Should Police Stations Serve as Polling Places?

Concerns Raised Over Use of Police Stations as Polling Places

March TK—Board of Election Commissioners

BACKGROUND: Chicago election judges work in precinct polling places on Election Day, setting up equipment,  helping voters register and vote, and completing results reports. Judges apply and are appointed by local party committeeman. They are paid $200 for their training and service. Poll watchers are credentialed representatives of candidates, parties, or organizations who are allowed to monitor the goings-on at a polling place to ensure things are proceeding fairly.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED: At last week’s Board of Elections Commissioners meeting, Lora Chamberlain, an election integrity activist with “Who’s Counting,” raised concerns from the February 26 municipal elections that election judges tend to support the incumbent aldermen and committeemen where they live and to “collude” with poll watchers. (Another public commenter, Dan Sheehan, raised similar concerns). Chamberlain also described an incident (that she previously summarized on her Facebook page) in the 40th Ward where a police officer threw a poll watcher (working on behalf of the challenger to Alderman Pat O’Connor) out of a police station polling place. Chamberlain asked whether police stations should serve as polling places, especially given that many young people are nervous about interacting with police. Chamberlain and Sheehan suggested having election judges work in different precincts than where they are nominated by local committeemen. The board commissioners responded that having judges work where they are nominated is required by state law that would be difficult to change, and that concerns about election officials’ behavior needs to be reported the day-of. But Chairwoman Marisel A. Hernandez did recommend the 40th Ward police station incident be referred for further investigation.


  • The Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners unanimously approved the statement of returns and proclamation of results from the February 26 municipal elections.  

  • This year, Chicago had a shortage of election judges; Commissioner Jonathan T. Swain suggested offering continuing legal education credit for attorneys serving as election judges to provide an incentive.

Thanks to tweets from Documenter Olivia Stovicek.

Jaime di Paulo appointed to Chicago Development Fund Advisory Board

March TK—City Council

ABOUT THE APPOINTEE: Di Paulo is president of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and former longtime CEO of the Little Village Chamber of Commerce. He has gone on the record recently supporting development projects that have attracted significant grassroots opposition, including the Hilco warehouse and distribution center in Little Village and the north side Lincoln Yards megadevelopment. “Hilco is bringing a top notch company there to create local jobs and local foot traffic for businesses,” di Paulo told Gazette Chicago in January about Hilco, which the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization opposes because of the environmental and safety impacts of incoming and outgoing trucks. "We can’t say no to 24,000 jobs and we can’t say no to 10,000 construction jobs," di Paulo told WGN in February about his support for Lincoln Yards. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has also proposed appointing Di Paulo to the Cook County Commission on Small Business and Supplier Diversity; a vote on his appointment is on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting of the Cook County Board Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee.  

ABOUT THE AGENCY: The Development Fund is responsible for allocating $356 million in New Market Tax Credits to private developers building in low-income census tracts. The Development Fund invests in three types of projects: “industrial/business expansion projects, grocery-anchored retail, and nonprofit-sponsored community facilities.” (Recent examples include Esperanza Health Centers in Brighton Park and Garfield Park’s The Hatchery). The advisory board is “mechanism by which CDF maintains accountability to the low-income communities that are to benefit from CDF investments,” according to the Development Fund’s website, and is responsible for reviewing proposed transactions, considering community benefits, and making recommendations for the Governing Board to review.

FOP Decision on Police Video Policy Complaint Further Delayed

March TK—Illinois Labor Relations Board Local Panel

BACKGROUND: In December 2015, following public outrage after the city withheld the video showing the fatal shooting of Laquan MacDonald, Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed a Police Accountability Task Force. In April 2016, the Task Force issued a series of recommendations for police department reform, including a transparency policy stipulating that video and audio recordings of incidents in which a police officer uses certain types of force be released within 60 days. The City adopted the new policy. In June of that year, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 7, the Chicago police officers’ union, filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Illinois Labor Relations Board Local Panel, alleging that the City’s policy violated its collective bargaining agreement with the union, which stated that “no photo of an Officer under investigation shall be made available to the media prior to a conviction for a criminal offense of prior to a decision being rendered by the Police Board, except where required by law,” and that the City should have had to bargain with the union before implementing the new policy. In May 2018, Administrative Law Judge Deena Sancedo ruled that the video release policy did not violate the collective bargaining agreement and that the complaint should be dismissed. The FOP appealed its decision to the Labor Relations Board Local Panel, which heard oral arguments on the appeal in November 2018, but has delayed its decision since then.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED: Last week, the ILRB Local Panel approved a decision it had made in February to again delay its decision on the FOP appeal, and issued a written ruling explaining its reasoning. Because the FOP and the City are currently negotiating a new contract, and because the proposed consent decree governing police reform has acknowledged that many reforms would require collective bargaining negotiations, the Local Panel wants to delay its decision until contract negotiations are finished, with the hope that the City and the FOP might be able to resolve their disagreements over the video release policy during negotiations.

NEXT STEPS: The Local Panel has asked the FOP and the City to provide any updates from negotiations by May 8.

