There was no vote on the Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance at City Council on Wednesday, but proponents of the legislation say they've got multiple options at their disposal to get the bill -- or an alternative version of it -- finally passed. Sweet Home, as originally written, would mandate that the city designate a minimum of 20 percent of the tax increment financing dollars collected in Chicago on an annual basis for affordable housing projects, including revitalizing foreclosed homes. We've tracked the fight for the bill and its status in council extensively over the last few months.
Faced with a delay that had stretched to well more than a year, Ald. Walter Burnett (27th Ward), the legislation's chief sponsor, threatened to use a rare parliamentary maneuver called motion to discharge to force the full City Council to take an up or down vote on the bill at the November 3 council meeting. But Burnett said at the "ninth hour" Alds. Ray Suarez (31st Ward) and Ed Burke (14th Ward) approached him with a deal: drop the motion to discharge and prior to November 17 we'll allow a committee hearing and, crucially, vote on the original ordinance or a compromise bill that's still being drafted. Burnett said after conferring with Sweet Home supporters, he agreed to the plan. Suarez and Burke chair the housing and finance committees, respectively. There's been one hearing about Sweet Home, but no vote on it.
Julie Dworkin, policy director for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, said the Sweet Home coalition agreed to put off the motion to discharge vote for practical reasons. It's preferable to go through the regular legislative process, she said, "because certain aldermen who support the ordinance do not support using the motion to discharge because they don't like to be so in your face to the committee chairs." Dworkin is also confident that Sweet Home would make it out of a joint housing-finance committee hearing. She pointed out that Sweet Home backers still can use the motion to discharge, as there are two council meetings remaining this month, for the original ordinance if they do not support the alternative. The exact contours of that bill -- whether it preserves the basic idea of Sweet Home or overly waters it down -- could determine whether Ald. Burnett forces a showdown in the full council on an important, yet long-stalled bill.
Burnett, who's long been close with outgoing Mayor Richard Daley's administration, acknowledged he was frustrated with the delays that have kept Sweet Home stalled. "Personally, I think it's the mayor holding it up," he said. The end game for this legislation, however, finally appears to be at hand.