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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Conundrum of the Quorum

Posted By on 03.30.10 at 12:55 PM

The City Council may gather for a special session this Wednesday thanks to aldermen Joe Moore (49th), Willie Cochran (20th), and Ricardo Munoz (22nd)—but the meeting could also turn out to be a complete bust and political embarrassment.

The trio wants the council to take a vote on Mayor Daley’s plan to restructure the city’s street-sweeping system, a move he can legally make without approval from aldermen. Under Daley's plan, starting April 1—the day after the special session—street sweepers will patrol the city according to a new grid system that the mayor claims will cut costs. Gone will be the days when each ward has its own street sweeper overseen by the ward’s alderman and Streets & San superintendent. Moore, Cochran, and Munoz argue the change will hurt the quality of street sweeping, and they want the City Council to have a say in the matter.

But the vote could be kicked to the curb.

According to state law, the council has to have a quorum present—in this case, a majority, or 26 aldermen—in order to vote on anything. That means Moore, Cochran, and Munoz have to convince at least 23 other council members to show up on Wednesday—no small thing considering the council's longstanding deference to Daley. “We’re working on it,” Moore said Monday.

Cochran said he too had been lobbying fellow aldermen for their support, but he didn’t sound entirely optimistic. “I take their word, but we won’t know exactly if they’ll be there until that day,” he said.

Moore tried to bring up the issue last Friday, when a special session was called to confirm Daley’s appointments to open seats in the First and 29th wards, but Alderman Ed Burke (14th) rattled off a few parliamentary rules—one supposedly established in a decision issued by his wife, state Supreme Court justice Anne Burke—that limited what can be introduced during such meetings. Moore didn't get a chance to bring the sweeping plan up. He later told reporters that if the plan goes ahead, then “Chicago’s reputation as the cleanest city in America is going to take a blow.”

Moore's wife, Barbara, has joined the cause, creating a Facebook event page dedicated to opposing Daley's plan. As of Tuesday morning it had 30 confirmed "guests" and numerous comments, including one from 35th Ward alderman Rey Colon, who wrote of Daley's plan, "F#*k! That!"

Second Ward alderman Bob Fioretti, who hasn't always been on Daley's good side, supports the mayor's plan. In 2008 Fioretti attempted to persuade the city’s Streets & San department to adopt a grid system for street sweeping and garbage removal. Fioretti argues that a grid system would make economic sense while also helping the city identify areas that need more frequent trash collection and street sweeping. He said the mayor’s office didn’t score many points with aldermen by announcing the changes so suddenly and so close to the deadline, but he thinks the grid system could be phased in, with each ward still keeping a street sweeper for emergencies. Fioretti also said he’ll attend Wednesday’s meeting, but he doesn’t think it’ll do much good.

“Whenever the mayor calls a special session, everyone shows up,” he said. “Whenever an alderman calls a special session, nobody shows up.”

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