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City Council Committees To Discuss Taxi Reforms, NATO/G8 Summits

City Council Chambers

A Chicago City Council meeting. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A busy day is on tap at City Hall Tuesday, with taxi regulation and the NATO/G8 summits among the matters up for debate in committee hearings.

At 9:30 a.m., the License and Consumer Protection Committee meets to discuss reforms on taxi regulations.

The reforms, which touch all aspects of the industry, were largely prompted by a CBS 2 investigation of dangerous drivers.

They include a limit on the age of vehicles that can be on the roads, by lowering the maximum number of miles on a newly-converted taxi to 75,000 from 150,000.

Also, on-the-road training will be required before cab drivers are licensed and driving records will be reviewed more than once a year.

A new tiered lease system is also planned, which would allow for with discounts on medallion fees for companies that buy fuel-efficient and wheelchair-accessible vehicles. But some cabbies have complained that the savings would be obliterated if fares are not raised.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday that Mayor Rahm Emanuel had softened some of the planned reforms, in particular an increase in the bond cab companies must post to the city from $100,000 to $1 million.

At 10 a.m., the City Council Budget and Government Committee will discuss proposed changes to permits for demonstrators, in time for the upcoming G8 and NATO summits.

The plans include a requirement for parade permits for protests, as well as curfews for parks and beaches and a ban on loudspeakers overnight.

Mayor Emanuel softened his earlier stance on protests, lowering fines and setting aside areas for protesters to gather.

Still, economist Allen Sanderson tells WBBM Newsradio he thinks the summits could be a “disaster.”

“If the events were held in February … in Chicago there would be far fewer protests than (if they) were held in May. I mean, everybody, the Occupy folks will come out of hibernation by then,” Sanderson said.

Sanderson says daily battles between police and demonstrators could give Chicago a serious black eye as did the Democratic National Convention of 1968.

If the summits went off trouble-free, that could indeed burnish Chicago’s reputation, but Sanderson said if he had to put money on it, he’d bet against that happening.

At 1:30 p.m., the City Council Rules Committee will discuss proposed changes to ward boundaries.

The heated debate has been underway for several weeks in the City Council, following the release of the 2010 Census results as required by law.

The Latino Caucus has proposed one map, called the “Taxpayer Protection Plan.” The Black Caucus and old-guard white aldermen have another, called “Map for a Better Chicago.”

Residents of some wards are complaining about the proposed changes, particularly in the 43rd Ward in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, which under the “Map for a Better Chicago” would be split between its current ward and the 44th, 32nd, 27th, and 2nd wards.

Council members say they plan more public hearings before voting on ward remapping.