WBEZ | chicago corruption http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-corruption Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Ferguson to stay on as City Hall watchdog http://www.wbez.org/news/ferguson-stay-city-hall-watchdog-110291 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/joe_ferguson_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It looks like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will be stuck with City Hall&rsquo;s corruption-fighting inspector general for longer than he anticipated.</p><p>Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson said Wednesday he will stay in his job beyond the end-of-summer departure date he discussed with the mayor last year.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now, there&rsquo;s work to do and I think there&rsquo;s a general sense that the office of Inspector General is doing a pretty good job of advancing it, so we keep on keepin&rsquo; on,&rdquo; Ferguson told WBEZ Wednesday.</p><p>News that Ferguson will stay on as the city government watchdog comes weeks after the City Hall finally <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-seeks-end-federal-hiring-oversight-110188">struck an agreement</a> to emerge from years of federal hiring oversight. With the end of monitoring under the so-called &ldquo;Shakman decrees&rdquo; - which aim to stomp out political patronage - the role of hiring oversight will now shift to Ferguson&rsquo;s office</p><p>The inspector general has had a frosty relationship with Emanuel&rsquo;s administration at times, which initially cast doubt on whether the mayor would reappoint Ferguson to the job. Emanuel initially wanted to make Ferguson reapply for his post, but the mayor reversed course and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-disagreements-emanuel-reappoint-city-hall-watchdog-108590">reappointed </a>him last year, following complaints from some aldermen.</p><p>In a statement released by the mayor&rsquo;s office announcing the reappointment in September 2013, Ferguson was quoted as saying he would &ldquo;move on to other things&rdquo; by the end of this summer, after the city emerged from the federal hiring oversight.</p><p>But on Wednesday, Ferguson told WBEZ he now plans to stay on longer than that. Under city ordinance, Ferguson is free to fill out the rest of his four-year term, though he declined to say whether he would.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m gonna answer the question by telling you I&rsquo;m not gonna answer the question, and I&rsquo;m not gonna answer the question because that&rsquo;s just not how I look at things,&rdquo; Ferguson said. He continues to take a day-by-day approach to his job because &ldquo;any other approach puts me and the office at risk of taking our eye off the ball.&rdquo;</p><p>In an interview Wednesday night with WTTW&rsquo;s &ldquo;Chicago Tonight,&rdquo; Emanuel said Ferguson was key in helping City Hall reach an agreement to end court hiring oversight under the Shakman case, but said he asked the inspector to stay on the job to help during the transition.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, we have a very good working relationship,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;Joe has been a partner, his office has been a partner, every report he has - he issues, we don&rsquo;t let it sit on the shelf and gather dust.&rdquo;</p><p>A federal judge must still give final approval to end the court hiring oversight, which could happen at a hearing on June 16.</p><p>Ferguson credited the Emanuel administration for making strides in coming out from under the Shakman heel, which has cost the city millions of dollars over the years. But he said there&rsquo;s still work to be done in order to come into &ldquo;full compliance&rdquo; with the court orders, particularly with police and fire departments.</p><p>The inspector general&rsquo;s office is also looking into whether police followed the proper protocol when they investigated the 2004 case of <a href="http://projects.suntimes.com/koschman/latest-news/vanecko-koschman-mom-in-court-for-hearing/">David Koschman</a>, who died after being punched by R.J. Vanecko, a nephew of long-time Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Vanecko was charged with manslaughter and pleaded guilty only years after the assault, following an investigation by the Chicago Sun-Times.</p><p>Additionally, Ferguson said his office is still working on implementing the city&rsquo;s new <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/ethics/supp_info/governmental_ethicsordinance.html">ethics ordinance</a>, as well as other investigations he wouldn&rsquo;t disclose.</p><p>&ldquo;One thing I do know, there&rsquo;s four years&rsquo; worth of work out there to do,&rdquo; Ferguson said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s probably a lifetime of work out there to do. And right now, my intention is to keep on doing it.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 05 Jun 2014 13:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ferguson-stay-city-hall-watchdog-110291 Despite clashes with city hall, corruption watchdog sails toward reconfirmation http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-clashes-city-hall-corruption-watchdog-sails-toward-reconfirmation-108926 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/joe_ferguson.