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City Council Tue Feb 09 2010
Mayor Daley on Monday announced that he was going to introduce an ordinance to the City Council that would grant greater power to the independent Inspector General's office, granting that office power to investigate aldermen, a power currently prohibited to it by law. Good government types are supporting the measure--to wit, Michael Shakman (of Decree fame), Joe Moore (49th)--as is the Inspector General himself. Tribune City Hall reporter Hal Dardick and Todd Lightly have a run down over at Clout Street.
Alderman Berny Stone is opposed to the measure, natch. But the reason he gives is somewhat compelling--that it would give the executive branch a cudgel to use against the legislative branch. Of course, this would be a more believable rationale were it not coming from the Vice Mayor who volunteered to get batted around by Mick Dumke on Chicago Tonight while defending the honor of the parking meter deal, and also had he ever supported any limit on Mayoral dominance of the City Council ever in the history of ever ever.
Damn whippersnappers with their facts!
Larry at Archpundit suggests that increasing the IG's scope could divert his attention from the Mayor, particularly if there is no attendant increase in funding (note: there will probably not be any increase in funding). This is a good point--there's a lot for the IG to look at in the City Council, and with fifty aldermen (even the best of whom likely have a couple two-tree patronage skeletons in their, uh, civic closets) the IG will have lots of low-hanging fruit to go after. And what does the Mayor have to lose? Some convicted Aldermen he gets to handpick replacements for?
Is there an analog at other levels of government of an appointed official with that level of investigative power over a different branch of government? Is Stone right, even if he is being disingenuous? This IG may be independent in spirit, but will the next one be? Should the Mayor's decision to expand the IG's power be taken at face value or presumed malicious, presumed to be a cynical power move?
We should reserve judgment until the text of the ordinance is available. My first read is that the Mayor realizes he is as vulnerable as he has been in the last fifteen years, and in the scope of things, throwing the City Council--of which he has appointed nearly 40%, anyway--under the good government bus is win-win. Aldermen used to doling out favors to build political bases will be curtailed, he wins points from the Lakefront Liberals who regularly hop in and out of his pocket, and he potentially has a new weapon to wield against the City Council in the future.
Or, he just thinks it's the right thing to do.