PI Original Ellyn Fortino Wednesday October 16th, 2013, 5:32pm

Chicago Aldermen Introduce CEO-Worker Pay Disclosure Ordinance, Police Torture Reparations Package

Progress Illinois provides a recap of Wednesday's Chicago City Council meeting.

Ald. Ed Burke (14th) and Will Burns (4th) want publicly-traded companies seeking financial incentives from the city of Chicago to disclose the pay difference between their chief executives and rank-and-file employees.

The two aldermen introduced the Executive Compensation Disclosure Ordinance at Wednesday's city council meeting.

"Companies that grossly overpay their top executives are simply not deserving of public subsidies," Burke said in a statement. "And this data would be very useful in helping the members of the city council weed out such requests."

The measure is also meant to provide more transparency to the public, Burns added.

Under the proposed ordinance, publicly-traded companies that want a city grant, loan, concession agreement, proceeds of bond funds or tax increment financing (TIF) dollars, along with other subsidies, would have to provide the ratio of top executive compensation to median rank-and-file employee pay.

The ordinance comes on the heels of a new proposal the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission released last month that would mandate public firms to disclose CEO-worker pay ratios.

Last year, CEOs earned 354 times what the typical worker made, according to the AFL-CIO. Executive pay is currently 277 times that of an average workers' pay, compared to only 20 times as much back in 1965, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The ordinance has been referred to the finance committee, which Burke chairs. If approved by the full city council, the measure would take effect upon passage and publication.

Reparations for Chicago police torture survivors

Alds. Joe Moreno (1st) and Howard Brookins (21st) introduced an ordinance at Wednesday's meeting calling on the city to set aside $20 million for financial compensation and other forms of redress to the survivors of police torture under the orders of former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

Between 1972 and 1991, Burge and his officers used torture to coerce at least 120 African-American Chicagoans into confessing to crimes, such as rapes and murders, that they did not commit. The former Chicago police commander was convicted in 2010 of perjury for lying about the police tactic of torturing suspects into confessions. He’s currently serving a four-and-a-half year sentence in a North Carolina prison.

Last month, the city council approved settlements worth a combined $12.3 million for two Burge victims. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel publicly apologized for the dark chapter in the city's history after last month's council meeting.

"We have to reconcile our past and start to write a future and a new chapter for the children of the city of Chicago and for the city," Emanuel said.

But Alice Kim with the Chicago Torture Justice Memorial Project said reconciling doesn’t mean forgetting the past.

"It means the opposite," she said at a news conference before today's meeting. "It means remembering this dark history so that it doesn’t happen again."

Those pushing for the ordinance say it serves as a formal apology to the police torture survivors and their families. Several provisions of the ordinance extend beyond financial compensation and are meant to help address the physiological and emotional distress that continues to be a reality for many of the torture survivors.

The ordinance looks to set up a medical, psychological and vocational center on the South Side. It would also provide victims with free enrollment in the City Colleges of Chicago system and require the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to incorporate a lesson about the police torture cases in history classes. As part of the measure, the city would also have to fund public memorials about the torture cases.

The goal is to also set up a financial commission and a public comment process to help determine how much money should be used toward torture survivors versus the other forms of redress.

It's not yet clear where the $20 million would come from to pay for such an effort, but Brookins floated the idea of speed camera revenue as one idea.

Moreno noted that the city sets aside tens of millions of dollars each year to settle police torture cases and to pay attorneys, so overall, $20 million is a fair amount to allocate for the measure.

Anthony Holmes, one of Burge's first known victims, symbolizes why such an ordinance is needed, said Joey Mogul with the People's Law Office representing Holmes and other police torture survivors.

Holmes was tortured by police in 1973 through electrical shock and repeated suffocation. He was forced to confess to a murder he didn’t commit. Holmes was never exonerated for the crime he did not commit and served 30 years in prison. Holmes was a key witness against Burge at the ex-commander's perjury trial.

Because the statue of limitations is now expired on any torture claims that Holmes could bring, he can't seek compensation for the torture he suffered via a civil lawsuit, Mogul said.

"He stands here as a man who has been out of jail now for almost 10 years," added G. Flint Taylor, co-founder of the People's Law Office. "His job is delivering papers. He has no health insurance. John Burge has a pension. All of these officers who tortured him not only have pensions, they have health care. They are fully supported by the city of Chicago. There's something wrong with that picture."

Mogul said there are 30 to 40 other torture victims who are in a similar situation and cannot seek redress due to the statute of limitations.

The measure has been referred to the finance committee.

Stiffer sentences for gun crimes

City council members discussed at length and approved a non-binding resolution that calls on the Illinois General Assembly to strengthen the state's sentencing laws for gun crimes, requiring offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.

Stalled state legislation, proposed by State Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Chicago), looks to do just that. The measure would require those convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, and other felons convicted of using a firearm, to serve 85 percent of their sentences. The pending bill also includes stricter sentences for those convicted of gun crimes.

Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said convicted gang members who have not had to serve their full sentence in jail have no reason not to pick up a gun again.

"Those are the ones who are out there terrorizing every part of the city of Chicago," he said. "Gang members that all of you have in your communities ... don't care about getting locked up because they know they're going to get [back] on the streets in six months. Those are the people that would be affected by this, and for that I stand in strong support of this."

Brookins said he agrees more has to be done to help stymie violent crime, such as creating more jobs and ramping up police on the streets, but he said mandatory minimum sentences aren't the best approach.

"We keep trying to do that in this country with respect to drug prevention and the whole war on drugs," he said. "What it has cost our society is a whole bunch of money to incarcerate people, and it hasn't stopped the problem," Brookins added.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) responded that mandatory minimum sentences may not be as effective when it comes to drug offenses, because drug addiction is a public health issue. Carrying a gun illegally, however, isn't an illness or a disease, he said.

"It's just criminal," Pawar stressed.

Officials with the Illinois Department of Corrections, however, have said that the stiffer sentencing would mean prisons would be overcrowded, adding some 3,900 more inmates to the system. It would also cost $1 billion over 10 years to handle the increased number of inmates, state officials say.

TIF surplus for schools

Meanwhile, members of Raise Your Hand For Illinois Public Education blasted the mayor at a press conference before the meeting over his decision to declare a TIF surplus for next year's budget, but with only 25 percent of that surplus balance going to the city and the Chicago Public Schools.

CPS would see $20 million to $25 million from the surplus, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The education activists said they were upset and angry by the amount of TIF funds planned to go toward schools, given the fact that the school district is grappling with a $1 billion budget deficit and individual school budgets are being slashed.

Other happenings

The city council signed off on the reappointment of Inspector General Joe Ferguson for another four-year term. Ferguson, however, is expected to only stay on as the city's watchdog through next summer.

Also, Ald. Deborah Graham's (29th) controversial ordinance that would prohibit patrons of Chicago businesses located in dry precincts from bringing their own bottle of alcohol, or BYOB, was referred back to the public safety committee. A number of aldermen had concerns about the measure's implications for businesses in their wards. Graham asked that the measure remain in committee so that language can be added to "protect the public and small businesses" across the city. 

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