City Council Cheat Sheet: Double Parking Fine Hike, Police Oversight, And New Party Boss | WBEZ
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City Council Cheat Sheet: Double Parking Fine Hike, Police Oversight, And New Party Boss

If you get caught double parking downtown, you might be hit with a whopping $300 ticket after this week’s full City Council meeting. That huge hike in the double-parking fine, which is currently $100, is just one of many measures that aldermen will weigh in on Wednesday.

Here’s a look at what else is on the agenda at City Hall and some of the political drama that’s going on behind the scenes.

New police oversight chief — but debate rages over who polices the police

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is asking alderman to confirm the third chief administrator for the newish Civilian Office of Police Accountability (or COPA), the city agency tasked with investigating police misconduct.

A mayoral selection committee recommends Sydney Roberts to head the office. She has served as director of the Illinois Secretary of State Police since 2010, and previously was inspector general for the state’s Department of Human Services. The inaugural chief administrator for COPA, Sharon Fairley, resigned to unsuccessfully campaign for Illinois attorney general last month.

The expected confirmation of Roberts to COPA comes as a debate heats up over how much control civilians should have in shaping police policy and disciplining problematic officers.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward) threatened to force a floor vote on Wednesday over a plan to create a civilian oversight board, which Emanuel has long promised but yet to deliver. Under Ramirez-Rosa’s plan, an elected 22-member board would replace COPA and the Police Board, which carries out disciplinary actions on officers.

But thanks to a last minute deal between Rosa and Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee, Rosa agreed to back off from his threat for the time being.   

Fines to triple for double-parking downtown

As if parking tickets in Chicago weren’t expensive enough, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) wants to slap $300 tickets on cars and trucks when they double park in the downtown business district. The current fine is $100.

Reilly said the increase is aimed at large commercial vehicles and delivery trucks that snarl traffic when they park in the street. The ordinance, however, is written to apply to all vehicles skirting the almighty city parking laws.

“The purpose here is to increase the penalty to drive compliance, it’s not so much a revenue play,” Reilly said during a committee hearing Monday. The measure passed out of committee unanimously and will go to the full council for a final vote Wednesday.

One alderman steps aside, another confirms he’s staying

The council’s longest serving alderman, Ed Burke (14th), recently confirmed he’s not retiring despite his brother, state Rep. Daniel Burke, suffering an embarrassing loss to a political newcomer, 26-year-old Aaron Ortiz, who was backed by Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, the former mayoral candidate who knocked Emanuel into a runoff election in 2015. Garcia is currently running for Congress.

But another South West side alderman has decided to step down after 23 years in office. The departure of Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd) gives Emanuel the chance to pick a new aldermen almost a year before the municipal elections. Zalewski on Monday said he’s planning to endorse state Rep. Silvana Tabares (D-Chicago). She is an ally to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has come under fire in recent months for his handling of a sexual harassment case within his political organization.

Zalewski’s retirement from the council has also set off a scramble over his chairmanship of the council’s Aviation Committee, which comes with a budget and jobs. Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno (1st), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), and Nicholas Sposato (38th), who is the committee’s vice chair, are all interested in the chairmanship.

The mayor’s office remains mum on both appointments.

City settles four lawsuits for more than $6 million

The largest of the four payouts — $2.3 million — is for a case involving an August 2015 police shooting of a then-16-year-old boy that was also tainted by problems with the city’s legal team. In January, a city attorney on the case resigned and two more were suspended after a judge found they failed to produce evidence.   

The other settlements include $840,000 to the wife of a man who hung himself in prison, and $1.5 million to a Chicago cop who claimed his supervisor assigned him to undesirable tasks after the two got in a dispute over work he did off hours at the supervisor’s Michigan cabin.

The city paid out $21.5 million for legal settlements during the first two months of 2018, the majority of which involve the police department, city records show.  

Cook County Democratic Party leadership  

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle has been courting votes to replace outgoing Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios as chairman of the county Democrats. She appears to be the party favorite and has the support of Ald. Ed Burke (14th), Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), and Ramirez-Rosa (35th).

Immediately after Wednesday’s City Council meeting, all 80 of Cook County’s Democratic ward and township committeemen will vote on new leadership. The title of Cook County Democratic Party chairman doesn’t have the the same clout it once had in the days of Mayor Richard J. Daley. Berrios has held the seat since 2007. 

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

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