A new study by the political science department at the University of Illinois-Chicago explores the depths of rubber-stamping performed by the City Council in the last four years under Mayor Daley's leadership, and looks at just how independent the incoming council might be.
"The Last of the Daley Years," a survey authored by former alderman Dick Simpson and several of his colleagues, analyzes the 54 votes over the last term that did not pass unanimously. It found the council that came into office in 2007 defiant, with eleven new members, many of whom had won the election over long-time Daley supporters like Burt Natarus and Darcel Beavers. That council showed some initial resistance to the mayor's agenda, especially among more independent aldermen like Scott Waguespack and Leslie Hairston.
Ultimately, though, more aldermen sided with the mayor even more often than the previous council had, and the body did not even force Daley to veto a single issue in four years. He won a majority on every single vote.
"Despite the best efforts of the fledgling independent bloc, the current council remains a rubber stamp," according to the report.
In the 54 divided votes, no alderman voted against the mayor more than 50 percent of the time. An astonishing 31 of the city's 50 aldermen voted with the mayor more than 90 percent of the time, and seven voted with Daley in every single instance.
But the report leaves room for the possibility of more dissent from the upcoming council. Of the eleven aldermen who retired before last February's election, only two -- Toni Preckwinkle and Brian Doherty -- provided any kind of regular dissent to the mayor; the rest voted with his agenda on 88 percent or more of the divided issues.
Several more rubber-stampers could still be unseated. Candidates like Danny Solis (25th), Latasha Moore (17th) and Freddrenna Lyle (6th) voted with the Mayor on all but one of the split council votes in the last four years; all three turned in strong performances in the February election, but not strong enough to avoid a runoff in April. All of the incumbents in runoffs were mostly Daley backers during their most recent terms.
Another obvious difference in the new council is that they won't have a Mayor Daley to rubber-stamp in the first place. As has been widely discussed, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel could be headed for a power struggle with powerful Finance Committee chair Ald. Ed Burke.
But rather than a clash of the titans, Simpson envisioned a different scenario:
The faction supporting Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and those regular Democrats who may be more loyal to Alderman Edward Burke (14th) have yet to work out a power sharing arrangement. Thus, it is possible to imagine a three-way split in the council between Emanuel supporters, Burke supporters, and the independent bloc aldermen.
Whatever the case, Emanuel will have to navigate a City Council that could potentially show him some opposition -- something that his predecessor, it seems, saw very little of.
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