Monday, August 5, 2013

Sun-Times: Two aldermen resurrect idea of cutting Council in half

I've written about this subject before. There are some who want to see the city council cut in some numbers during the remap 32nd Ald. Scott Waguespack on the north side wanted to cut only 15 Alderman to give the city council a size of 35 Alderman. Still, there are proposals to cut the city council's size in half.

More recently two Alderman 42nd Ward's Brendan Reilly and 47th Ward's Ameya Pawar have taken up this cause.
Now, Aldermen Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Ameya Pawar (47th) are revisiting the idea to begin to chip away at the city’s $338.7 million shortfall and perhaps turn a City Council that’s even more of a rubber stamp for Emanuel than it was for his predecessor into a more deliberative body.

“For the last six years, I’ve been representing nearly a double-sized ward. I don’t think I’m all that special. If I can do it, my colleagues could do it as well. It’s a lot of work and an incredible volume. But it can be done,” said Reilly, who has been inundated by the population surge in his downtown ward.

“It would certainly cut several million dollars out of the budget. It would also demand more accountability from fewer aldermen representing more geography. To some extent, it also could result in more divided roll calls. You could end up having some interesting debate, which has been generally lacking.”

Pawar acknowledged that the millions saved would be a “drop in the bucket” compared to next year’s $338.7 million shortfall and the $1 billion gap Chicago is facing in 2015 without substantive pension reform.

But he said, “We are where we are today because we’ve always looked at Chicago as 50 little fiefdoms…If everything is on the table when it comes to how we deliver services, then the City Council should be on the table as well. I don’t think anything should be a sacred cow.”
I've always said while not opposed to this idea, that it would have to change the role that Alderman play currently. If the voters have an idea about what an alderman does then we'd essentially have to change their general job description. In a geographically larger ward with significantly more people, would an Alderman be able to micromanage every aspect of their wards from garbage collection to signage to whatever.

Mayoral floor leader 40th Ward Ald. Pat O'Connor seems to come to the same conclusion I did:
“If in fact you were to do that, the delivery of services would be considerably changed. You would essentially be doubling the geographic area each alderman represents and, to the extent that we try to police and bring services to our wards, it would hamper our efforts. I’m not sure people’s expectations would be met based upon the current delivery of services.”
In any case before this could even become enacted into law, this either needs to go through the state legislature or Chicagoans can have a binding referendum on this subject. I wonder how many Chicagoans would go for this. Would anyone on the South Side consider such an action?

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