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Emanuel: Election Shows Chicagoans Want Change

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Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 04/06/11 – 5:03 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday that voters in Tuesday’s election sent the same message as when he was elected mayor in February: Chicagoans are demanding change.

Between Tuesday’s runoff elections and the earlier round of elections in February, 13 new aldermen have been elected to the City Council, a turnover of more than a third of the body.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports

Seven of the 10 aldermanic candidates Emanuel endorsed won on Tuesday.

Emanuel said the turnover of the City Council shows voters want to see a new cooperative spirit in addressing issues ranging from public safety to education.

“People want change,” Emanuel said. “You’ll have a new mayor. A third of the council is new. You’ll get change.”

Emanuel, who will succeed longtime Mayor Richard M. Daley next month, said he hopes to have a collaborative relationship with the aldermen.

“I’m not an emperor. And here’s the thing: I want a spirit of cooperation,” Emanuel said.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine visited City Hall the day after the election and, although there weren’t any noticeable changes there yet, he found some interesting insights.

Veteran Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said the new aldermen will have to go through a trial by fire.

“You don’t have a chance to go take a course, spend three weeks getting trained. You have to get on the ground and start working right away,” Burnett said.

Burnett and other current aldermen were going about business as usual at committee meetings on Wednesday.

One outgoing council member, Ald. Helen Shiller (46th) talked about the time she spent learning the ropes.

“It took me two years to get enough of a handle, and I had been very active in stuff for several years before that,” Shiller said.

There weren’t any obvious changes on the Fifth Floor either, where Mayor Richard M. Daley went about his usual business while his successor, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, was across town pushing a new high tech 311 complaint center.

Emanuel said voters have sent a message in this year’s city elections.

“The voters in two elections, back to back, have been consistent in their voice for change,” Emanuel said.

While new aldermen like the 50th Ward’s Debra Silverstein were still out celebrating or thanking voters, others, like the 38th Ward’s Tim Cullerton, previously appointed to fill an unexpired term, were already on the job, and looking ahead.

“We can’t afford any more property tax increases so we’re gonna have to come up with new sources of revenue … whether that be a casino or some other source not related to a property tax,” Cullerton said.

Asked whether having so many new faces on the City Council would help or hurt Emanuel as he takes over in the mayor’s office, Burnett said, “I think they will help him … because I think he gives me the impression that he’s looking to embrace new ideas.”

Emanuel has repeatedly said that he wants to cooperate with the aldermen to reform City Hall.

“I want a spirit of cooperation. I want people to come to their jobs as alderman, as I will as mayor, in a spirit of finding solutions in a collaborative basis to the problems,” he said. “You cannot come to this, with all the challenges we have in our school system, our neighborhood schools and our streets and the safety, or our economy, with the attitude of a folded arm that says ‘No.’”

First-term Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said he thinks Emanuel’s relationship with the City Council will be different from Daley’s.

“I think it will be and I think it should be,” Waguespack said. “We’re gonna keep that door open for as long as we can and make sure that happens.”

Waguespack is one of a number of aldermen with a foot in several camps. He’s been on the City Council for four years now, but didn’t always toe the Daley line.

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