A majority of aldermen didn’t show up for today’s special session of the City Council, which meant they didn't get to weigh in officially on Mayor Daley’s plan to overhaul the city’s street-sweeping system. But the meeting was more about bucking Daley’s authority than bitching about a bunch of street sweepers.
Last week Daley ordered the city’s department of Streets and Sanitation to clean streets according to a new grid system, a move he can legally make without seeking council approval. Daley’s plan would have taken control of street sweepers from aldermen and the ward superintendents they pick. Needless to say, that plan didn’t sit well with many aldermen, who complained the grid system would hurt the quality of street sweeping and strip them of control. So aldermen Joe Moore (49th), Willie Cochran (20th), and Ricardo Munoz (29th) called for today’s special session as a way to put the brakes on Daley’s plan, which would have gone into effect tomorrow.
The only problem was that the plan had already been scrapped by the time aldermen began trickling into council chambers. Over the last couple days, as word of the would-be insurrection spread, Streets and San commissioner Tom Byrne started telling aldermen that he was throwing out the grid system plan in favor of a new one: aldermen will still have some control over street sweepers, but the total number of sweepers would be reduced to 40 and street cleaning will only take place four days a week instead of five.
Moore told reporters after today’s meeting that he believed more aldermen would have shown up if the compromise hadn't been reached. He said he and his colleagues had made a statement regardless.
“The message to the mayor is that we need to be treated as equal partners,” Moore said.
Second Ward alderman Bob Fioretti agreed even though he supports the idea of a grid system. “The way it was handled [by the mayor] shows problems of ‘It’s my way or the highway,’ and that needs to end,” he said. “When we have 25 people showing up at a City Council meeting called by an alderman, it sends a message to the administration.”
Still, that message might have been delivered louder and clearer if Fioretti, Moore, and their counterparts had been able to assemble the 26 aldermen needed for a quorum. Former 42nd Ward alderman and Daley supporter Burt Natarus, making a surprise visit, jokingly offered to stand in for one of the missing aldermen. “If you give up your street sweepers, I feel sorry for you,” he said. But having lost his 2007 re-election bid to Brendan Reilly, Natarus's services could not be accepted.
One of the absent alderman, Lona Lane of the 18th Ward, told me she was in her City Hall office during the special session but couldn’t make it downstairs in time because she was drafting an ordinance with other city officials.
“By the time I got there, they were walking out,” she said. “I ran into Alderman [Richard] Mell. He said, ‘Lona, it’s over. We didn’t have a quorum.’”