Local Alds. Sophia King (4th) and Leslie Hairston (5th) voted to clear an eight-year union contract for police officers with a 20% pay raise, joined by 38 of their colleagues.
They also voted to extend the city’s earmark program for contracting with nonwhite- and women-owned businesses (MBE and WBE) for another six years, praised former CEO of Chicago Public Schools Dr. Janice Jackson, who stepped down at the end of June, and split on an ordinance that bans restaurants from giving patrons unsolicited plastic foodware.
That ordinance passed 37-10, with Hairston in support and King opposing.
Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) was not present at the Sept. 14 meeting due to personal issues, but she did introduce a resolution with two other alderwomen for the Education Committee to have hearings about CPS’s handling of in-school learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. She also opposed the plasticware ordinance in committee.
Two matters Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced — a zoning change that would allow cannabis dispensaries to open in much of downtown and a plan that would allow the city to sue gang leaders in civil, not criminal, court — were deferred and published by alderpersons, a parliamentary motion blocking a vote.
Rank-and-file officers have already approved the police contract. The Sun-Times reports that the 20% raise is over eight years, more than half of it retroactive, and that the state legislature helped the city's negotiator, Jim Franczek, by removing a requirement that complaints against officers include a sworn affidavit.
The city is responsible for $377.6 million in back pay, with $325 million more to cover the rest of the contract.
King, in an interview, said the contract is not ideal but "moves us forward." She cited a provision, detailed by WTTW, that anonymous complaints can now be investigated. Complainants still have to be disclosed, but not until just before the interview, typically after an investigation.
Officers can also no longer change their statement after viewing footage or listening to recordings of police incidents. Per a 2020 state Supreme Court ruling, the unions can no longer destroy disciplinary records.
"I believe police deserve to be paid for the job that they do. It's a really difficult job," King said, observing that much of the pay raise is retroactive.
Hairston said to put the raise in perspective: "This is a culmination of payments that they had not gotten over the past four years. They have been working without a contract. So in total it may be 20, but this is year five. So it's not really 20, because it has to take into account the years that they got nothing."
Hairston would still like to see the department's 24-hour rule changed. It used to be that an officer who shot someone immediately had to give information to the department after the incident but had a 24-hour deadline to give an administrative statement to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. The contract does not eliminate the rule.
Hairston said CPD has ordered officers be separated after a shooting incident, but she believes the rule needs to be codified.
MBE/WBE, equitable lending
The city's MBE/WBE program would have expired on Sept. 30, but has now been extended for another six years. Twenty-six percent of contracts must go to firms owned by Black, Latino or Asian Chicagoans, and 6% must go to firms owned by Chicago women.
King observed that racism still exists and that business and contracting discrimination still exists against people of color. She said businesses that work with minority-owned companies on public deals have not worked with them on private ones and questioned what would happen if the incentives went away.
"What I see is that this is city money, meaning that it comes from a very diverse pool of people, and that diverse pool of people is paying for the construction and other contracts, but the investment is very poor in Black and Brown communities, especially Black communities, King said. "In order to make sure that that investment is equitable, we have to put things like this in place."
The earmark requirements have allowed businesses to grow, Hairston said, by coming in on a smaller level and later bidding on bigger projects outright.
The council also moved to make the banks that hold the city's money to disclose more information on how they lend to Black and Latino Chicagoans: to whom they lend, whom they hire and where they invest.
WTTW reports that the city has between $400 million and $500 million deposited in national banks for payments, bills and payroll.
The news comes after a WBEZ-City Bureau exposé that showed for every dollar the banks loaned in white neighborhoods, only 12 cents were invested in Black neighborhoods and 13 in Latino ones. (Southwestern Hyde Park is a majority-white area; the rest of the neighborhood has no racial majority, and most of Kenwood is majority-Black.)
"The banks are investing our dollars, and again, our dollars come from a very diverse population of people, and it should be invested diversely, and we should be transparent about how they're lending as well," King said.
