City Council reorganization to reward Emanuel allies

SHARE City Council reorganization to reward Emanuel allies

After weeks of behind-the-scenes political jockeying, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has settled on a City Council reorganization that rewards aldermen who helped him get re-elected, City Hall sources said Thursday.

The new line-up calls for Ald. Joe Moore (49th) to take over the Housing Committee, with an annual budget of $196,506, now chaired by ousted Ald. Ray Suarez (31st).

That would create an opening in the $154,720-a-year Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation Committee that would be filled by Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who helped spearhead support for Emanuel in the politically potent gay community.

Tunney’s step up would be an opportunity to reward Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus.

Brookins would become a committee chairman for the first time, taking over Tunney’s $110,135-a-year Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development.

Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) would assume control over the $121,789-a-year Public Safety Committee, now chaired by retiring Ald. Jim Balcer (11th).

The $89,098-a-year Human Relations Committee now chaired by Reboyras would go to Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st).

The $205,609-a-year Education Committee is now chaired by retiring Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th).

That political plum would go to Ald. Will Burns (4th), who helped the mayor improve his South Side ground game on the way to capturing nearly 58 percent of the black vote in the April 7 runoff.

Burns served on the mayoral task force that recommended raising Chicago’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2019. He’s also a proponent of Emanuel’s education agenda who happens to be embroiled in a huge fight with community groups over the future of Dyett High School.

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), one of Emanuel’s most visible campaign surrogates, would become vice mayor. That’s a ceremonial job that Suarez now holds that could become important if Emanuel were to become incapacitated or leave mid-term.

And the defeat of Ald. John Pope (10th) would create an opening on the board overseeing Emanuel’s slow-starting Infrastructure Trust for Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd).

The City Council has 16 committees. Six are currently chaired by white aldermen. Six are chaired by blacks. And Hispanics control four committees.

That balance of power would be unchanged in the new line-up, even though the new Council would have 10 Hispanic aldermen, up from eight.

Sources said that has created some behind-the-scenes tension with a Hispanic Caucus that has argued that the city’s fastest-growing ethnic group deserves a bigger piece of the pie and should hold on to the Housing Committee now chaired by Suarez.

Some have privately grumbled that Emanuel may be punishing the Hispanic community for the 61 percent support it gave to vanquished mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

But the mayor can argue that by giving Reboyras a high-profile committee like Public Safety and making Moreno a first-time chairman, he is giving Hispanics their due.

Four years ago, Emanuel rocked the boat with a pre-election threat to reorganize the City Council and strip Finance Committee chairman Edward Burke (14th) of his police bodyguards and, possibly, his chairmanship.

He ended up retaining Burke, cutting his police detail in half, eliminating three committees and reducing committee spending by 20 percent.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that Emanuel had a decision to make heading into a second term.

He could either use vacant committee chairmanships created by the defeat and retirement of incumbent chairman to further consolidate committees.

Or he could dole out those coveted positions and the domino vacancies they created to reward his political allies.

The decision has now been made: To the victor belong the spoils.

Sources said there is even talk — at least among some in the mayor’s office — of putting Pope in charge of the City Council’s independent budget office.

That would be a tough sell in some circles, considering the controversy that stalled the office for more than a year and culminated in former independent Ald. Helen Shiller (46th) removing her name from contention.

If Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), the driving force behind the office, didn’t think Shiller was independent enough, he certain won’t be satisfied with Pope, who was first elected to the City Council with formidable support from the Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO), which was at the center of the city hiring scandal.

Pope came under fire last year for hiring as a $57,048-a-year staff assistant a former Streets and Sanitation worker who had landed on the city’s “do-not-hire” list after being accused of sexually harassing a female co-worker and threatening to rape her when she complained about him.

After the Super Bowl Sunday blizzard, Pope took snow-removal help from a corrupt city contractor and thanked him publicly on Facebook.

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