The Chicago City Council on Wednesday gave a final, unanimous stamp of approval to one of the largest police misconduct settlements the city has ever paid out related to the disgraced police commander Jon Burge.
Corey Batchelor and Kevin Bailey are now slated to receive $14 million to settle lawsuits they brought against the city that contented they were physically and psychologically coerced into confessing to a 1989 murder they didn’t commit, by detectives linked to the late Burge.
That brings the amount of Burge-related settlements paid by the city to more than $100 million, not including millions in attorneys fees.
Batchelor and Bailey were 19 years old when they were arrested for the stabbing death of Lula Mae Woods, the wife of a retired police officer. The men spent 15 and 28 years in prison, respectively, according to the city’s law department, before their convictions were thrown out.
DNA evidence helped get the convictions thrown out in 2018.
In a statement, Bailey said despite the settlement, he’ll never be fully compensated.
“I’m glad I can put this lawsuit behind me, but these detectives took 28 years of my life,” he said. “I’ll never get that time back and no amount of money could ever compensate me for what I’ve lost.”
The City Council’s first full meeting of the year was jam-packed with other business, as well.
Saint Anthony Hospital moves to Little Village for a big upgrade
After 125 years in North Lawndale, the City Council approved the relocation of Saint Anthony’s Hospital to a new “state of the art” development in the heart of Little Village. The move is part of a controversial 30-acre mixed use development that will include 100 units of affordable housing, a daycare, recreational areas and space for community and educational programs.
“The hospital has been in our community for several generations, and provides significant amounts of charity care for our most vulnerable residents,” says Ald. Michael D. Rodriguez, 22nd Ward, who spoke in favor of the project. Though long dilapidated and run down, Saint Anthony’s was also recognized this year as the “number one hospital for getting COVID-19 vaccines in the arms of people in the hardest hit communities,” says Rodriguez.
Saint Anthony’s is a safety-net hospital, which provides services regardless of insurance or ability to pay, primarily serving low-income patients and communities across the Southwest Side.
Ten years in the making, the relocation was first proposed by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2009, and has an estimated cost of $700 million. Though the project has not secured all of its funding, construction is slated to begin in 2023 and finish by 2026. Saint Anthony President and CEO Guy Medaglia says the Chicago Southwest Development Corp, a nonprofit created to manage this project, expects the development to be funded through a combination of private investors and philanthropists, as well as state and federal grants.
The community of Little Village has long been divided over the proposed relocation, with advocates from groups like Mi Villita expressing concern that the development will lead to gentrification and displacement. Other residents argue that the project, named the “Focal Point Community Campus” will bring new jobs to the community and much needed development.
Effort to revitalize abandoned homes
Aldermen greenlit a proposal from the Lightfoot Administration’s Department of Housing that officials say would make it easier to rehabilitate abandoned or vacant homes that plague some city neighborhoods.
When a home is abandoned it can still accrue fines or fees for things like sewage or water, but the city doesn’t currently have the authority to waive those fees, Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara told aldermen at a committee meeting Monday. So when someone wants to buy the home, they’ve got to take on its debt, too, which can be a barrier to redevelopment.
That’s especially true in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods where home values are lower, and where there’s a higher concentration of vacant and abandoned buildings, Novara said.
Geoff Smith, a housing expert and head of the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, says abandoned homes are concentrated on the South and West Sides of the city. At first glance, Smith predicts the ordinance could help spur some development in those areas.
“Historic disinvestment in those areas led to population loss, property deterioration,” he said. “Any policy that would reduce that cost potentially is not a bad thing.”
The proposal would allow the city to waive accrued city debt for buyers who plan to rehab or redevelop abandoned homes. The city said it will prioritize homes in low-income neighborhoods. The proposal would not allow the city to waive non-city debt, such as bank debt, or overdue property taxes.
The city would pursue the debt waiver when it has become clear, through court hearings, that the home in distress cannot be rehabbed, and the city cannot be made whole, by the original owner.
No more default sugary drinks for kids’ meals
Restaurants will not be able to advertise or present on their kids menus sugary drinks – like artificially-sweetened juice or soda – under a new ordinance approved by aldermen Wednesday.
The proposal, championed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, would limit the types of drinks restaurants can automatically include with kids meals. Those drinks include water, sparkling water, flavored water without added sugar, milk, milk alternatives without sugar, or 100% fruit or vegetable juice that’s combined with water and doesn’t contain added sugar.
Patrons who wish to purchase a sugary drink in a kids meal must request them specifically. Restaurants will be inspected by the Chicago Department of Public Health, the ordinance spells.
Little Village Arch gets landmark status
The historic, monumental arch that welcomes people to Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, at approximately 3100 W. 26th Street, is now an official monument, under an ordinance passed Wednesday as well.
The landmark status protects the arch from demolition and exterior changes.
The ordinance states the arch should be protected as it’s a homage to the history of predominantly Mexican neighborhood,
“[W]ith its clay tile roof, stucco towers with domed roofs, and tiled span, the Arch exhibits materials and design details that are typically found in Mexico and conveys the living heritage of the community in Little Village,” it reads.
Mariah Woelfel covers Chicago city government for WBEZ. You can follow her at @MariahWoelfel. Hannah Faris is an intern on the WBEZ Government and Politics desk.