I’m writing to report on two proposed ordinances I introduced at today’s City Council meeting–the Fair Elections Ordinance and the Shared Housing Reform and Consumer Protection Ordinance.
Fair Elections Ordinance
The Fair Elections Ordinance aims to remove the influence of big money and special interests in Chicago municipal election by creating a small-donor public-financing system for aldermen and citywide officials, including mayor, city clerk and city treasurer. Aldermen Michelle Harris (8th Ward), John Arena (46th Ward), and Ameya Pawar (47th Ward) joined me as the lead sponsors for this landmark ordinance.
“The ordinance establishes a “Fair Elections Fund” that will provide for each candidate a $6-to-$1 match on each individual contribution up to $175 as long as candidates do not accept any donations more than $500 from one individual source. The $6 match for each dollar raised provides an incentive for candidates to raise money in small increments to support their campaigns rather than relying on large contributions from wealthy donors.
Mounting a successful campaign for political office in this modern era can be enormously expensive. The current system requires us to spend an inordinate amount of time on fundraising, which leads to the impression that our political decisions are influenced by large campaign contributions. The Fair Elections Ordinance would provide an option for candidates to raise the money they need to run a viable campaign without having to rely on the largess of those who can afford to give large political contributions.
In short, the ordinance will empower average citizens by multiplying six-fold the size of their small contributions and requiring candidates to forgo any contributions greater than $500. We elected officials need to be laser-focused on working for and with our constituents. This enable us to keep our focus on our constituents while still meeting the demands of funding a viable political campaign.
Public financing systems similar to the one we are proposing here in Chicago currently exist in a number of other cities, including New York City and Los Angeles, where they enjoy wide public popularity and broad participation among the candidates for office. In fact, 79% of Chicago voters voted “yes” on a public financing advisory referendum that I helped place on the ballot in last February’s Chicago municipal election.
I worked closely with Common Cause Illinois and The Reclaim Campaign in drafting this legislation. Representatives of both organizations joined my colleagues and me this morning at a press conference announcing this ordinance. The ordinance will be heard by the City Council’s Committee on Rules and Ethics, chaired by the measure’s co-sponsor, Alderman Harris.
For a copy of the Fair Elections Ordinance, click on the link below:
Shared Housing Reform and Consumer Protection Ordinance
I joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Pawar in proposing reforms for the emerging house-sharing industry that will ensure that the city has the tools it needs to protect consumers and quality of life in our neighborhoods while allowing the industry to grow. The proposed ordinance will make it easier for hosts who periodically rent out their living space either on their own or through services, such as AirBNB and VRBO, and in the process generate more than $1 million annually to support affordable housing and reduce homelessness in Chicago.
Under the proposal, hosts will be required to register their units with the city through a free and simple online process. House-sharing companies will also be able to register these units directly with the city. Units that are rented more than 90 nights per year will be required to be licensed as a bed-and-breakfast or vacation rental. The new proposal will support the growing industry while ensuring the city is able to track units made available for lodging and respond to complaints.
Knowing where every one of these units is operating will help us protect the quality of life in our neighborhoods. My primary goal as chairman of the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate Committee is to support and expand affordable housing in Chicago and the funds generated by our proposal do just that.
To ensure that hosts and guests are protected in cases of emergency, the proposal requires units to be covered by liability insurance with a minimum limit of $1 million per occurrence. The policy must cover bodily injury, personal injury and property damage for all operations related to the rental of a unit.
The City will require companies that facilitate booking transactions between hosts and their guests to receive a short-term residential rental intermediary license. This new license will require the companies to provide the City with the information and data it needs to effectively monitor and regulate this new license type and compliance with city ordinance.
Our proposed ordinance is expected to generate more than $1 million in revenue annually through a two percent surcharge on the booking of any shared-housing unit, bed-and-breakfast or vacation rental. The surcharge is in addition to state and county hotel taxes that will be required under the ordinance. The revenue from this surcharge will be used toward initiatives to promote affordable housing, with a focus on reducing homelessness among families with children.
To address problem units, the city will maintain an ineligible list to ensure they are not allowed to operate. The properties of problem landlords, building code scofflaws and units that are subject to an order to vacate or that have been deemed a public nuisance will be prohibited from being registered.
The proposed ordinance creates a clear penalty structure for hosts and short-term rental residential intermediaries found in violation of the city’s regulations. The fines are $1,500 to $3,000 per offense and/or subject to up to six months of incarceration, with each day that a violation exists treated as a separate and distinct offense. The city will also have the right to suspend or revoke a registration for certain types of offenses.
The ordinance will be heard by the City Council Housing and Real Estate Committee, which I chair.
For a copy of the ordinance, click on the attachment below:
I will keep you posted on the progress of both proposals.