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The Illinois Supreme Court will decide whether a landlord who accused a former senior of zoning bias may sue the city

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The former owner of a building in Chicago is fighting in the Illinois Supreme Court for the right to sue the city of Chicago after he called an Alderman search that ended with his property being altered, reducing its value.

Brian Strauss owned buildings in Milwaukee and Damon. The historic Double Door music venue was housed here for two decades, until Strauss evicted the business in February 2017. Strauss said the then chairman, Proc Joe Moreno threatened him with eviction â € “Comments that were filmed on a mobile phone video. Strauss said the video was shot on the day of the eviction, and Moreno knew it was being recorded.


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In the video, Moreno said he was upset by the “tragedy” of closing the club.

“It’s a part of life,” Strauss said.

“Yes,” said Moreno. “And part of life is also that you won’t have a tenant here for three years.”

The fight reportedly happened because Moreno wanted to keep the Double Door building, the company’s donor.

“I felt he was scaring me and that he was threatening me,” Strauss said in 2017.

“You can’t sign new leases for your tenants,” Moreno said in the video. “It will be an empty building with no income for either you or your family. The end of the conversation.”

“Nothing will happen in this building,” Moreno continued. “It will be an empty building for you or your family.”

“He was trying to make fun of me mostly,” Strauss said in 2019. “He threatened to send inspectors.”


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“I will have inspectors every day. You watch,” Moreno said in the video. “I don’t think you’re a man.”

The Aldermen of Chicago have had power for decades, including a change in zoning in their wards, often referred to as the prerogative of the Alderman. Strauss says power was abused on the day his chairman appeared in his possession and vowed to strip him of zoning status.

“Please don’t threaten me,” Strauss said in the video.

“I’m not threatening you,” Moreno replied. “It’s a promise. There’s a difference. The threat means it won’t happen.”

You can hear Moreno tell Strauss that he is going to use his power to make sure Strauss will never keep his zoning to hand over or sell his property to anyone else – and he has threatened to reduce the property.

“And by the way, if the leases are upstairs because the zones are declining, you can’t sign new leases for your tenants. So every time those leases run out and these guys want to leave, and you want to sign you will not be able to sign a new lease agreement with a new tenant. I am ahead of you, “Moreno said.

When the recorded argument with Strauss was over, Moreno approached one of the Double Door owners, shook his hand, and said, “I can’t be more honest than that.”

Shortly after the confrontation, Moreno kept his promise. He successfully passed a resolution to change the zoning of the building. This is called “subdivision”, it limits the type of tenants of commercial and residential premises that Ostrich could sign.

“It was just pure revenge,” Strauss said.

The city council supported Moreno.

Strauss filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago. City lawyers have successfully argued that in this situation he has immunity and therefore cannot be sued. The city has won controversy in both state and appellate courts. The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to consider the case and decide whether Strauss has the right to sue the city. His attorneys argued that the mayor and other city officials had different roles in changing the zoning; because of which Strauss lost a million dollars. The city prosecutor argued that in part the city should not be held accountable for the actions of the former mayor.

James McKay Jr., one of the lawyers representing Strauss, previously said: “He [Moreno] abused his power to make peace with this man and his family because they evicted his friends ”.

McKay Jr. also said this about city council members who voted to reduce the area: “They didn’t care because they have their own zoning issues in their ward.” “Give it away and take it. Aldermen will scratch each other’s backs. This is how the Alderman prerogative or Alderman privileges work,” he added.

When she took office, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she would seek to abolish the prerogative of the aldermans.

“This practice has lasted too long,” she said in 2019. “This practice breeds corruption. Stopping it is not only in the interests of the city. It is in the interests of the city council.”

Although it has managed to reduce Alderman control over various city permits, it has not yet moved to take away their control over zoning issues.

Back in 2017, Moreno spoke on a video of the confrontation and said he had done nothing wrong.

“I’m glad the video came out,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. People are warming up. “

Moreno said his job is to protect public institutions such as Double Door. He also said the building had a lot of problems and he wanted to make sure the building was safe.

Strauss said any past violations were minor and have been repaired or are in the process of being repaired.

In 2019, Moreno was fired.

“I can proudly say that he is no longer the chairman,” Strauss said that year.

Strauss and his lawyer also wanted Moreno to investigate what they said happened during a meeting at City Hall on the 10th floor with Moreno and other city officials.

“He was actually trying to sell the building,” Strauss said.

Strauss claims that at the meeting Moreno gave him another chance to avoid reducing the area when he agreed to sell the building for $ 3 million less than it was worth.

Strauss says that everything happened right in front of another mayor, who was the head of the zoning committee … Danny Solis, a former chairman who became a mole to the FBI.

“He kept rolling his eyes. It was very clear that he knew what was happening was very wrong,” Strauss said.

Strauss said he hoped Solis was wearing wire that day. In April, Solis pleaded not guilty to federal bribery charges. The 72-year-old Solis has concluded, as is well known, a deferred criminal prosecution agreement in which federal prosecutors agreed to drop charges against Solis three years later in exchange for his continued cooperation in cases against Old. Edward Burke and former Illinois Speaker Michael Madigan.

The Double Door space was empty for a year and a half. Strauss eventually sold the building, which has belonged to his family since 1977.

https://www.cbsnews.com/chicago/news/illinois-supreme-court-to-decide-whether-landlord-who-accused-former-alderman-of-zoning-shakedown-can-sue-the-city/

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