changes include extending incentives for homes and businesses built near bus and train lines, as well as for reductions in parking spaces and for affordable units. In addition, new parking in residential buildings near rail stations will be capped, and standards for pedestrian-friendly designs will be implemented within four blocks of train stations.
Lightfoot’s plan also aims to address gentrification. In high-cost areas, proposed affordable housing projects will be entitled to an up-or-down zoning committee vote within a year. And new single-family construction will be prohibited without a zoning change in areas zoned for multifamily housing in gentrifying neighborhoods.
The legislation does not change existing procedures for approving development, including the practice of aldermanic prerogative, which grants the City Council member who represents that ward an unofficial final say over projects there.
In a post-council meeting news conference, Lightfoot said the ordinance will both promote racial equity and make streets more “welcoming.”
“Whether residents are walking, biking, driving or in a wheelchair, they can participate in the economic and cultural vibrancy of our great city,” Lightfoot said. “This is the most comprehensive and equity-focused update to the city’s equitable transit-oriented development policies to date.”
Also Wednesday, aldermen approved a bundle of ethics amendments that will overhaul the rules enforcing good government practices for a second time under Lightfoot’s first term. But the final version was watered down after negotiations between the legislation’s chief architect, 43rd Ald. Michele Smith, and the mayor.
Among the provisions in the package are a much-higher $20,000 fine cap for those who violate the ethics ordinance and a ban on non-council members, including former aldermen, lobbying on the floor.
Also new: Spouses and domestic partners are now included in determining conflicts of interest, and conflict-of-interest restrictions will be broadened to include any action or decision that could benefit an official or their relatives or partner, versus just contracted firms of city employees or relatives. Contractors will also be required to provide ethics and sexual harassment training.
Overall, the package was watered down from Smith’s earlier version. The Board of Ethics will now be required to give people a 10-day notice if it finds probable cause they violated the ethics ordinance, for example. And initiatives that were scrapped include requirements for subcontractors with the city to adhere to campaign contribution limits, and for elected officials to leave the council chambers when a vote or discussion occurs on something on which they have a conflict of interest.
Lastly, aldermen approved more than $11 million in police misconduct settlements Wednesday. They will go toward the family of a man fatally shot by Chicago police, a man whose murder conviction was vacated after the police investigation fell apart and a man alleging excessive force by officers during a takedown arrest.
In the first case, the $4.25 million settlement was approved 37-9, with Quinn, Lopez, Tabares, Sposato, Napolitano, Burke and Gardiner voting no, along with Ald. Gilbert Villegas and Ald. Felix Cardona.
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July 20, 2022 at 09:38PM