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Chicago City Council Preview: Airbnb Surcharge, Police Settlements, And Ida B. Wells Drive

Airbnb rentals in Chicago could become more expensive after Wednesday’s full City Council meeting. That’s because Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to slap a new surcharge on home-sharing platforms to help pay for an expansion of domestic violence services. 

Here’s a look at what else is expected to go down at City Hall on Wednesday. 

Taxpayers could pay millions more for two police wrongdoing incidents

The City Council is expected to vote on a $3 million settlement to the families of two elderly people who were killed in a car crash that happened during a police chase. Willie Owens, 66, and Margaret Silas, 88, were hit in 2015 by a car fleeing police in the Grand Crossing neighborhood. The families of the victims claim police should have called off the car chase because it took place in a populated area that put lives at risk. 

The other settlement connected to alleged police misconduct comes from the family of a man who was fatally shot by off-duty Chicago Police Sgt. John Poulos. The family of Rickey Rozelle is in line to get $950,000 from taxpayers if aldermen approve. 

The council is expected to vote on other settlements that have nothing to do with police, such as a $4 million payout to the family of a motorcyclist who died when he hit a pothole, fell off his bike, and was fatally hit by a passing car. 

In total, aldermen are being asked to approve $8.5 million in payouts, which will add to the $55 million approved so far this year. 

Powerful aldermen takes on shelter holding migrant children separated at border

Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward) is not happy with one of the city’s largest social service providers — Heartland Alliance — about reports that a Chicago shelter is allegedly abusing migrant children who were taken away from their parents at the southern U.S. border. In response to those reports, first published by The Washington Post, Burke wants to expand the city’s authority to regulate these child welfare agencies. 

But some South Side aldermen are uneasy. Child care providers are a big source of jobs in their neighborhoods. 

Here’s a look at how much money Heartland received from the city of Chicago during the last five years.

HEARTLAND HEALTH OUTREACH, INC. $755,324.18
HEARTLAND HOUSING, INC. $332,656.83
HEARTLAND HUMAN CARE SERVICES, INC. $5,312,822.91

Both state and federal authorities have opened investigations into the Heartland Alliance’s Casa Guadalupe shelter, where the abuse allegedly occurred, as reported by The Washington Post. Officials at the nonprofit said they are working with investigators and have launched their own internal probe. 

The head of the city’s business licensing division said they don’t regulate these types of agencies. The buildings commissioner reported that everything checked out at a recent inspection. 

Latinos look to recruit, longtime progressive Latino calls it quits 

The council’s Latino Caucus is expected to announce the creation of a new Leadership Academy, just days after the longest tenured Hispanic alderman on the City Council announced he would not seek re-election.

After representing the Southwest Side’s 22nd Ward since 1993, Ald. Ricardo Muñoz earlier this week announced he will step down at the end of his term. Muñoz is no ally of the mayor and his decision to finish out his term prevents Emanuel from appointing a replacement. Plus, Muñoz already has someone in mind for his seat: Democratic Ward Committeeman Michael Rodriguez. (Wait, What’s a committeeman? Here’s a good explainer.)

But there’s a bigger question: Is Muñoz mulling a run against Emanuel? The alderman says he’s not, though he wouldn’t rule out a run in 2023. 

No Latino candidates have announced they’ll run in next year’s mayoral election, a glaring absence considering Latinos account for a third of the city’s population. Latinos are also the fastest growing demographic in Chicago, and many Latino-heavy wards went strong for Cook County Commissioner Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia in the 2015 election. 

Muñoz has been bullish in telling the city press corps to watch for a Latino candidate for mayor this February. 

“I can guarantee it,” he told WBEZ. Yet, he won’t name names.

When asked if the new Leadership Academy is designed to recruit a Latino mayoral candidate, caucus chair Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward) said no. The idea is to create “a bench of Latino talent” for the future, he said.

Maybe a new police data cruncher can lower the city’s legal bill?

At least, that’s what City Inspector Joe Ferguson aims to do with a new hire whose title is a mouthful: the deputy inspector general for public safety. 

Aldermen created the position within the IG’s office when it disbanded the original city agency that investigated allegations of police misconduct. Joseph Lipari will have backdoor access into a treasure chest of data collected by the Chicago Police Department, much of which has never been analyzed or even aggregated in a centrally located database. With a staff of 17, Lipari will oversee the police department’s gang database, record management system, and mental health training program, among others.

Ida B. Wells finally honored with downtown street name

Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward) and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) have been on a quest to name a downtown road in honor of African-American journalist Ida B. Wells.

Initially, the two hoped to rename Balbo Drive, which is named after Italian fascist Italo Balbo. But that proposal didn’t have the mayor’s support and never got a hearing. So they went back to the drawing board and came up with a new idea: renaming Congress Parkway.

The measure would change all mailing addresses from South Columbus Drive to the point where Congress merges with Interstate 290, just east of South Franklin Street.

Claudia Morell and Becky Vevea cover city politics for WBEZ. You can follow them on Twitter @claudiamorell and @beckyvevea

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