Zoning out? Lightfoot’s choice to replace Smith in 43rd Ward to step down from zoning panel

Attorney Timmy Knudsen is expected to be confirmed by the full City Council Wednesday and sworn in immediately so he can take his seat and cast his first votes. If Tuesday’s Rules Committee meeting was any indication, there might just be only one dissenting vote: Southwest Side Ald. Marty Quinn (13th).

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Timmy Knudsen, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s choice to replace Michele Smith as alderperson of the 43rd Ward.

Timmy Knudsen, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s choice to replace Michele Smith as alderperson of the 43rd Ward.

Provided

Newly appointed Lincoln Park Ald. Timmy Knudsen (43rd) said Tuesday he will step down as chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals if confirmed by the City Council — and his confirmation hearing left little doubt that he will be.

Knudsen — who went by “Tim” at the zoning panel — is expected to be confirmed by the full Council Wednesday and sworn in immediately, so he can take his seat and cast his first votes.

If Tuesday’s Rules Committee meeting was any indication, there might only be one dissenting vote: Southwest Side Ald. Marty Quinn (13th).

Quinn said he simply “cannot support anyone who doesn’t support my neighborhood.” Quinn pointed to a recent ruling before the Knudsen-chaired Zoning Board of Appeals.

“There’s a parking lot across from Midway Airport. ... I go door to door, collect petitions to be against the special use. The parking lot is being used as a junk yard. Provide the exhibits during the hearing. Spend two days talking to constituents. They’re dead-set against it. There were rats coming out of the cars. And I get an adverse opinion from Tim,” Quinn told the Sun-Times after Tuesday’s confirmation hearing.

“Fast forward to this week on that same parking lot. There is a camper with someone living out of it right across from Midway Airport. ... So, nothing against Tim. I tip my cap to anyone who wants to step up and do the job. But, I’m not gonna support someone that didn’t support my neighborhood. ... His resume … seemed great. He’s probably gonna do a fantastic job.

“But I’ve been before the Zoning Board of Appeals in 12 years less than five times. If I show up, I’m prepared. I’m ready to go. And I lost. But taking an adverse position against the community when I was ready? It is what it is. I can’t justify that vote to my residents. ”

Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) at a Finance Committee meeting in 2019.

Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) at a Finance Committee meeting in 2019.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Knudsen refused to comment on the Midway Airport ruling.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Knudsen made it clear that his days on the zoning board hot seat are over.

“I, of course, will be stepping down from ZBA,” he said, noting that the five-member board has one alternate, so it won’t miss a beat.

Knudsen, 32, is joining a City Council in transition that is losing its institutional memory.

Fifteen of the Council’s 50 members elected in 2019 already have left or announced they will be departing because they’re not running for reelection. He will join a Gay Caucus that is losing its dean in Zoning Committee Chair Tom Tunney (44th), one of eight Council veterans who have opted not to seek reelection and leave a workplace that, as Tunney put it, is “not a good place to work these days.”

During Tuesday’s brief confirmation hearing, Knudsen described himself as a “lawyer specializing in venture capital innovation” who’s been a “grass roots organizer” since moving to Chicago when he graduated from law school.

“I lead a program and practice at my law firm where I represent LGBTQ+ asylum applicants— both here in the U.S. in Chicago and Southern California, but also on the ground in Tijuana, Mexico,” he told his new colleagues.

Timmy Knudsen, chair of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s choice to replace retired Ald. Michele Smith in the 43rd Ward.

Timmy Knudsen, chair of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, is Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s choice to replace retired Ald. Michele Smith in the 43rd Ward.

Provided

“This appointment represents an incredibly unique opportunity for me to combine these skills sets and dive right in to working hard for 43rd Ward residents and also representing them strongly to City Council.”

Quinn’s horror story about the adverse ruling engineered by Knudsen was not shared by his colleagues.

“I found him to be very patient. He listened to both sides, which are a lot qualities that you have to have as an elected official. ... He did give due consideration at that time to aldermen. I know that was a big concern when he got appointed as head of the ZBA. I found him to be very fair,” said Ald. Walter Burnett (27th).

After the confirmation vote, Rules Committee members assigned Knudsen to the same long list of City Council committees that included his retired predecessor, Michele Smith (43rd).

The always outspoken Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) disagreed with that custom.

Noting that serving on the City Council is an “intense and difficult job,” Sposato argued that saddling a newbie with a large number of committee assignments — including Finance, Budget, Zoning, License and Housing — is not fair.

“It’s an overwhelming job. They don’t need to be overwhelmed with committees,” he said.

Soon-to-be-departing Ald. George Cardenas (12th), disagreed.

Cardenas said Knudsen “seems highly energetic” and “looks like he can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

“The guy’s got a lot on his plate, and he seems to handle all of it,” Cardenas said.


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