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Chicagoans swamp city with flood complaints after spring’s record rain

by Brett Chase and Caroline Hurley - Chicago Sun-Times

Omar Vega moved into his East Side home three years ago, and he’s endured basement flooding each spring or summer since.

This past May, he said water came up through two drains and left around 6 inches of “very stinky” sewer backup standing in his basement, destroying carpet and some other items. 

“It’s the same old story,” he said of the recurring problem at his home, a perennial misery faced by tens of thousands of Chicagoans.

Vega reported his home’s flooding to the city’s 311 system, one of nearly 4,800 complaints that month, the wettest May ever in the city with more than 9.5 inches of rain reported.

Trends point to even wetter weather in the future.

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City of Chicago announces bars can partially reopen June 17

by City of Chicago

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, alongside several City departments including the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), and the Chicago Park District, today announced the reopening dates for bars and breweries – June 17 – and the Lakefront Trail – June 22.

Beginning Wednesday, June 17, bars, lounges, taverns, breweries and other drinking establishments that sell alcohol for on-site consumption without a Retail Food License will be able to open for outdoor service only. Under the industry guidelines, drinking establishments may reopen under similar health and safety restrictions that restaurants have been following since June 3, including the same requirements for outdoor service only. Patrons must be seated at tables that are six feet apart, with six people or fewer per table. Furthermore, seating at drinking establishments will be limited to a maximum of two hours. Finally, alcohol sales at bars and restaurants for on-site consumption must end at 11:00 p.m. each night, however the sale of alcohol for carryout or delivery must cease at 9:00 p.m. each night.

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Chicago offers more guidance on business reopenings

by Crain's Chicago Business

While the exact reopening day is uncertain, the city of Chicago is releasing its own guidelines for businesses to further crack open their doors in the next phase, known as “Cautiously Reopen.” The city expects 130,000 Chicagoans to head back to work in that phase, and the guidelines are meant to line up with those developed by the state.

Industries eligible to reopen as part of the city’s Phase 3 include:
• Child care centers and family child care;
• Non-lakefront parks, but not for contact sports;
• Libraries and other city services;
• Office-based jobs, professional services and real estate services;
• Hotels and lodging;
• Outdoor activities like boating and golf, but not on lakefront courses, and not including the Playpen portion of Lake Michigan;
• Nonessential retail personal services like hair and nail salons, barbershops and tattoo parlors;
• Outdoor dining at restaurants and coffee shops, but not bars or lounges;
• Manufacturing, construction and warehousing;
• Hospitals, dentists, community mental health centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers;
• Public transit, regional transit, taxis and ride-hailing services, and
• Gyms with outdoor space or that offer one-on-one training.

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Pandemic shutdown of Chicago economy to cost city ‘probably in excess of $500 million’ says top mayoral aide

by Fran Spielman - Chicago Sun-Times

The stay-at-home shutdown of the Chicago economy triggered by the coronavirus will cost the city “hundreds of millions” of dollars in revenue and “probably in excess of $500 million,” a top mayoral aide said Monday.

Chief Financial Officer Jennie Huang Bennett offered the first official estimate of Chicago’s budget shortfall under questioning by Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) at Monday’s Finance Committee meeting.

Huang Bennett was testifying about a bare-bones, $100 million capital plan. But Beale wanted an answer to the question that Mayor Lori Lightfoot has so far refused to answer.

How big a hole has the pandemic blown in Lightfoot’s precariously-balanced, $11.6 billion budget? How much revenue will reluctant aldermen have to find — either by cutting the budget or raising taxes?

“We know that it will be several hundreds of millions of dollars. Probably in excess of $500 million,” Huang Bennett said.

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City planners OK tall neighbor for Tribune Tower

by David Roeder - Chicago Sun-Times

The city’s planning authority Friday approved zoning for a hotel and residential high-rise just east of Tribune Tower that would become the second-tallest building in Chicago, a major step forward for a project imagined for years.

But despite the approval from the Chicago Plan Commission, the 1,422-foot building remains a highly speculative deal that may take years to realize. Its residential component, including condos and rentals, and its hotel all are vulnerable in an economy with continuing damage from the pandemic.