"Because we do know that banks haven't been equitable in the distribution of loans, which became not only apparent during the mortgage collapse but also in redlining in Chicago. There's intentionality in discriminating where loans went. We've got to be cognizant about that history and be transparent about where our money is going."
Hairston lauded city Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin and other city departments for lobbying for the ordinance.
"I have to be hopeful and I have to remain hopeful that we continue to tick away at racism in every industry," Hairston said. "You think about all the reports about redlining, mortgages and the disproportionate rate that lenders lend to white people as opposed to non-white people, and just to have cards stacked against you at every level is extremely difficult to deal with on a day-to-day basis."
The Hyde Park-Kenwood alderwomen split on an ordinance that bans restaurants from giving out plasticware, napkin and condiment packets unless requested after the Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy voted 9-6 on Sept. 13 to advance it, with left-of-center alderpersons, including Taylor, opposed.
Left-leaning alderpersons opposed it again on Sept. 14, King among them. But Hairston, a member of the council’s Progressive Reform Caucus, supported it.
Ordinance supporters said it would reduce waste and increase sustainability while saving businesses money, noting the increase in plasticware usage since the beginning of the pandemic and shift in diners' behavior towards take-out, but opponents said it is piecemeal and does not go far enough.
In Hyde Park, Amy Le's Saucy Porka, 1164 E. 55th St., already asks customers whether they place to-go orders online, over the phone or in-person, whether or not they want plastic utensils and napkins. It cuts down on waste, but it also saves the restaurant money.
"People were just tossing it," she said. "A lot of people were working from home during the pandemic, and they didn't need all the cutlery and plastics."
"A lot of times people are driven to be more environmental when there are more economic benefits towards it," she observed. "If that's an extra benefit, so be it. Whatever it take to motivate people to do the right thing."
Le estimated that a restaurant could save a couple hundred dollars a month by asking whether customers don't want plastic utensils and napkins with their food. Multiplied over 12 months, that's a decent amount of money for the bottom line-conscious restaurant industry, she said.
Le and King both wonder how the ordinance is going to be enforced.
King, for her part, acknowledged the abundance of plasticware that comes with takeout when she could use her silverware at home and hopes people think about how they could reduce their plastic consumption. But she suggested a "meatier" enforcement mechanism "to really drive the point home," suggesting that businesses be mandated to have their customers pay for plasticware when getting takeout.
She said she does think that the council may act on legislation like that in the future.
"I think there're just some measures that we could put in place that won't be onerous on businesses but that will help the environment as well," King said.
Hairston, however, said she supported the ordinance so that there would be no cost to consumers or businesses during this time of pandemic. The daughter of a McDonalds franchisee noted that many businesses have already moved away from having bins where customers can get their own plasticware and condiments to controlling costs by putting them in the bag.
"There's no cost to the consumer, and there's no cost to the business," she said. "If anything, it might be a savings to the business."
Praise for Jackson
Alderpersons heaped praise on Jackson, a native South Sider and Chicago State University graduate who began her career in education at South Shore High School, 1955 E. 75th St., before becoming a West Side principal, earning a doctorate at the University of Illinois at Chicago and entering CPS administration in 2014. She became the district's CEO in December 2017.
King called her a once-in-a-lifetime leader who left CPS better than she found it.
"You are a homegirl in all of the definitions, and you know what I mean," she said. "You have risen in excellence without forgetting about who you are and why you're here. You put intelligence, management acumen, strength, confidence, style, passion and integrity in … an unbeatable package. I truly admire you as a leader and wish you all the best in your endeavor."
Hairston recalled the time she and Jackson had been in Hyde Park Academy High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., together, and how impressed she was when Jackson remarked that the lab they were in was where she had had class.
"Kids cannot be who they don't see, and they saw you," Hairston said. "Not just in the television, but they saw you in the classroom, they saw you in the halls, they saw you outside of the school, they saw you inside of the school, they saw you with the parents, and they saw you with the teachers and the other principals. And I want to say thank you for that."