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A panel of Chicago aldermen quickly voted on Tuesday to reappoint the City Hall watchdog to another four-year term, despite his previous public clashes with Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration.</p><p>The unanimous vote by aldermen on the Budget and Government Operations committee sets up Inspector General Joseph Ferguson for a final confirmation vote at Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting.</p><p>Alderman Brendan Reilly, 42nd, said any bad blood between the Inspector General and the mayor&rsquo;s office should not be a mark against Ferguson.</p><p>&ldquo;If he&rsquo;s disagreeable with the mayor or the City Council, that suggests to me perhaps he&rsquo;s doing his job,&rdquo; Reilly said after Tuesday&rsquo;s vote.</p><p>Ferguson was not present at Tuesday&rsquo;s meeting, when it took aldermen all of six seconds to sign off on his reappointment. A spokeswoman for Ferguson, Rachel Leven, declined to comment on the vote.</p><p>Emanuel <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-disagreements-emanuel-reappoint-city-hall-watchdog-108590" target="_blank">announced last month</a> that he would re-appoint Ferguson, with the understanding that the former federal prosecutor-turned-corruption fighter would leave his post next summer. Legally, Ferguson&rsquo;s reappointment would allow him to stay on for the full four-year term, but he has said he plans to &ldquo;move on to other things.&rdquo;</p><p>The mayor had earlier insisted Ferguson must reapply for his job when his term runs out at the end of November, but Emanuel changed his mind after the two men met, face-to-face, in late August.</p><p>Since being appointed by former Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2009, Ferguson has greatly expanded the role of his office. Instead of solely attacking fraud and corruption by city workers, Ferguson has also tried to beef up his role as a fiscal watchdog during a time when Chicago has faced historic budget deficits.</p><p>But Ferguson&rsquo;s also hasn&rsquo;t been shy about issuing reports critical of how Emanuel carries out some&nbsp; signature policies - or about calling out the mayor&rsquo;s administration when it doesn&rsquo;t cooperate with investigations.</p><p>In July, the Inspector General <a href="http://chicagoinspectorgeneral.org/publications-and-press/press-releases/igo-precluded-from-auditing-citys-grid-based-garbage-collection-system/" target="_blank">published a report</a> detailing how one Emanuel deputy abruptly left a meeting when auditors tried to ask him about the city&rsquo;s new ward-by-ward trash collection, which the mayor says will save $18 million a year. Emanuel later said said the system was still being rolled out, and wasn&rsquo;t ready for an audit.</p><p>The two offices have also clashed about whether the IG&rsquo;s office should be kept out of the city&rsquo;s political budget-making process, and whether Ferguson should be allowed to enforce his own subpoenas in investigations. The subpoena fight eventually wound up before the Illinois Supreme Court, where justices ultimately ruled that the inspector general must rely upon the mayor&rsquo;s lawyers to legally enforce subpoenas, even if the subpoenas were part of a probe into the mayor&rsquo;s office itself.</p><p>Ferguson&rsquo;s final confirmation seems likely on Wednesday, said 34th Ward Ald. Carrie Austin, the chair of the Budget Committee. But Austin hopes Ferguson will engage the City Council more often during his second term, instead of leaving aldermen to hear about his reports first from the media.</p><p>&ldquo;Since his appointment comes in my committee, I think that we should have had - or should have been having - regular dialogue,&rdquo; Austin said Tuesday. &ldquo;But he vets everything in the public, as opposed to vetting anything with me at all. So I have [an] issue with that.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Al Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him at <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 15 Oct 2013 15:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/despite-clashes-city-hall-corruption-watchdog-sails-toward-reconfirmation-108926 Emanuel defends vetting of indicted ex-comptroller http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-defends-vetting-indicted-ex-comptroller-108467 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/rahm points WBEZ Alex Keefe.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday said the city&rsquo;s now-indicted former comptroller violated the public trust by failing to disclose he was the target of a federal corruption investigation.</p><p>But Emanuel maintains he knew nothing about the probe of 38-year-old Amer Ahmad until news of his indictment broke late last week, despite previous news reports connecting Ahmad to his alleged co-conspirators.</p><p>&ldquo;You have an obligation, when something like that happens, to - when you start to get questions - to inform the people you work with who have entrusted you with the public trust,&rdquo; Emanuel said of Ahmad at an unrelated press conference Tuesday. &ldquo;And that is where he violated the trust.