CHICAGO (CBS) — When Mayor-Elect Lori Lightfoot won the election she promised change at City Hall. Now she’s taking on aldermanic privilege.
Chicago aldermen have traditionally ruled their wards with absolute authority when it comes to licenses, permits and zoning.
It’s a tradition Lightfoot wants to come to an end.
Not surprisingly some aldermen are fighting back.
“Aldermen right now are like 50 czars,” said Ald. James Capelman (46th). “That doesn’t exist in other cities across the country. We have to change that.”
Lightfoot’s first executive order, coming Monday, will strike at aldermanic privilege, but it won’t completely wipe it out.
“My understanding is it does not touch zoning, that the executive order we’re going to see is going to relate more specifically to permitting and licensing issues,” said Alderman-Elect Daniel La Spata (1st).
Some view that prospect with relief.
“There’s some things I’d be willing to give away, such as awnings and all that piddly stuff,” said Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th).
Sadlowski Garza spoke of giving the final say over things like alley signs, alley access and block parties to City Hall.
“There’s no more fear they’ll be extorted or arbitrarily rejected by the alderman just because they didn’t write the right campaign check,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th).
That’s exactly what the feds say Ald. Ed Burke did when he allegedly tried to squeeze business for his law firm out of a fast food chain when a restaurant wanted a renovation permit.
Still other aldermen insisted even losing control over licesnses and permits was a slap in the face.
“This strikes at the very heart of what an alderman does in terms of representing their community,” said Ald. Ray Lopez (15th).
Lightfoot wants to establish uniform standards for licenses and permits across the city. Then if an alderman wants to deny one in his ward, that denial will have to fit specific reasons.