Note from Alderman
Happy New Year 2021,
Despite a year of significant hardships for many people, I am grateful for the support and efforts of all the individuals and groups that supported our city and community throughout 2020. As COVID-19 hit the country and our city very early on, I am grateful we had prepared leadership in the City and especially at the Department of Public Health to address COVID head on. I know that while many of the directives were difficult to undertake and we all had to adapt to mask wearing, changes in school, business, and home life, I appreciate all the efforts of our collective community in tackling the pandemic.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we realized the city finances would be hit hard and had to make up ground. To address the economic and health impacts of COVID-19, I was able to work as part of the Chicago Recovery Task Force with people from a myriad of backgrounds to prepare for a post-pandemic economic recovery effort. We collaborated with labor, business, and our suburban partners to address our regional economy and needs. As a community, we have grown and our work throughout this pandemic has helped push the progressive policies that we need to thrive. The lessons learned from the pandemic will help us shape better policies and plans for years to come.
The privilege and work of serving as Chair to the Committee on Finance has pushed on fruitfully despite the obstacles of the past year. There is a lot more work to be done to change decades of past practices. Our office has been fully functional for remote work since the initial shutdown, and we have pushed on with our continued efforts to open the doors of the committee to my colleagues, bodies of oversight, and the public alike.
With a fraction of the resources previously available, my staff and I continue to build upon the unprecedented transparency and accountability measures put in place through the transition, especially the newly open format of committee meetings, subject matter hearings, and briefings. We have vastly expanded the documentation provided to Council and staff on such matters as: economic disclosure statements and equitable hiring practices of those businesses having contracts with the City, judgments and verdicts satisfied by the City, as well as the essential and challenging dilemmas presented by financial settlements.
The COF held additional hearings during the budget season on revenue options and limitations at the city, state, and federal level. Working with Chairman Dowell and the Budget Committee continues to be enlightening and an experience to build on.
The Committee further streamlined and resourced the Small Claims Department, better enabling the small team to independently and objectively handle their investigations in a thorough and time-efficient manner with the many other departments essential to their work. This has been thanks in no small measure to our Director of Small Claims and her exceptional, albeit tiny, team.
We worked closely with the Office of the Inspector General on several matters this year; most pressingly, we are working towards the creation of best administrative practices to promote efficiency, accountability, and productivity while eliminating waste, starting with the Committee on Finance practices which have proved exemplary on such matters as time, budget, spending, and reporting. I am also looking forward to working with the OIG on several audits and reviews of department processes and programs throughout the City.
Despite the pandemic, I have championed legislation that would help protect our independent local restaurants. Working with other aldermen and the Mayor's Office, we passed a 15%-cap on the commissions third-party food deliver apps charge restaurants. Previously, those charges could run up to 30% or more, essentially eliminating any profit for the restaurant and hurting restaurant workers in the process.
Additionally, I introduced an ordinance prohibiting food delivery apps from listing our local restaurants against their will and without their knowledge. Currently, most of the apps list some restaurants without first entering into an agreement, often listing incorrect menu items and prices. The practice results in a negative experience for the customer and a false impression of the restaurant. We expect that ordinance to move forward early in 2021 as we improvise with our restaurants to keep them running.
I also worked with other aldermen and the Mayor's Office to pass an ordinance to establish an Urban Forestry Advisory Board, which will advise the city on best practices in preserving, protecting, and expanding our tree population. Trees are important because they help mitigate the urban heat island effect, improve drainage, prevent flooding, and beautify our urban landscape. Working with environmentalists and disability advocates, I also introduced an ordinance which would limit the use of non-compostable plastics in restaurants and ban the use of polystyrene. We expect that ordinance also to move forward as we get set to recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.
On police reform, I continue to work with my fellow aldermen and activists on reforms that will create an accountable, constitutional, and respectful police department. To that end, I stand by the need for a community oversight panel, and I introduced an ordinance which would require the Inspector General to publish a database of all closed complaint investigations against police officers, making this important information easily accessible and increasing transparency around how complaints have been investigated. We continue to work for its passage.
This year was also a difficult one for our ward community organizations and our chambers of commerce. Despite not being able to do the public events of the past, they have helped greatly in keeping our small businesses active by advocating for them, supporting school projects, providing outdoor fun where allowed, and providing other means of relief to our community residents while adapting to the pandemic environment. I want to thank them for their joint efforts in the 32nd Ward and our neighboring communities and look forward to working together in years to come.
I urge you to keep wearing masks until the day arrives when you and I can receive the vaccine for COVID-19. If you need masks, please reach out to our office and we will get them to you. Check in here at the City of Chicago Coronavirus Response Center for updates on the vaccine.
As we turn the calendar, my ward office staff and I will continue to help you with your needs, and look forward to working together in 2021.
All the best to you in the new year,
Alderman Scott Waguespack