From paid sick days to regulations on popular sharing services like Airbnb and Uber, Progress Illinois rounds up highlights from Wednesday's Chicago City Council meeting.
In a major victory for workers across Chicago, legislation mandating earned paid sick leave unanimously cleared the full city council Wednesday.
The legislation's passage means some 460,000 private-sector Chicago workers currently without paid sick leave will soon earn the benefit.
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) is among the council members who pushed for the ordinance with the Earned Sick Time Chicago Coalition.
"This was truly a coalition that got together and would not stop until we got a victory," Moreno said at a morning news conference. "Today is a celebration."
The ordinance is based on recommendations from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Working Families Task Force.
At Wednesday's council meeting, Emanuel called the paid sick days ordinance a "pro-family policy" and complimented those who have been involved in the multi-year Chicago paid sick time campaign.
He also stressed the point that workers can use earned paid sick days in the event of a domestic violence incident. That provision is unique, Emanuel said, and puts "Chicago in an honorable distinction for also having the right set of values."
Under the proposal, employers have to provide their workers with one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked. Workers can earn up to five paid sick days each year and carry over 2.5 unused sick days into the next year.
The measure will take effect July 1, 2017.
According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, Chicago is now the 34th jurisdiction in the United States to guarantee paid sick leave.
The partnership's president Debra Ness said the Chicago earned sick days measure is a victory for workers and also serves as "a reminder of the urgent need for a national paid sick days standard."
"The patchwork of state and local paid sick days laws that our country is putting in place makes it easier for some people to care for their families while holding jobs, but it also puts us at risk of creating even larger inequalities in access to paid sick days and other family friendly policies," she said in a statement. "It is past time for Congress to take action so that no worker or family is left behind."
Josh Kulp, executive chef and managing partner at Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Chicago, is among the business owners cheering the news. He said earned paid sick time is important for workers and businesses alike.
"An employee who does not have to make the stark choice between coming to work and being able to make rent and taking the risk of making their coworkers or our customers sick is a great thing for business," he said. "We've seen firsthand that employees who don't have to face that stark choice perform better, are able to work to their full capacity when they're at work and they're able to not be distracted and strained by the burden of having to come to work sick."
But not all businesses support the idea. The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association say the plan is yet another costly mandate for employers in the city.
"It's unfortunate the city council refuses to consider the overall effects of the litany of new rules, regulations and costs they place on employers," Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Theresa Mintle said in a statement. "Businesses don't operate in silos, and this mandated paid sick leave is another cost neighborhood businesses will have to absorb at a time when they can least afford it. We urge the city council to work closer with the city's employers to support policies that grow businesses, hires more employees and generates the revenue the city needs. Mandating paid sick leave will do none of that."
Regulations On Ridesharing Services, Airbnbs Approved
By a 36-12 vote, aldermen agreed to impose new regulations on ride-hailing companies after much commotion and debate.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) pulled a procedural move to delay consideration for one month on a watered-down ride-hailing ordinance, saying aldermen had little time to review the changes.
But powerful Ald. Ed Burke (14th) outmaneuvered Waguespack by moving to adjourn the council meeting and reschedule it for 1 p.m. Friday. The adjournment triggered tumult in the council, which had yet to vote on other major issues like paid sick leave.
Waguespack then withdrew his motion, because aldermen were going to pass the ordinance on Friday, anyway.
Waguespack went on to warn his colleagues that the substitute ordinance, which most aldermen received earlier this morning, is almost "completely different" than the original proposal and "removed all the protections" for consumers. He slammed the mayor for ramming the ordinance through the council.
"To come forward with an ordinance that takes all that out this morning and expect aldermen to vote on it, is not the way to run the city council," Waguespack said.
Other alderman were also irked by the process.
Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) called today's council meeting "embarrassing," saying he could not support the proposal "being dropped in my lap at the last minute."
Emanuel responded after the meeting.
"Nothing here was a surprise. Nothing would have changed, and it was clear once they tried a procedure it was really a policy difference," the mayor said. "It was not a procedural question. Then people had a chance to debate. The vote was had, clear majority of the city council voted in favor and they'll have an opportunity, we'll work together on the task force" for ridesharing rules.
