Mayoral contenders could try to check Ed Burke's power

February 15, 2011

(Photo by Kate Gardiner)
Ald. Ed Burke chairs the Chicago City Council Finance Committee.

The power held by Chicago Ald. Ed Burke is being questioned by some candidates for mayor. The comments came during a debate Monday night on WTTW public television.

City Clerk Miguel del Valle said Burke is "astute" and "highly effective." But del Valle complained of the longtime alderman's power, and how a lot of substantial legislation is sent to the Finance Committee, which Burke chairs.

"We shouldn't have a one-person rule in the city council," del Valle said. "There has to be a new day with a new mayor and the city council, where the aldermen in the city council begin to assume responsibility and leadership on the tough issues facing us regarding revenue and budget cuts. And we can't have everything going through one alderman in the city of Chicago."

The candidates were also asked whether Burke should be allowed to keep his police security detail.

"I think the City Council has to share in the sacrifice because the residents will be sharing in sacrifice," said Rahm Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff. "Which means if Ed Burke today has six police officers, that just can't continue."

Emanuel also kept open the possibility of having a different alderman chair the finance committee. Those decisions are officially made by the city council, though Mayor Richard Daley has held significant influence over the selection of committee heads during his time in office.

Burke, whose spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment Monday night, has endorsed Gery Chico for mayor.

Chico praised Burke during the debate, adding that the new city council will be more engaged under a new mayor.