It took Germany 90 years to pay for World War I. It may take Chicago almost that long to pay for Council Wars, depending on Ald. Edward Burke’s longevity.
Burke led the anti-Harold Washington movement during that racially-motivated conflict in the 1980s, leading to threats against his person. He obtained a court order entitling him to his own Praetorian Guard, at the city’s expense, and has refused to surrender it, even though Council Wars are now such ancient history that he might as well be asking for protection from the guys who pulled off the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Now, we know exactly how much it costs to babysit Alderman Burke: nearly $600,000 a year, according to a report by Fox Chicago News and the Better Government Association:
$595,682 in just 2009 alone, adding up to an estimated $11 million since Burke was given the security detail back in 1983.
Here’s the breakdown: four full-time officers making $150,000, $147,000, $140,000, and $132,000 in 2009, plus a part-timer who made $25,000. Those figures do not include health or pension benefits. Since each person’s base salary is between $90,000 to $100,000/year, the figures show these police officers are making a ton of overtime.
The Better Government Association obtained the figures after filing a transparency lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department.
I agree that Burke isn’t important enough to qualify for his own bodyguards. But I’m not sure Mayor Rahm Emanuel is, either. I’d like to see how much it costs to protect the mayor. During the campaign, Emanuel was indignant about Burke’s bodyguards. As mayor, he’s shown a tendency to ask for sacrifices from other city employees while volunteering none from himself. Senators travel without protection, and they’re bigger deals than mayors.
The only Chicago mayor killed on the job was Anton Cermak, who took an assassin’s bullet aimed at President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt. That was a failure of the Secret Service.
In the case of Burke, and Chicago’s mayors, the presence of armed guards has more to do with projecting an image of power than protecting the man they surround.
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