"Nothing came as a surprise," he continued. "Just the only issue was that people who really had a policy difference wanted to use a procedure just to postpone the inevitable, and it was met with a procedure to make progress on what was essential."
The ordinance, which was watered down after Uber and Lyft threatened to pull out of Chicago, requires that ride-hailing drivers get a "transportation network driver license." The ordinance no longer mandates that ride-hailing drivers be fingerprinted or that the companies designate at least 5 percent of their vehicle fleet as wheelchair-accessible, among other changes.
The measure calls for a six-month study to determine the effectiveness of fingerprinting drivers and asks ride-hailing companies to come up with an action plan within six months for serving riders with disabilities.
Disability rights group Access Living called the substitute ordinance a "slap in the face."
"The substitute ordinance is unacceptable," Access Living's President and CEO Marca Bristo said in a statement. "We have already waited two years for rideshare companies to make a commitment to accessibility. They've done little to nothing in that time. The disability community needs a commitment to concrete benchmarks that will hold Uber and Lyft accountable. We have a right to equal access and equal service."
Also on Wednesday, aldermen approved the latest proposed set of restrictions on home-sharing platforms like Airbnb. Approved by a 43-7 vote, the measure limits the number of units that can be rented in certain buildings and allows residents within voting precincts to enact a ban on Airbnb rentals, among other provisions. Building owners and condo groups can also opt against allowing home-sharing in their buildings. In addition, a 4 percent surcharge will be imposed on home-sharing rentals to generate revenue for homeless services.
Airbnb is accepting the ordinance, which comes after months of debate on the issue.
North Side Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) was one of the seven "no" votes. She said the regulations are too weak and do little to address the "runaway short-term rental train" in Chicago.
Smith said tougher regulations are needed to crackdown on the over proliferation of home-sharing units in Chicago and to prevent buildings owners from turning long-term, residential rental buildings into hotels.
"Not everything is picture perfect, but compromise, consensus and common ground has worked for Chicago today," Emanuel said after the meeting.
Equal Access Ordinance Passes
An ordinance aimed at protecting transgender people from discrimination in hotels, grocery stores and other public accommodations cleared the city council. Under the measure, public accommodations could not ask patrons to show a government ID as proof of gender to access restrooms and similar facilities.
Equality Illinois' CEO Brian Johnson lauded the measure's approval.
"As other states try to erase transgender people from public life, let's recognize that this ordinance is about more than public accommodations," he said. "In the wake of the violence against LGBT people in Orlando, it is about standing up for the dignity of all Chicagoans and ensuring our city remains a welcoming and affirming place."
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) and other Progressive Reform Caucus members were among those applauding passage of the legislation.
"This is a common sense measure that will simply remove language that requires people to use facilities that corresponds to the gender identity on their government-issued ID," she said in a statement. "Contrary to some claims, this would not, in fact, increase the likelihood of criminal activity in bathrooms, nor would it decriminalize such activity. It will, however, eliminate a serious risk of potential lawsuits against the city, and will remove an opportunity to legally harass transgender people in public spaces."
Controversial Uptown TIF Project Advances
The Chicago City Council approved a $15.8 million tax increment financing (TIF) subsidy for a luxury high rise planned for Uptown near the city's lakefront, despite objections from some aldermen and affordable housing activists.
The vote was 37-13.
Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) objected to authorizing a $15.8 million TIF subsidy at a time when the Chicago Public Schools system is grappling with a financial crisis. He argued that the project, to be located at the former Columbus Maryville Academy site, could eventually happen without TIF money.
The planned development is in Ald. James Cappleman's 46th Ward. He said the project is located within a TIF district that currently has no accumulated funds.
The existing property at the site has been vacant for 10 years, and it has been tax-exempt since 1939, he said.
"Without this TIF, this property remains off the tax roll," Cappleman said.
