PI Original Ellyn Fortino Wednesday September 11th, 2013, 5:10pm

Chicago City Council Meeting Round Up: New Gun & Littering Laws, Burge Settlements

Progress Illinois provides a recap of what happened at Wednesday's Chicago City Council meeting.

Here's a recap of what happened at today's Chicago City Council meeting:

Tightening and loosening gun laws

The Chicago City Council approved a “common sense” measure Wednesday that requires all city businesses that serve any alcohol to post signs stating they are gun-free establishments. Businesses that don’t comply risk having their liquor licenses revoked.

The move is a way around of the state’s new concealed carry law, which prohibits firearms in businesses only where sales of alcohol make up 50 percent or more of the establishment's revenue.

“Bullets and booze simply do not mix. It doesn’t make any sense,” Ald. Ed Burke (14th), co-sponsor the new ordinance, said during floor discussion at Wednesday’s council meeting.

Under the ordinance, liquor stores and places that sell, but do not serve, packaged alcohol would not have to declare themselves as gun-free zones.

“Most of us have seen or heard stories where security for these liquor establishments are trying to remove an inebriated individual and, in some cases, that individual turns violent," said Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), the other co-sponsor of the ordinance. "They tend to grasp for anything available that could be used as a projectile or blunt instrument. God forbid that individual makes a poor decision to reach for a loaded firearm.”

Burke assured aldermen that taxpayers would not be on the hook for costs associated with defending the ordinance from a lawsuit threatened by the National Rifle Association (NRA), which maintains the measure violates Illinois’ concealed carry law. The NRA says it’s up to the state to decide where people can or cannot have concealed weapons.

The law firm Jenner & Block has agreed to represent the city on a pro-bono basis if the NRA takes legal action, Burke explained.

“I really don’t hold much for what the NRA says about this,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters. “I think they are absolutely wrong, and it does not require a Ph.D or a master’s, or any other type of education level to realize drinking and guns do not go together.”

Emanuel went on to say that the overall goal of the measure is to make sure the people of Chicago are safe. In another effort to keep guns out of the wrong hands, the mayor stressed that he wants to see a three-year minimum sentence for anyone convicted of a gun crime, with a requirement that at least 85 percent of the sentence is served. He said he would push Springfield lawmakers to take up the matter.

Aldermen also voted to scrap the city’s decades-old gun registry now that the state’s concealed carry bill puts the control over gun permits and licenses in the hands of the state. Additionally, the council watered down requirements for keeping guns secure in the home with trigger locks or safes. Under the tweaked measure, securing a firearm in such a manner is only mandatory when someone younger than the age of 18 is in the home.

Another gun-related ordinance that passed increases the penalties for firearm offenses within 100 feet from bus stops, "L" stations and on public transit. 

Burge settlements

The city council also gave the OK for $12.3 million in settlements to two men, Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves, who said they were tortured by police under the orders of former Police Cmdr. Jon Burge. The former Chicago Police Department commander was convicted in 2010 of perjury for lying about the police tactic torturing of suspects into confessions. He’s now serving a 4 and-a-half-year sentence in a North Carolina prison. The two recent payouts bring the total tab related to Chicago police torture cases to nearly $85 million.

"This is a dark chapter on the history of the city of Chicago. I want to build a future for the city of Chicago. I don’t want to just deal with the past. But we have to close the books on this. We have to reconcile our past and start to write a future and a new chapter for the children of the city of Chicago and for the city," Emanuel said in remarks after the meeting.

“So yes, there has been a settlement, and I do believe this is a way of saying all of us are sorry about what happened here in the city, and closing that period of time, that stain on the city’s reputation, it’s history and now being able to embark on a new part of the city and a new way of actually doing business. And that is not who we are, and who we all are one or another are obviously sorry.”

The two men involved in the cases say they were tortured by police and spent two decades in jail for the 1998 slayings of five people. The men were released from prison in 2009 after being cleared of the crime and granted certificates of innocence.

Getting tougher on littering

On another matter, the council approved tougher penalties for littering. Under the new ordinance, sponsored by Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), those caught littering in the public way face fines ranging from $150 to $1,500. People ages 16 and older who toss trash out of a vehicle can now be slapped with a $1,500 fine, and police are allowed to impound the vehicle. The measure takes effect in 30 days.

“People should pay a price since they’re making the rest of us pay a price for their ... disrespect of our neighborhoods,” Emanuel told reporters. “If you allow little things to build up, you create an environment that will allow other types of crime to occur.”


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