Rahm ready for 1st council meeting
BY FRAN Spielman and Abdon M. Pallasch Sun-Times Media May 18, 2011 11:36PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Presiding over his first city council meeting and standing the whole time, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday scored his first legislative victory — a reorganization that cuts council spending by
10 percent, abolishes three committees and establishes his closest ally as a council powerhouse.
The plan reduces the number of council committees from 19 to 16 to save about $470,000 but creates a powerful audit and workforce development committee chaired by Emanuel’s floor leader, Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th).
No longer will all major legislation be funneled through the finance committee, chaired by Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th). O’Connor’s committee would share the workload — and pass judgment on development deals and labor contracts.
Under the new system, a few more freshmen aldermen than in the past would get seats on some of the council’s most important committees.
City council rules tied to the reorganization would also prohibit convicted felons from gaining access to the council floor. The proposal originated with Ald. Danny Solis (25th) and targeted Solis’ nemesis, convicted former Ald. Ambrosio Medrano (25th).
“When you lose that trust because you got convicted, you do not retain the right because you were once an alderman to go back on the floor — in some cases, as a lobbyist representing somebody. You’ve lost that right. You’ve lost that privilege,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel has served as a congressman and White House chief of staff, but Wednesday’s meeting was his first chance to preside over a legislative body. The new mayor approached it like an eager beaver.
He arrived at 9:30 a.m., 30 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin, with a bottle of water in his hand and a gleam in his eye. He quickly buttonholed as many aldermen as he could, engaging in small talk with some but talking to others about his idea to create a local version of the federal Dream Act to protect the children of illegal immigrants.
Former Mayor Richard Daley appeared somewhat bored by council meetings and spent more time making small talk in the anteroom behind the council chambers than he did on the mayor’s rostrum.
Emanuel was a sharp contrast. He was fully engaged. He stood throughout the two-hour meeting, smiling, joking, winking and occasionally waving, even to the news media.
Afterward, Emanuel was asked whether leaving three veteran aldermen — Burke, O’Connor and Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) — in charge of the council’s three most powerful committees qualified as the “reform” that he promised.
“It’s not who sits on what committee, it’s what we do. It’s whether you use the committee to bring change. That’s the measure,” Emanuel told reporters. “Your job will be, have we done it? You’ll ask that on a regular basis — and I welcome it. I’ll be asking it. I think we’ve set up the structure to bring about that change.”