Towing Bill of Rights
The council approved a "towing bill of rights" aimed at safeguarding motorists against predatory towing companies. Under the measure, towing companies cannot tow a vehicle if an owner arrives on scene with the key. Towing companies will also be required to post signs informing motorists of their rights and have onboard cameras to document each towing, among other provisions.
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) spearheaded the measure in response to continuous complaints from residents regarding the notorious Lincoln Towing company.
Wrigley Plaza Booze Rules
Aldermen set restrictions on alcohol sales at the new outdoor plaza being built next to Wrigley Field.
Under the rules, which will remain in effect for three years, beer and wine sales are allowed on the plaza only on days of baseball games or special events. On those days, alcohol can be sold only to ticket holders. The ordinance also limits the hours allowed for such sales.
After today's meeting, Emanuel said the agreement "stuck an honest compromise that respected the rights of the surrounding community and allowed the company to move forward in modernizing the field and the surrounding area."
The Cubs, however, are unhappy about the proposed rules, saying they "will lessen the promise of this plaza."
Aldermen Propose Police Review Board Changes
Burke and Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) want to speed up the completion of investigations conducted by the city's Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA). The agency investigates police shootings and misconduct.
The aldermen want all IPRA investigations to be completed in two years. Also under the ordinance, IPRA would have five years to bring charges against an officer when "removal or discharge, or suspension of more than 30 days is recommended."
Activists Demand An Elected, Civilian-Led Police Oversight Agency
In other police-related news, activists rallied at City Hall to press for an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), which would investigate and prosecute claims of crimes by Chicago police.
The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) organized the protest, during which activists said they are "tired of fake police accountability" in the city.
CAARPR and its allies took to City Hall the day Emanuel initially planned to introduce an overhaul of IPRA. Emanuel supports abolishing IPRA and replacing it with some type of civilian agency, a recommendation made by the mayor's Police Accountability Task Force. Last week, the proposal's introduction date was delayed to July 20 in order for two public hearings to be held on the plan.
CPAC supporters say they want "community control of the police" and do not support having an unelected police oversight agency in Chicago.
"We're here today to say that what (Emanuel) is trying to introduce, we are against that," said CAARPR's Frank Chapman. "We want and we demand that the powers of the Independent Police Review Authority, the police board and the internal affairs department be put squarely in the hands of the people through an elected, all civilian police accountability council. Elected -- not appointed. We don't want no more appointed anything."
Chapman said seven aldermen support the CPAC proposal.
Chicago Teachers Protest Education Funding & Police Accountability
CTU members stood in solidarity with the police accountability activists.
Chicago teachers and their allies were at City Hall as part of their "fight back" day of action for progressive education funding options. The group chanted, "No ifs! No buts! Stop these educational cuts!" They also called for an elected school board.
It was one of five simultaneous demonstrations CTU members and their allies held Wednesday during a school furlough day. In addition to City Hall, CTU members rallied outside Wednesday's Board of Education meeting and businesses connected to Emanuel and Bruce Rauner's allies. The protests were aimed at former school board member David Vitale, developer and investor Larry Levy and hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin. The day culminated with a rally at the Thompson Center.
Michelle Gunderson, a CPS teacher and CTU member, was at City Hall.
"Community oversight of policing is very much connected with community oversight of our schools. They're both intertwined with one another," she told Progress Illinois. "What happened at Homan Square, what happened with Laquan McDonald, those are our students who are being tortured and shot in the streets.
"And then we have our schools being treated as commodities," she continued. "The other rallies are about our schools as commodities, especially with Bruce Rauner claiming that charter schools are the answers when we really know from our data and research that neighborhood schools are better serving our children best."
The Chicago Board of Education meeting was also held Wednesday. Over 450 Local School Council (LCS) members signed a letter to the board, urging action on solutions to stave off school budget cuts. The LSC members from schools across Chicago detailed a list of revenue and cost-cutting measures that could be enacted at the state, city and CPS levels. Shortening the Chicago public school day, reducing the number of standardized tests, ending the city's double teachers pension payment and steering more TIF surplus funds to schools were among the recommendations.