By Mark Wachtler
February 13, 2016. Chicago. (ONN) The 50 members of the Chicago City Council were forced to publicly take a stand either for or against corruption this week. And in the closest vote in recent memory, a slim majority of Aldermen and women voted to protect corruption and strip the city’s Inspector General of his powers to investigate the council members’ public spending habits. That includes the $100 million per year workers comp program which will remain secret and administered by one powerful Alderman.
Alderman Ed Burke, the man who single-handedly runs the city’s $100 million workers comp program in secret. Image courtesy of WTTW.com.
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To illustrate just how important, and possibly career-ending, this vote was, the Chicago Sun Times published the list of 27 Chicago Aldermen “who failed Chicago”. They voted 25-23 to strip the Inspector General of his powers to look at how each Council member spends the millions of dollars meant to staff their office and fix broken or aging infrastructure in each of their Wards.
They also voted to keep the city’s workers compensation program secret and free from any independent audits by the Chicago Inspector General. The program is run by the Council’s most powerful Alderman, Ed Burke (14th Ward), and pays government employees $100 million per year in workers comp claims, all in secret. Some have suggested the program is little more than a political slush fund doled out to Machine foot soldiers as a reward for their loyalty.
The vote appeared to be a compromise, as it left intact the IG’s ability to investigate criminal activity carried out by each Alderman and their staffers. But the millions in taxpayer money that changes hands behind closed doors each year will be off limits to investigators. Historically, 33 Chicago Aldermen have been jailed for corruption over the past 30 years. And of the last 100 individuals elected to the Chicago City Council, one in three ended up in prison.
Here are the 27 Chicago City Councilmen and women who either voted to strip the Inspector General’s office of its power, or who refused to vote, allowing corruption to prevail once again:
Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward)
Will Burns (4th Ward)
Leslie Hairston (5th Ward)
Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward)
Greg Mitchell (7th Ward)
Michelle Harris (8th Ward)
Anthony Beale (9th Ward)
Patrick D. Thompson (11th Ward)
George Cardenas (12th Ward)
Ed Burke (14th Ward)
Raymond Lopez (15th Ward)
David Moore (17th Ward)
Derrick Curtis (18th Ward)
Howard Brookins (21st Ward)
Ricardo Munoz (22nd Ward)
Danny Solis (25th Ward)
Walter Burnett (27th Ward)
Jason Ervin (28th Ward)
Ariel Reboyras (30th Ward)
Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward)
Emma Mitts (37th Ward)
Margaret Laurino (39th Ward)
Patrick O’Connor (40th Ward)
Tom Tunney (44th Ward)
Joe Moore (49th Ward)
Roberto Maldonado (26th Ward) did not vote
Carrie Austin (34th Ward) did not vote
If there is one bright spot, it’s in the fact that 23 Chicago Aldermen and women had the courage and desire to vote to investigate themselves. In past years, the vote would have been something closer to 43-7. Today however, it appears the number of honest reformers in the Chicago City Council has grown from 7 to 23. Three more members and the Council will finally belong to the people, not the Machine.
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