Butcher paper no longer obscures the entry to Ald. Ed Burke’s City Hall office. But the federal agents who raided Burke’s lair left him politically weakened. Is that enough, finally, to bring scrutiny to the $100 million per year city workers’ compensation system that Burke monolithically controls?
Some Progressive Caucus aldermen see in Burke’s predicament a chance to strip him of that authority and hand the program to the city’s corporation counsel. If this gambit sounds familiar, you’re recalling one of the City Council’s many days of infamy: Feb. 10, 2016. The question is whether aldermen who didn’t find the courage to rein in Burke nearly three years ago will find it today.
Here’s how that sorry 2016 episode unfolded:
To placate citizens demanding an end to City Hall corruption, the aldermen reluctantly gave City Hall’s inspector general, Joseph Ferguson, the power to investigate them and their staffs. But in the day’s most important vote, the council voted 25-23 to keep Ferguson’s office from examining council programs that spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Each of those 25 yes votes — see the names of the guilty at the end of this editorial — was decisive. And reprehensible.
The enablers let Burke and others hide their fiefs from the IG, and thus from taxpayers, too. As if to say, We don’t want to know how Burke doles out that $100 million, and you don’t want to know either. Because then you’d want to know the same about our pet programs. So go away.
Before the vote, several aldermen offered nonsensical reasons for shielding the workers’ comp and other legislative programs from routine auditing. Against stiff competition, then-Ald. Will Burns excelled: “Some law enforcement officers — and don’t mistake it, IG’s consider themselves prosecutors — we know there have been people railroaded and falsely convicted and on death row.”
Wow. Who knew that auditors checking payments to payrollers could doom innocent Chicago aldermen to a death row that doesn’t exist.
Also recall that, several weeks before Burke and his enablers kept such travesties from happening, 30 aldermen had said they supported wording that would hold council members to the same scrutiny all other municipal employees face. In fact, when they were up for re-election in 2014, 35 aldermen had signed on to an earlier version of the inspector general ordinance.
The first name on that list of 35 bravehearts: Ald. Joe Moore. But come Feb. 10, 2016, here was Moore spinning a fable that the watered-down version of the ordinance was “a huge victory” for reform. Moore then gave a vivid demonstration of why not every Chicagoan trusts City Hall: He explained that just because an alderman signs up in favor of a measure doesn’t mean he or she will, um, vote for it.
If the alleged co-sponsors had kept their word and voted for full IG oversight, the workers’ comp program now would be getting scrutiny, and the Progressive Caucus might not be trying to get the corporation counsel on the case. We don’t know if that’s the correct home for this program: Why not do as many large employers do, and hand the program to an insurance professional in a city human resources office? Or is that too simple and apolitical?
Here’s how that 2016 vote played out. A ‘Yea’ vote is the self-serving vote to shield the aldermen from the full scrutiny of the inspector general and, in turn, from the scrutiny of voters:
Yeas (25): Brian Hopkins, 2nd; Will Burns, 4th; Leslie Hairston, 5th; Roderick Sawyer, 6th; Gregory Mitchell, 7th; Michelle Harris, 8th; Anthony Beale, 9th; Patrick Thompson, 11th; George Cardenas, 12th; Edward Burke, 14th; Raymond Lopez, 15th; David Moore, 17th; Derrick Curtis, 18th; Howard Brookins, 21st; Ricardo Munoz, 22nd; Daniel Solis, 25th; Walter Burnett, 27th; Jason Ervin, 28th; Ariel Reboyras, 30th; Gilbert Villegas, 36th; Emma Mitts, 37th; Margaret Laurino, 39th; Patrick O’Connor, 40th; Thomas Tunney, 44th; Joseph Moore, 49th.
Nays (23): Proco Joe Moreno, 1st; Pat Dowell, 3rd; Susan Sadlowski Garza, 10th; Marty Quinn, 13th; Toni Foulkes, 16th; Matthew O’Shea, 19th; Willie Cochran, 20th; Michael Zalewski, 23rd; Michael Scott Jr., 24th; Chris Taliaferro, 29th; Milagros “Milly” Santiago, 31st; Scott Waguespack, 32nd; Deborah Mell, 33rd; Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th; Nicholas Sposato, 38th; Anthony Napolitano, 41st; Brendan Reilly, 42nd; Michele Smith, 43rd; John Arena, 45th; James Cappleman, 46th; Ameya Pawar, 47th; Harry Osterman, 48th; Debra Silverstein, 50th.
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December 17, 2018 at 01:33PM