City appoints outsider police chief

Aldermen appointed a new police superintendent and agreed to pay $19.8 million to victims of police torture as the words "closure" and "change" echoed through the City today.

On a 44-1 vote, the City Council confirmed veteran FBI agent Jody Weis as police superintendent. Alderman Pat Dowell [D-3rd] provided the sole no vote.

Alderman Isaac Carothers [D-29th], who chairs the police and fire committee, said that the decision to confirm Weis involved "no heavy lifting."

Carothers praised the way Weis handled himself at the hearing and defended Weis' $310,000 salary as appropriate given the new superintendent will also head the city's emergency management office.

"If you can help bridge the gap and create more transparency and continue the trends we've got going with regard to a lower homicide rate--If you can do all these things you're worth every single penny," said Carothers.

"This is an easy one for us, to keep the best police department in the world moving in the right direction," added Carothers.

Alderman Sharon Dixon [D-24th] said she looked forward to seeing Weis build bridges to the city's diverse communities and institute fresh approaches to cleaning up drugs and violence.

"I hope you will serve as a change agent," she said to Weis.

Dowell said that after sitting through five hours of confirmation hearings for Weiss, she was not convinced that he was the best person for the job.

"I was troubled by your testimony [at the confirmation hearing]. You didn't offer any serious strategies for policing and you spoke in generalities," said Dowell.

She also said that Weis demonstrated limited knowledge about Chicago's neighborhoods.

"We have a lot of police violence and misconduct and issues of gangs and drugs in our communities," said Dowell. "It seems to me that you could do a little homework about the city you're moving into."

Many aldermen said they looked forward to seeing Weis bring change to the department, which is dogged by allegations of police brutality and corruption stretching back decades.

The appointment came on the same day that the council awarded $19.8 million to four former inmates who alleged that they suffered torture at the hands of former Chicago police commander Jon Burge and those under him in Area 2.

"This is closure in a sense, but we in the City Council have more work to do and we will do that," said Alderman Freddrenna Lyle [D- 6th]. "We want to make rogue cops everywhere know that there will be no more Burges."

In other City Council business, aldermen:

*Approved the use of $3 million in TIF funds for the development of a 59,000 square-foot shopping center in the West Pullman neighborhood on the city's Far South Side. The $16.9 million center will include an Aldi grocery store and a Walgreen's.

*Approved buying 15 properties around Michael Reese Hospital, just west of Lake Shore Drive between 26th and 31st streets. The 15 parcels will supplement 22 others the city bought south there in November. Daley has said that the area is vital to development of Bronzeville and could play a role in the proposed Olympic Village.

*Approved appointment of Montel M. Gayles as new chief procurement officer. Gayles, 47, has headed the Public Building Commission since 2004. Daley has asked him to look at ways to ease the certification process for businesses seeking city contracts.

Gayles is taking over what Carothers calls one of the two "hot seats" in city government. The procurement department has come under criticism from aldermen for failing to increase the numbers of minority contractors doing business with the city.

* Approved Ellen K. Sahli as Commissioner of the Department of Housing. Sahli, 41, joined the staff of the housing department in 1999. Since 2004 she has served as the City's liaison on Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Prior to working for the city, she served as senior program officer with the Corporation for Supportive Housing and director of programs with the Mental Health Association of Illinois.

*Created a new type of liquor license that will allow restaurants to sell alcohol on the south bank of the Chicago river between Lake St. and Lake Shore Drive between the hours of 11 a.m. and 11 p.m.

* Appointed Scott V. Bruner, to head the Department of Administrative Hearings. Bruner, 41, has served as director of the Department of Business Affairs and Licensing since June, 2005. The Department adjudicates parking ticket cases and other municipal ordinance violations. Bruner has pledged to reexamine the training process for hearings officers to ensure courtesy and efficiency in the department. Aldermen at Bruner's confirmation hearing criticized the department for being a "cash cow" and allowing for rude treatment of citizens.

*Authorized the purchase of property at 415-423 W. 79th St. that will allow for the expansion of Whitney Young Branch Library at 7901 S. King Drive.

*Authorized the payment of $700,000 to resolve a wrongful conviction lawsuit filed by the estate of Dan Young, who spent 12.5 years in prison for murder before charges against him were dropped.

*Agreed to pay $250,000 to settle a federal lawsuit alleging excessive force, false arrest and malicious prosecution. The plaintiff, Theophilus Fitzpatrick, intervened in a fight and was allegedly knocked down by a police officer.

*Agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by Antonin Ptacnik and Martina Minarikova after they were hit by a driver fleeing the police.