Chicago Sun-Times
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Alderman Ed Burke. Sun-Times files

The City Council's most powerful aldermen on Wednesday defended Mayor Rahm Emanuel's decision to enlist Chicago firefighters in the effort to guarantee the safety of 30,000 students displaced by school closings.

Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), chairman of the City Council's Finance Committee, said he has long encouraged a "more mobile deployment" of the Chicago Fire Department's equipment and personnel.

"I don't see why they can't be out and be the further eyes and ears of the government," Burke said Wednesday. "I don't think anybody is suggesting they're gonna be armed and involved like police officers. Their role will be more expanding the city presence."

Aldermen Jason Irving and Howard Brookins Jr. before the Chicago City Council voted on ordinances addressing security and protest permits for the upcoming NATO/G8 summits in Chicago at McCormick Place. Wednesday, January 18, 2012 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

The Democratic ward boss with the most to say about who will replace convicted County Board member William Beavers on Wednesday dismissed as a "minor infraction" charges that the leading candidate for that vacancy campaigned on state time.

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) unwavering endorsement of Stanley Moore--and Brookins' decisions to dismiss the ethics controversy surrounding Moore--leaves Moore as the odds-on favorite to replace Beavers.

While serving as an $86,388-a-year deputy director of the Il. Department of Transportation, Moore was accused of fundraising for his failed 2008 legislative campaign on state time. After a state ethics investigation, he paid a $3,000 fine.

Controversy of anay kind is a sensitive subject considering Beavers conviction last month of converting campaign money and county expense account funds to personal use without paying taxes on that money.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the City Council Meeting. Wednesday, March 13, 2013 | Brian Jackson~ Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel had some big shoes to fill when he took over for Mayor Richard M. Daley when he was inaugurated as mayor in May 2011. But according to a study released by the University of Illinois-Chicago, the City Council has been more compliant with Rahm in his first two years than they were with Richard J. Daley during his first two years in office and more than Richard M. Daley had in his final two years in office. Dick Simpson, a political science professor at UIC and a former alderman (44th ward, 1971-1979), headed the study which looked at "30 divided roll call votes since the current City Council began in May, 2011." (Grain of salt #1: even just one alderman dissenting is enough to categorize a vote as a "divided roll call.")

Per a press release on the study: "According to the study, 21 aldermen voted to support Mayor Emanuel's position 100% of the time and 18 aldermen voted with him over 90% of the time. Only seven of the 30 issues drew six or more dissenting votes." The study follows up that the issue with the most dissent was Mayor Emanuel's proposal to put cameras in "Children Safety Zones" around schools. That vote had 33 vote in favor and 14 dissent (three voted absent).

The study continues: "The average level of support for Mayor Emanuel was 93% on all divided roll call votes, an increase from the overwhelming 88% Richard M. Daley enjoyed in his last term. It was also greater than the 83% achieved by Richard J. Daley in his first two years in office, 1955-56, or the 85% support the 'Boss' received in 1971-72. Emanuel even topped Mayor Edward J. Kelly's 88% support earned in 1939-40."

Of course, Grain of Salt #2: the study doesn't include results from every term for both Daleys, thus not showing a large portion of years in which they had particular sway over the City Council. It's unfair to match Rahm's first two years against Daley's final few years as support for Daley had begun to wane a bit - at least in the context of Daley's support - in his final term. And every Chicagoan knows the power with which the "Boss" and the Machine ruled the Council in the 50s and 60s.

The underlying fact that's not quite teased out by the study but is there for all to see? The City Council is pretty much a legislative body in name only, rarely making any difference in the laws the mayor of Chicago - whomever it may be - has passed, with at least 80-85 percent of aldermen voting with the mayor no matter who's in office. Lest we forget, only five aldermen voted against the horrendous parking meter lease in 2008.

And the only vote Mayor Emanuel has lost in his first two years was an attempt at ethics reform that would have empowered the City Council's Inspector General to investigate anonymous complaints against aldermen and their employees. And the rejected bill had been watered down from its original proposal. It took a measure that would have put a dent in their own insulation to get aldermen to actually say no to the mayor.

So, if anything is to be concluded from the study, it's simply that history will continue to repeat in Chicago, a city that never met reform it didn't love to kill.

