Progress Illinois provides highlights from Wednesday’s busy Chicago City Council meeting.
Chicago’s City Hall saw quite a bit of commotion Wednesday before the city council meeting, including a sit-in staged by members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School.
Four coalition members were arrested after sitting in front of the elevators on the second floor, blocking access to those seeking to enter or exit the floor. They held a “Save Dyett” banner, chanting call-and-response style with a group of supporters: “What do we want? Dyett! When do we want it? Now!”
The civil disobedience was as an escalation of the coalition’s ongoing campaign to re-open Dyett, a South Side public high school that was phased out by the school district and officially closed in June. The group wants to see the school re-opened as a global leadership and green technology open-enrollment high school. The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School is one of three groups pushing separate proposals to the school district about the now-shuttered Dyett campus.
Another group of advocates also spoke out before the meeting, calling for more transparency regrading the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) use of stop-and-frisk practices.
Alds. Joe Moreno (1st) and Roberto Maldonado (26th) introduced the Stop, Transparency, Oversight and Protection (STOP) Act, which would require the CPD to collect and publicly share data on all stops and frisks.
Currently, Chicago police officers have to fill out contact cards for stops that do not lead to an arrest or ticket. Contact cards collect information on who was stopped and why the stop occurred. Officers are not required to record information about frisks.
Under the STOP Act — which is backed by ChiStops and over 30 other organizations, including the Black Youth Project 100, Chicago Votes and We Charge Genocide — Chicago police would have to document the perceived race, gender and age of the person being stopped, the name and badge number of all involved police officers as well as where and why the stop occurred and whether it resulted in a frisk or search. Details on whether police issued a warning, ticket or made an arrest would also have to be recorded. Among other requirements, the ordinance mandates that police provide receipts to those who are stopped and that CPD publicly release stop-and-frisk data on a quarterly basis.
The ordinance comes four months after the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois issued a critical report on the CPD’s stop-and-frisk practices. CPD’s tactics disproportionately affect the city’s communities of color, according to the report.
According to the ACLU, there were over 250,000 police stops in Chicago last summer that did not lead to an arrest, and 72 percent of those stops involved African Americans. Chicagoans, the report adds, were stopped last summer four times more often than New Yorkers during the peak of that city’s use of stop and frisk in 2011. The ACLU also argued that the CPD is not recording and publicly releasing enough data on its stops and frisks.
“The Chicagoans who are often stopped by the police are predominately people of color, and disproportionately black people of color — people who look like me. People who are around my age, and people who are in my family and in my community,” Gillian Giles, a youth organizer with ChiStops, said at a press conference announcing the STOP Act’s introduction. “Being stopped by the police is terrifying. Being stopped and frisked by the police, at best, is degrading. Being stopped and frisked by the police when you’ve done nothing wrong is unnecessary.”
The CPD issued a statement back in March responding to the ACLU’s report, saying it “expressly prohibits racial profiling and other bias based policing.”
“Over the past three years CPD has improved training to ensure police officers are aware of this prohibition and we will continue these important efforts,” the CPD statement said, adding that the department has also updated its contact card policy over the last year.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) called the STOP Act a “common-sense initiative.”
“All it is is documenting the stops that (the police) make, and if the stops are legitimate, they’re legitimate. We understand that. We have no problem with that,” the alderman.
On Wedensday, Sawyer helped introduce an ordinance with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel designed to prevent future privatization debacles, like the parking meter deal.
Aldermen would have to be informed of a privatization proposal at least 90 days before taking a vote. Independent evaluations of privatization plans would also be required under the measure, as would a public hearing on each proposal before there’s a council vote.
Sawyer said it is important to provide an open forum to discuss potential privatization deals and to provide aldermen with more time to vet such agreements.
Asked whether the measure would take privatization power away from the mayor, Sawyer said: “It puts the power in the hearing process. The mayor still has an ultimate discussion to make, but we get to vote on this. The mayor can do his lobbying. We can do our lobbying, depending on what the issue is.”
“It may be an issue where we agree,” the alderman continued. “I don’t know yet, but I want to make sure that we have the mechanisms in place that we can have a hearing structure. We can have a vote. And that people will know we voted either in favor or against this initiative and the reasons why.”
Emanuel said the proposed rules piggyback on the process the city used when it considered privatizing Midway Airport, an idea ultimately rejected by the administration.
