Former Mayor Richard M. Daley used to have a field day ridiculing the many attempts by Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) to become the food police.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not about to do the same.
One day after a City Council committee heard three hours of testimony, but took no vote on Burke's plan to ban the sale and distribution of high-caffeine energy drinks in Chicago, Emanuel called the health risks a "legit" concern.
"It's too early to say what we're gonna do, but I'm glad we had the hearing and started to get the issues on the table. It's totally a legit concern...The aldermen and the chairman did the right thing having a hearing," Emanuel said.
"I've talked to [Health Commissioner Dr. Bechara] Choucair...to be involved and informed about gathering all the information we need before we make a decision because I want to make sure that, if we do anything, that we're doing it in what's both our public health and, most importantly, in our kids' interests."
Daley famously ridiculed Chicago aldermen for banning foie gras, a since-repealed international laughingstock of an ordinance.
He also poked fun at Burke for suggesting that Chicago restaurants sharply restrict artery-clogging trans fats and post calorie counts on their menu items.
"I'm getting ready for Christmas. You'd better believe I'm going to eat and drink. You think my family is going to prepare my calorie count at home? . . . How far should government go? Do we have to have a calorie count? Do we put it on you as an employee? Will you be walking around 24 hours a day in restaurants? How much can we demand from the restaurant industry?" Daley said when Burke proposed mandatory calorie counts.
"Let's take our own responsibility. . . . When I go out, I want to enjoy my meal. . . . You know what you're going to eat -- whether it's a salad, a main meal or a dessert. You know what you're going to have. There's no guilt in that. I don't want people to feel guilty. . . . Last night, I had turkey. I had mashed potatoes -- everything. I enjoyed it. Moderation . . . let individuals figure that out. I don't think it's up to . . . everybody else to figure that out for us."
Like the much-lampooned foie gras ban, Daley branded calorie counts yet another subject unworthy of the City Council's time.
"We're on tangents. . . . How about being concerned about whether or not a child is getting a good quality education in the public school [or] whether young kids graduating from high school are going to get a job, go on to technical, vocational training or go on to college. That's what I'm concerned about. We're on tangents. When you get on tangents and you're worried about the goose all the time -- how bout worrying about people?" Daley once said.
Emanuel and Burke are former political rivals. The mayor blamed Burke for laying the groundwork for the residency challenge that nearly knocked the former White House chief-of-staff off the 2011 mayoral ballot.
During a campaign debate, Emanuel rocked the boat with a pre-election threat to re-organize the City Council - and strip Burke of his police bodyguards and, possibly his chairmanship of the powerful Finance Committee.
But, after a peacemaking session brokered and hosted by Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th), Emanuel's City Council floor leader, Emanuel ultimately decided to retain Burke as Finance Committee Chairman and, at least initially, retained the bodyguard detail. The mayor subsequently cut Burke's detail in half--from four bodyguards to two.