&rdquo;</p><p>Ahmad has pleaded not guilty to money laundering and bribery <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/former-chicago-comptroller-charged-bribery-fraud-ohio-108437">charges</a>, stemming from his time as Deputy Treasurer for the State of Ohio.</p><p>He&rsquo;s charged with steering lucrative state contracts to a former high school classmate who went on to work as a securities broker. In exchange, federal prosecutors say the broker, Douglas E. Hampton, funneled more than $500,000 to Ahmad through his alleged co-conspirators and through phony loans to a landscaping company Ahmad partially controlled, the indictment alleges.</p><p>The indictment, handed down by a federal grand jury in Ohio late Thursday, does not accuse Ahmad of breaking the law while working at City Hall.</p><p>In his first comments since the indictment last week, Emanuel defended his administration&rsquo;s process for vetting Ahmad before he was tapped in 2011 to be one of the mayor&rsquo;s top financial advisors. Two lawyers hired to screen candidates did a &ldquo;comprehensive review&rdquo; of Ahmad and got the &ldquo;thumbs up&rdquo; from his former bosses, Emanuel said.</p><p>But Ahmad&rsquo;s indictment is embarrassing for an administration that prides itself on controlling its message. It also puts pressure on Emanuel&rsquo;s administration to explain how thoroughly Ahmad was vetted in the first place.</p><p>This week, Emanuel&rsquo;s administration released an April 2011 letter from Vincent Connelly, a former federal prosecutor who vetted potential hires during Emanuel&rsquo;s transition into office. The letter shows the incoming administration questioned Ahmad about Ohio state contracts awarded to Boston-based State Street Bank under Ahmad&rsquo;s watch.</p><p>Ohio newspaper <a href="http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/news/national-govt-politics/bank-hired-lobbyist-with-boyce-aide-ties-just-days/nNC6B/">reports</a> in 2010 had raised questions about Ahmad&rsquo;s connections to Noure Alo, a co-defendant who has pleaded not guilty in the case. Alo had been a business partner of Ahmad&rsquo;s and was reportedly hired as a lobbyist by the bank in hopes of scoring Ohio state business.</p><p>Despite the news stories, the lawyers vetting Ahmad gave him the okay.</p><p>&ldquo;Based on Mr. Ahmad&rsquo;s representation to us and our own analysis of the matter, it appears that Mr. Ahmad acted appropriately,&rdquo; reads the Apr. 1, 2011 letter. &ldquo;We find no reason that he should not be considered for the position.&rdquo;</p><p>On Tuesday, Emanuel added there was no way he could have known about the federal investigation in Ohio.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not like the Justice Department gives you a heads up,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>A &ldquo;preliminary review&rdquo; over the weekend found that none of the defendants or companies mentioned in the indictment are doing business with the city, Emanuel said. But he&rsquo;s also asking for a further probe of city finances under Ahmad&rsquo;s watch &ldquo;to make sure that, in fact, never should the taxpayers of the City of Chicago be violated as the people in Ohio when Amer worked there.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-1e7c78fc-9d2e-7ddf-3374-3e6d25789d4a">That forensic audit will be overseen by Emanuel&rsquo;s top lawyer, Steve Patton, and Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, who has previously had <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-emanuel-hamstrings-probes-waste-fraud-106705">frosty relations</a> with the mayor&rsquo;s administration.</p><p dir="ltr">The investigation will be conducted by two lawyers with the law firm Drinker Biddle &amp; Reath: Gordon B. Nash, Jr., a former Chicago federal prosecutor, and Daniel J. Collins, a former U.S. Attorney who was the lead prosecutor in the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-10/wbezs-tony-arnold-discusses-tahawwur-rana-verdict-87684">case</a> of the Mumbai terror attack.</p><p>&ldquo;They will be asked to examine all areas of responsibility under the purview of the Comptroller to ensure the public trust was not violated,&rdquo; mayoral spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton wrote in an email. &ldquo;They will provide regular updates to both the Inspector General and Corporation Counsel throughout the course of their review, which we expect will take several months to complete given the diligent approach that will be undertaken.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alex Keefe covers politics at WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</em></p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Ahmad&#39;s indictment came down on Friday, Aug. 16. In fact, it was handed down on Thursday, Aug. 15.</em></p></p> Tue, 20 Aug 2013 13:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-defends-vetting-indicted-ex-comptroller-108467 Pregnancy tests? Pigeon poo? What Chicago aldermen really do http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/pregnancy-tests-pigeon-poo-what-chicago-aldermen-really-do-107648 <p><p><a name="Audio"></a>Chicagoan Andrea Lee had a problem.