“It’s tough to be able to predict in today’s world,” one of the developers, Lee Golub, told the commission. Golub, executive vice president of Golub & Co., said he would consider adding residential units if the hotel is not viable. He said he hopes the three-year construction project could start late in 2021 or early 2022.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot lays out ‘five-star’ plan for reopening Chicago following coronavirus pandemic disruptions

 by By GREGORY PRATT, JOHN BYRNE and DAN PETRELLA - Chicago Tribune

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot laid out a “five-star” plan for reopening Chicago Friday, a multiphase approach that offers no timetable but sets tougher benchmarks to meet before easing stay-at-home rules than Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker set in his statewide strategy.

Lightfoot’s plan layers additional standards for rates of infection and testing capacity on top of the state rules the governor unveiled earlier this week. As with Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan, Lightfoot’s framework sets a high bar for returning to normalcy.

Lightfoot can’t set looser standards than the statewide ones laid out by the governor, but she can tailor them to the city. Her plan is “specifically designed for Chicago’s residents and businesses, and encompassing a clear, data-driven five-phase process," she said.

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More new buildings in Chicago must be EV-ready, says Mayor

by Sarah Wray - Cities Today

Chicago’s Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, and the Chicago City Council have passed an ordinance to ensure that more residential and commercial developments are equipped to support electric vehicles (EVs).

In new residential buildings with five or more dwelling units (reduced from 24) and commercial buildings with 30 or more parking spaces (reduced from 50), at least 20 percent of bays must be ready for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) to be installed.

Additionally, all applicable properties must have at least one EVSE-ready space that is accessible to people with disabilities.

The city said the ordinance was developed in response to growing EV sales in the US. It is estimated that by 2040, 57 percent of all new cars sold will be EVs and a recent survey found that 16 percent of Americans say they are likely to buy an EV as their next vehicle.

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Ald. Carrie Austin drops out of ward committee person race

by Rachel Hinton - Chicago Sun-Times

Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) on Monday dropped out of the race to remain that ward’s committee person.

An official with the Cook County Clerk’s office said Austin filed paperwork to withdraw her candidacy Monday afternoon.

Austin’s petition signatures had been challenged; she was 409 signatures short of the 925 minimum to get on the ballot, said Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections.

In a nearly page-long explanation for withdrawing, Austin cited a Bible verse: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens.”

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City of Chicago Appoints New Director of Workforce Strategy

by Editor - Lawndale News

Earlier this week, the City appointed Alberto Ortega as Director of Workforce Strategy and Business Engagement, a role that will require the implementation of a new workforce development strategy across City of Chicago departments and Sister Agencies, in collaboration with Cook County and other key stakeholders. This strategy is focused on promoting the economic mobility of low-income residents by expanding access to educational and skill-training opportunities.

Prior to his appointment, Ortega founded the Workforce Employer Resource Collaborative (WERC), a network of more than 35 nonprofit organizations that aims to match employers with qualified workers, connect people to family-sustaining wage jobs, and customize strategies to enhance recruitment and retention. “It is truly an honor to join Mayor Lightfoot and the entire City to build relationships for economic and social impact through meaningful internal as well as external engagement activities to continue to advance the City as an inclusive and diverse employer, and bring jobs and economic growth to all of Chicago,” said Ortega in a statement.

Ortega will oversee the newly created Chicago Construction Careers Council (C4), a multi-department and multi-agency task force charged with creating new standards for hiring, training, and supplying labor needs for construction projects in Chicago.

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Hometown developers of projects like Vista Tower, Lincoln Yards and Bank of America Tower are putting money in other cities. ‘We love Chicago but are super nervous.’

by Ryan Ori - Chicago Tribune

After years of luring corporate headquarters downtown, altering the city’s skyline and transforming once-fringe neighborhoods, some of Chicago’s best-known developers are taking a new approach for 2020 and beyond.

They’re lining up real estate investments in other cities.

A decade into a Chicago construction boom, some major players known for focusing heavily on their hometown are shopping for land to develop in places including Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, Austin, Atlanta and Dallas.

Chicago-based firms, including Vista Tower’s Magellan Development Group and Lincoln Yards’ Sterling Bay, have determined that property tax increases and other factors make it difficult to finance new projects locally.

