CHICAGO (CBS) — The City Council has bristled under criticisms that it is little more than a rubber stamp for Chicago’s mayors, but a new study has revealed that label is more accurate now than ever.
University of Illinois at Chicago political science professor Dick Simpson, a former alderman himself, said the City Council marches lockstep with Mayor Rahm Emanuel even more than it did under Mayor Richard M. Daley, or his father, Richard J. Daley.
“There have been only 67 divided roll-call votes since the City Council took office, until the end of November, and in those 67 votes – which are the most controversial issues – on average, the aldermen have voted with the mayor 90 percent of the time,” he said.
Simpson was lead author of the study “Rahm Emanuel’s Rubber Stamp City Council,” which found 37 percent of current aldermen vote with Emanuel 90 percent of the time or more – including eight who always voted with the mayor on divided roll calls. Six others supported him at least 80 percent of the time, and only seven limited their support for Emanuel to 40-79 percent of the time in such cases.
Those figures might not be news, but Simpson said they are a problem.
“Citizens should consider electing more independent or reform aldermen who would vote for their constituency and their conscience when it was necessary,” he said.
Although the study does not provide similar voting figures for the councils that served under the two Mayors Daley, the study did say, for the current council’s entire three-and-a-half years under Emanuel, “it has remained more of a rubber stamp than under either Mayors Richard J. or Richard M. Daley.”
Simpson acknowledged Emanuel does sometimes make changes in controversial measures, in face of concerns from the aldermen.
“It is true that Rahm Emanuel, more than Richard M. Daley, has compromised with aldermen on some issues. He did that on the NATO demonstrations. He did that on the cuts to the library,” Simpson said. “On the controversial issues, it’s important that the other voices be heard, and that the city move forward together, because they’ve actually discussed the issues.”
Currently, the few no votes against the mayor mostly come from a handful of aldermen who belong to the Progressive Reform Caucus.
The mayoral and aldermanic elections are scheduled for February.