</p><p>When she looked across the street from her condo building in the city&rsquo;s Noble Square neighborhood, the 35-year-old noticed that her neighbors had something she didn&rsquo;t: recycling bins.</p><p>So Andrea did what many Chicagoans with neighborhood problems do: She called her local alderman, only to learn that aldermanic power (at least when it comes to refuse collection) <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/new-garbage-grid-mayor-emanuel-trashes-symbol-machine-power-106712">ain&rsquo;t what it used to be</a>.</p><p>After another dead end with her alderman&rsquo;s office (this time, about basement flooding), Andrea asked Curious City:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;If these are the city services that are supposed to be tackled by the aldermen, and this isn&rsquo;t what they&rsquo;re actually doing, then what are they doing?&rdquo;</em></p><p>&ldquo;I guess there are things that the mayor proposes that they vote on,&rdquo; Andrea said when Curious City first reached out to her last month. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know what those things are. I want a little more of a window into that black box of aldermanic duties.&rdquo;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" scrolling="no" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/k4jqqLi9Q6Q" width="560"></iframe></em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>(In the video above, we hear what Andrea learned during a visit to Ald. Walter Burnett&rsquo;s office.)</em></p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s 50 aldermen, it turns out, have a hodgepodge of legislative, administrative and downright strange responsibilities that fall into their laps. (Think: pigeon poop and pregnancy tests.) Some of those duties are codified in law, but some are passed down by tradition alone.</p><p>Here are the three broad categories of aldermanic duties &mdash; a list, as we learned, that is hardly exhaustive.</p><p><strong>Chicago alderman legislate</strong></p><p>At least on paper, Chicago aldermen comprise the legislative branch of city government.</p><p><a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs5.asp?ActID=803&amp;ChapterID=14">State law</a> puts them in charge of a host of the expected legislative duties: They introduce and pass laws, they approve <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-city-council-approves-new-budget-103866">budgets</a> and mayoral appointments, and they <a href="http://www.wbez.org/no-sidebar/approved-ward-map-95662">redraw </a>Chicago&rsquo;s political boundaries every decade.</p><p>But the vast majority of stuff that moves through the City Council lacks any headline-grabbing sex appeal. Think less about <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/local/foie-gras-ban-0">foie gras bans</a> and controversial city-wide <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/politics/city-council-approves-parking-meter-lease-deal">privatization deals</a>, and more about mundane city ephemera that happen to require approval by the entire City Council: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-chicago%E2%80%99s-sidewalk-cafes-all-north-side-part-1-107257">sidewalk cafe permits</a>, loading zones, and senior citizen sewer fee refunds.</p><p>Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office in May 2011, there have been 28,971 measures introduced to the City Council. Of those, only 2,030 (about seven percent) were flagged by the City Clerk&rsquo;s office as being pieces of &ldquo;key legislation&rdquo;; that is, they were proposals that could have a potential citywide impact, such as mayoral appointments, legal settlements, or tax and fee hikes.</p><p>If this strikes you as more administrative than legislative, that&rsquo;s because City Council isn&rsquo;t set up as a robust watchdog-like second branch of city government, at least according to Dick Simpson, a former North Side alderman who&#39;s now a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/al%20in%20alderman%20office.png" style="height: 202px; width: 320px; float: left;" title="Alderman Burnett helps a local business owner find partners in his City Hall office. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" />&ldquo;A big problem with aldermen in the city of Chicago is they don&rsquo;t legislate very well,&rdquo; Simpson said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ll look at what comes across their desk, ask what the mayor wants, and vote &lsquo;<a href="http://www.uic.edu/depts/pols/ChicagoPolitics/City_Council_Report_April2013.pdf">yes</a>.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Part of the problem is that aldermen don&rsquo;t have staff to exhaustively vet complicated ordinances, and the city has no equivalent to the <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/">Congressional Budget Office</a>, Simpson said. He points to the unpopular parking meter privatization deal that was passed in 2008, which former Mayor Richard M. Daley gave aldermen just three days to review.</p><p>But the lack of legislative muscle is also cultural, said 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore, who has represented the city&rsquo;s Rogers Park neighborhood for more than two decades.