CHICAGO — For those who thought the self-congratulatory New Year's spree commonly known as award season could never go too far: Now presenting the IVI-IPO Best Aldermanic Voting Record Awards!
The Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization presented awards for best voting records in the Chicago City Council Monday in a self-deprecating ceremony at Pegasus Restaurant in Greektown.
"Opaa!" punctuated some of the presentations.
Yet there was some substance behind the pagaentry. The avowedly progressive IVI-IPO identified 11 key votes in the City Council over 2012. They ranged from the decriminalization of marijuana to the 2013 budget. No alderman voted entirely along the IVI-IPO's self-declared party line. Yet Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) both sided with the IVI-IPO 10 times of the 11 to claim top honors.
"What other organization in town tries to develop objective criteria and then evaluate the aldermen on that basis?" said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, a former alderman, who acted as master of ceremonies. "Nobody."
Preckwinkle said the awards operate as both carrot and stick, lauding those who vote as progressives, but offering an "inducement" for others to join them.
"For me, speaking in an independent voice is getting up in the morning," said Ald. John Arena (45th), who finished third, with nine votes meeting IVI-IPO guidelines. "This is our job to do in the City Council."
In part, the process was self-fulfilling. Three of the targeted votes concerned Mayor Rahm Emanuel's so-called Infrastructure Trust, and two of those concerned tabling oversight amendments offered by Fioretti and Waguespack, respectively.
Fioretti also used the awards as a bully pulpit, saying, "We lack two things — safety in our streets and an educational system that keeps our kids educated and brings them forward." He vowed to continue to work on those issues.
Yet the threshhold was also fairly low. Ald. Leslie Hairston was fourth, with seven IVI-IPO-affirmative votes out of 11. Among honorable mentions, Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th) had six, and Ald. Toni Foulkes had five, less than half.
University of Illinois at Chicago Professor Dick Simpson handed out awards for community budgeting, led by Ald. Joe Moore (49th), who popularized the program letting ward residents determine how the alderman's $1.3 million discretionary fund should be spent. He was joined by Arena, Hairston and Ald. James Cappleman (46th).
Several alderman were recognized for their "Support for Our Teachers," but especially for backing both the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools in a spirit of compromise during September's strike. They were Fioretti, Waguespack, Arena, Foulkes, Munoz, Sposato and Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th).
Waguespack did not make it to the actual presentation ceremony, due to a sick child at home. He did not send Sacheen Littlefeather to accept the award for him.