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City Council More of a Rubber Stamp Under Rahm Than Daley

By Ted Cox | April 9, 2013 10:48am
 The Paul Douglas Alliance, and specifically Ald. Joe Moore (center), is called out in a new study for supporting Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Aldermen James Cappleman (from left), William Burns, Brendan Reilly and Michele Smith are also members of the self-proclaimed progressive alliance.
The Paul Douglas Alliance, and specifically Ald. Joe Moore (center), is called out in a new study for supporting Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Aldermen James Cappleman (from left), William Burns, Brendan Reilly and Michele Smith are also members of the self-proclaimed progressive alliance.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — The City Council has become more of a rubber stamp under Mayor Rahm Emanuel than it was under either Mayor Daley, according to a new study by a University of Illinois at Chicago professor and researcher.

The report, "Continuing the Rubber Stamp City Council," said Emanuel got 93 percent of the council to vote with him on all recorded votes. That's higher than the 88 percent Richard M. Daley earned in his last term, or the 83 percent Richard J. Daley earned in his first two years in office in the mid-'50s or the 85 percent he won at the height of the "Boss" era in the early '70s.

"Mayor Emanuel presides over a more compliant 'rubber stamp' City Council than any mayor in recent history," said Dick Simpson, co-author of the study. Simpson is professor of political science at UIC and a former council maverick who served as 44th Ward alderman from 1971 to 1979.

 UIC Professor Dick Simpson, a former maverick alderman, says the City Council is more in lockstep with the mayor than ever before.
UIC Professor Dick Simpson, a former maverick alderman, says the City Council is more in lockstep with the mayor than ever before.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

According to the study, which examined council votes from June 2011, after Emanuel took office, to this February, aldermen were divided on only 30 issues, and of those only seven produced six or more dissenting votes from the 50 aldermen.

Speed cameras produced the most votes in opposition, 14, followed by approval of the legislative inspector general, the new ward remap, the infrastructure trust (three separate votes) and digital billboards.

The study specifically called out Ald. Joe Moore (49th) and Ricardo Munoz (22nd) as Daley doubters who've become reliable Emanuel supporters.

They "were both previously seen as independent and progressive," according to the report, but "their support for the mayor skyrocketed," said Melissa Zmuda, co-author of the report.

"Munoz voted only 65 percent of the time with Mayor Daley, but voted 87 percent with Emanuel. Moore too reversed course, voting 51 percent with Daley, but 97 percent with Emanuel," she said.

Moore defended his record.

"The fact is, we've got a different mayor with a different approach to governing, and it's one I'm much more comfortable with," Moore replied. He pointed to how the Emanuel administration was much more open to compromise on issues like budget details.

Munoz said it wasn't that he is more politically aligned with Emanuel, nor vice versa, but instead blamed the small sample size.

"On some of the divided roll calls, I didn't have a vested interest in voting against him," Munoz said. He cited his vote in favor of the digital billboards, saying, "I thought it was a good idea."

The study also drew attention to the split between self-proclaimed progressives on the council. Most of the mayor's opposition is concentrated in the Progressive Reform Coalition, including Ald. John Arena (45th), who voted with the mayor just 40 percent of the time. Other leading Emanuel opponents in the group include Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), Nick Sposato (36th), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Leslie Hairston (5th).

"I don't know that I look at it as a badge of honor," Arena said. "I'm hired by my constituents to evaluate proposals from the administration, and I vote accordingly to what's going to be good for Chicago or my residents."

The Reform Coalition voted with the mayor 73 percent of the time overall. By contrast, members of the rival Paul Douglas Alliance sided with the mayor 92.5 percent of the time. Moore is in the latter group, Munoz with the former.

"I never thought they were part of what people [consider] progressives," Waguespack said of the rival alliance. "You just look at the voting pattern."

Moore countered that being progressive is about a lot more than a voting record.

"When the mayor is right on an issue, you're going to support him. He's been every bit as progressive as I could ask for," Moore said

Waguespack said resistance to the mayor is growing under inflammatory issues like school closings. Yet the progressive division, Simpson said, undercuts any attempt to give the mayor genuine opposition.

"The Alliance supports the mayor, and Reform Coalition provides much of the opposition to the mayor," Simpson said. "The split in the progressive ranks, however, makes the mayor’s control more complete."

According to the study, the council's support for the mayor tops even the 88 percent backing aldermen gave Mayor Edward Kelly in 1939-40. Kelly is credited with being one of the creators of Chicago's so-called Democratic Machine.