City Council Tackles the New Economy

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft scored a victory Wednesday. A watered-down ordinance passed the City Council after some unusual parliamentary shenanigans. The City Council also took up new regulations on Airbnb rentals and a proposal to allow drinking in a giant plaza being built next to Wrigley Field.

The new ordinance regulating rideshare companies was introduced to aldermen mere hours before they were set to vote on it. That enraged some, including Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) who got up to file a parliamentary maneuver to delay the vote until the next City Council meeting.

The mayor had a countermove: He had Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward) schedule the next City Council meeting for Friday, and that enraged more aldermen, so they decided to have the vote Wednesday. 

The rideshare regulations passed 43-7. Under the regulations, Uber and Lyft drivers will be required to get a transportation network license (which is less expensive and less cumbersome to obtain than a chauffer’s license). The companies will also have six months to devise a plan to implement service for people with disabilities. Disability advocates had asked for 5 percent of all rideshare cars to be accessible and called the measure a “slap in the face.” In addition, a task force will study whether or not Uber and Lyft drivers should undergo fingerprinting as part of their background checks like taxi drivers do.

The ordinance that passed City Council came after weeks of negotiations between all parties involved. It supplanted the original ordinance sponsored by Ald. Anthony Beale (9th Ward) that passed committee last week that would’ve been much tougher on rideshare companies, requiring chauffer’s licenses and fingerprinting. The ordinance passed by City Council on Wednesday is much more favorable to Uber and Lyft, and some aldermen say the original ordinance was gutted. 

“To come forward with an ordinance that takes all of that out this morning and expect aldermen to vote on it is not the way to run the City Council,” Waguespack said. “It is completely different from what we passed in the meeting.”

Beale said the ordinance isn’t “perfect.”

“We have worked extremely hard on this compromise,” Beale said. “Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Am I totally happy? Absolutely not, but I don’t want this body to turn into what Ald. [Pat] O’Connor said—we don’t want to turn into Springfield or D.C. where they have gridlock and get absolutely nothing done.”

City Council Approves Airbnb Regulations

The city also voted on new regulations for people who rent out their homes or apartments on Airbnb. These regulations came after many weeks of contentious negotiations. Many aldermen around Lincoln Park and the Loop complained that entire blocks of homes and apartment buildings were being converted into makeshift hotels.

This ordinance will limit the amount of Airbnb rental units in a multi-unit building. It also allows condo boards to vote to outlaw Airbnb rentals. Residents who live in low-rise districts, where there are mostly single family homes, will be able to vote via a referendum to restrict Airbnb rentals in their neighborhoods under the new ordinance. In addition, the ordinance adds a 4 percent surcharge on rentals that would go toward services for the homeless.

Some aldermen opposed the compromise and argued that the rules did not go far enough, including North Side Ald. Michele Smith (43rd Ward).

“Residential neighborhoods are being converted into commercial areas by real estate investors who are purchasing three flats and homes, and turning them into hotels,” said Smith.

Some aldermen were happy with the compromise.

“There are other areas in the city as we heard today that welcome this new economy, that welcome the people this new economy brings,” said Ald. Joe Moore (49th Ward). “[Visitors are] able to shop at local businesses, see parts of the city tourists heretofore have not really seen before, and [it provides] homeowners the ability to supplement their income.” 

Liquor Sales in Wrigley Plaza, Mandated Paid Sick Days

The City Council also passed an ordinance that would regulate the sale of alcohol in the new plaza next to Wrigley Field. Under the rules, vendors will be able to sell beer and wine on Chicago Cubs game days but only to people who have tickets to the baseball game. The sale of alcohol could continue one hour after day games. Vendors will have to cut off liquor sales at the end of night games. If a night game is delayed or goes into extra innings, liquor sales would stop by 11 p.m.

In addition to Cubs games, vendors will be allowed to sell liquor during other special events hosted in the plaza, such as concerts that are scheduled throughout the year.

The busy City Council day also included the approval of an ordinance that mandates employers provide up to five days of paid sick leave for all employees who work in the city of Chicago.

Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz


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