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Alderman Moore’s City Council Report

Posted on October 20, 2009

Dear Neighbor,

With the Olympics suddenly off the agenda, the October City Council meeting saw a plethora of legislative activity.  New ordinances were introduced, languishing legislation was finally passed, and votes were sometimes so close that aldermen were seen reaching for their dusty Roberts Rules of Order to help interpret the proceedings!

Much happened, so I’ll try to briefly summarize those ordinances and resolutions that I believe most concern you.  First, the new legislation introduced:

Privatization of Snowplowing.  Here’s a subject dear to every city resident. The Daley Administration has explored outsourcing the plowing of residential streets to private firms.  Most members of the City Council, myself included, thought this was a horrible idea.  Turning over snow removal to inexperienced drivers is a recipe for disaster.  Who would be accountable?

Under the current system, each ward superintendent and his laborers are responsible for snow removal on residential steets.  This helps the aldermen hold everyone accountable and enables us to respond quickly to unforeseen problems that may occur during a snowstorm.  My ward superintendent, Greg Wagner, knows the side streets of the 49th Ward like the back of his hand, and certainly knows them much better than a private contractor from the suburbs.

That is why Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (4th Ward) and I co-sponsored a resolution calling upon the Daley Administration the City to refrain from signing snow plowing contracts with outside contractors until public hearings could be held on this proposal.  Fortunately, the Administration announced this week that it was dropping the idea after only one contractor responded to its Request for Proposals.

Asset Lease Transparency.  It’s a continuous battle to clear City Hall back rooms of smoke, so I am co-sponsoring with Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) the “Asset Lease Taxpayer Protection Ordinance” that will require significantly more transparency in the sale and lease of public assets. The controversial parking meter lease deal has demonstrated some of the risks inherent to the privatization of public assets and raised public concerns about the so-called benefits.

The ordinance requires that the Administration notify the City Council at the moment it first considers the leasing of a city asset. To ensure transparency and a proper public vetting, the ordinance calls for extensive public hearings long before the City Council votes to approve any lease deal. In addition, the ordinance requires that all the documents created in the process of formulating the lease must be made available for public review.

The ordinance also requires an independent third-party evaluation of the lease agreement to ensure that the taxpayers are receiving the best deal possible. Finally, the ordinance sets forth a set of criteria that the lease agreement must meet before it is approved by the City Council, including a thirty-year limit on all lease agreements.

Given the Mayor’s announced intention to tap into the reserve funds created from the Skyway and parking meter leases to close this year’s budget gap, this ordinance becomes even more important. I hope the ordinance will receive a quick hearing and adoption by the City Council.

Cab Driver Safety.  This issue is particularly important to me, as so many of these hardworking people are our neighbors in Rogers Park.  Violence against cab drivers is well documented (one out of five are attacked while on their job), so I have called upon the Cook County State’s Attorney to prosecute as a felony any assault and battery on a cab driver.  I’ve also called upon the City’s Department of Business Affairs to require the placement of a placard in every taxicab advising passengers that attacking a cab driver is a felony.

Finally, given a number of late night assaults on taxicab drivers, I have introduced an ordinance that would allow drivers coming home very late from their shifts to park on commercial (not residential) streets in our ward, from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. (but only during that time window).

Several new ordinances were passed last Wednesday as well.

“Bubble Zone” Ordinance.  The safety of women and children accessing health care, especially those seeking help with reproductive health issues, was vastly improved on Wednesday.  By a vote of 28-13, City Council passed an ordinance requiring of an eight-foot “buffer (or bubble) zone” between patients and agitators within 50 feet of any Chicago health-care facility.  I was pleased to co-sponsor this ordinance, and in spite of the “free speech” arguments by the anti-choice community, I believe that this legislation strikes the proper the balance between safety and political expression.

Limits on Diesel Truck Idling.  Limiting exhaust from diesel trucks has long been a goal of the public health and environmental communities.  With this ordinance, Chicago becomes the first major city in the Midwest to limit idling to three minutes; otherwise a ticket of $250 can be written.  A few categories like emergency vehicles or on-site cement mixers are excluded.

And finally, an important ordinance to support labor came to the floor for debate, but after intense lobbying by the hotel industry and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the ordinance was re-referred to committee by a 23-22 vote.  This was the so-called “Right to Know Ordinance,” which would require hotels to inform prospective guests if their workers were on strike.  And why not?  There are many people who do not want to cross picket lines or spend their money supporting establishments with labor problems.  The ordinance is again in the Finance Committee, but I will work to bring it back to the floor and to a successful vote.

The City Council will meet again tomorrow (Wednesday, October 21st) in special session to hear the Mayor deliver his proposed 2010 budget. In the coming days, I will share with you my thoughts on the proposed budget. Stay tuned.

Sincerely,

Joe Moore

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