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Moore: Limited Role for Council Watchdog Better Than No Oversight at All

By Linze Rice | February 11, 2016 12:18pm
 Ald. Joe Moore voted Wednesday in favor of an ordinance that limits a City Council watchdog's oversight over aldermanic funds.
Ald. Joe Moore voted Wednesday in favor of an ordinance that limits a City Council watchdog's oversight over aldermanic funds.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

ROGERS PARK — As aldermen debated how much power should be given to a City Council watchdog, Rogers Park Ald. Joe Moore (49th) argued in favor of what some called a "watered down" version of an ordinance because he didn't believe the full council would have signed off on a wider role for the watchdog.

"Thank you for giving me an opportunity to provide a reality check," Moore said to Mayor Rahm Emanuel as he urged the City Council to vote in favor of a bill that allows city Inspector General Joe Ferguson to investigate ethics violations but not conduct audits to see if aldermanic money was being spent efficiently.

The vote came after a more sweeping ordinance, co-sponsored by Alds. Michele Smith, Ameya Pawar, Moore and others, was tabled last month.

In an email to 49th Ward residents Thursday morning, Moore said the "audit proposal ran into strong resistance from many of my colleagues, which threatened to scuttle the entire ordinance.

"Rather than face defeat of the ordinance and leave the City Council without any oversight whatsoever,  I worked with my colleagues Aldermen Patrick O’Connor and Will Burns to fashion a compromise substitute ordinance that removed the audit function but continued to give the Inspector General the authority to investigate any and all allegations of ethical misconduct and violations of the law."

The substitute ordinance was accepted in a 25-23 vote, and later adopted by a 29-19 vote.

At the meeting, Moore called the more limited ordinance's passing a "big step forward in the fight for government reform and transparency."

Moore also said "most people" in Chicago were more concerned with ethical issues than if aldermanic funds were being used appropriately.

Though Moore has touted his democratic use of the funds through a participatory budgeting process, the ordinance that passed prevents Ferguson's office from investigating the $1.32 million in aldermanic menu funds each ward is given annually, among other funds and committees.

Still, Moore, during his speech at City Hall, said although he'd co-sponsored the original bill, it was unrealistic to expect just because many aldermen signed on to the original ordinance, it doesn't mean they'll actually vote for it.

"I want to remind Ald. [Michele] Smith that 30 people signing onto a principal ordinance doesn't mean you're going to have 30 votes," Moore said. "I learned this early on when I was first on the City Council and sponsored the accountability and privatization ordinance. I got 26 signatures on that ordinance, my God I thought, 'That's it, we're gonna make some real, real reform in this City Council.' Guess what? Nothing happened for 25 years until just a few months ago."

But Ferguson, in a statement issued after the vote, said the city had "failed" in voting against the original proposal.

"Instead of embracing oversight for itself consonant with that for the rest of City government and operations, it retreated," the Inspector General's office said.

Moore disagreed, arguing rather the partial oversight bill was a victory in a "battle I've been waging for nearly eight years."

In the end, Moore said in his speech people shouldn't focus on trying to pass the "perfect" bill and said the ordinance was good enough: 

"If we do the right thing and we're smart, and we're not playing to the cameras, or to the editorial boards, but trying to actually get something passed that's meaningful, we're gonna do the right thing," Moore said. "The people in this city will have the comfort of knowing that we will be operating under basically the same rules as everyone else."

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