Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel speaks at his election night party Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011 in Chicago. Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago Tuesday, easily overwhelming five rivals to take the helm of the nation's third-largest city as it prepares to chart a new course without the retiring Richard M. Daley. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
It’s not hard to figure out why Rahm Emanuel wants to cut the size of the City Council in half. As he says, it’s all about cost savings.
Not even a politician as well-funded as Emanuel can afford to buy off 50 aldermen, especially with new campaign finance laws, limiting individual donations to $10,000 apiece.
Nowadays, aldermen are going for up to 26 grand apiece. That’s how much the New Chicago Committee, a PAC Emanuel set up to help his friends in the April 5 runoffs, donated to 50th Ward candidate Debra Silverstein. For a full City Council election, you’re talking over $1 million. And that’s a conservative figure, since some self-important alderman are going to insist they deserve more than a housewife from West Rogers Park.
Emanuel has better things to do with his money. Like spend it on polls to determine his viability as a presidential candidate. Reducing the City Council to 25 aldermen would cut his costs in half.
Ward Room believes it’s a bad idea to reduce the City Council. Chicagoans like to complain, and for generations, we’ve been trained to complain to our alderman. He’s the flak-catcher standing between his neighbors and City Hall. It’s going to be harder to track down an alderman who represents 100,000 people, so we’ll be calling City Hall to complain that the work crew is demolishing the house next door at six in the morning. 311 will have to hire more operators, which will negate the savings of firing 25 aldermen.
So we have a solution: Groupon. Aldermen can pair up and offer their loyalty to Emanuel on Groupon, at two for the price of one. Instead of taking $25,000 apiece from Emanuel, Ald. Tim Cullerton and Ald. Danny Solis can offer themselves as a package deal. They can share the costs of mailings, pollsters, and “lunch money” for campaign volunteers. If a mayoral candidate offers $25,000, that will tip the deal.
It’s not as much money as the aldermen are getting from Emanuel now, but we all have to make sacrifices in these tight budgetary times. And it’s better than not being an alderman at all.
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