Weather Updates

Breakaway aldermen with ties to Rahm form 2nd progressive caucus

Updated: April 15, 2013 11:18AM

Ten aldermen with ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel broke away from the City Council’s Progressive Caucus on Wednesday and launched their own “Paul Douglas Alliance” with a proposal to give Inspector General Joe Ferguson the power to investigate aldermen.

In 2009, aldermen balked at then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s plan to give Ferguson the power to investigate aldermen.

Instead, they created their own inspector general, tied his hands with strict ground rules and waited 18 months — until after the February 2011 aldermanic election — to fill the job with Faisal Khan.

On Wednesday, members of the newly formed alliance named for Illinois’ liberal U.S. senator from Hyde Park reopened the debate.

They introduced a resolution calling for City Council hearings on a proposal to abolish the job of Khan, who has billed Chicago taxpayers for $305,500 since he started work in November 2011 and alienated aldermen with his request for two years’ worth of their personnel records.

Instead, Chicago would have only one inspector general in Ferguson, who would be empowered to investigate aldermen and City Council employees.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said the alliance chose to reopen the debate one month after aldermen stripped anonymous complaints from Emanuel’s latest round of ethics reforms because of the need to cut costs, eliminate duplication and restore public confidence.

“We are laboring under some very, very serious budgetary constraints. And what we’re seeing right now is two inspector generals who are duplicating resources,” Moore said. “We have a legislative inspector general who’s asked for a big increase in his budget. Before, we were just talking theoretically. Now, we have some practical real experience to re-examine the approach.”

Ald. Will Burns (4th), who served on the mayor’s Ethics Reform Task Force, called the proposal to have one, all-powerful inspector general a natural offshoot of those recommendations.

“At a time when we’re asking people to make sacrifices and making cuts to the budget, we need to find other ways to create new efficiencies and to restore people’s faith in city government,” Burns said.

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) added, “The first place to start is with our own house to make sure City Council operates in the most efficient and ethical manner.”

The Paul Douglas Alliance has 10 founding members. In addition to Moore, Burns and Smith, they include Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno (1st), Pat Dowell (3rd), Rey Colon (35th), Brendan Reilly (42nd), James Cappleman (46th), Ameya Pawar (47th) and Harry Osterman (49th).

Moore said the alliance has a “different approach” than the Progressive Caucus aimed more at solving problems than opposing Emanuel.

Pressed on whether Emanuel had asked the aldermen to form a more moderate group of progressives, Moore said, “Emphatically no.”

Earlier this week, seven aldermen who had been meeting as the Progressive Caucus announced plans to “formalize” their loose-knit organization by approving a set of bylaws, signing a “statement of principles” and forming a political action committee to accept donations to fund its operations.

The seven members appearing together were Aldermen Bob Fioretti (2nd), Roderick Sawyer (6th), Toni Foulkes (15th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Nick Sposato (36th) and John Arena (45th). Two other “founding members” — Aldermen Leslie Hairston (5th) and Pawar did not attend the City Hall news conference.

Sawyer said Wednesday he does not feel threatened by the fact that the City Council that once had a shortage of progressive aldermen now has two rival factions.

“I’m glad they’re stepping out there and getting involved in progressive politics. Why not three, four or five” groups? Sawyer said.

“If it means we’re gonna push positive agendas forward, the more the merrier. I’m hoping we can work together, particularly on school closings. That’s the No. 1 thing we should be working on.”

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.