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Munoz Envisions a More Powerful Council



    Munoz Envisions a More Powerful Council
    One alderman called the principal when his daughter wasn't admitted to the school she applied to.

    Ricardo Munoz is one of Chicago's most independent aldermen. He belongs to the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, and last tangled with Mayor Daley when he proposed a set of referenda on hiring more police, taxing transactions on LaSalle Street, and renegotiating the parking meter. On Monday, over lunch at a Mexican restaurant on 26th Street, Munoz talked about the prospects for a more powerful city council in post-Daley Chicago.

    Q: What are some powers you want to see the City Council exercise that it’s not exercising now?

    A: More aggressive budgeting review. More aggressive contract review. More aggressive policy review. Right now, we have a living wage that says if you’re doing business with the city, you have to pay a living wage, and the city has arbitrarily made the decision that for contractors leasing space in O’Hare and Midway, that doesn’t apply to them. I think that anybody who is tending on tables or selling magazines at the airports should not be making minimum wage.

    Q: When Mayor Daley’s father took office, the first thing he did was take the power to write the budget away from the City Council. Before that, they wrote the budget. How would you like to see the City Council involved in budgeting in the future?

    A: I’d like to see them directly involved in the give and take, with the mayor’s office and what the budget looks like, setting the priorities, the staffing levels. Take the police department, for example. This mayor gives us an executive budget and proposes that the police department have a certain level of officers, and then we argue, debate, and negotiate a budget, and we vote on it, and the mayor still, through executive authority, decides he doesn't want to fill those 900 positions. If the mayor did this year what we had adopted last year, we'd have 900 more bodies on the street for police officers. Their argument is, “We don’t have the money.” If we don’t have the money, then why did we pass the budget, if state law requires our budget to be balanced?

    Q: Are there any candidates you think will become members of the progressive caucus?

    A: The one that stands out is Marina Faz-Huppert, in the 45th Ward, because she comes out of labor. She’ll probably be a more regular addition to the progressive caucus.

    Q: What issues is the progressive caucus going to focus on in the next City Council?

    A: You've got the issue of contracts and accountability for contracts, because this mayor, the first thing he did back in 1989 was he removed the City Council’s approve and consent role. The other thing is the Board of Ed. In 1995, when the mayor wrestled control for himself of the Board of Education, he took out the City Council committee on education from their approval and consent role, in his appointment of Board of Ed members.

    Q: Do you want an elected Board of Ed, or a Board of Ed in which the members have to be approved by the City Council?

    A: I think the City Council’s approval and consent is necessary. Right now, it’s carte blanche to the mayor.

    Q: Is there a certain level that you want the contract oversight set at?

    A: Prior to Mayor Daley in ’89, the level was at $25,000. I think that’s a bit onerous, because you’ve got emergency contracts that are 30, 40 50 thousand dollars. Anything over a million, anything over one year.

    Q: Are there certain mayoral candidates who will fight harder to preserve Mayor Daley’s prerogatives than others?

    A: I think they’re all going to fight for that, because that want to maintain it, they want to keep it, but with an active City Council, it’s going to be difficult.

    Q: I know you’ve had your differences with Ed Burke, but what would be your response if Rahm Emanuel tried to replace him as head of the Finance Committee?

    A: I think Ed Burke is well placed in the City Council, with his history and the relationships that he has there. I don’t think even Rahm Emanuel would want to pick that fight.

    Q: How many Latino wards are there right now?

    A: There's10 by design. Eight are held by Latino representatives, and then 14 and 33, which are Latino but are held by Ed Burke and Dick Mell.

    Q: Do you expect more Latino wards in the next remap?

    A: There’s a natural growth in Latinos going into the Southwest Side and the Northwest Side. Hopefully, there’ll be at least 14.