Chicago Sun-Times Library File Photo by Rich Hein

This Sunday, November 25th, marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Harold Washington, who served as Chicago's mayor from April 1983 until his death in 1987, just months after winning a second term. Washington was a larger-than-life man with a big smile to boot. But he was also a fighter as his battles against then-aldermen Ed Vrdolyak and the "Vrdolyak 29" proved during the infamous Council Wars. He was a polarizing figure but the city came together to mourn his tragic and sudden passing over Thanksgiving week in 1987.

Over the next few days, we'll look back on the last days of Washington's life by digging up stories from our archives and posting them here with photos from the Sun-Times' archive.

We've also created a timeline tracking some of Washington's major accomplishments as a politician and implementing photos and videos.

Finally, at the end of the week, some of the Sun-Times' writers will also share their memories of Harold for us.

So keep checking this space all week for more on Washington as we remember him 25 years after his passing.

A shortened Taste of Chicago had it's final day on July 15, 2012. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

The shrunken and revamped Taste of Chicago still didn't come close to breaking even and may never return to profitability, a top mayoral aide said Monday.

Cultural Affairs and Special Events Commissioner Michelle Boone said the she's "still reconciling" the cost of city services before releasing a final financial report on the revamped 2012 Taste.

But, she disclosed that Chicago's premier lakefront festival costs $6 million to stage and isn't "close to breaking even." That's despite the fact that individual restaurants saw their highest profit margins in five years.

Taste of Chicago was once a cash cow that bankrolled the city's other music festivals. But, Boone said it may never return to profitability.

pinkslime.jpeg FILE - In this March 29, 2012 file photo, the beef product known as pink slime or lean finely textured beef is frozen on a large drum as part of its manufacturing process at the Beef Products Inc.'s plant in South Sioux City, Neb

CHICAGO -- Dan Webb is best known in Chicago for defending the likes of former Gov. George Ryan and Springfield millionaire William Cellini. Over the last several months, however, Webb has made headlines after he was appointed Special Prosecutor to investigate what happened in the death of David Koschman.

Today, we learn Webb has another new gig.

He is representing Beef Products Inc. which on Thursday filed a $1.2 billion lawsuit against ABC News, Inc. for defamation, blaming the network for misleading consumers about "pink slime."

The lawsuit indicates the network's coverage falsely led consumers to believe that the meat product was unsafe and unhealthy, causing a huge profit loss.

Webb, who could not immediately be reached for comment, has been handling a grand jury that is investigating Koschman's 2004 death. The Chicagoan was punched in a drunken exchange with the politically connected nephew of Chicago's former Mayor Daley. A Sun-Times investigation has raised questions about whether politics were involved in the handling of Koschman's death investigation.

City Hall Reporter

Mayor Rahm Emanuel warned Tuesday that the U.S. House Republican budget crafted by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan could trigger a recession.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel gives an interview about jobs, infrastructure, crime and other topics to Bloomberg/ Businessweek while on an "El" ride. Read it HERE.


Ald. Walter Burnett in City Council. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times file photo

It's hard to imagine anyone comparing Chicago aldermen to priests, considering the steady drumbeat of corruption that has sent 31 present and former aldermen to prison since the 1970's.

But, that's what Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) did this week during a candid discussion with students in the City Council chambers.

Despite the $73,280-a-year expense allowance and an annual salary of $114,913 for those who accept annual cost-of-living adjustments, Burnett candidly complained to the students about the abuse he has to take and the bile he has to swallow while dealing with angry constituents.

"I went to a block party Saturday [with] every next person I talked to asking me for something, complaining about something. You have to have a thick skull to deal with that," Burnett said, apparently intending to say skin--not skull.


The Washington Post Political Cartoons blog features Rahm and the Chicago skyline in a Chick-fil-A controversy. Nick Anderson of the Houston Chronicle sees it as gay marriage vs free speech--or lack of it.

Time Out Chicago talks to a group of City Hall staffers in their twenties about working for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Rahm Six:
Mike Simmons, Ankur Thakkar, Caroline Weisser, Matt Fischler, Anna Valencia and Michael Faulman.

The New York Times on Rahm's problems with Chicago bike-sharing program.
Sun-Times City Hall Reporter Fran Spielman's post on Chicago's bike-sharing problems.