With Rahm Weakened, Aldermen Showing More Dissent

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago aldermen might not have completely shed their label as a rubber stamp, but with Mayor Rahm Emanuel significantly weakened in his second term, the City Council has grown more independent.

A new study by the University of Illinois at Chicago shows, while Emanuel isn’t losing City Council battles, he is winning by slimmer margins than when he first took office.

UIC political science professor Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman, said the current council is more willing to stand up to the mayor, who has been wounded by the fallout from the Laquan McDonald shooting scandal and the city’s precarious financial situation.

“He is weakened. He had to go into a runoff to win the mayoralty this time, in 2015, and he didn’t in 2011. He had to raise $755 million in new taxes, including at least $543 million in property taxes, which is very unpopular with citizens and aldermen,” he said.

Simpson said a UIC study showed the mayor isn’t having an easy time getting his agenda approved by the aldermen.

“What we are seeing is more divided roll-call votes, aldermen doing more on their own initiative, and the votes that are divided in the council are much closer,” he said.

Specifically, Simpson pointed to the 25-23 vote to allow Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office to investigate aldermen and their offices, but only after watering down the original measure sponsored by the mayor’s floor leader. He also noted the vote to approve the mayor’s property tax hike was 36-14, much closer than previous votes on Emanuel’s budget plans.

“The level of dissent in city council is growing and more aldermen are engaged in the tussle to shape legislation,” Simpson said. “It’s still a rubber stamp city council but it’s a weaker, less reliable rubber stamp than Emanuel had in his first four years in office.”

Simpson said, with the mayor politically weaker in the midst of his second term, aldermen have been more willing to offer their own ideas, and the mayor has been willing to listen.

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