Aldermanic candidates tell what turnover means for city

By Heather McGraw

As 2nd Ward residents prepare to elect their representative for the next four years, a new City Council is taking shape that will influence residents citywide.

With Mayor Richard M. Daley ending his 22-year rule in Chicago—which has included an increase in mayoral budgetary power—many aldermen expect a transfer of control in the coming election cycle.

While constituents in each of the 50 wards will elect their alderman, the elections are part of a bigger picture that could bring a change to City Council as a whole.

According to the 2nd Ward aldermanic candidates, the change could be a departure from the mayoral control the city has known for decades to a more democratic mode of governance in the form of the City Council.

Alderman Bob Fioretti (2nd Ward) said a large turnover would mean a more independent City Council.

“If the council is more independent and more effective, the city will be better run, there will be more transparency, the citizens will be better able to participate and better decisions will be made,” Fioretti said.

According to Fioretti, the system is set up so the City Council has more power thanthe mayor. But because of Daley’s sway, many aldermen have conceded that power.

“Although it has shown some independence recently, the council has become weak and deserves its reputation as a ‘Rubber Stamp’ City Council,” Fioretti said.

After deciding against a mayoral run, Fioretti is up for reelection in the 2nd Ward against four other candidates: Melissa Callahan, Enrique Perez, Federico Sciammarella and Genita Robinson.

James Bosco will appear on the ballot because the dropout deadline has passed, but has officially released his endorsement for Sciammarella.

While aldermanic candidates in the 2nd Ward agree a changeover is likely, opinions differ on what it could mean for City Council and its influence on policy.

Callahan said she is curious why so many aldermen are leaving but thinks a turnover is a positive thing.

“I think if the aldermen who have been in City Council have not been productive to the benefit of the people, then we should be seeing a large turnover,” she said.

According to Perez, there’s a good chance of 15 to 20 seat changes, with a possibility of more depending on how some races play out.

“My personal opinion is the more the merrier,” he said. “I think we have to have as much changeover as possible because we are at a critical juncture where we’re going to get a new mayor, were going to get hopefully a good strong new council and we can start tackling some of the problems Chicago is facing.”

Perez said the budget process is one problem the council needs to focus on.

“The new council needs to look really seriously at the entire city and all 50 wards and work collaboratively to create a budget that’s to the benefit of all the citizens of Chicago and then of course working with the mayor as well,” Perez said.

According to Sciammarella, the City Council needs to think about the larger picture and come up with an overall comprehensive plan for the city.

“When you’re making decisions you have to realize there are 49 other wards around you and maybe they’re not contiguous but those have an effect,” Sciammarella said. “I think this old adage of looking out for my ward—which is important—is correct, but we have to realize our decisions impact others.”

Sciammarella said the council has not been using its power to its full potential.

“Although I think there are some independent voices because [Daley] has such a strong character. I think it’s been difficult to have an independent council,” Sciammarella said.

According to Robinson the reason the City Council doesn’t seem as strong is because of the influence Daley gained through his substantial time in office.

“With the new mayor coming, in it is an opportunity for the council to be more active and to use the powers that are already granted to them,” she said.

Robinson said with greater opportunity, it is important the City Council continues to work with the new mayor and its constituents to come up with the best plans possible for the issues facing Chicago.

“When you have smart people willing to work together on those solutions, it’s a better result for everyone,” she said.