Aldermen review two ordinances
by STEPHANIE CHOPORIS
Northwest Side aldermen discussed passage of an ordinance that allows gun shops to open in the city and a proposed phone tax increase.
The City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s gun ordinance, which was introduced in response to a July 14 deadline issued by a U.S. district judge to allow previously the shops in the city, by a 48-0 vote on June 18.
The ordinance prohibits gun shops in approximately 99 percent of the city and requires that they be at least 500 feet away from schools or parks. Gun shop owners must obtain a special use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the shops will be restricted to areas designated as commercial, manufacturing and downtown service districts.
The ordinance requires that each sale be videotaped, limits handgun purchases to one per month per individual, and requires gun shop employees to undergo background checks and to be trained to recognize illegal gun sellers.
"I don’t foresee any coming in the 33rd Ward," Alderman Deb Mell (33rd) said. Mell, who voted against the concealed carry law when she was a state representative, said there should be an age limit for people entering gun stores.
Alderman Timothy Cullerton (38th) said that the ordinance is a good one but that he has heard from a number of residents of the ward who do not want gun shops in the area. "I hope it’s very few and far between," Cullerton said.
Alderman John Arena (45th) said that there is a commercially zoned area in the ward along Irving Park Road but that there is no potential for a gun shop since the location is already occupied.
Aldermen also supported the ordinance that would raise the monthly 911 call charges on wireless phones and land lines from $2.50 to $3.90 for each line effective Sept. 1. The tax hike would replace the first year of Emanuel’s proposed property tax increase, which was originally planned to raise property taxes by $50 million per year over five years.
"Personally, I don’t have a problem with it," Alderman Nicholas Sposato (36th) said. "I don’t want to raise property taxes."
Sposato said his office received many phone calls from residents about the possibility of raising property taxes but that he has not heard much opposition to the phone tax increase.
Alderman Mary O’Connor (41st) said the phone tax increase would help fund the 911 Emergency Communications Center’s operations. "This will also free up approximately $50 million in general revenue funds, which the city can then use toward making payments into the municipal pension funds without raising property taxes, which I am opposed to," O’Connor said in a statement.
However, Arena said that that the phone surcharge is "regressive" and that the city must consider other sources for funding, such as tax increment financing districts or a proposal by Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd) to use revenue from expiring TIF districts to purchase bonds to reduce the city’s unfunded pension liability. "These are more structurally solid ways," Arena said.