The recent brutal winter weather continues to take a chunk out of the city’s pocketbook, as claims for vehicles damaged when they hit potholes more than doubled for the year.
More than 1,000 claims were filed with the City Council at its Wednesday meeting. That brought the total since Jan. 1 to 1,874, compared to a total of 2,426 for the previous three years combined, according to city records.
It’s too early impossible to know precisely how much those claims will cost the city because they take several months to process. But each one could result in a payout of up to $2,000, with the city typically covering half the cost of total damages. Larger claims must be filed in court.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel made several announcements earlier this year about how the city was tracking and filling potholes to address a chronic backlog made worse by the recent weather. City officials have already reported spending more than $29 million on snow plowing and pothole repair.
In other council action Wednesday, Meanwhile, there was debate on the council floor over whether to take a vote on a controversial city code amendment that would allow greater levels of nudity at liquor-serving strip joints.
Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, tried to return the amendment to committee, but Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, prevented it, keeping the proposal alive.
Waguespack proposed the ordinance, which was endorsed by the Zoning Committee at his behest, saying he thought it would only crack down on late-night bars that were illegally featuring strippers. When he later understood it also would ease nudity restrictions, he became an opponent, he said.
Emanuel has been silent on the stripper ordinance, saying Wednesday only that aldermen “are going to work through some issues” on the amendment.
The mayor did weigh in, however, on a proposal by Burke that would have called on the city to end its “sister city” relationship with Moscow because of its recent annexation of Crimea.
Emanuel said he met recently with leaders of the Ukrainian community in Chicago and talked about helping to get medical supplies into Kiev, which also has a sister city relationship with Chicago.
“That I think is the appropriate step for us to take as a city, to help the people of Ukraine as a whole, most important our sister city residents in Kiev,” Emanuel said, noting that U.S. officials have stepped up talks with their Russian counterparts as the crisis unfolds. “But as it relates to Moscow. I don’t think the city of Chicago should conduct its own foreign policy separate from the United States government.”
Earlier, Burke had tabled his own proposal to end the city’s relationship with Moscow. “He’s entitled to his own opinion,” Burke said of Emanuel’s comments.
Emanuel also dismissed a proposal by a state task force that called for one mega mass transit agency combining the CTA, Metra and PACE.
“No, and in capital letters,” the mayor said when asked about the notion. “Let me just be really clear: This is what happens when you lock up a lot of propeller heads in a room for a short period of time.
“First they say we have an unaccountable, nameless, faceless bureaucracy. Hold on, we’d like to replace it with the new version of a unaccountable, nameless, faceless bureaucracy,” Emanuel said.
The mayor introduced an ordinance Wednesday to restore paid Sunday parking at meters in some commercial areas of the city at the request of five aldermen. Those aldermen have maintained that some businesses were harmed by free Sunday parking that was put in place by the mayor as part of his revision to the much-criticized 75-year lease of the city’s meters that Emanuel inherited.
The mayor also introduced an ordinance to regulate small digital signs that many consider a blight on their communities. The proposal come after aldermen last July enacted a nine-month moratorium on the signs so new regulations could be drawn up.
The proposed rules, which would cover previously unregulated LED signs of less than 100 square feet that are placed on private property, would require they be placed 100 feet from residential neighborhoods or parks, limit their use in area with both housing and residential and require they be turned off between midnight and 5 a.m. They also could not display videos.