Normally on Wednesdays I’ll write a preview of the Council meeting that night. Since tonight is the night before Thanksgiving, instead I’ll preview/review highlights of last week’s combined regular-session and committee-of-the-whole meeting. Among other things…
1. We voted in favor of vacating several overlooked alleys on the grounds of Fairview School, to enable the construction of the new school. These alleys haven’t been used in decades, and vacating them was a formality.
Yet many of our laws are designed to be triggered by the most nominal of events. Under our sign ordinance, the smallest change could trigger a requirement to remove or drastically alter the sign.
For a brief time the City considered giving up land in Butler Park for the new school. If it had, the City might have restored the rights of way under consideration at Fairview. The connectivity and integrity of the Near West Side neighborhood would have been improved with the inevitable infill project that would have followed; having kept the alleys might then have seemed like a brilliant notion.
When we give up city land, it’s incumbent upon the council to have good reason. Were I aware that Fairview was building a monstrously ugly building and I had had some say in its design, I would have been remiss to not act.
So I asked for better illustrations of the renderings for the new Fairview School. I would have preferred a three-dimensional model, but this project did not trigger that requirement. The public should be able to see the building they’re getting, in context of the buildings around it.
2. We voted to expedite our historic preservation efforts through the Preserve America program, which should help us make preservation decisions more quickly (i.e., in weeks rather than months).
3. We voted to extend the work of the Peak Oil Task Force another six months.
4. And, in the Committee of the Whole immediately following, we considered an end-of-the-year Appropriations Ordinance, reassigning funds within departments for other uses. The only thing that jumped out at me was the unclear question about fuel costs. Were departments looking for more money for fuel because fuel was expensive this summer and we’re paying back bills, because fuel may become expensive again and we’re trying to anticipate it, or because we simply are going to be needing more fuel in the next month or so? I hope to have answers next week.
Have a happy Turkey Day!