Chicago aldermen moved Wednesday to legally protect people travelling to Chicago for an abortion of other reproductive care.
The so-called “Bodily Autonomy Sanctuary City Ordinance” prohibits the Chicago Police Department, or any other city employee, from carrying out search warrants, sharing data or assisting in investigations related to other states’ laws that restrict “bodily autonomy” in a way that’s “inconsistent” with Illinois law.
The ordinance is meant to protect people who travel to Chicago for an abortion, and also covers those seeking gender-affirming care, fertility treatment or birth control. It comes as concerns grow that states restricting abortion will next turn their attention toward trying to stop and criminalize people traveling across state lines for care.
The ordinance includes some exceptions. Employees may need to cooperate in an investigation, for instance, if required to do so by Illinois or federal law, or forced to do so by a “court of competent jurisdiction.”
Aldermen passed the measure without debate. Only one member, Ald. Nick Sposato, 38th Ward, who has opposed abortion rights, voted against it. The council took up a number of other big ticket items on Wednesday, including voting in its newest member.
City Council has a new member
Timmy Knudsen, 32, was sworn in Wednesday as the city’s new 43rd Ward alderman after a favorable, 46 to 1 vote by his new City Council colleagues.
Knudsen replaces former Ald. Michele Smith, who was present for his confirmation. Smith resigned in August, saying she wanted to spend more time with her family. Smith is part of an exodus of aldermen who have resigned, have said they won’t run for reelection or are running to become mayor in next year’s election.
Knudsen is a venture capital attorney and chair of the city’s zoning board — a mayoral-appointed position. Knudsen said he will step down from the zoning board once confirmed as alderman. Knudsen told his colleagues he leads a pro-bono legal practice where he represents LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in the U.S. and Mexico. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Jill Rose Quinn, the state’s first openly trasngender judge, swore Knudsen into office at Wednesday’s meeting.
Knudsen is now the third alderman Mayor Lori Lightfoot has appointed during her tenure due to incumbents abruptly resigning. The others are 11th Ward Ald. Nicole Lee, who replaced former Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, who is now serving a prison sentence for tax fraud. Lee became the city’s first Asian American woman to serve on the council. And Ald. Monique Scott, 24th Ward, who replaced her brother Michael Scott on the council. Michael Scott left for a job in the private sector.
A controversial soccer facility will be built on former public housing land
Aldermen gave the green light to a controversial proposal to allow the city’s professional soccer team, the Chicago Fire, to build a training facility on the land of former public housing despite objections from civil rights attorneys.
The plan, supported by Lightfoot, allows for five soccer fields, a two-story office building, 142 parking spaces and an inflatable dome to cover fields in cold-weather months.
A group of civil rights attorneys who oppose the development said in a written letter that the development would continue “patterns of economic and racial segregation” in Chicago, and that the land, owned by the Chicago Housing Authority, should only be used for more public housing.
“In this proposal, land that is promised for desperately needed affordable housing to predominantly serve the needs of Black families will be given to a billionaire with negligible benefits for the thousands of families of color seeking to live in Chicago’s opportunity areas,” the group, including the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, wrote.
Council members, and allies of Lightfoot, went through hoops to get the plan passed Wednesday, including recessing a committee meeting and re-doing a vote after the plan initially failed.
Tobara Richardson is deputy inspector general for public safety
The city of Chicago now has a permanent watchdog over public safety within the inspector general’s office.
Aldermen confirmed appointee Tobara Richardson’s nomination unanimously. Richardson will now be the deputy inspector general for public safety — responsible for investigating public safety bodies like the Police Department and Police Board.
Richardson was chosen by her new boss, Inspector General Deborah Witzburg, from a pool of nearly 40 applicants from nine states. Witzburg previously served in the same role before leaving to pursue the office’s top job.
The city will pay out $25 million in settlements
The Chicago City Council approved about $25 million in legal settlements, three of which are tied to police misconduct.
The settlements include a $15 million payout to the family of Guadalupe Franco-Martinez, a woman who was killed during a high-speed chase that didn’t involve her in 2020. A police squad car smashed into the back of her SUV while officers were pursuing a suspect.
And a $9 million settlement following the wrongful conviction of Patrick Prince, who spent more than two decades in jail for a murder he did not commit.
A proposal to allow booting of cars citywide stalled
A plan to allow vehicle booting companies to operate citywide, instead of needing to get ward-by-ward approval, was delayed by its own sponsor. The move gives proponents more time to try to garner support for the controversial plan.
Currently, aldermen have control over whether to allow booting on private property in their wards. Booting companies are often hired by private commercial parking lots or stores to monitor lots and ensure only customers of their businesses are parking there. Such booting is allowed in 35 out of 50 wards.
Mariah Woelfel covers Chicago city government at WBEZ. You can follow her on Twitter @MariahWoelfel.