Full Day at Chicago City Council, Cook County

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Hotel bills in Cook County are about to go up. The County Board today approved a 1-percent hike in the hotel tax. Also today, City Council took action on a slew of topics, including drones, privatization deals like the parking meters, the City Council Inspector General and Syrian refugees. Paris Schutz has the full rundown.

County Board

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The hotel tax is expected to bring in about $15 million to county coffers. It was proposed in lieu of taxes on golf and bowling, which proved to be very unpopular among county commissioners. It’s all part of the county’s $4 billion budget that was approved just moments ago.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle had this to say:

She said she’s also made about $100 million worth of cuts in this budget, but five commissioners voted no and argue that the county should have cut some more.

“It’s unfathomable to me that we can’t look inward to tighten our own belts,” said Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey. “I proposed a slightly over 1-percent cut across the board to county government, and the response from the administration and others was that the sky was going to fall. That’s simply not the case. The biggest issue we have is until we make those cuts, we’re going to have this problem year after year after year. We’re going to have a deficit in a year, and at that same time the same choices are going to be made: more taxes, or cuts.”

This budget also includes the controversial 1-percent hike in the sales tax, which would give Chicago once again the highest big-city sales tax in the nation.

City Council

We reported on the drone ordinance last week. It says that a drone operator can’t fly within five miles of O’Hare or Midway, they can’t fly over any private property, they can’t fly over a school or church without the consent of all those parties, and this ordinance that was approved today by the full City Council sets hefty fines and jail times if those rules are violated. But, the enforcement of all of this is going to be pretty tough.

Also today, City Council voted on a measure that’s aimed at preventing another Skyway deal.

The ordinance ensures that if another big asset like the Skyway or the parking meters is going to be sold, aldermen are going to have three months to get to review it and they’re going to have to have public hearings on it before any action is taken.

In the case of the parking meters, aldermen had two or three days to mull the deal over. Many of them didn’t know what they were voting on.

There was also some movement on the position of legislative inspector general.

There are two separate proposals now to police aldermen in the wake of the departure of embattled Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan. There’s an ordinance that was introduced today that would continue that office of Legislative Inspector General and it would give it actual investigative powers–something that it has lacked in the past.

There’s another ordinance that would give the mayor’s inspector general, Joe Ferguson, the power to oversee aldermen. There’s a brick on that ordinance: 32 aldermen signed a letter today to Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th Ward), the head of the committee that has that ordinance to lift that brick up.

Mayor Emanuel’s message to aldermen today: If you’re going to stick with your own inspector general, you’d better find one soon.

“I believe you must find an inspector, identify an inspector general who has both the ability and the authority to do their job, and identify that individual before the end of this year,” the mayor said.

Lastly, City Council took up a measure regarding Syrian refugees. They just passed an ordinance rebuking Gov. Rauner’s call to temporarily halt the resettlement of these refugees, saying that Chicago is still going to be a sanctuary for refugees and aldermen and the mayor waxed poetic on this topic today.

“Chicago, like Paris, must remain a city that welcomes immigrants and is a beacon of hope,” said Ald. Ed Burke (14 Ward).

“Some folks decided to pop off and say that Syrian refugees weren’t welcome here,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward). “They decided to greet those fleeing violence and those seeking safety with fear.”

“If we turn our back on these refugees,” said Ald. Daniel Solis (25th Ward), “we are becoming unfeeling, without a heart, and not recognizing that we need these immigrants to continue to build our country.”

It’s unclear what this ordinance will actually do, or what affect the governor’s executive order really does, since immigration and refugee resettlement is under the purview of the federal government.

Related story:

Examining the Syrian Refugee Crisis, Response

In the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Paris, many Republican governors are saying they are unwilling to allow Syrian refugees to be settled in their states, among them Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Our panel discusses the refugee crisis and response.

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