Court Could Nix City’s $15.8M TIF for Luxury Hi-Rise

CIMC Repost

All Laws Passed at the June 2016 Council Meeting Could be Voided

CHICAGO – A Friday morning court hearing could lead to the scuttling of a $15.8 million taxpayer subsidy for luxury hi-rises in the Uptown neighborhood, one of several upshots of a 2016 Illinois Open Meetings Act lawsuit against the City Council by two long-term LGBT rights activists, Andy Thayer and Rick Garcia.

The hearing will be at 10:30 am, Friday, March 9 in Courtroom 2405 of the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington St.

“Access to City Hall is a concern for everyone with demands that are not finding favor with the Emanuel administration – from homeless people’s rights, to an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council and school board, to reversal of mental health clinic closures, and more,” said co-plaintiff Andy Thayer of Uptown Tent City Organizers, an anti-gentrification and homeless people’s rights group. “When people wonder why City Hall remains so hopelessly corrupt after so many decades of promised reforms, the lack of transparency and meaningful access to government by the majority who aren’t politically connected and can’t buy their way in are huge factors.”

Already the suit has forced the City to concede that it can’t bar the general public from City Council meetings and must allow public comment periods during them as well.

“While we think the residents of Chicago deserve at least double the current 30-minute public comment period, it’s a big improvement over the previous state of affairs when the general public was completely locked out, and only those chosen by the Mayor and the Council were allowed in,” said Thayer.

The motion before the court on Friday contends that the June 2016 Council meeting that rushed through the $15.8 million TIF -- just days before stricter requirements of the new Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) took effect -- was closed to the public and hence an “illegal meeting” under the Illinois Open Meetings Act, and hence the decision should be nixed.

The old ARO required 5% affordable units in TIF-supported developments, while the new ARO requires that they have at least 20% affordable units. At the June 2016 meeting, Alderman Ed Burke noted "there is an urgency to this matter," according to the City’s minutes (01:16:37).

Under the Open Meetings Act, “The court, having due regard for orderly administration and the public interest, as well as for the interests of the parties, may grant such relief as it deems appropriate, including ... declaring null and void any final action taken at a closed meeting in violation of this Act.”

The plaintiffs in the suit contend that there is ample legal precedent to demonstrate that the court is obligated to void laws passed at meetings that are not properly open.

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