MAYFAIR — As the new president pro tempore of the Chicago City Council, Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th) is reveling in the perks of her new position, including the ability to silence her colleagues with the rap of a gavel.
"I've also tried getting them to play 'Hail to the Chief' when I walk into the room," Laurino said Thursday, laughing. "So far, no one has taken me up on it."
Laurino said her new perch will benefit the residents of Sauganash, Edgebrook, Gladstone Park, Old Irving Park and Albany Park by giving her the ear of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the inside track on proposals and developments.
"I'll get in on the ground floor," said Laurino, who was appointed to the council in 1994 by former Mayor Richard M. Daley to take the seat left vacant by her father's retirement. "I'll be in tune with the issues."
Laurino will take over the gavel when Emanuel steps out of council meetings, and she will be charged with making sure the monthly meetings flow smoothly. Laurino said she and Emanuel and his staff will meet about a week before the meeting to go over the agenda and then again the morning of the meeting.
"I'm honored to have been selected," Laurino said, rifling through a pocket-sized copy of Robert's Rules of Order that she has been studying.
Emanuel shook up the council's committees after Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) retired in July. Laurino had been chairwoman of the committee on pedestrian and traffic safety.
Laurino's new access to the mayor and his staff tipped her off to the timing of the installation of cameras designed to catch speeders along Foster Avenue near Gompers Park, she said.
Laurino said she was also pressing the mayor to make sure plans for a $50 million tunnel to prevent flooding in Albany Park move forward quickly.
"We'll be spending more time together," Laurino said of Emanuel. "A close relationship with the mayor is a good for my ward."
Laurino's close relationship with Emanuel is in stark contrast to that of her aldermanic neighbor to the south and west. Ald. John Arena (45th) is a member of the council's Progressive Reform Caucus, which often criticizes the mayor, and a frequently votes against the mayor's initiatives.
"I've chosen a different path than John Arena," Laurino said. "That said, I get along just fine with John."
While declining to officially announce whether she planned to run for re-election next year, Laurino acknowledged that it would be unlikely that she would take on such a high-profile position only to decide to leave the council.
Laurino has also been busy representing several new parts of the redrawn 39th Ward, including parts of Edgebrook and Gladstone Park. Laurino and Jefferson Park District Police Commander James O'Donnell are scheduled to host a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Sept. 5 with the Edgebrook Community Association to discuss crime, recycling and other issues.
"I want them to know we're here, we're concerned and we're ready to help," Laurino said.
After a man sexually assaulted a woman in June in a new section of the 39th Ward, Laurino said she worked with the city's Department of Forestry to cut back bushes and add lighting and cameras to the path near the Montrose station on the CTA Blue Line.
In addition, Laurino said she was concerned about the manpower that the Cook County Forest Preserve police has available to police the forest preserves in Edgebrook and Sauganash.
"I'm asking them to work closely with the Chicago Police Department," Laurino said. "We don't want punky kids taking over the forest preserves."