Our weekly users guide to local government in Chicago: August 12-18

By Kim Bellware

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1. A Change to the Municipal Code Could Redefine “Loitering” in Chicago’s Parks

Is 28th Ward Alderman Jason Ervin trying to criminalize standing in Chicago parks? He’s the lead sponsor for a change to the city’s municipal code that would redefine loitering as, among other things, “standing, sitting idly, whether or not the person is in a vehicle, or remaining in or around a public place including a school or park property.” The proposed amendment has been referred to the Committee on Public Safety. LEGISTAR

Why It Matters: The change would apply to everyone and everything within city limits—in this case, 570 public parks spread across 7,600 acres.

Up Next: Attend the next Committee on Public Safety meeting Sept. 6 at 10 a.m. DOCUMENTERS Get an update every time this bill moves at City Hall by tweeting the ordinance number—O2019-5594—to our @CHIBILLBOT

2. Lawmakers Want Reparations on the Table 

A mix of city and state-level lawmakers are working on a reparations ordinance in Chicago that would infuse education, housing, health and jobs programs with cash in order to benefit Black Chicagoans. Supporters say the goal is to make amends for slavery. Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) first cryptically tweeted about the bill last week. @6THWARDCHICAGO

Why It Matters: The public discussion around reparations has grown more robust in recent years; for instance, the U.S. House of Representatives held its first hearing on reparations in a decade this June. CNN In Chicago, which has previously passed a reparations bill for police torture survivors, supporters say reparations are necessary to stem Black population loss. CHICAGO SUN TIMES At the same time, the question looms over how a city with a more than $700 million budget hole can invest heavily in new programs called for in the reparations proposal. CHICAGO SUN TIMES

Related: Ald. Sawyer tweeted the ordinance will be introduced at the next City Council meeting when aldermen return from the summer recess. While finding the money is an obvious challenge, it’s crucial to start the conversation about why reparations are required and how it might be achieved, he said. CHICAGO SUN TIMES

Up Next: Attend the September 18 City Council meeting where the bill will be introduced. DOCUMENTERS

3. Prison Voting Rights Redux 

A bill expanding voting rights and voter access to people held in Illinois prisons and jails that cleared the Illinois General Assembly is awaiting Gov. JB Pritzker’s signature. 

First Notice: SB 2090 was a hot topic of discussion at a recent Chicago Board of Elections meeting ILLINOIS GENERAL ASSEMBLY with commissioners pushing to see the bill pass the governor’s desk soon. DOCUMENTERS

By The Numbers: Former Gov. Bruce Rauner effectively killed one identical bill last year. ILLINOIS GENERAL ASSEMBLY Under the current bill, the 39,187 people in Illinois prisons would get an info packet about their voting rights upon their release (in Illinois, you lose the right to vote only while serving time for a felony conviction); Chicago’s Cook County Jail, which is the largest single-site jail in the country, would become a temporary polling place, re-enfranchising an estimated 20,000 eligible voters held in pre-trial detention in Illinois. HUFFINGTON POST

Up Next: You can submit a response to Gov. Pritzker on SB 2090. ILLINOIS Voter access advocates Chicago Votes created an online petition that’s aiming for 30,000 votes before it’s delivered to the governor’s office. ORGANIZEFOR

4. New Spending on Election Security 

In related voting news, state and local officials are hustling to shore up Illinois’ election security before the November 2020 election. Chicago and Cook County election officials are among those looking to upgrade their old voting machines—to the tune of $60 million. CHICAGO TRIBUNE

More: “Not many [cities] are using computers that are 15 years old,” Chicago Board of Elections (BOE) Spokesman Jim Allen told City Bureau.

Why It Matters: Illinois’ voter database was among those that were compromised by foreign agents after the 2016 election. CHICAGO TRIBUNE Just a few weeks ago, federal intelligence officials revealed the problem was actually far worse, hitting all 50 states. NEW YORK TIMES Allen says Chicago’s voting machines are not vulnerable to an attack so much as they’re vulnerable to breaking down. Chicago’s election board will make a decision in the coming month about an RFP for new machines and plan to introduce the new equipment by the March 2020 primary.

Up Next: Attend the Tuesday, August 13 special meeting by the Chicago Board of Elections where they’ll be discussing voting equipment. DOCUMENTERS

5. Let The Sunshine (and the Reporters) in 

Chicago’s Wendell Smith Elementary Local School Council is subject to Illinois’ Open Meetings Act, but at one recent gathering, school officials tried to kick out WBEZ education reporter Sarah Karp, despite the fact that members of the public—including reporters and Documenters—have a right to be there (audio at 10:23). WBEZ   

Why It Matters: Transparency. It’s crucial that the public have access to information from public meetings, which includes the ability to see officials conduct business in the open. Barring the public from eligible open meetings is a violation of the law; interfering with their ability to stay at those meetings (even if they don’t kick you out) is a bad look—and Chicago Public Schools has a history of doing it. DNAINFO CHICAGO

Up Next: Attend the Wednesday, August 28 Board of Education meeting. DOCUMENTERS You can also submit a Request for Review to the Illinois Attorney General if you think your OMA rights have been violated. ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL 

6. Uber and Lyft’s Two-Wheeled Duel Over Divvy

Dueling transportation-tech companies Uber and Lyft have brought their latest beef to court, and Chicago is in the middle of it. Uber recently sued the city alleging the deal it made with Lyft to exclusively operate the city’s Divvy bike share program is akin to an unfair “backroom monopoly.” THE DAILY LINE

Why It Matters: The Lyft deal to invest in and operate Divvy is supposed to help expand the bike-share program. Based on how the lawsuit shakes out, it could change the amount of money invested in Divvy, where the station expansions go and what types of vehicles would be on offer (e.g. scooters, e-bikes). South and West Side aldermen who favored non-exclusivity for the Divvy contract likened the agreement, inked under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s tenure, to the city’s parking meter privatization fiasco. THE DAILY LINE Another take: “sour grapes.” CHICAGO STREETSBLOG

Up Next: Attend the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Council meeting Thursday, September 5. where the council discusses general issues related to bike safety and infrastructure. DOCUMENTERS

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Wednesday: The Chicago Transit Authority will review of an ordinance authorizing free rides for the first day of school in 2019 and 2020. AGENDA

Wednesday: The Chicago Park District will discuss re-appointment of the Park District Inspector General, Will Fletcher, in a closed session. The Park District’s OIG, investigates allegations of fraud, waste and abuse or misconduct by Chicago Park District representatives, among other duties. AGENDA


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