Emanuel likely to keep Burke in powerful Finance post, sources say
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporteremail@example.com April 22, 2011 11:56PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
After breaking the ice with Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th), Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel is likely to retain Burke, but shrink the roster and spending of City Council committees, sources said Friday.
The line-up under discussion calls for the number of standing committees to be reduced from 19 to 15 with an accompanying spending cut of roughly 20 percent.
“The goal is saving money and becoming more efficient,” said Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), who brokered the meeting with Burke and is likely to become Emanuel’s City Council floor leader.
The consolidation would be accomplished by merging committees whose responsibilities overlap or whose chairmen were either defeated or chose to retire.
For example, the Buildings Committee chaired by ousted Ald. Bernard Stone (50th) could be merged with Housing. The Committee on Parks and Recreation now chaired by retiring Ald. Mary Ann Smith (48th) could be merged with Special Events.
Sources said the decision to retain or oust Burke has not yet been finalized. But, it’s likely, now that the two political powerhouses have broken the ice at O’Connor’s home, reported by Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed.
“It was a good first meeting. But, everything has not been resolved,” O’Connor said Friday.
“These are two guys who don’t really have a relationship. They’re trying to figure out whether they can work together harmoniously or not. I hope they can work something out. It’s always best for the city to have two knowledgeable people working together.”
Emanuel rocked the boat with a pre-election threat to re-organize the City Council — and strip Burke of his police bodyguards and, possibly, his chairmanship.
The mayor-elect blames Burke for laying the groundwork for the residency challenge that nearly knocked the former White House chief-of-staff off the ballot.
But, Emanuel also knows that Burke is popular with his colleagues and knows more than anybody about the city budget, Roberts Rules of Order and where the bodies are buried at City Hall.
With an annual structural deficit approaching $1.2 billion, Emanuel would rather have Burke working with him than on the outside plotting against him.
Chicago taxpayers currently spend $19.5 million-a-year to maintain 50 aldermen and an additional $4.7 million-a-year for the 19 standing committees.
In private talks with aldermen, Emanuel has raised the prospect of cutting the nation’s largest Council in half — from 50 aldermen to 25 — so aldermen would “understand the appetite for change” among Chicago voters.
But, any change in City Council structure would have to be made by the General Assembly or by Chicago voters in the form of a binding referendum.
It would have to await the ward re-map that follows the 2010 U.S. Census.
For now, at least, Emanuel has chosen the political path of least resistance — by shrinking the roster and spending of Council committees.
During an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times last month, Emanuel made it clear he was determined to avoid going to war with Burke.
“I understand he has 34 clients [who do business city the city]. I understand that he’s abstained. But if I do it in a way that it looks like it’s so political that I’m after him, I’ve undermined what is my goal,” he said.
“My goal is lobbying reform, ethics reform and changing the integrity of the institution. And it’s not to target one. It will apply to 50. ... There are bigger issues than him and me.”