Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday joined 15 independent aldermanic candidates in signing an eight-point pledge to clean up City Hall after the federal corruption scandal that threatens to bring down Ald. Edward Burke (14th).
Signers of the so-called “People First Pledge” promise to: run for only one elected office at a time; rein in the unbridled power aldermen have to veto affordable housing, permits and licensing in their wards; create a “non-partisan” process for re-drawing ward boundaries and implement a two-term limit for the mayor and City Council committee chairmen.
The pledge also includes: banning elected officials, city employees and their immediate family members from holding outside jobs that conflict with the employee’s city responsibilities; requiring aldermen to publicly disclose the nature of their conflicts before abstaining from council votes; strictly complying with Freedom of Information laws and building a “unified Office of Inspector General” whose authority extends to City Council committees, other agencies of local government and ethics violations through the use of subpoenas.”
Jaime Guzman is one of four candidates hoping to end Burke’s 50-year-reign as 14th Ward alderman.
“We now have proof that he’s been terrorizing the business community and he’s been apathetic about the demographic changes of the Southwest Side. But his negative impact is larger still,” Guzman said.
“We’re seeing political scrambling like never before. Career politicians beware: there’s a wave of transparency coming your way. And that wave is [underscored] … by pledging today to be the most transparent, most accountable City Council ever known in Chicago.”
Burke could not immediately be reached Tuesday.
Maggie O’Keefe is hoping to knock off 35-year incumbent Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), who inherited the Finance Committee chairmanship that Burke relinquished last week under pressure from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
O’Keefe noted that O’Connor has received nearly $20,000 in campaign contributions from Burke, more than any other sitting alderman.
“For nearly four decades, O’Connor has used his public office in tandem with his work as a property lawyer and his wife’s work as a real estate agent to enrich himself, his friends and his family at the expense of the community he claims he serves,” O’Keefe said.
“By [installing] O’Connor as Finance chairman, the mayor’s office is offering up more of the same kind of corruption that has made it so hard for everyday Chicagoans to trust their elected officials.”
Katie Sieracki is challenging Ald. Deb Mell (33rd), who inherited the City Council seat long held by her father, former Ald. Dick Mell (33rd).
“Ed Burke’s corruption scheme is just one part of a larger system that keeps political families in power. Burke got the appointment for aldermen from his father just as Deb Mell got the office from her father,” Sieracki said.
“When politicians view their elected position as a birth right, there is no doubt that the people are then treated as an after-thought. It’s time to put an end to the old way in Chicago.”
Neither O’Connor nor Mell could immediately be reached Tuesday.
Mayoral candidates and re-election-seeking aldermen have been tripping over each other in a rush to speak out against Burke.
Lightfoot was already doing so.
She targeted Burke for removal as Finance chairman even before the unprecedented Nov. 29 raid on his ward and City Hall offices and released an ethics plan that would prohibit aldermen from holding paid side jobs that conflict with the city’s interests.
She demanded that Burke step down as chairman and give up his police bodyguards days after the raid. That was long before Burke was charged with shaking down a Burger King franchise owner for legal work and a campaign contribution for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is also running for mayor.
On Tuesday, Lightfoot ridiculed those mayoral candidates who just got religion on the subject of ethics reform in their haste to wash away the political stench from Burke.
“It’s like cockroaches — there’s a light that’s shined on them. They scramble. Initially, they’re silent. Then, they try to say, `Not me. Not me.’ Then, when they get caught, they finally stand up and do something. It’s a day late and a dollar short,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot closed with an obvious jab at Preckwinkle, whom she has accused of trying to bully her out of the mayor’s race.
“If you didn’t stand up to Burke and you took his money and you hired his kid and you lied about the money that you got from a fundraiser and you’re just trying to be silent and hoping that the angel of death passes you by like Daley, like Chico like Mendoza, you don’t have any credibility now to say, `I’m gonna be about good government.’ All of those people are different factions of the broken machine,” Lightfoot said.
Burke has denied wrongdoing.
“I believe that I’m not guilty of anything, and I’m trusting that when I have my day in court, that will be clear beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said after the charges against him were announced last week. ” … I look forward to trying this case in court. I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Chico moves to end aldermanic privilege
Meanwhile, mayoral candidate Gery Chico vowed to end aldermanic privilege when it comes to permits, zoning changes, parking and liquor licenses at the heart of a string of corruption scandals.
“For more than 80 years, aldermen have been allowed to control who gets a building permit, who gets a liquor license, or a parking lot,” Chico was quoted as saying in a press release Tuesday.
“No single alderman should hold this kind of power over permits, land use and housing development. Chicagoans have had — and seen — enough. … The time has come to end this old school practice. No one deserves this much power.”