Chicago clears way for business reopenings, bus lane, library repairs

1st Ward Ald. Daniel La Spata answers questions on Zoom.

Chicago's eased COVID-19 restrictions this month do not sacrifice public health, insists Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st Ward).

"There was actual data behind them," including a drop in COVID-19 cases, La Spata told EVA members Oct. 5 via Zoom. City inspections quickly brought a few businesses into compliance with early reopening guidelines. Residents need to do their part to stay safe, but mask wearing is not targeted for enforcement.

"I hope we don't have to get to that place," La Spata added. While Chicago few issued few lockdown-related tickets, he said most went to people of color.

Chicago Avenue's reopening includes a 6-month bus lane trial, to test whether commuting time and pacing improve. The route carries essential workers to office and medical jobs.

Custom-built windows are scheduled to be installed Nov. 11 through Dec. 15 at the West Town branch library building, 1625 W. Chicago. After years of delay, La Spata expects scaffolding finally to be removed by yearend.

The building is also the site of early voting beginning Oct. 14 and a drop box for mail ballots. "This is not going to be the kind of election where we know at 8:30, 9:30, 10 o'clock which way the election is swinging," La Spata warned. He suggests the wait will likely take weeks. Chicago Police and Streets & Sanitation crews are prepared to block post-election social unrest, he added.

La Spata said he raised concerns over 12th District resources with Mayor Lori Lightfoot in September, arguing that tactical teams were enforcing outdoor dining in the Loop amid rising neighborhood crime. "I think we need to have a conversation about how we spend money on public safety," La Spata said, including more resources for mental health and domestic violence.

A proposed rezoning will allow two 2-flats at 1533-35 W. Fry to be razed for a 6-unit building, La Spata said, with community input from the Eckhart Park Community Council. Still, La Spata expressed unease with the city's loss of worker cottages and other housing options. He hopes the proposed accessory dwelling unit ordinance will allow affordable coach house and apartment conversions.

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