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Emanuel jumps into work, signs 6 executive orders

Newly-inaugurated Mayor Rahm Emanuel's first act his fifth-floor City Hall office was sign executive orders ethics including rules for lobbyists.

Newly-inaugurated Mayor Rahm Emanuel's first act in his fifth-floor City Hall office was to sign executive orders on ethics, including rules for lobbyists. He was joined by young people who participated in his inauguration ceremony, including Clarissa Bevilacqua (left) who played violin and DeJuan Brown, who said the pledge of allegiance . He is using former mayor Anton Cermak's desk. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 18, 2011 12:32AM

Standing behind a desk once used by former Mayor Anton Cermak, the architect of Chicago’s Democratic political machine, Mayor Emanuel on Monday signed six executive orders to strengthen city ethics rules in his first official act as mayor.

For 22 years, Mayor Daley used the desk that belonged to his father, former Mayor Richard J. Daley. The younger Daley took the desk with him when he left office on Friday, hoping that it would someday be the cornerstone of a Daley era exhibit at a Chicago public library.

That forced Emanuel to dig into the city’s storage closet for another desk — and he chose the one used by Cermak.

Anton Cermak was Chicago’s first-foreign-born mayor. He also forged the racial and ethnic coalitions that created the Democratic machine. Cermak died in office in 1933, three weeks after taking a bullet intended for then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Emanuel did not explain the significance of his furniture choice. But, he told reporters gathered Washington D.C.-style behind a blue velvet rope to witness the executive order signings that the desk contained a “beautiful note” left behind by Mayor Daley.

Asked to divulge what the note said, Emanuel joked, “It said, `Don’t ever answer any of Fran Spielman’s questions — especially if you read it from right to left.”

Turning serious, he said, “It was a personal note about the strength of our city, the strength of its people and that we are a city of optimistic people made up of immigrants from all communities and all areas and also a city that … is always ready for change being dealt with honestly.”

Emanuel campaigned on a promise to “change the culture” of corruption and cronyism at City Hall that gave birth to the Hired Truck, city hiring and minority contracting scandals.

The executive orders he signed Monday would slam the “revolving door” that has allowed city employees and mayoral appointees to lobby City Hall. They would be banned from doing so for at least two years after leaving their city jobs.

From this day forward, Emanuel said he would stop accepting campaign contributions from city lobbyists. And city employees would be insulated from pressure they have felt to give gifts or make political contributions to the mayor, department heads or city supervisors.

Emanuel also reissued three of Daley’s executive orders. They include: a ban on political contributions to the mayor from the owners of companies doing business with the city; a mandate that city employees comply with the hiring oversight rules tied to the long-running Shakman litigation and an order compelling city employees to report wrongdoing to the inspector general.

Daley swore off campaign contributions from city contractors in 2005, one year after the Chicago Sun-Times blew the lid off the Hired Truck scandal that branched out into city hiring.

The mayor’s former patronage chief and Streets and Sanitation commissioner were subsequently convicted of rigging city hiring and promotions to benefit the Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO) and other pro-Daley armies of political workers.

The city was forced to create a $12 million fund to compensate victims of the city’s rigged hiring system — and spend millions more for a federal hiring monitor who has been riding herd over city hiring since 2005.

“This is basically to bring about a real sense of change. I want everybody to understand [who] works here that this is about the public and public service,” the new mayor said.

Emanuel likened the executive orders to a “new value system that reflects the honor that it means to be in public service.”

“The things that I pledged during the campaign … will bring about a new day, a change in political direction and be clear about the type of government we’re gonna run. I want a set of values as an example. We can’t [expect] people to have any sense in the entire city of that change if you’re not gonna lead by example,” he said.

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