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Another day, another example of City Council balking at Lightfoot’s plan to chip away at aldermanic prerogative

by Fran Spielman - Chicago Sun-Times

Another day, another example of Chicago aldermen pushing back against Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s attempts to chip away at their cherished aldermanic prerogative.

This time, the point of contention was the mayor’s plan to abolish four tax-increment-financing districts as part of declaring a record $300 million TIF surplus to help balance the city budget and bankroll the new teachers contract.

Three TIFs — Harlem Industrial, Pershing/King and South Works Industrial — were abolished without controversy by the City Council’s Finance Committee.

The decision to sunset the fourth TIF — Irving Park/Elston — 13 years ahead of schedule triggered the controversy and was ultimately held in committee.

Ald. Samantha Nugent (39th) said she wants to use at least some of the $161,904 “closing balance” in the Irving Park/Elston TIF for ornamental metal signposts to identify the Old Irving Park neighborhood she represents.

“We’re starting to get a lot of restaurants and shops and we want to help promote that,” she said.

“If they are the metal ones, I’m having quotes of around $8,000 each. I’d like to do 18. I don’t know if I’ll get that many. But it’s something that we were putting in for. Both Ald. [Jim] Gardiner and I represent that area and we think it’d be nice for the community.”

Nugent said she did speak with “staff” in the Department of Planning and Development about the mayor’s decision to abolish the TIF 13 years early.

But she said she was “never in agreement” with the idea of “completely sunsetting that TIF without different alternatives for me to be able to do some work in the community.”

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City Council’s Ethics Committee approves lobbying ban

by Fran Spielman - Chicago Sun-Times

The days of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back” are about to come to a screeching halt — at least when it comes to City Hall lobbying.

The City Council’s Committee on Ethics and Government Oversight on Wednesday approved an ordinance that prohibits Chicago aldermen from lobbying state and local government and prevent their counterparts at those other levels from doing the same at City Hall.

Aviation Committee Chairman Matt O’Shea (19th) and Ethics Chairman Michele Smith (43rd) are co-sponsoring the ordinance in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the burgeoning lobbying scandal swirling around Commonwealth Edison and video gaming interests pushing to legalize sweepstakes machines.

“We’ve seen, historically, that there has been an issue of cross-lobbying — sort of a reciprocity — that can lead to a corrupt system. And we’ve seen some examples of it,” Smith said Wednesday.

“We think the time to act is right now to take a stand in this new City Council that we will not allow that. … We’re trying to end the notion of, ‘You scratch my back. I’ll scratch your back.’”

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Lightfoot’s precariously-balanced budget will sail through the City Council, but how long will it last?

by Fran Spielman - Chicago Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot deliberately dodged a City Council rebellion by steering clear of a massive property tax increase and using one-time revenues to erase nearly half the $838 million budget shortfall she inherited.

She tore up the time-honored mayoral script that calls for a big tax hike early in a four-year term to live off the money and give voters three more years to forgive and forget.

She cleverly tied her 2020 budget to a $15-an-hour minimum wage to appease progressive aldermen miffed at her failure to reopen mental health clinics and devote all of the revenue generated by a graduated real estate transfer tax to combat homelessness and build affordable housing.

A former federal prosecutor who is no fan of political horse-trading, Lightfoot even found the $1.25 million needed to increase the annual aldermanic expense allowance by $25,000.

For all of those reasons and more, there is zero suspense to Tuesday’s City Council vote on Chicago’s $11.6 billion budget.

The rookie mayor will easily have the 26 votes she needs to win the most important test of her political strength since the day she installed her City Council leadership team and made mincemeat of indicted Ald. Edward Burke (14th).

That leaves only two major questions:

  • How many progressive aldermen will cast protest votes at the behest of United Working Families, the Grassroots Collaborative and the Chicago Teachers Union
  • And, more importantly, how long will a shaky budget that is already “Plan B” hold up before Lightfoot is forced to turn to the massive property tax increase she has tried so desperately to avoid?

The mayor is making no promises after coming up empty during the Illinois General Assembly’s fall veto session.

