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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Unite and Conquer

Posted By on 06.10.08 at 02:39 PM

You don't need to wait until aldermen approve the plan to move the Chicago Children's Museum to Grant Park to get a glimpse of how the city's executive and legislative branches continue to merge.

At every single meeting the City Council signs off on dozens of ordinances, resolutions, and appointments, most introduced by the mayor and almost all passed with a single "omnibus" roll call vote counted relatively early in the meeting. This means it's not even necessary for most aldermen to shout "Aye" more than once or twice a month to take care of city business. 

If we zoom in on the last full council meeting, on May 14, we see that:

 * Aldermen approved 47 pieces of "significant" legislation [PDF], according to the city clerk.

 * 35 of those 47 items were originally introduced by the mayor.

 * Of the 12 items introduced or co-introduced by aldermen, six addressed relatively routine matters in a single ward, such as changes in ownership of public driveway permits or liquor licenses. Four more of these items were nonbinding resolutions. 

 * Aldermen were original sponsors of two pieces of citywide legislation: one requiring certain retailers to set up plastic bag recycling programs and another repealing the ban on selling foie gras.

 * After Mayor Daley, the most productive legislator was Ed Burke, alderman of the 14th Ward and chairman of the finance committee. He sponsored or cosponsored one ordinance (plastic bag recycling) and three nonbinding resolutions (calls for hearings on (1) the feasibility of using cameras to catch speeding cars and (2) creating a citywide program to get rid of pharmaceuticals, and a request that the city look into building a monument to members of the armed forces killed in the war on terror). Tom Allen, alderman of the 38th Ward, was next with three.

 * The council had one divided vote: on revoking the foie gras ban. Thirty-seven aldermen sided with the mayor and voted for the repeal, six voted against it, six didn't vote, and 48th Ward alderman Mary Ann Smith wasn't at the meeting.

 * 65 new legislative proposals were introduced for future consideration: 34 from the mayor, 29 from aldermen, one from an alderman and the city clerk's office, and one more from the city clerk's office alone.

 * In April, the mayor introduced 38, the city clerk one, and aldermen 16. Twenty-seven of the mayor's ended up getting passed (71 percent), compared with seven of the aldermen's (44 percent). The clerk's didn't get through either.

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