Thanks to notes by Documenter Camille Erickson from November 2018  and tweets by Documenter Mike Tish from last week.

Changes to Farmers Market Rules Approved, Limiting Aldermen’s Power to Thwart New Farmers Markets and Making Permits More Affordable for Some Vendors

March TK—City Council

BACKGROUND: The operation of Chicago farmers markets is governed by a long set of rules in the city’s municipal code. Previously, the Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) could establish or relocate a farmers market in any ward as long as that ward’s alderman gave written consent. The code also required applicants for farmers market vendor permits to pay a certain fee ($25 for each 10-foot-by-10-foot space for each day of permitted sales in the farmers market.)

WHAT JUST HAPPENED: At last week’s meeting of the Chicago City Council Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs, and Recreation, committee members (and, later in the week, the full City Council) approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s resolution amending the farmers market rules. Under the new rules, an alderman’s consent is no longer required to relocate or establish a farmers market in a ward; however, the commissioner must give the alderman the opportunity to “object in writing” to a farmers market if the market will interfere with certain activity like infrastructure projects; traffic; previously scheduled public events; or police, fire, or sanitation services.

The resolution also changed the fee to $15 (rather than $25) per 10 foot by 10 foot space for each day of permitted sales for markets outside Chicago’s Central Business District (aka Loop/downtown area). It also allows the Department Commissioner to choose to waive the permit fee for growers or producers at specific farmers market in low-income, low-supermarket-access census tracts. Applicants for permits are now required to pay only at least 50 percent of the permit fee upfront and can pay the rest on an installment plan.

WHY? The mayor’s office did not respond to request for comment on an impetus for the resolution, but the rules change (which the mayor wrote was at the request of the DCASE commissioner) suggests an interest in increasing the feasibility of establishing farmers markets by limiting the power of alderman opposition, and in supporting access to permits for lower-income farmers market vendors and vendors in low-income areas.  

Carbon Neutral Proposal Re-referred to Consider Investment Impact

March TK—City Council Rules Committee

BACKGROUND: On February 28, 2018, 45th Ward Alderman John Arena introduced an ordinance amending the city’s municipal code to instruct the City to “establish a carbon neutral investment portfolio by 2020” by offesting existing investments in coal, oil, and gas reserve owners with “socially responsible investments,” such as in U.S. Green Bonds. The amended code would also require the treasurer to consider environmental factors, like carbon footprint and energy consumption; social factors, like labor rights and employee diversity; and corporate governance factors, like executive compensation and transparency and disclosure when making investments. Upon introduction, the ordinance was referred to the City Council Rules Committee to determine whether it should be considered in the Committee on Finance or Committee on Transportation.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED: Over a year after its initial introduction, the Rules Committee voted to re-refer the ordinance to be considered in the Committee on Finance.

Other news from last week’s public meetings

Chicago Tribune:

Block Club Chicago:

Chicago Sun-Times:


Agenda watch

Items to note at upcoming meetings

March 19 - Chicago Housing Authority Board of Commissioners

9:30am, 4859 S. Wabash

  • Commissioners are expected to authorize the renewal of a commitment letter for the planned affordable housing units at 5150 Northwest Apartments in Jefferson Park, a project that ignited controversy in the neighborhood from its founding to its ultimate approval.

  • The board will vote on a recommendation to award Catholic Charities a $4.5 million year-long contract to provide supportive services for seniors in CHA housing. (Previously, Resident Services Coordination for seniors was handled by the private property management companies that the CHA has contracts with.)  

March 19 - Cook County Board Human Relations Committee

1:45pm, 118 N. Clark

  • The committee will vote on a proposed resolution urging U.S. Congress to enact emergency legislation to protect Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients from deportation and to provide the right to visas for undocumented parents of U.S. citizen or DACA eligible children.  The resolution is sponsored by Alma Anaya, the 7th District commissioner who ran as a successor to Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

March 19 - Cook County Board Technology and Innovation Committee

1:30pm, 118 N. Clark

  • The committee will vote on a resolution requesting a hearing on what it would take to implement remote court appearances in Cook County, so that attorneys and the public can appear in court via video call in some routine matters, which would have benefits such as reducing attorney fees, increasing the availability of pro bono assistance and court interpreters, and mitigating the need to miss work or pay for travel to appear in court. The resolution is sponsored by 16th District Commissioner Jeffrey R. Tobolski.

March 20 - Cook County Board Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee

11am, 118 N. Clark.

  • The committee will vote on a resolution requesting to hold a hearing on the current status of a prescription drug take-back program managed by the Cook County Sheriff in partnership with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. The resolution is sponsored by 13th District Commissioner Larry Suffredin.

March 21 - Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) Planning & Administration Committee

8:30am, 175 W. Jackson, Suite 1650.

  • The RTA will announce the final projects selected for its 2019 Community Planning program, a program in which the RTA “offers technical assistance to local governments and intergovernmental organizations to address local planning needs that intersect public transportation and land use.” The RTA’s website already lists its proposed 2019 projects, which range from supporting transit-oriented development in Crystal Lake to analyzing Metra stations with low ridership.