Few of the aldermen who packed City Hall to try to turn the whirlwind surrounding Ald. Ed Burke (14) to their advantage would list themselves among Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s allies.
But the circus-like atmosphere that featured four back-to-back press conferences, props, one alderman heckling another and an offer to settle a dispute over the City Council’s rules proves yet again the truth of one of Emanuel’s most famous remarks: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”First up in front of the cameras and reporters to attempt just that feat was Ald. Joe Moore (49), an independent alderman during the Daley years who has been a close ally of Emanuel.
According to Moore, the city should:
- Ban outside employment for aldermen
- expand Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s power to audit all City Council operations and give him power to enforce his subpoenas
- create a small-donor public-financing system for aldermen and mayor, treasurer and clerk.
- Live stream all City Council committee meetings and record and publish them electronically.
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) introduced a measure (R2018-510) in May to live stream Council Committee meetings. It has yet to get a hearing.
Moore, who voted with Emanuel 98 percent of the time according to a report from former Ald. Dick Simpson, who is now a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, had a two-word response when asked why it took the criminal charges filed against Burke to spur him to act.
“Human nature,” Moore said. “When you have something as monumental as the most powerful member of the City Council facing a very serious criminal indictment, that will give people the courage to change.”
But that wasn’t good enough for 10th Ward Ald. Susan Sadlowski-Garza, who was waiting with several other members of the Progressive Caucus for their turn in the spotlight to denounce Burke, the mayor and their allies.
Sadlowski-Garza yelled out that Moore had refused to sign on to the measure (O2018-9408) introduced by the Progressive Caucus last month to move the city’s $100 million workers’ compensation fund from the Finance Committee to the Law Department.
“We are not a jump on the bandwagon, all of the sudden having these epiphanies wanting to change things when the same alderman that stands behind the microphone and says he is now for these ideas last month and the month before pushed us away and didn’t want to be any part of it,” Sadlowski-Garza said when it was her turn in front of the cameras.
The measure to strip Burke of control of the worker’s compensation fund ran into the same wall that all of the Progressive Caucus’ efforts for reform have hit thanks to opposition from Burke and the mayor.
Accompanied by Alds. Michele Smith (43) and Deb Mell (33), the Progressive Caucus called for the enforcement of Rule 36, which gives aldermen the right to pick their own committee chairs — not the mayor — but hasn’t been implemented in decades.
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40) — an ally of the mayor — replaced Burke Friday as chairman of the Finance Committee after Burke filed his resignation with City Clerk Anna Valencia.
That is “utterly ridiculous,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), adding O’Connor does not have the “moral authority” to lead the Finance Committee.
O’Connor is a member of the City Council’s “go-along-to-get-along” or “rubber stamp” caucus, Ramirez-Rosa said.
Instead, Progressive Caucus chairman Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) should head the committee, said Ramirez-Rosa and Ald. John Arena (45).
In addition, Arena said he planned to introduce a measure Jan. 23 to overhaul Rule 14, which allows an aldermen to abstain from votes involving matter they believe presents a conflict of interest. The expanded rule would require the alderman invoking Rule 14 to file a detailed explanation of the conflict with the City Clerk to be published online, according to the proposal.
The revised rule would also prohibit the alderman from participating in committee hearings on the matter. If the alderman is the chairman of the committee considering the matter, he or she may not be present for the debate or preside over the hearing, according to the proposal.
The Progressive Caucus has also called for expanding Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s power, and an independent audit of the workers’ compensation fund. Emanuel announced such an audit Sunday.
Once the aldermen wrapped up, mayoral candidates Willie WIlson and Paul Vallas’ took turns trying to capitalize on Burke’s woes.
Wilson said he would not allow aldermen to pick the chairs of the committees, a move his adviser and former alderman and state Sen. Rickey “Hollywood” Hendon likened to “opening the door of your house to a burglar.”
That drew an angry retort from Arena who yelled out, “That’s insulting.”
Hendon minced no words in his reply.
“I did not interrupt you, alderman,” Hendon said. “If you want to interrupt me, I can meet you outside and you can say anything you want.”
Wilson said he would convene an advisory committee of citizens to weigh his choices for chairmanships, Hendon said.
Chicago aldermen are “two-timing people, they’re backstabbers, they ain’t no good,” Wilson said.
Wilson called for Preckwinkle to resign as Cook County Board president — and to drop out of the race. Fellow candidate Bob Fioretti made the same demand last week.
With Wilson finished, mayoral candidate Paul Vallas stepped to the microphones brandishing a broom, symbolizing his push for a “clean sweep.”
Vallas said Preckwinkle, Susana Mendoza, Gery Chico and Bill Daley should all drop out of the race for mayor because of their ties to Burke.
Vallas mocked rival Daley, who proposed reducing the size of the City Council from 50 members to 15 Monday.
“After the horses have left the barn, he’s now shutting the door?” Vallas asked.
Aldermen should rotate the City Council committee chairmanships to prevent certain aldermen from accumulating too much power, Vallas said. “Change begins at the top… Sweep the bums out.”