Ethics reform | Bleader

Friday, June 1, 2007

Ethics reform

Posted By on 06.01.07 at 06:22 PM

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New 42nd Ward alderman Brendan Reilly sent out an e-mail to his supporters yesterday that includes the following paragraph:

"In his inaugural address, Mayor Daley expressed a sincere desire to work with the newly elected aldermen to address our top priorities. I'm pleased to point out that the Mayor has already made government ethics reform a top priority, agreeing to abide by the Shakman decree against political patronage, and pledging to work with City Clerk Miguel DelValle to open up city government by broadcasting all city council meetings via the Internet. I look forward to working with Clerk DelValle and the Mayor on this issue as a member of the City Council's Ethics Committee."

Sure, it's a press release carefully constructed to sound nice. And certainly the alderman of the central business district needs to have a sound working relationship with the mayor. But if this isn't simply ass-kissing political BS--if it's any indication of the tone, style, and political approach Reilly will bring to the council in the next four years--the mayor and the machine Democrats who keep most of the seats warm in that esteemed chamber have to be just as eager to "work" with Reilly as he is with them. That's because they're going to get all the loyalty they had from his predecessor, Burt Natarus, without the hassle of having to listen to circus-act tangents or occasionally well-informed skepticism. 

For starters, the Daley inauguration speech most of us heard last week didn't express a desire to work with new aldermen as much as it chastised them in advance about engaging in "never-ending debate" and "endless politics." This from a mayor who still engages in endless politicking, as his sudden "agreeing to abide by the Shakman decree" illustrates. For years Daley fought the Shakman decree, telling voters that the city no longer engaged in patronage hiring, firing, or promoting. When federal convictions of some of his patronage organizers and the court-ordered appointment of a hiring monitor showed that he was oblivious or lying, he still resisted Shakman; the chair of the aforementioned ethics committee, Daley loyalist Richard Mell, buried a proposed resolution [PDF] introduced by aldermen Joe Moore and Ricardo Munoz that called on the administration to settle the case. Yesterday, at last, the administration was forced into an agreement by politics: not even Daley can afford to appear completely unconcerned about ongoing federal investigations, mounting legal costs, and the recent election season that sent Reilly and eight other rookies into the City Council.

Reilly didn't need to kiss Daley on the cheek in his e-mail update, any more than he needed to declare war on him. He's been in office less than two weeks. Yet he went out of his way to work in his praise of Daley. 

But the alderman said in an interview this afternoon that I've got it wrong. "Some people have taken [Daley's] speech to mean, 'Don't make any waves.' But I saw it as saying, 'Let's not get into the partisan bickering you see in Washington,'" he said. "I will be the first to say that healthy debate is a good thing that leads to better government. When the mayor and I disagree, I will make my voice heard."

Still, Reilly said he sees eye to eye with the mayor on most issues. "I'm hopeful we can have a positive working relationship," he said.

Meanwhile, his e-mail avoided mention of the controversial plans to knock down the Lake Shore Center. Reilly said several public meetings on the proposal are scheduled over the next couple of weeks, and he'll be listening to resident input before making a final decision. "It is not a fait accompli," he said. 

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