Northwest Side Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) on Thursday made his case for the now-vacant job of chairman of the City Council’s Aviation Committee and urged Mayor Rahm Emanuel not to play the familiar Chicago game of racial politics.
“Race should be a non-factor. He shouldn’t be worried about it because blacks and Latinos already have a disproportionate amount of committee” chairmanships, Sposato said.
“Forty-four percent of the Council is white and whites have 31 percent of the committees. Blacks are 34 percent of the Council. They have 44 percent of the committees. And Hispanics are 22 percent of the Council and they have 25 percent of the committees.”
Sposato currently serves as vice-chairman of an Aviation Committee that will ride herd over Emanuel’s $8.7 billion O’Hare Airport expansion plan.
But, that’s not the only reason why he believes he deserves to replace retiring Aviation Committee Chairman Mike Zalewski (23rd), whose last day on the job was Thursday.
Sposato said he’s “five minutes away” from O’Hare and gets along well with Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans, a frequent target of Chicago aldermen.
“If you ask Ginger what alderman does she get along with the best, I’m guessing I would be No. 1,” he said.
“Do you want a chairman in there who’s gonna be butting heads with her and being confrontational with her? Some of my colleagues do that with her. You’ve seen … how they treat her. I have a good relationship with her. And nobody in the Council … has the track record for attending meetings that I have…I’m there on time and I stay `til the end. Some people pop their heads in to get credit for a meeting. I’m there at the beginning. I’m there until the end.”
Sposato has had his differences with the mayor, but not recently.
Last month, he accused former Police Board president-turned mayoral challenger Lori Lightfoot of committing the “ultimate act of betrayal” by using the dual political platform the mayor gave her to hammer him and attempt to take his job.
He also joined in the call for an “independent review” of all Police Board cases that Lightfoot helped to decide on grounds that she was using her position as Police Board president as a springboard to run for mayor.
Last week, Sposato cast his vote for a fund transfer to help bankroll Emanuel’s controversial $95 million police academy in West Garfield Park with a flair for the dramatic.
Sposato brought along police blue balloons with the word “Yes” on them and released them into the air as he cast what he called the “easiest ‘yes’ vote in years.”
On Thursday, Sposato denied those recent acts of loyalty were aimed at erasing his opposition to Emanuel’s $1.3 million Legal Defense Fund to assist immigrants threatened with deportation and his opposition to the mayor’s controversial municipal identification program.
“I spoke out. I had my say. I don’t think the mayor took it personal — nor should he. … The mayor accepts when people don’t support him if they have a legitimate reason why and they state their case,” Sposato said.
“Some people are just drama queens. They want to get on the news so their constituents see them standing up and pounding their chests. He knows I’m not like that. … Maybe he’s looking for blind loyalty. I like to think he’s not.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) would have been a lock to become the new Aviation Committee chairman if not for his role in the #MeToo scandal swirling around House Speaker Michael Madigan’s political organization.
But Quinn simply became too hot to handle after playing a pivotal go-between role between his own brother and political consultant Alaina Hampton, who has accused Kevin Quinn of stalking her with a series of harassing text messages.
As a result, there is a wide-open race to replace Zalewski as Aviation chair. Frontrunners include Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno (1st) and Matt O’Shea (19th).
By claiming up-front he’s not even interested in the powerful job with a modest, $109,496-a-year budget, Quinn has avoided any political embarrassment when Emanuel chooses somebody else.
Before bowing out, Zalewski advised Emanuel to cut a deal with Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to install Garcia’s protégé, Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), as Aviation Committee chairman in exchange for Garcia’s endorsement of Emanuel’s 2019 re-election bid.
Later this week, Emanuel is expected to appoint State Rep. Silvana Tabares to replace Zalewski as alderman.
Tabares is Zalewski’s choice and a close ally of Madigan’s. She’s the state central committeewoman in the 3rd Congressional District, where Madigan is the state central committeeman.