- Brian Jackson/Sun-Times Media
- Getting by with a little help from his friends.
In my search for a few laughs on an otherwise gloomy December afternoon, I read the latest report on the city council by Dick Simpson, the political science professor from UIC.
Actually, I’m not sure if the report—aptly titled “Rahm Emanuel’s Rubber Stamp City Council”—should make me laugh or cry.
Written by Simpson and two graduate assistants—Beyza Buyuker and Melissa Mouritsen—it analyzed 67 roll-call votes during Emanuel’s reign.
And their chief conclusion having reviewed all of those council votes?
Most of the aldermen are gutless hacks!
Wait—that’s my conclusion. Sorry. Didn’t meant to put words in your mouth, Professor Simpson.
Here’s how they phrased it . . .
“Although his support has slipped slightly, Mayor Emanuel still presides over a very compliant ‘rubber stamp’ city council.”
Kind of amounts to the same thing I said—more or less.
The report—which is well worth a read—is filled with quotes from scintillating council debates. One of my favorite quotes comes from my own alderman, Ameya Pawar.
“I do think that what is wrong [is] the way we do the narrative,” Pawar said. “If you simply vote ‘no,’ you’re a reformer, if you vote ‘yes,’ you’re a rubber stamp.”
Well, Alderman Pawar, in the abstract I agree with you—100 percent!
But as I may have told you several times—we don’t live in the abstract. We live in Chicago in the age of Mayor Rahm.
And—as we can see from Simpson’s report—most of the mayor’s chief ideas are scams and schemes of use to no one. Except for the mayor and a bunch of rich guys.
Like, for instance, Mayor Emanuel’s plan to take $17 million from our dead-broke public schools and give it to several rich and hugely influential bankers in the name of funding a pre-K program for our most impoverished children.
Here—read all about it.
That scheme was, alas, approved by 42 aldermen, including Alderman Pawar.
Something to think about, parents, the next time your principal tells you he or she’s hiking your school fees because there’s no money for janitors.
Thanks to Simpson’s report, I now realize that the $17 million handout to bankers—as bad as it is—doesn’t even rank among the five worst things the mayor’s ordered the council to do.
But since we’re on the subject, here’s that list . . .
5.) Parking meter deal II. The mayor took a horrible deal and made it worse by having the council reratify it, thus undercutting a lawsuit that might have at least forced the parking meter owners to make concessions.
4.) Speed cameras. That’s where the mayor came up with another way to shake down the public by installing speed cameras outside of schools. He said he was doing it for the safety of the children. But his mayoral motorcade sped through the safety zones without paying any tickets.
3.) TIF redistribution amendment. This was an instance where—contrary to Alderman Pawar’s quote—’yes’ was good and ‘no’ was bad. Specifically, Emanuel commanded his council to kill a proposal to redirect to the schools some of the estimated $1.7 billion the mayor’s got sitting in his tax increment financing reserves.
2.) First budget. In an attempt to show how tough he was by picking on vulnerable and powerless citizens, the mayor closed six neighborhood mental health clinics in his first budget, which the council unanimously approved. Then he had the police spy on the clinic-closing protestors.
And number one on the list of odious council votes is . . .
Greenlighting the Marriott Hotel/DePaul basketball arena by approving the eminent-domain legislation needed to buy South Loop land. Thus taking hundreds of millions of dollars from our public coffers and wasting that money on a worthless project.
Actually, the eminent-domain vote is not on Simpson’s list. That’s because it was gaveled through so quickly that many aldermen—and, apparently, Simpson—didn’t know it was being taken. The mayor rushed it through to avoid discussion or debate. I guess some mayoral schemes are so wretched that even the mayor’s embarrassed by them.
Keep the faith, Professor Simpson.