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Chicago’s condos are turning into rentals. Here’s what’s driving the deconversion trend, and what it means for condo owners.

by Carisa Crawford Chappell - Chicago Tribune

Chicago apartment buildings can have many lives. “It used to be you bought an apartment building and converted it into condominiums,” said Susan Tjarksen, a managing director in the Chicago office of Cushman & Wakefield, “and now we’re seeing the reverse of that.”

While that’s the simplest definition of the condo deconversion trend sweeping the city, turning condos into rental apartments is not a simple process for residents, the community or investors. Residents who buy a unit in a building seeking the stability of homeownership are often forced to move when an apartment investor buys the building. Investors often find themselves scrambling to find buildings that cater to the city’s hot rental market. And aldermen in neighborhoods that have seen rising deconversions are facing pressure from condo-owning constituents.

Condominiums that have surpassed their 1980s and 1990s heyday are prime targets for offers from investors. “It’s been a good way of finding an alternative source of investments,” said David Goss, co-founder and managing principal at Interra Realty. His firm did its first deconversion transaction of a 101-unit building in Uptown in January 2017. Since then, he’s noticed an uptick in the number of condos being turned into apartments.

The City Council has taken notice as well. Chicago’s recently passed Condominium Deconversion Ordinance, designed to decrease the number of condominiums that investors purchase, took effect Oct. 16. The ordinance increases the number of “yes” votes needed from condo unit owners to sell the building to an investor, from 75 percent to 85 percent.

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Lori Healey is stepping down at McPier, the latest in a series of changes in city business-related agencies under Mayor Lori Lightfoot

by Greg Hinz - Crain's Chicago Business

The head of the agency that runs McCormick Place is leaving her post.

City Hall sources confirmed that Lori Healey, CEO of the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, has submitted her resignation, effective Oct. 18.

Healey was not immediately available for comment but a spokeswoman for the agency, generally known as McPier, said Healey would talk Monday about what she now plans to do.

McPier’s Chief Financial Officer, Larita Clark, will take over as acting CEO on a temporary basis while the agency looks for a permanent successor, the spokeswoman said.

Healey’s departure is the latest of a series in which the heads of major city business-development have moved on. 

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Facing $838 million city budget shortfall, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot holds first town hall: ‘We actually value your opinion’

by Gregory Pratt and John Byrne - Chicago Tribune

Tax visiting suburbanites. Stop offering pensions. Collect spare change.

Perhaps the only suggestion Chicago residents didn’t make to Mayor Lori Lightfoot at her first budget town hall was to hold a massive citywide garage sale.

One after another, citizens approached the microphone at the Copernicus Center in Jefferson Park on Wednesday evening to give Lightfoot their ideas on how to close the city’s $838 million budget shortfall.

While many speakers focused on big-ticket items, like casinos and cutting controversial tax subsidies for developers, others expressed concern about the little things during Lightfoot’s first town hall.

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Uber subsidiary sues Chicago over bike-sharing contract, says grants Lyft monopoly, skipped public bidding

by Scott Holland - Cook County Record

An Uber-owned company is suing the city of Chicago, alleging the city's bike-sharing contract essentially grants a monopoly to Lyft.

Social Bicycles LLC, which operates Jump, filed a complaint Aug. 2 in federal court in Chicago against the city and its transportation department concerning the $65 million contract signed in 2013 with Alta Bicycle Share. When Bikeshare Holdings bought Alta, it renamed it Motivate; Lyft purchased Motivate in July 2018, three months after Uber acquired Jump.

The city renegotiated the contract in March 2019, seeking to “dramatically expand” its scope by giving Motivate sweeping, exclusive operational rights, “without ever engaging in a competitive bidding or request for proposal process, as required by state and local public contracting laws,” the complaint said.

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Mayor Lightfoot identifies five sites for Chicago casino

by CBS Chicago

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said five sites are being looked at for a possible casino in Chicago.

An “economic feasibility study” is being launched by an independent consultant to see what it would take to develop and operate a casino in Chicago. The mayor’s office said a new casino “will create thousands of jobs fo the community.”

“While a Chicago casino had been talked about for more than 30 years, today we are moving forward to ensure the new casino is viable for Chicago and all of its communities,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

The firm Union Gaming was chosen with help from the Illinois Gaming Board. According to the Illinois Gambling Act, the board has to select a consultant and the consultant has 45 days to finish its “revenue forecast” and turn in the findings to the city of Chicago.

