Ed Burke Day proposed, then pulled — at Burke’s request

For much of the day Monday, Ald. Ray Lopez defended his decision to introduce a resolution declaring May 15 “Ald. Edward M. Burke Day” in Chicago.

SHARE Ed Burke Day proposed, then pulled — at Burke’s request
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) chats with Ald. Ed Burke (14th) during a Chicago City Council meeting on Dec. 15, 2021.

Fifteenth Ward Ald. Raymond Lopez (left) chats with 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke during a Chicago City Council meeting in December 2021.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

After a political uproar that dragged on for hours, 15th Ward Ald. Ray Lopez on Monday abandoned efforts to declare May 15 — inauguration day for Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson — as “Ald. Edward M. Burke Day” in Chicago.

Lopez said he pulled the plug at the request of Burke, the indicted and now retiring City Council member who apparently had no interest in ending his record 54-year tenure amid a political controversy to match the legal quagmire he is in.

For much of the day Monday, Lopez had defended his decision to introduce the Burke Day resolution.

Never mind that the 54-year reign that makes Burke the longest-serving alderperson in Chicago history is ending under the dark cloud of a sweeping federal indictment for racketeering and extortion that accuses the former chairman of the Council’s Finance Committee of trying to muscle business for his private law firm.

Lopez was determined to honor Burke for his outsized “footprint” over legislation impacting everyday life in Chicago. That includes a trailblazing ban on indoor smoking and Burke’s campaign to mandate carbon monoxide detectors in homes and defibrillators in airports, and his help in championing a ban on phosphates.

“Until I hear ‘guilty,’ I’m not gonna focus on that part. It’s a historic day when Ed Burke will not be in the chamber. I’m focusing on all of the things he’s done for the good of the city. This resolution will mark the occasion accordingly,” said Lopez, Burke’s longtime ally and City Council seatmate.

“There are plenty of days in the calendar approved by the City Council for a whole host of individuals. [Slain Black Panther leader] Fred Hampton was honored not too long ago by City Council — despite the objections of several members of the body. The Council has a choice that they can make. We’ll leave it to them to make that decision.”

Why single out Burke for a special day when all other alderpersons retiring this year simply get honorary resolutions?

“He’s the alderman who has served the most. Has had the biggest imprint, in my opinion, on many of the things that Chicagoans see and are interacting with in their daily lives over the past five-and-a-half decades of service. And his legacy is more than just how he’s leaving, but what he’s done in those five-and-a-half decades. And we have to remember that. That’s why this resolution was introduced and why I think it’s appropriate,” Lopez said.

Jason Lee, a senior adviser to Johnson’s mayoral campaign and transition team, refused to comment on the resolution.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), chair of the Socialist caucus and a Johnson ally, called the proposed Burke Day resolution “fully inappropriate” to the point of being tone-deaf.

“I would not be opposed to a resolution honoring his time in Council, similar to resolutions that are being adopted for other retiring aldermen. But naming the 15th as Ed Burke day is buffoonish and entirely a step too far,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

“The 15th is the inauguration of the new City Council. We’ll have a new mayor. We’ll have new Council members. It’s a time to celebrate a new day and to turn a page on the past. … It’s fully inappropriate to name that day as Ed Burke Day. It’s about celebrating the future of our city — not celebrating someone with a corrupt past.”

For hours Monday, the Burke Day resolution was ridiculed on social media.

When Burke got wind of it, he called Lopez and asked him to pull the plug. He didn’t explain why. Lopez agreed.

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