Weed, Rent Control and More: Here's How Chicagoans Voted on Ballot Questions

Because they referenda were non-binding, no legal action is required and the results simply act more like a public opinion poll

Some voters in Chicago's election had the chance to sound off Tuesday on issues like lifting the state’s ban on rent control to using revenue from legalizing recreational marijuana.

Three referendum questions were on ballots in certain parts of the city, all approved by a large margin. But because they were non-binding, no legal action is required and the results simply act more like a public opinion poll.

The questions were only asked in certain wards and sometimes, only in specific precincts in those wards, depending on how many signatures petitioners were able to collect to get them on ballots.

The question that was most widely asked was how Chicago should use tax revenue from recreational marijuana if its sale and use is legalized by the state legislature. It was only asked in parts of the 6th, 16th, 24th, and 29th Wards, and in the entirety of the 17th and 28th Wards.

The question asked if Chicago should use the revenue to “fund neighborhood reinvestment in low-income, disenfranchised communities hit hard by the war on drugs.”

85.5 percent of the 16,796 voters who answered approved of it. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker campaigned on legalizing recreational marijuana and has said he plans to use the tax revenue it generates to help fix state budget holes.

Some voters were also asked whether they think the state should lift its ban on rent control “to address rising rents, unjust evictions and gentrification.”

Rent control policies have been banned in Illinois since 1997, but state Rep. Mary Flowers introduced legislation on Feb. 7 which would lift the ban and create an elected state board to “establish regulations concerning rent stabilization rates.”

4,107 people voters answered the questions across four wards (1st, 26th, 45th, 50th). 71.4 percent of those voters approved of lifting the ban on rent control.

The question that had the most support asked voters whether they want their ward’s alderman to support a Community Benefits Agreement for developments in their ward.

This question was asked in wards where there is massive proposed developments like parts of the 5th and 20th Wards, which contains the proposed site of the forthcoming library of former President Barack Obama and the 22nd and 25th Wards, where a multi-purpose trail – similar to the 606 Trail on the Northwest Side – has been proposed.

The Community Benefits Agreement would provide funding for local jobs, put a freeze on property taxes in the surrounding area and include a “30 [percent] set-aside of affordable housing.”

Of the 2,217 voters who weighed in on the issue across all wards where the question was asked, 88.2 percent supported it.

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