The City Council’s Committee on Transportation & Public Way advanced Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointment of Paul Connolly to the City’s Board of Local Improvements, a five-member board in charge of overseeing private development on city streets and sidewalks. Ald. Marty Quinn (13), one of the least vocal members of City Hall, gave Connolly and his union work a ringing endorsement.

Members Present: Chairman Anthony Beale (9), Vice Chair Pat Dowell (3), Will Burns (4), Michelle Harris (8), Sue Sadlowski Garza (10), Marty Quinn (13), Jason Ervin (28), Chris Taliaferro (29), Gilbert Villegas (36), Michele Smith (43), Anthony Napolitano (41)

Before a private developer can build anything along the public way, the board must approve the plans and financing. The appointment went through Chairman Beale’s Committee because the board serves under the capacity of the Department of Transportation. Two other appointments to the Board of Local Improvements,Christopher M. Michalek and Edward T. McKinnie, Sr., were approved earlier this month by the full Council.

At his preliminary confirmation hearing with the council committee yesterday, Connolly mentioned his 34 years experience with the Laborers Local Number 4. During his tenure representing 1,400 local unionized construction laborers, Connolly served as an organizer, instructor, and eventually as a recording secretary treasurer and business manager, a title he’s held since 2008, he said. Serving on the board, “fits within the category of construction, which is what I do,” Connolly explained, “I think I will do a good job.”

The position used to be paid, but in 2011, Mayor Emanuel eliminated the stipend as a way to cut costs. That year, according to the Chicago Tribune, the Board of Local Improvements met once, but members walked away with a $19,000- $23,000-per-year stipend.

About half of the aldermen on the committee, many of whom who represent union-heavy wards, praised the Mayor for Connolly’s appointment. A handful, including Pat Dowell (3), Marty Quinn (13) and Michelle Harris (8), said they knew Connolly in some personal or official capacity. Dowell recognized him from a few South Loop construction projects. Harris mentioned his work with the Department of Streets and Sanitation. Quinn remarked that he has known the Connolly family for more than 30 years, dating back to what he called the “Mozart days” at Mozart Elementary School. Quinn, who represents Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s ward and is usually silent during committee meetings, took an opportunity to defend the importance of unions.

“Thank you for what you have done the past 30 years, working on behalf of the working people, many of whom who live in my community right now in the 13th Ward. Right now, their rights are under siege in this state and I think it’s really, really important that you continue your advocacy on the working people,” Quinn remarked.

The rest of the 40 minute meeting was spent approving hundreds of routine items, such as sidewalk cafe permits, planters, honorary street designations, awnings and more. The meeting ran longer than usual because George Blakemore, a Council fixture, signed up to testify on every item he could fill out a pink witness slip for. Chairman Beale suggested that he’d be better served sitting up front by the witness mic for the whole meeting, to save energy walking back and forth from his seat.