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Column: The unjust, opaque exercise of aldermanic privilege. It needs to go.

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08.07.2021

In the last week of June, Mayor Lori Lightfoot suffered her first loss of a City Council vote. By a one-vote margin, the council rejected Lightfoot’s effort to further diminish aldermanic privilege — a council tradition that grants virtually unchecked power to aldermen in their wards.

In the first week of July, Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th, was charged with public corruption. At the root of her alleged illegal acts — you guessed it — was Austin’s exercise of aldermanic privilege.

It was an accident of timing, perhaps, that Austin was indicted the week after Lightfoot’s failed bid to curtail aldermanic privilege. It also was a telling reminder that the roots of corruption in Chicago still run deep and that Lightfoot’s work to unearth and destroy them is far from done.

As a candidate for mayor, Lightfoot singled out aldermanic privilege as a scourge after FBI agents raided the offices of Ald. Edward Burke, 14th. The federal charge against Burke detailed how the long-serving alderman allegedly used his power to extort bribes from people who needed permits or other city approvals. Burke says he did nothing illegal.

Lightfoot made it her first official act as mayor to limit “the power of an alderman to unilaterally approve, affirm, block, or veto a departmental decision, whether such power is granted or required by the Municipal Code of Chicago or by tradition or........

© Chicago Tribune


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