CITY HALL — Members of the City Council moved to fill up the March primary ballot with three proposed referendums Monday, in the process squeezing out a possible citywide vote on an elected school board.
Ald. John Arena (45th), who proposed the school-board referendum in October and charged last week that the three counterproposals were organized to keep his off the ballot, offered no resistance Monday in the Finance Committee.
A maximum of three referendums — which are simply advisory — are allowed on the ballot. Arena's proposal on a referendum on an elected school board has been bottled up in the Rules Committee, commonly called "where good legislation goes to die."
The Finance Committee, meanwhile, moved Monday to approve citywide referendums on guns in restaurants, high-capacity ammunition magazines and taxi rates.
"This is a blocking mechanism," Arena said. "Call it what it is. I don't see it as any other thing."
Ald. Edward Burke (14th), chairman of the Finance Committee, denied that it was an attempt to keep the elected school board off the ballot and defended his proposal asking voters to tell the General Assembly to back a ban on concealed weapons in bars and restaurants.
"I think an affirmative vote by the voters will demonstrate to the legislature that the people of Chicago strongly believe booze and bullets don't mix," Burke said.
The council has already approved an ordinance pulling the liquor license of any establishment that allows the concealed carrying of firearms.
Burke said he doubted the outcome would be in doubt when city residents vote on whether they want higher taxi rates, but that measure's sponsor, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), defended it.
"The way I look at it, we ought to let the people speak to see if we need to proceed with the taxi drivers deserving an increase," Beale said. "You really don't expect people to say yes, but it gives us a good indication on the pulse of the people." He, too ,denied any organized effort to keep the school-board referendum off the ballot.
The three referendums passed Monday without debate and face near-certain approval Wednesday before the full City Council, and there is no meeting scheduled beforehand with the Rules Committee and its chairman, Ald. Michelle Harris (8th).
"I don't see it happening. I'll continue to lobby," Arena said. "I've asked, and she continues to say there's nothing yet.
"We're bringing national attention to this," Arena added. "It's one battle in the war, and we're gonna continue this. We'll continue the debate on what an elected school board would look like. We'll continue to get allies."
Arena said he welcomed Monday afternoon's planned protest by parents, students and teachers, pushing in part for a school-board referendum and, in the meantime, giving out candy canes and petcoke coal to aldermen the considered either nice or naughty on issues regarding Chicago Public Schools.
"I do welcome the support," Arena said. "I like the holiday twist."