Following several weeks of protests, criticisms and a separate mini-scandal of their own, the Chicago Housing Authority announced Tuesday afternoon that their proposal to implement mandatory drug testing for adults living in or applying for public housing was effectively dead.
"The CHA received a tremendous amount of feedback during the public comment period, and simply, the result of that is that CHA will not move forward," CHA spokeswoman Kellie O’Connell-Miller told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The American Civil Liberties Union had criticized the agency's proposal, which would have allowed CHA to evict any adult public housing residents testing positive for drug use. In a statement issued Wednesday, Adam Schwartz, ACLU Illinois senior staff counsel, described the CHA's decision as "welcome news."
"There is no evidence that individuals who rent CHA apartments are more likely to use drugs than residents in other rental properties throughout the City of Chicago. Singling out these individuals simply is unnecessary and a diversion of precious resources," Schwartz wrote. "We applaud the Board for listening to the voices of the residents and dropping this harmful proposal."
In addition to dropping the drug testing proposal, the CHA also announced they would keep its “innocent tenant defense," previously proposed to be eliminated, which allows public housing residents whose guests or relatives commit a drug-related or violent crime to avoid eviction proceedings so long as they were not involved or aware of the crime.
Drug testing has also made recent headlines in Chicago due to the call from two alderman -- Edward Burke (13th Ward) and Patrick O'Connor (40th Ward) -- for random drug testing of all city employees, including City Council members. The provision, which the ACLU has also opposed due to its expense (estimated at $1.75 million annually) and possible unconstitutionality, was criticized by other influential aldermen theChicago Tribune reports.
33rd Ward Alderman Richard Mell told the Tribune: "The city should not create legislation that we know or feel strongly cannot be successfully defended in court and could lead to court costs that can go on for years."
Nonetheless, Burke stands by the provision's potential to prevent accidents, such as one involving a city driver last month, and their accompanying lawsuits.
"I think that in the cases of public safety, sometimes a stitch in time saves nine," Burke added to the Tribune.