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Lightfoot, senior advocates strike deal on Covid-19 housing protection ordinance

Monday, July 06, 2020
The Daily Line
by Alex Nitkin

Advocates of an ordinance that would strengthen at-home health protections for seniors say the measure is set to pass a key hurdle on Monday. The measure comes one month after an earlier version of their proposal hit a roadblock in the City Council.

The ordinance (O2020-2254), introduced by Ald. Maria Hadden (49) on behalf of the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, is scheduled for a vote in the council’s Committee on Health and Human Relations at 10 a.m. Monday. The measure lays out a series of rules managers of “senior buildings” must follow during declared public health emergencies, like limiting outside visitors and plying maintenance staff with cleaning supplies and protective equipment.

Hadden pulled the ordinance from consideration in June after Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered an alternate version that would have stripped a core plank: requiring building staff to conduct daily check-ins on their tenants. But following a month of “productive discussions” among senior advocates and city attorneys, the ordinance is back on track, Hadden told The Daily Line Thursday.

“We’re doing something that hasn’t quite been done before…so it’s taken the Law Department some time to review and consider things,” Hadden said. “But it’s been productive, it’s been spirited, and I’m excited about where we’re landing.”

The latest draft of the ordinance mandates check-ins at least twice a week, instead of daily, and it allows them to be conducted over the phone. It also gives seniors an explicit right to opt out of the check-ins.

The updated ordinance also specifies restrictions on visitors and gatherings during public health emergencies related to a “communicable disease,” and it directs building managers to pass out informational materials on public health guidelines in the “primary language of each individual resident.” It also requires landlords to develop a regular “cleaning regimen for high-contact surfaces.”

Organizers with the Jane Addams Senior Caucus have been pushing for the measure since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, when members began complaining that landlords left them without guidance or any protocol to keep the virus at bay, according to Lori Clark, executive director of the caucus. In some cases, residents found neighbors who had been dead for days because no one came to check on them, she said.

“There was no clear structure and a lack of leadership from owners,” Clark said. “When we reached out, everyone was washing their hands of responsibility, and seniors were suffering for that.”

The rules apply to any residential building that has at least 24 units and is “designated for tenants age 55 and older.” Requirements would be triggered “if the Governor, County President, or Mayor declares the City a disaster as a result of a public health emergency.”

Bans on flavored tobacco, retail pet sales up for consideration

Aldermen are also scheduled on Monday to consider a proposal (O2020-2827) by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2) to ban the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits at pet stores. The ordinance allows stores to “provide space to an animal shelter or rescue organization” so they can showcase the animals, as long as the shops have no “ownership or monetary interest” in their adoption.

The ordinance also broadens the definition of animal breeders — who are required to obtain city licenses — to include “any person who owns, has possession of, or harbors a female dog or cat that reproduces” and who does not spay the animal or surrender it to a shelter within 30 days of a litter being born.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6), who chairs the committee, also plans Monday to host a “subject matter hearing” on an ordinance (O2020-3388) proposed by Ald. Matt O’Shea (19) to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products citywide. The ordinance has 22 City Council cosponsors, but a spokesperson for Sawyer said he does not plan to call for a vote next week.

Related: Ban on flavored tobacco products on the table of the Chicago City Council

Finally, the committee is set to vote on a resolution (R2020-172) sponsored by Ald. Andre Vasquez (40) honoring the League of Women Voters on the 100th anniversary of its founding.

Alex Nitkin

Alex Nitkin is The Daily Line’s reporter covering Cook County and Chicago land use policy. He came to TDL from The Real Deal Chicago, where he covered Chicago real estate news. He previously worked at DNAinfo, first as a breaking news reporter, and then as a neighborhood reporter covering the city's Northwest Side. Nitkin graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism with a bachelor’s degree.



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