By City Bureau
It’s been a busy week for new Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who already has presided over her first full City Council meeting, appointed more than a dozen new city department and City Hall leaders (more on that below) and called for the council’s longest-serving alderman, Ed Burke (14th), to resign after he was indicted on corruption charges.
Be sure to read our recent city government explainer by Mari Cohen: Your Power In City Government Depends On These Lightfoot Appointees.
That aside: welcome to City Bureau’s new user guide to local government, powered by the Documenters Program. We’ll be experimenting with different ideas throughout the summer on what information and context we share and how we present it, and we need your help. Tell us your questions and concerns related to local government and we’ll use your feedback to make this as useful a tool as possible.
Our goal is to create Chicago’s first proactive political rundown. Using information on local government meeting dates, times, locations and official records—plus reporting from hundreds of Documenters across Chicago—all publicly available at Documenters.org, we’ll connect you with timely issues and, most importantly, what you can do before those issues become headlines.
Let’s work together to make city government more user-friendly, responsive and accountable to you.
Lightfoot gives live-streamed meetings a lift
After years of City Council committee meetings flying under the radar for most citizens—meetings where some of the most consequential decisions on local legislation are made before they even hit the Council floor —committee hearings will soon be publicly broadcast in the same way full City Council meetings are.
In March, the City Council unanimously adopted a resolution to change the existing City Council Rules of Order when it comes to broadcasting the council’s committee meetings. The result: all committee meetings going forward are required to be broadcast or livestreamed via the internet (though it did not specify whether the stream would be video or audio only). The new rule was set to take effect September 30 at the latest, pending funding.
At her first City Council meeting on May 29, Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced an ordinance that would earmark “$393,000 for audio and visual equipment to allow for the livestreaming of committee meetings,” as noted by the Civic Federation, a government research group that has long championed the transparency measure. She also tucked a livestreaming requirement for committee meetings into the new rules governing City Council procedures. The rules, and the funding ordinance, were approved the same day by aldermen.
It’s not a new idea: Last May, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) led a group of aldermen who introduced a resolution to publicly broadcast all City Council Committee meetings, but in the months that followed, it languished in the Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics without so much as a meeting.
NEXT UP: Come September 30 (or sooner), the City Council’s committee meetings will have a lot more eyes on them. We’ll update you when the change finally takes effect and let you know how to tune in.
Meetings This Week
Tuesday, June 6 at 10 a.m.
121 N. LaSalle St.
Thursday, June 6 at 2 p.m.
30 E. Lake St., 11th Floor
Thursday, June 6 at 3 p.m.
121 N. LaSalle Dr.
Explore and attend public meetings for your local government at the city, county and state level—updated daily—at Documenters.org.
What We’re Reading
The hammer falls on Chicago’s longest-serving alderman
A detailed, 14-count federal indictment unveiled Thursday fills in many of the questions that have loomed over Ald. Ed Burke (14th) since he became the subject of a federal probe late last year. Just days before the indictment was revealed, Burke was sworn in to his record 13th term as alderman. The Daily Line’s Heather Cherone breaks down some of the more granular details—in one example, Burke, as then-head of the City Council Finance Committee , allegedly used his power to punish a development firm for not hiring Burke’s law office by preventing its subsidy requests from making it on to the committee’s agenda.
Developers are circling shuttered neighborhood schools in gentrifying areas
Several years since Chicago Public Schools closed more than 50 schools, only a handful have been repurposed. As Block Club Chicago reports, an East Coast developer is eyeing the former Von Humboldt Elementary in Humboldt Park for a proposed “Teachers Village,” an apartment complex where more than a third of units would be reserved for “middle-income” teachers; the rest would be a mix of market-rate and affordable housing as well as office and community space, according to the proposal. In order to go forward, the project needs approval from the City Council zoning committee. If successful there, it goes before the Plan Commission, a city-level office that reviews proposals for large planned developments, such as an affordable housing complex.
As mayor, Lori Lightfoot has the power to appoint not just her own staffers—people who have significant power to influence the mayor and promote her agenda—but also roles of city-wide importance, like the heads of schools and police. WBEZ rounds up all the big moves made so far, along with background on who they are, what they’ve done and the basics of what they do in their new roles.
Thanks to reporting and data work by ProPublica Illinois’ Mick Dumke and David Eads, you can see how many committees there really are in City Council (16!), who’s in charge, how much money they control and, in broad strokes, how they spent it last year.