Council debates Section 8



By Patrick Wade

Champaign City Council members entering the City Building on Tuesday night were met at the door by protesters holding musical instruments, wooden doves and megaphones.

Despite their presence, the Council passed an item to delete language from the city’s Human Rights Ordinance that had defined Section 8 vouchers as a source of income by a 6-3 vote.

The Human Rights Ordinance prohibits discrimination against any individual based on their source of income. The Council voted in March 2006 to explicitly include Section 8 voucher holders in this category but reversed that decision Tuesday night.

Inside the meeting chambers, the six Council members who voted in favor of deleting the language in last week’s study session poll were confronted by oversized headshots of themselves lined up in the front row of the audience seating. The large cardboard photos were captioned with phrases like “Rolling back tenant rights.”

“(Council members) have been rolling back progressive legislation since the April elections,” said Brian Dolinar, a member of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice who attended the protest before the Council meeting.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“This is a straight attack on the poor,” he added.

The language in the Human Rights Ordinance had other implications for landlords, said Dist. 5 Council member Ken Pirok, a landlord himself.

“The one thing I did learn through all this process is the (Housing and Urban Development) contract really is a bad contract,” Pirok said. “It is unfair and, to me, is the root of the problem.”

The federal contract landlords sign with Section 8 tenants supersedes the lease agreement in cases where the two conflict.

Dist. 1 Council member Gina Jackson said removing protections for voucher holders could force low-income families to live in concentrated groups in the city.

“We do not have a very good track record, and we’re not looking too well as a diverse city,” Jackson said.

Neil Malone, local government affairs director for the Illinois Association of Realtors, spoke at the meeting on behalf of landlords’ rights and said the issue has nothing to do with discrimination.

“If I really thought this had anything to do with discrimination, we’d be leading the charge fighting,” Malone said.

Council members who voted in favor of deleting the language did not make any public comments during the meeting, but Mayor Gerald Schweighart reassured opponents of the ordinance at the end of the meeting.

“As the sun rises tomorrow, we will still have Section 8 privileges,” Schweighart said. “And it will still be illegal to discriminate.”