Mayor Emanuel taps Mike Madigan ally Silvana Tabares for 23rd Ward seat

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Silvana Tabares | YouTube

In a no-surprise move certain to please embattled Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has chosen state Rep. Silvana Tabares (D-Chicago) of Garfield Ridge to become the new 23rd Ward alderman.

Tabares replaces Ald. Mike Zalewski, chairman of the City Council’s Aviation Committee, whose retirement from the City Council took effect May 31.

“Silvana Tabares has been an effective state legislator and is a key ally in efforts to bring more money to Chicago schools, crack down on illegal gun traffickers, and provide necessary funding to local police and first responders,” Emanuel said in a news release.

“Her knowledge and relationships with the people of the community, coupled with her service and accomplishments as a state representative, have prepared her to be an accessible and effective advocate for 23rd Ward residents.”

Emanuel still needs to choose a new Aviation Committee chairman who will ride herd over the $8.7 billion O’Hare Airport expansion project.

Tabares could not be reached for comment.

Before spending five years in the Illinois House, she served as managing editor of EXTRA Bilingual Community Newspaper.

Tabares was one of only four candidates and two finalists reviewed by a five-member selection committee. The number of applicants was reduced by the expectation that Tabares’ appointment was a done deal.

“As the only daughter of a single mother growing up on the Southwest Side of Chicago, I know how important a strong neighborhood is for our young people and families, and as a state representative, I have sought to protect working families and the neighborhoods they call home,” Tabares said in a news release.

“It is an honor to continue this work as the 23rd Ward alderman, a role in which I will continue to fight for strong schools, safe streets and good jobs.”

Tabares was not only Madigan’s choice but also Zalewski’s recommendation.

“She clearly understands what’s important to the people of the 23rd ward. That’s safety; that’s cleanliness; that’s a good business environment. We’ve worked together on new school development out there. There’s no question in my mind she has got her priorities straight,” Zalewski told reporters in recommending her.

The appointment of a prominent Hispanic woman is certain to help Madigan with the #MeToo scandal swirling around his 13th Ward Regular Democratic Organization.

Tabares is a close ally of Madigan’s. She’s the state central committeewoman in the 3rd Congressional District, where Madigan is the state central committeeman.

Tabares’ election to the party leadership post — which gave her a vote on Madigan remaining as chairman of the state Democratic Party — was a top priority of the powerful House speaker in the March primary. Tabares’ name was above Madigan’s on the yard signs that blanketed the 13th Ward before the primary.

All of that has led some political observers to conclude that Zalewski’s resignation may have been part of another Chicago-style backroom deal.

“That’s what some people are saying. That’s not exactly what happened. But I don’t think there’s gonna be a way to have people not believe that. That’s fine,” Zalewski has said.

“I consider myself a close ally of Speaker Madigan for sure. But the truth is, we really didn’t sit down months ago and talk about this. A lot of this was talked about once I made my decision to leave.”

Emanuel and Madigan have developed a close working relationship over the past seven years that has paid huge dividends for Chicago.

The most obvious example was the school funding overhaul that brought the Chicago Public Schools back from the brink of bankruptcy by delivering a $450 million cash infusion to CPS.

Four instances of sexual harassment and bullying in Madigan’s once-vaunted and impenetrable political organization have prompted calls for the state’s most powerful Democrat to step down as party chairman.

Earlier this week, Emanuel rose to Madigan’s defense by claiming the raging debate about whether Madigan should stay or go misses the whole point of the #MeToo movement.

The Tabares appointment must be approved by the City Council.

The Latino Caucus issued a statement Friday applauding the mayor for appointing Tabares. “We are pleased to add another Latina to the ranks of alderman and look forward to working with her in the Chicago City Council.”

Ald. Milly Santiago of the 31st Ward added, “I want to welcome Ms. Tabares with open arms knowing that I will have another Latina ally in City Council to share common issues affecting women across the city.”

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