A Green Response to COVID
Airbnb Reform Wins
Mortgage Assistance
Dear Neighbors,

This week, the Chicago Tribune published an editorial I coauthored about the critical need for more green space in our city:

Commentary: Why are Chicago parks so packed? COVID-19, climate change reveal city’s need for more green space

By Alderman Michele Smith (43rd), Juanita Irizarry, Executive Director Friends of the Parks, and Cheryl Johnson, Executive Director, People for Community Recovery

The vital role of the outdoors in our city’s health and future has never been more apparent than in the last several months of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Chicago, over 65,000 people have had COVID-19; more than 2,800 have died. Even more have suffered, particularly in communities of color and in people with preexisting conditions.

The virus led Mayor Lori Lightfoot, wisely, to close the lakefront to stop the spread of the coronavirus. People across the city clamored for a reopening, which is still not complete. People desperate for outdoor space and recreation have jammed our parks.

Spring brought another threat. Lake Michigan and the Chicago River both are at their highest levels. Frequent storms caused the river to overflow, submerge Wacker Drive and the Riverwalk and fill a parking garage at River City to its ceiling. The flow of the Chicago River had to be reversed, pouring raw sewage into the source of drinking water for millions of people. Four of the top five wettest years on record occurred in the last decade.
The rain, and the people, need somewhere to go.

The combined impact of the pandemic and extreme weather demonstrate Chicago needs more green space — for people’s physical and mental health, for the environment and for the economy. The lack of ample open space makes Chicago uncompetitive with the suburbs. Communities most affected by COVID-19 need more access to green space for programmed activities, including day care, camps and exercise, to address underlying health vulnerabilities.

Meanwhile, protecting the lakefront will cost billions of dollars, requiring federal funding that will take a decade or more to approve, much less execute.

Chicago needs a comprehensive open space and green health plan now to address the twin nemeses of climate change and pandemics.

We must take steps to protect our lake, green spaces and ourselves from environmental damage — including capping the Confined Disposal Facility pollution dump right next to the lake at Calumet Park and ensuring environmentally just solutions to the challenges that come with dirty industry.

We should revisit mega-developments such as The 78 and Lincoln Yards, which under current economic realities will not be developed for a long time. These plans do not allow for sufficient social distancing, are too reliant on autos and fail to anticipate future threats or opportunities. We should transfer some public investment from speculative and possibly unnecessary car-centric infrastructure to create open space — park space — that absorbs rainfall, serves the people and allows for social distancing and flexible uses forever.

Two existing proposals could be part of a green response to COVID-19 right now: the Little Calumet Plan on the Far South Side and the proposed North Branch Park and Nature Preserve.

The Beaubien Woods & Little Calumet River Project, developed by a coalition of advocates on the Far South Side, would open the Little Calumet River to area residents in this majority African American and Latino community. It would create a national memorial to the Underground Railroad, provide space for recreation and urban farming, as well as jobs connected to the reclaiming of old landfills for solar power production. At the other end of the city is the proposed North Branch Park and Nature Preserve, endorsed by a powerful coalition of design professionals and neighborhood advocates. We’ve seen the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prove there is simply more demand for public green space for all city residents.

Now is the time to take steps for the future, with urgency. Ongoing social distancing and uncertainty around COVID-19′s trajectory, as well as the rising waters, show we cannot simply count on the existing lakefront capacity to meet the enormous need for programmed, recreational space to support people’s health and well-being.

Let’s act now.

If you would like to help in this effort to bring more green space, please support Friends of the Parks -- learn more here.
Airbnb Reform

As you know, our office has worked very hard to ensure that short-term rentals are not causing disruption for their neighbors. We identified serious flaws in the so called "shared housing" ordinance and revoked an Airbnb license for the first time. The City has been plagued with party houses and shootings at short-term rentals, and neighbors have suffered very serious quality of life concerns.

As a result of our advocacy, and working with the Mayor's Office, the License Committee yesterday passed a new ordinance overhauling short-term rental regulation. Here are the highlights:

Residents can petition to have their precinct "opt-out" of allowing short-term rentals in their precinct:

Residents in almost every ward will now have the right to ban short-term rentals in their precinct by petition process. Neighbors will have to collect signatures from 25% of the voters in a precinct, which will then allow a local alderman to introduce an ordinance to create a "restricted residential zone" prohibiting short-term rentals. The ordinances can apply to any area where there is zoning of RM-5 or less. Areas with high-rises can already prohibit short-term rentals through the prohibited building list. If you are interested in starting a petition in your precinct, look over this link, and please contact our office. This provision will take effect in about 40 days, so we will let you know when this process can begin.

