CITY HALL — Two aldermen are drawing on a rarely cited City Council provision to try to free progressive proposals on Chicago Public Schools sidetracked in the Rules Committee.
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) and John Arena (45th) have both filed formal requests under the council's Rule 41 demanding that their proposals be put to a vote at Wednesday's City Council meeting.
Fioretti's proposed ordinance would call for an audit of all Tax Increment Finance districts and redisbursement of any surplus funds, about half of which would go to CPS. Some 32 of the 50 aldermen signed on when it was introduced in July, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel immediately opposed it, and in a procedural matter it was shuttled to the Rules Committee after originally being designated for the Budget Committee.
Arena's proposed resolution would set a citywide referendum on whether Chicago should have an elected Board of Education, instead of the current system in which Mayor Rahm Emanuel appoints all members of the board. Although originally targeted for the Education Committee, it was immediately sidetracked to Rules upon being proposed in September.
Commonly known as the place "where good legislation goes to die," the Rules Committee is where proposals unpleasant to the mayoral administration are usually sent. Under Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), those proposals would languish for months if not years without a hearing.
Upon Mell's retirement in July, Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) took charge of the Rules Committee, appointed by Emanuel. Just last week, Harris asked for patience in how she would run the committee.
Yet Fioretti and Arena apparently ran out of patience, and filed last Thursday to invoke Rule 41, which provides for various remedies if a council proposal isn't heard in committee within 30 days. Using Rule 41, they're asking that their proposals be delivered to the council for a vote on Wednesday. The filings were signed by most of their colleagues in the Progressive Reform Caucus.
"We're trying to reinvigorate the democratic process, which has stalled in City Council," Fioretti said Monday. "These ordinances could make a big difference in the quality of education for CPS kids.
"They might not pass," he added. "But let's give them the debate and the vote that they deserve."
"These two pieces of legislation go hand in hand," Arena said, adding that they're about returning money to public schools, then making sure a board accountable to students and residents puts the money in the right places.
The Rules Committee had not met in months, but Harris abruptly called a meeting of the committee for immediately before Wednesday's City Council session.
Harris did not respond to requests for comment.