-By Warner Todd Huston
For his first controversy, Mayor Elect Rahm Emanuel has floated the trial balloon of all trial balloons. He wants to fire half the city’s alderman and replace them with… no one. That’s right, he wants to eliminate half of the city’s aldermen. How’s that for chutzpah?
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Emanuel has had some private meetings with Chicago’s sitting aldermen and has point blank asked them what they thought of slashing the number of aldermen from 50 to 25 as a cost-cutting measure. Naturally everyone knows that if this idea goes through, Emanuel will endeavor to save the jobs of all those aldermen loyal to him. That goes without saying. This would be Emanuel’s way of creating his own rubber stamp city council like the two Mayors Daley did for 60 years with their own bought-and-paid-for city council.
But even if it were to happen that Emanuel would get his own rubber stamp council by eliminating half of the 50 seats we now have, I must say I have to support the idea only because I support eliminating as many aldermen as possible no matter their loyalties.
After all, I’ve written many times wondering why a city the size of New York (which has millions more citizens than Chicago) has almost as many aldermen as we do in the Windy City?
The Big Apple has 51 aldermen for over 8.18 million citizens. Chicago has 50 aldermen for only just over 2.6 million people. What sense does this make?
Worse, the 2010 census reports that Chicago lost 200,000 citizens over the last decade. So the city isn’t even growing to justify all these aldermen.
I support Emanuel’s efforts to fire and eliminate the positions of as many aldermen as he possibly can. Even dumping four or five is a step in the right direction. Every single alderman eliminated saves the city upwards to $400,000 a year!
I assume that this would be a hard fought battle, though. A lot of political blood would flow in the streets over this one, for sure. But it is a long-term battle worth fighting even if it does give Emanuel a rubber stamp city council.
Note: For a map of the city’s wards and its aldermen, check out the Chicago Reader’s great interactive aldermen map.