Several legislative measures sponsored by 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea moved forward in the City Council recently, although one resolution he co-sponsored did not.
An ordinance that bans the sale of vape products in the city was approved, and an ordinance on looting was assigned to committee.
O’Shea is also co-sponsoring an ordinance calling for the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to partner with several companies that provide home security videos, and that issue will be considered in coming weeks.
O’Shea, however, also co-sponsored a resolution calling for the City Council’s Public Safety Committee to discuss Gov. J.B. Pritzker declaring a state of emergency in the city and send in the Illinois National Guard to support the CPD.
The committee voted 16-2 against that measure on Sept. 8.
O’Shea, who is not on that committee, said that result was unfortunate.
“The men and women of the Chicago Police Department, for the last three and a half months, have been rotating on and off 12-hour shifts, days off canceled—they’ve endured so much with the civil unrest; their lives and family’s lives [turned] upside down,” O’Shea said. “We’re getting to a point that they cannot continue at this pace. They need help. They need support.”
O’Shea co-sponsored the resolution with aldermen Raymond Lopez (15th), Silvana Tabares (23rd) and Anthony Napolitano (41st), and the City Council voted 30-17 during an emergency meeting on Aug. 21 to send it to its public safety committee.
That meeting had been called for by Lopez, Napolitano and colleagues Leslie Hairston (5th) and Anthony Beale (9th), who have been in support of bringing in the National Guard.
Every co-sponsor of the resolution actually voted against sending it to committee except O’Shea.
The City Council could have voted on Aug. 21 on the issue of bringing in the National Guard, but O’Shea said that “any legislation should go through proper committee.” He noted that the Aug. 21 meeting didn’t have representatives of law enforcement on hand, and he wanted them present for such a decision.
Lopez and Napolitano are on the Committee on Public Safety and were the two aldermen who voted for the measure on Sept. 8.
Law enforcement officials were in attendance at the Sept. 8 meeting, where O’Shea spoke in favor of the CPD.
Some supporters of the CPD have said the National Guard would provide much-needed support against looting and rioting.
President Donald Trump has recommended the National Guard be brought in. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has opposed such a move, though the National Guard has provided support at times.
Governors must approve of the decision.
As he has in recent weeks, O’Shea said that a high rate of officers retiring, along with police academy training being limited due to the public health crisis, is lowering the number of officers available.
He said other ideas worth exploring include a hire-back program in which retired officers who specialize in a certain field—such as detective work—could return to the job. He also wants to explore bringing in law enforcement from elsewhere in the state.
Or, he said, support in some capacity from the National Guard could be requested.
“I think we need to look at that,” O’Shea said. “I think we need to think outside the box and consider more options. If this [unrest] continues, I don’t see how we can sustain ourselves.”
At the Sept. 9 City Council meeting, O’Shea introduced an ordinance that would allow the CPD to tow and impound vehicles used in looting. Violators would have to pay thousands of dollars to retrieve their vehicles, and they could be fined $1,000-$2,000 and imprisoned up to six months.
That ordinance was assigned to committee, and O’Shea said it gives police “another tool in the toolbox to fight the civil unrest.”
O’Shea is also co-sponsoring a measure in which CPD would partner with home-security companies such as Ring, ADT and Vivint to receive access to residents’ video footage related to criminal activity. O’Shea said restrictions would not violate civil liberties.
The CPD 22nd District was one of two districts that rolled out a partnership with Ring in early September in which police can contact Ring users to access security footage, and O’Shea said the measure he’s co-sponsoring gets more companies involved and is “making it easier” to fight crime.
Also at the Sept. 9 meeting, the City Council voted 46-4 to ban the sale of flavored vape products in the city; O’Shea introduced an ordinance calling for the ban in June.
As he did that month, O’Shea said he has spoken with elementary school and high school principals about vaping, and it’s become prevalent inside school buildings.
“This is about protecting children,” O’Shea said, “because this market, they go after children. … They are trying to hook young children, grammar school age, to a lifetime of tobacco use, of tobacco addiction.”
O’Shea’s ordinance originally called for a ban on all flavored tobacco products in Chicago, but the City Council voted for a less strict ordinance.
Lightfoot said in a news release that she and the City Council introduced a resolution on Sept. 9 committing to further action on vaping and tobacco.
She said the ordinance that passed specifically targets flavored liquid nicotine products that create the taste or aroma of, among other flavors, menthol, mint, wintergreen, chocolate, vanilla, cocoa, candy or dessert.
“With flavors like candy and chocolate, these products are designed to entice youths, and we as a city have a responsibility to do everything we can to prevent that from happening,” Lightfoot said. “This ordinance is an important step, but more must be done to protect our young people’s health from vaping and the tobacco industry’s efforts to have them to develop life-threatening habits.”
Bridget Carey, a Beverly native who owns Cool Clouds Vapor Shop in Evergreen Park with her husband, Reid Nuttall, said she opposes the ban.
Her vapor products don’t contain tobacco, she said, and are helpful to smokers trying to quit. Her business is outside the city, but the issue remains important to her, she said.
“Reid and I have helped so many Chicago residents quit smoking with flavored vapor products, and we are strict about age verification,” Carey said. “We fought against this ban even though it does not affect us, and that is because we see how these products help smokers and have helped cut smoking rates drastically. Let’s protect the children by getting deadly cigarettes out of the home and promote a safer alternative for their parents and grandparents.”