Chicago’s City Council meetings are usually lengthy affairs, but on Wednesday aldermen and the mayor met for a rare, one-hour meeting.
It’s what Mayor Lori Lightfoot characterized as the “prelude” to the final budget vote scheduled next week.
So is there anything left to haggle over in her 2020 spending proposal?
“No, the budget is the budget is the budget,” Lightfoot told reporters after Wednesday’s meeting. Aldermen took a procedural step to tee up the final budget vote scheduled for Tuesday.
But that doesn’t mean advocates will stop calling on the mayor to re-open shuttered mental health clinics. United Working Families is one of the groups putting pressure on the Lightfoot to keep promises she made on the campaign trail.
Lightfoot downplayed their efforts while highlighting their ties to the Chicago Teachers’ Union, with whom City Hall clashed during the recent teachers’ strike.
Their demands “are untethered from the fiscal challenges that we have in our city,” Lightfoot said. “It’s easy to stand on the sideline and lob bombs. It’s much more difficult to govern.”
Wednesday’s “budget prelude” meeting was short, but here’s what you missed.
Wrigley Field Plaza could allow liquor sales, but later hours unlikely
A pilot program that has allowed Wrigley Field to operate a public plaza is set to expire by the end of this year. When the City Council allowed the ballpark to open the space in 2016, it had to create a special, three-season license.
On Wednesday local Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th Ward, introduced an ordinance that would extend the pilot through March. He says that’ll give him, the Cubs’ owners and the neighborhood some time to make changes, like allowing liquor sales to appease some corporate sponsors. Right now, only beer and wine sales are allowed.
“We are going to relax it a little,” Tunney said.
Asked if he’s wary of allowing a bunch of liquored up fans around, Tunney replied, “What’s the difference?” He then joked, “We’re going to be having cannabis coming soon, too!” (Recreational weed becomes legal on Jan. 1, and Wrigley just happens to be located in between two existing medical marijuana dispensaries.)
But extending the hours the plaza can operate may be a harder sell. The amplified sound carries to the neighboring residents and Tunney doesn’t want to take business away from the dozens of other bars that rely on game-day business.
All-affordable apartment building headed to vacant city lot in hot neighborhood
A city-owned parking lot in Logan Square is about to become an affordable apartment complex.
Advocates, aldermen and city officials cheered the move as a big win because it will create 100 units, all of them designated to qualified low-income residents. Developers – especially in swanky neighborhoods – often include just a small percentage of affordable units in their projects, or they pay the city a fee to get out of including any at all.
Wednesday’s unanimous vote to approve the development came after a committee hearing drew a big crowd, which included several people against the project. A number of people who said they live next to the vacant lot called the public input process a sham and said it was not transparent.
Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa, whose 35th Ward includes the vacant lot, submitted a seven-page document outlining the community input process he led, which included a community meeting in the spring.
Marisa Novara, the city’s housing commissioner, said the city has heard from the objectors, but it doesn’t change their plan to move forward.
“Just because you do not get your way does not mean no one heard you,” Novara said. “It means you are disagreed with.”
Joy Aruguete, executive director of Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, which is developing the building, said they first submitted an application to redevelop the site in 2014 and have been in conversations with the city and the community ever since.
They hope to break ground in the spring.
Another city holiday? Juneteenth!
Freshman Ald. Maria Hadden, 49th Ward, introduced an ordinance to make Juneteenth an official city holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S. That would mean city buildings and offices would not be open for business on June 19th.
“Chicago’s history is tied to African Americans and people of the African diaspora and enslaved peoples, and this just seems like a quintessential Chicago holiday and something we should recognize.”
The measure would not include sister agencies, like the parks and the schools, and still needs full City Council approval.