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City cites four electric scooter companies over distribution issue

by Mary Wisniewski - Chicago Tribune

The city of Chicago has cited four electric scooter vendors for failing to properly spread the devices around the pilot area.

Under the city’s pilot program for shared electric scooters, vendors must keep scooters within a 50-square-mile pilot area located west of Halsted Street and east of the city’s western border, south of Irving Park Road and north of the South Branch of the Chicago River.

The city also requires that the companies place 25 percent of their scooters each morning into each of two priority areas within the pilot zone — one north of Chicago Avenue and west of Pulaski Road, and one south of Chicago Avenue and west of Kedzie Avenue. Those areas were chosen because they are not as well served by the Divvy bike program.

The city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection over the weekend cited four of the 10 vendors participating in the program — Bird, Bolt, JUMP and Sherpa — for failing to meet rebalancing requirements, with a potential fine of up to $1,000. It was not immediately known what, if any, fines were issued.

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot faces limited options to fill deep city budget hole

John Byrne and Rick Pearson - Chicago Tribune

15 June 2019

Before she even took office last month, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was telegraphing the need for help from Springfield to fix the city’s daunting financial problems she inherited.

But the state legislature went home this spring offering Chicago little help in the way of short term revenue-raising. With Lightfoot acknowledging Wednesday there’s “no question” taxes or fees will increase for Chicagoans as she tries to fill a 2020 budget hole that might touch $1 billion, the city could be largely on its own to find the money.

At least one top Democratic lawmaker said the new mayor didn’t bring a specific revenue wish list to lawmakers in Springfield, in spite of her public pledges to try to tap into state money to address Chicago’s shortfall.

That leaves the new mayor with a limited menu of politically unpalatable revenue-raising options such as property tax and sales tax hikes, or increases to fees for services that Mayor Rahm Emanuel used to help close budget shortfalls during his two terms.

Lightfoot has promised to first find ways to “save money and resources” through government efficiencies and cutting down on the cost of court settlements, before making residents open their wallets.

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Mayor Lightfoot Announces Juan Carlos Linares As Chief Engagement Officer

Chicago.Gov

3 June 2019

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot announced today the appointment of Juan Carlos Linares as Chief Engagement Officer for the Office of Public Engagement to lead her administration’s efforts in improving outcomes of all Chicago’s communities by connecting on a deeper level, building stronger relationships with neighborhoods and removing barriers to government and city agency services and assistance.

“The Office of Public Engagement is essential to our mission that every voice is heard and every community is recognized,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Juan Carlos’s experience in building neighborhood and housing equity, along with his commitment to transparency, inclusion and accountability, will ensure Chicago is serving all of its citizens no matter their background, status or zip code.”

As Executive Director of LUCHA, a Chicago-based affordable housing development agency that offers counseling, foreclosure prevention and legal assistance, Linares led the organization to excel in health and energy equity by building the first multi-family “Passive House” building in Illinois, completing a first-of-its-kind Health Action Plan under its Tierra Linda housing development, and proposing a preservation ordinance and land trust initiative along Chicago’s 606 Trail.

In addition to his work in building community and advancing housing as a human right, Linares is a strong advocate for the equitable allocation of resources to underserved communities in Illinois and Chicago. In 2018, he served on the Pritzker Gubernatorial Transition Team Healthy Children and Families Committee, and in 2019 as Co-Chair of the Housing Committee on the Mayor Lightfoot’s transition team.

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The New Chicago 311

Built with Chicagoans, for Chicagoans, the new and modernized Chicago 311 system makes it easier than ever for residents to access city services. Residents can now go online to the CHI 311 web portal or use the first-ever CHI 311 mobile app to submit a service request, track progress and give the city immediate feedback.

Residents can access 311 by downloading the CHI 311 mobile app on iOS or Android, visiting 311.Chicago.gov, or calling 311.


Strengthening Chicago's Pensions

In an address to the City Council and other city leaders, Mayor Rahm Emanuel laid out viable options to help the city continue to honor its pension obligations while continuing to expand the economy and reduce the burden on taxpayers.

Read Mayor Emanuel's roadmap to confront pension obligations head-on and his remarks as prepared for delivery.

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