The Next Alderman of the 49th Ward …

For the last month, there’s been a rumor that Gov. Pat Quinn is considering appointing Ald. Joe Moore as head of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Moore has been on the City Council since 1991, tying him for fourth most-senior alderman, and he has long been open to a new job. In 2000, he ran unsuccessfully for Clerk of the Circuit Court. Last year, he considered running for state representative.

Moore’s wife, Barbara, recently withdrew her candidacy for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District because “close member of my family is under serious consideration for a regulatory post that would create a strong conflict of interest were I to be elected to the Water Reclamation District. Though the appointment is not certain, I cannot in good conscience continue to ask my friends and supporters for their time and financial support, knowing that I may not be able to serve.”

Moore probably has a 50 percent chance of winning the appointment, which Quinn is expected to make by the end of the year. The possible hitch? Moore’s sponsorship of the Chicago Clean Power Act, which would force two coal-burning plants to switch to natural gas, may make it difficult for him to win support from Southern Illinois Democrats from coal-mining districts.

If Moore gets the job, Mayor Rahm Emanuel will appoint a successor until a special election in 2013. Moore’s wife Barbara, a political consultant who is obviously looking to start a political career of her own, has been named as a possible replacement. However, because of the 49th Ward’s ultra-democratic decision-making, the recommendation would be decided by a vote of the 49th Ward Democratic Organization, which is presided over by Committeeman David Fagus and Heartland Café owner Michael James.

Emanuel, of course, could appoint his own alderman, without the ward’s input. That’s what Mayor Richard M. Daley did in 1991, after 49th Ward Ald. David Orr was elected Cook County Clerk. Orr recommended Moore, but Daley didn’t care for his anti-Machine independence, so he appointed his own guy, a lawyer named Robert Clarke. With Orr’s help, Moore defeated him in the regular election, and went on to become a tack on Daley’s seat above the Council Chamber, sponsoring both the foie gras ban and the Big Box Ordinance, which was quashed with the only veto in Daley’s 22 years as mayor. In 2008, The Nation named Moore the best local official in the nation on its list of “most valuable progressives.”

As all this demonstrates, the 49th is an anti-Machine ward. Your Ward Room Blogger has figured this out after living there for 14 years. Which means that if Moore gets the job, he can’t just hand off his job to a relative. Nor can Emanuel appoint a candidate whose number one qualification is not causing trouble for the mayor.

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