Months into his new administration, the signs continue to pop up that Chicago under Rahm Emanuel is a very different place.
Take those pesky aldermen, for example.
Under Richard Daley, an almost hermetically sealed and compliant City Council did what they were told, and pretty much voted as the mayor hoped they would. It’s a picture which contrasts starkly with this week’s move by a group of aldermen, flexing their newly independent muscles in a sign of intransigence few could have imagined in the Daley years.
The 28 aldermen, a majority of the City Council, have written an open letter to Emanuel, strongly objecting to his proposed cuts in libraries, public health centers, graffiti removal and other city services.
Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) said he and his fellow aldermen were only expressing the concerns of their constituents.
"We’re hearing it loud and clear across the city, from the west side to the east side, to the north side to the south side,” Fioretti said. “I have three libraries in the second ward.”
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), another signatory to the letter, echoed Fioretti’s sentiments.
"We need to just talk about it, and see where we can make it less painful for the people of Chicago," he said.
A somewhat amused Emanuel shrugged off the renegade aldermen’s efforts, saying he thought the aldermen were doing the bidding of residents in their wards.
"None of the aldermen are talking about going back to what we used to do," he said. "Trying to use one time fixes to address core structural problems."
Emanuel said the City Council should appreciate his efforts at merely curbing library hours, rather than closing eight branches, which had been one proposal.
"I immediately rejected the idea of closing eight libraries. Other cities are doing that. Here, I said no," said the mayor.
The aldermen expressed concerns about plans to close some mental health facilities, and cuts at the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Emanuel said he had no problem examining his proposed cuts, as long as the end result was the same.
"We have to find those savings," he said. "That’s the destination. If people have a different road to that destination, great. I’m always open to different approaches. I’m not open to changing where we’re going."