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Matthew Blake

Lewis pushes on financial transaction tax to solve CTU pension woes

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis laid out Monday ways she thinks the city can raise money to pay off a massive retirement liability for CTU members.  

In focusing on revenue instead of cuts to workers’ pensions in order to deal with hundreds of millions of dollars in CTU retirement back payments, Lewis again sought to contrast herself with fierce political foe Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Board of Education. “The city does not have a pension crisis, it has a leadership crisis,” Lewis said, in a typically impassioned speech before the City Club of Chicago.


Despite ordinance passage, efforts to combat Chicago petcoke up in the air

This week the City Council passed an ordinance sponsored by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Ed Burke (14th), and Southeast Side Alderman John Pope (10th) that amends city zoning law to ban development of new petroleum coke storage facilities in Chicago.

But the ordinance may play a minor role in efforts to deal with existing petcoke facilities, which store and transport giant mounds of black dust particles that are the byproduct of the oil refining process.


Plastic bag ban for chain stores gets final approval

A ban on plastic bags in Chicago chain stores and large retailers backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel passed the City Council 36-10 Wednesday with dissenting aldermen concerned about the ban’s economic impact.

The ban was one of several major new rules the council passed, including a prohibition on new petroleum coke refineries and a ban on cycle taxis in some stretches of downtown.


New digital sign rules advance

As a permit moratorium on small digital signs winds down, the City Council Zoning Committee green-lighted Tuesday a host of new rules for the bright light ads.

Officials from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration said the new ordinance would take on a growing quality-of-life issue of bright, blinking ads invading homes and businesses. “We live in an economy where these signs are now a reality,” said Rose Kelly, senior counsel at the Chicago Law Department.

City poised to tap bond market for water projects

Debt-plagued city of Chicago would issue up to $1.05 billion more in bonds per two separate deals that the City Council Finance Committee passed Monday by voice vote.

Chicago PR group to sell CountyCare

A one-year, $2.4 million contract for CountyCare advertising was approved by the Cook County Health and Hospitals System Board Friday, as the managed health care network transitions to a new stage.

Under the deal Chicago-based Res Publica Group will make ads to “develop clear and meaningful brand awareness in the current competitive marketplace,” per the contract’s summary.

Plastic bag ban in chain stores quickly passes committee

A ban on plastic bags in Chicago chain stores passed unanimously by voice vote out of the City Council Health and Environmental Protection Committee Thursday.

Alderman Joe Moreno (1st), the ordinance's sponsor, said that the vote was a “historic day for our environment” and that “the quality of life will be a little bit better with the removal of these relics.”

Council panel advances valet crackdown, some Sunday morning booze sales

Downtown Alderman Brendan Reilly’s proposed crackdown on rogue valet companies cleared the City Council License and Consumer Protection Committee Wednesday.

Reilly (42nd) explained that his measure “does not place new requirements upon the valet industry” but “simply strengthens some of the penalties for violating the most egregious rules.”

These include a provision that valet companies caught operating without a license will be banned from operating for a year, and fined between $2,000 and $5,000.

Deliberate Infrastructure Trust dips toes into pool retrofit

At the start of Thursday’s Chicago Infrastructure Trust Board meeting, Trust Executive Director Stephen Beitler said that CohnReznick LLP was picked as the nonprofit’s auditing firm after no other company submitted a bid.

The revelation appeared an opportune moment for Trust Board member – and former city of Chicago inspector general – David Hoffman to pounce. Some aldermanic critics of the Trust, who said the entity needed more transparency, applauded Hoffman’s board appointment in June 2012.

CTA prioritizes Red Line extension, but process has just started

Chicago Transit Authority President Forrest Claypool assured transit advocates Wednesday that CTA and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are “doing everything we can” to extend CTA’s Red Line from 95th Street to 130th Street, a project floated since the Dan Ryan Expressway opened in the 1960s. But Claypool also called the federally-dictated process to get the necessary cash and environmental regulatory approval “onerous” and could not estimate when construction might start.