The City will control registration of units:

Under our prior ordinance, hosts could set up their business before being properly registered with the city - allowing illegal rentals to proliferate. Beginning in April 2021, the city itself will register units, instead of relying on the platforms, such as Airbnb, to provide information. Technology now exists that will make this process quicker and more accurate, enabling compliant hosts to get up and running quickly while identifying non-compliant hosts.Hosts will not be able to accept reservations while their registration is pending, and platforms will not be allowed to process transactions involving unregistered units. There will be a transition process using the current system until a new system is fully in place by April 2021.

Enforcement is strengthened:

The city will have greater power to locate, fine and put bad hosts out of business. The number of instances of bad behavior before a license can be revoked has been reduced to only two (s), and the types of bad behavior now capture nuisance and party house issues, including noise, trash and other quality of life issues. The new ordinance will also increase fines for violators.

To protect our health and safety, the city has imposed a moratorium on rentals of less than two days. This will be lifted when the Police Superintendant and the Commissioner of Business Affairs believes that it is safe to do so.

We were glad to be able to work with the city to give this ordinance a much needed overhaul. We will be sending out more information as these provisions take effect.

IHDA Emergency Mortgage Assistance Application

The Illinois Housing and Development Authority (IHDA) is accepting applications to assist those who have met challenges meeting their mortgage obligations, the process is limited and expected to close early due to high demand. Here are FAQs. Click here to submit your application.

If you are approved, you will receive a grant of up to $15,000 that will be sent to your loan servicer and applied against your mortgage.
Eligibility criteria:

  • In Cook County, your household income must have been less than $109,200 before March 1, 2020.
  • You or an adult member of your household has had a loss of income due to COVID-19.
  • Your mortgage was current through February 2020.
  • You have unpaid mortgage payments after March 1, 2020.
  • Your mortgage cannot be in the form of a reverse mortgage.

For more information, and to apply, click here.
Chicago Seeks Contact Tracers

As part of the effort to combat COVID-19, the City of Chicago is seeking contact tracers to help prevent the spread of the virus.

The COVID Contact Tracing Corps will interview people who tested positive for the disease and create a list of others who may have been exposed. This is a widely used public health technique that is integral to stopping coronavirus.

Visit here to read the job description and apply.
Census Workers Sought
Friday, Aug. 28
Holy Family Church
542 W. Hobbie
(off Larrabee south of Division)
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

The U.S. Census is hiring. All you need to bring is a photo ID and your social security card. No appointment is needed.
We're Hiring
43rd Ward Office

Our ward office is seeking to hire a constituent services aide. Ideal candidates will have a college degree and work experience, preferably with customer service. Candidates should have knowledge of the Lincoln Park and Gold Coast Community and must be customer oriented as well as empathetic listeners. Strong communication skills, including verbal and written, are required. Candidates must have basic computer skills including Word and Excel, as well as basic social media skills. This is an entry level job, with a salary of $30,000, plus full City of Chicago benefits.

Responsibilities will include but are not limited to:
  • Constituent Outreach
  • Parking Programs and City Service Requests
  • Management of ward email account and entering and responding to constituent service requests
  • Other duties as required

All candidates must be current residents of the City of Chicago at the time
of application. Please direct all resumes, cover letters, and questions to Erik Wallenius at
Great Rivers Chicago
Metropolitan Planning Council
Social Media Campaign
Now Through Labor Day

Both of the project featured in our op-ed, the North Branch Park Preserve and the Little Calumet River Project, will reconnect communities with the rivers of Chicago.

From August 6 through Labor Day, the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), the author of a 30-year vision to make our rivers Inviting, Productive and Living, is using social media celebrate the plans, projects, and passion that have improved the Chicago, Calumet, and Des Plaines rivers over the past four years.
Here’s how you can get involved!
  • Share your own river love by posting a selfie at a favorite spot along our rivers with the hashtag #GreatRiversChicago. (Please don’t forget to wear a mask if you’re in a public space!) 
  • Or, send MPC your selfie and they'll post it. Just email the photo and a short description of where you are and why that place is important to you to GreatRiversChicago@metroplanning.org
  • Follow MPC on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter, where we’ll be tagging content with #GreatRiversChicago.
Enjoy the summer weather - and wear a mask.

43rd Ward Virtual Office Hours: M - F 9 AM - 5 PM 
 2523 N Halsted | 773-348-9500 yourvoice@ward43.org www.ward43.org