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April vote should boost ranks of independent aldermen: study

People use touch screen voting machines basement county building Oct. 28 2010. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

People use touch screen voting machines in the basement of the county building on Oct. 28, 2010. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 16, 2011 12:22AM

A study to be released today by the University of Illinois at Chicago may give some small hope to voters and taxpayers who yearn for a more independent City Council.

“The most likely outcome of the April 5, 2011, runoff elections is that the seven most independent aldermen from the last Council, such as Joe Moore (49th) and Ricardo Munoz (22nd), will be joined by three or four additional independents, such as Michele Smith of the 43rd Ward,” Dick Simpson, a political science professor and former alderman, concludes in a copy of the study provided to the Sun-Times.

Simpson and his colleagues tracked the 54 divided roll call votes the aldermen took over the last four years on issues such as the parking meter lease and tallied how often aldermen were willing to vote against the mayor. Few will be shocked to learn that most voted with Mayor Daley most of the time, but Simpson’s study uncovers a few surprises.

In many of the hot aldermanic races, incumbents who periodically bucked the mayor generally did better than those who were more in line with Daley, the report found.Some of this most recent crop of aldermen were elected with help from unions opposed to aldermen who had sided with Daley on allowing Wal-Mart and other union-unfriendly “big box” stores into Chicago.

In the first year of the current Council, 2007, aldermen showed an independent streak. That waned in 2008 and 2009 and only returned after Daley’s popularity dropped and he lost the Olympic bid. The seven aldermen who voted with Daley less than 70 percent of the time included Moore, (51%); Munoz (65%); 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti (52%); 7th Ward Ald. Sandi Jackson, (53%); 4th Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (60%); 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack, (67%); and 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly, (68%).

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