“This establishes a formal process for the city that I think gives the taxpayers and the residents of the city of Chicago an insurance policy” against bad privatization deals, Emanuel said of the proposed ordinance.
If passed, the ordinance would cover potential asset privatization deals with terms lasting at least 20 years and worth a minimum of $400 million for the city. Service privatization contracts valued at $3 million or more would also face the measure’s safeguards.
Asked about the smaller deals not covered by the ordinance, Sawyer explained, “We should also look at those, but we have to have a threshold somewhere.”
Sawyer and other members of the Progressive Reform Caucus have tried for years to advance their own measure involving privatization transparency. Emanuel said he was “proud” that he and Sawyer “were able to work through issues where we came from slightly different perspectives.”
Other council news:
– Also on Wednesday, council members agreed to change the city’s ethics ordinance. The Ethics Board will now receive evidence gathered by the Legislative Inspector General’s office during investigations against a council member or staffer before the board rules on their cases.
Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan, who vehemently opposes the change, says the Ethics Board could provide the subject of the investigation with the evidence, which would “have a chilling effect on potential witnesses.” Ethics Board Executive Director Steve Berlin argues that the amendment “simply clarifies and refines what should be standard practice” and allows the board to obtain all the material required to “make the most correct decision possible.”
– Aldermen approved a ban on gun-shaped cellphone cases. Those possessing a gun replica cellphone case could be fined up to $750 under the measure, pushed by Ald. Ed Burke (14th). The alderman says banning the cases is a matter of public safety, as police could mistake them for real weapons.
– Burke’s order requesting information from the Chicago Police Department about local rape kits that have gone untested also passed the council. The measure calls on police officials to appear before the Finance Committee to detail how many Chicago rape kits are currently unprocessed.
During Monday’s Finance Committee hearing on the subject, Burke claimed that the Illinois State Police Crime Laboratory received 957 rape kits from Chicago police last year. Results from just 271 kits came back to Chicago police in 2014, though it’s not clear if all of those kits were submitted in that same year.
– Free city garbage pickup for some 1,800 multi-unit buildings still getting the perk will be eliminated under a proposal that cleared the council. Ald. Matthew O’Shea (19th) introduced the ordinance to do away with the free garbage service, a move estimated to save the city more than $3 million.
-Ald. George Cardenas (12th) wants to apply a city tax of one penny per ounce on soda and other sugary drinks. Cardenas, who chairs the council’s Health Committee, said his sugar tax proposal introduced Wednesday could mean $134 million in new annual revenue for the city. Seventy-five percent of the revenue generated by the tax would go into a “Chicago Wellness Fund” used to pay for city and Chicago Public Schools health initiatives.
“It’s time. It’s an opportunity for us to reset the button on everything that’s going on,” the alderman said of the sugar tax. “The money spent fighting obesity is just ungodly. We could save billions of dollars if we bring down these numbers. We could kill two birds with one stone. We could not only improve health. We could also provide education funding and other things at CPS. The same people affected by it should benefit from it.”
– Cardenas also introduced a resolution urging Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office to conclude its investigation into Herbalife, a nutritional supplement maker accused of operating a pyramid scheme targeting Latinos.
Back in April 2014, Madigan’s office announced an investigation into Herbalife as well as mediation discussions with the company on previous complaints lodged by civil rights groups throughout the state.
According to the Illinois Herbalife Campaign, 120 alleged Herbalife victims have filed complaints with Madigan’s office.
– Ald. Moreno re-introduced the Keeping the Promise Ordinance, backed by the Chicago Housing Initiative (CHI). Moreno first introduced the ordinance last September after a fiscal review by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability showed that the Chicago Housing Authority had recently amassed some $432 million in reserves, primarily by socking away millions in federal funds intended for housing vouchers.
“It is time for the authority to be transparent and accountable to the stakeholders they serve,” housing voucher holder Jackie Paige said before the council meeting. “The Keeping the Promise Ordinance is a vital step in that direction.”
Under the Keeping the Promise Ordinance, the CHA would have to provide the council with quarterly reports on, among other things, vacant and offline housing, its voucher utilization rate and progress building replacement public housing.
The CHA would also have to increase the number of annual available housing vouchers and meet voucher funding utilization benchmarks. Additionally, the measure would require one-for-one replacement of standing low-income housing units that go into redevelopment.
CHI leaders said the Emanuel administration has not indicated its support of the proposal.