Surprise, Surprise: Rahm Clams Up on Burke's Business Conflicts

Mayor Emanuel on Monday steered clear of Ald. Burke's tax appeals controversy

Asked Monday what he thought of news ‘powerful’ 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke screwed the city out of millions of dollars as a tax lawyer representing wealthy clients in cases before the city, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he can't say anything about it:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday steered clear of the controversy posed by Ald. Edward M. Burke’s public role as chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee and the $3.6 million that Burke’s private law practice has cost the city by winning property tax appeals for business clients.

“Every public official has to speak for themselves about what’s both legal and appropriate, as I have in my own career,” the mayor said after cutting the ribbon at a new Mariano’s grocery store in the South Loop.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that Burke’s boutique law firm has won more than $18.1 million in property tax refunds for Chicago property owners since 2003 and that those refunds have cost the cash-strapped city $3.6 million.

Even by Chicago standards, that’s pretty weak sauce. For a mayor that prides himself on knowing the ins and outs of how government works—and who came riding into town on a promise of managing city government better than his predecessor—suggesting he has nothing to say when one of the most well-known public figures in town is gaming the system to the tune of millions of dollars a year is ludicrous.

Then again, for Emanuel to take a stand against ripping off the taxpayers would mean that he disagrees with the practice, at least in principle.

But, as he said, every politician has to speak for himself on what's legal and appropriate.

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