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Open Government Wed Apr 10 2013

King of the Rubber Stamp

By Dick Simpson

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is truly king of Chicago's rubber stamp City Council.

In his first two years in office, he enjoyed more support than Boss Richard J. Daley or his legacy, Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Mayor Emanuel has more control over the council than even Mayor Edward J. Kelly, a co-founder of the Cook County Democratic Machine.

This is counter to his claim a year and a half ago: "I said we were going form a new partnership between... the mayor and the city council — that voters didn't want Council Wars and they also didn't want a city council that would be a rubber stamp." But despite his claim, we got a rubber stamp council.

This week, my coauthor, Melissa Zmuda and I, analyzed 30 divided roll call votes [PDF] taken in the city council since May, 2011. Nearly a majority, 21 aldermen, voted to support Mayor Emanuel and his administration100% of the time. Another 18 supported him more than 90% of the time.

In the mayor's first two years, the issue that drew the most dissent was the mayor's proposal to place cameras in "Children's Safety Zones" around schools to catch speeders. Some aldermen asked why that was necessary since speed humps and other traffic slowing devises were already employed. Other aldermen said the plan was just a gimmick for the City to collect more revenue. Emanuel agreed to a few modifications and in the end only 14 aldermen voted against the ordinance.

The six other issues that garnered the most dissent (from six to nine "no" votes) were:

  • The appointment of Faisal Khan as Legislative Inspector General.

  • A new re-districted ward map.

  • Motion to table Ald. Fioretti's substitute to the proposed Infrastructure Trust.

  • Motion to table Ald. Waguespack's substitute Infrastructure Trust ordinance.

  • Final vote establishing the Infrastructure Trust.

  • Ordinance to grant to one company a 30-year lease for 34 digital billboards.

North and Northwest side aldermen led both the opposition and support of the mayor. Ald. John Arena (45th) voted with the mayor only 40% of the time along with aldermen Scott Waguespack (32nd) 63% and Nicholas Sposato (36th) 67%.

On the other side of the aisle, Ald. Joe Moore (49th), who had voted with Mayor Daley only 51% of the time from 2007-2011, supported Emanuel 97%. Other North Side aldermen supporting the mayor were Brendan Reilly (42nd) 80%; Michele Smith (43rd) 93%; James Cappleman (46th) 93%; Ameya Pawar (47th) 93%; Harry Osterman (48th) 97%; and Debra Silverstein (50th) 100%. And of course Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th), the mayor's political floor leader, voted 100% with the mayor.

A City Council development that could affect future voting patterns is the recent split of the "progressive" or "independent" caucus. Nine aldermen decided that the caucus needed more structure, so they formed the Progressive Reform Coalition. They announced on March 11 that their priorities were: a moratorium on new charter schools, an ordinance to regulate the privatizing of city assets like Midway Airport, and an ordinance to control bidding on city contracts. The coalition members are: aldermen Fioretti (2nd), Harriston (5th), Sawyer (6th), Foulkes (15th), Munoz (22nd), Waguespack (32nd), Sposato (36th), Arena (45th) and Pawar (47th).

A day later, a group of 10 aldermen formed the Paul Douglas Alliance, named after the late former US Senator and former Ald. Paul Douglas. The Alliance wants to get rid of the Legislative Inspector General and give its power to the City Inspector General. This would allow aldermen and their staffs to be investigated for corruption just like all city employees.

Members of the Alliance are aldermen Moreno (1st), Dowell (3rd), Burns (4th), Colon (35th), Reilly (42nd), Smith (43rd), Cappleman (46th), Pawar (47th), Osterman (48th) and Moore (49th). Ald. Pawar belongs to both groups.

Members of the Paul Douglas Alliance on average have voted 92.5% of the time with Mayor Emanuel. The Progressive Reform Coalition averaged only 73% support. This split in the progressive ranks makes the mayor's control more complete.

It makes Rahm the king and the council a rubber stamp.

Our full report, Continuing the Rubber Stamp City Council, is available online, or read it below.

Continuing The Rubber Stamp City Council by Gapers Block

This article appears courtesy of Inside Publications.

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Dave Stieber / May 31, 2013 7:25 AM

Oh Democracy I wish this city had it

Artis / April 23, 2014 5:04 PM

Good article. Thank you for sharing.

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Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

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