</p><p>Somewhere between the Second Floor and the Fifth Floor of City Hall, there has developed a tacit understanding, Moore said: The mayor gets to drive the citywide agenda, and aldermen are left to control what goes on their wards.</p><p>&ldquo;I often liken the City of Chicago [to] a feudal system, where the mayor is sort of a de facto king,&rdquo; Moore said. &ldquo;And each alderman is the lord &mdash; I guess, lady, for female aldermen &mdash; of their individual fiefdom.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Chicago aldermen zone</strong></p><p>And one of the most important lordly duties, after all, is the building of castles.</p><p>In Chicago the method of approving applications for castles &mdash; or skyscrapers, home additions, and business expansions, for that matter &mdash; is the city&rsquo;s zoning process.</p><p>Zoning may sound tearfully boring, but it&rsquo;s incredibly important. Simply put, the City Council&rsquo;s zoning decisions determine where buildings are allowed to be built, how high they can be, and what you can do in them.</p><p>The City Council&rsquo;s zoning role explains why there are no 80-story high rises vaulting out of quiet residential blocks, and why you won&rsquo;t find a one-room log cabin on Michigan Avenue.</p><p>&ldquo;If you wanna know why a city looks the way it does, or why it works the way it does, all private behavior in this regard is regulated by the city,&rdquo; said David Schleicher, a George Mason University law professor who has studied municipal zoning.</p><p>&ldquo;More than the police, more than the schools, it is the most important thing cities do,&rdquo; Schleicher said.</p><p>And it is here that Chicago aldermen enjoy a nearly unchecked power, unmatched by their city council counterparts in other American cities. The unwritten rule of &ldquo;aldermanic privilege&rdquo; (also called &ldquo;aldermanic prerogative&rdquo;) gives aldermen de facto veto power over any development project in their ward.</p><p>&ldquo;You wouldn&rsquo;t find that in any city code or state statute,&rdquo; Ald. Moore said. &ldquo;It has just been the custom and practice of the City Council for generations.&rdquo;</p><p>Despite the minutiae of zoning, Moore and other aldermen defend their privilege by saying that they have an intimate knowledge of what goes on in their wards, and the extraordinary zoning power helps them shape the architectural and economic landscapes.</p><p>But Schleicher said Chicago&rsquo;s &ldquo;sacrosanct&rdquo; aldermanic privilege has its drawbacks. He points to homeless shelters, which most people agree serve a greater good but which often fall victim to &ldquo;not in my backyard&rdquo; opposition when it comes time to break ground.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/alderman%20art.png" style="float: right; height: 259px; width: 320px;" title="Question-asker Andrea Lee and WBEZ reporter Alex Keefe examine the artwork in Alderman Burnett's office. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /></p><p>&ldquo;The cost of aldermanic privilege is not wasting city council people&rsquo;s time,&rdquo; Schleicher said. &ldquo;But rather, creating too parochial an attitude towards problems that are really citywide problems.&rdquo;</p><p>And UIC&rsquo;s Dick Simpson can point to another problem with concentrating so much power in the hands of one Chicago politician: Dozens of aldermen have found themselves on the wrong side of the law.</p><p>&ldquo;Ninety percent of &lsquo;em have gone to jail for either zoning or building bribes,&rdquo; Simpson said.</p><p><strong>Chicago aldermen deal with &lsquo;everything else&rsquo;</strong></p><p>Zoning and legislating may look good on paper, but woe to the alderman who doesn&rsquo;t make sure the ward&rsquo;s trash gets picked up.</p><p>During a recent hearing, veteran 33rd Ward Ald. Dick Mell &mdash; a self-described &ldquo;dinosaur&rdquo; of the City Council &mdash; excoriated some aldermen who questioned Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-aldermen-approve-free-sunday-parking-longer-meter-hours-107550">tweaks</a> to the city&rsquo;s much-reviled parking meter privatization.</p><p>&ldquo;If anybody thinks that a legislative vote is gonna cost you the election, you&rsquo;re gonna lose your election,&rdquo; Mell said on the City Council floor. &ldquo;What&rsquo;s gonna get you elected is when ... your guy comes in and says ... his next-door neighbor&rsquo;s throwing dog poop in his yard, and you go over and solve it.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, the pedestrian concerns that fall under the broad umbrella of &ldquo;ward issues&rdquo; range from neighborly disputes to public safety. Several elected officials said those problems occupy the bulk of an alderman&rsquo;s time.</p><p>&ldquo;I am so focused on potholes and sidewalks, and I just didn&rsquo;t think that would be the case,&rdquo; said 46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman, who was just elected to the City Council in 2011. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m obsessed with that, and I just didn&rsquo;t think that would be the case.&rdquo;</p><p>Cappleman says he&rsquo;s spent a lot of time dealing with a building in his ward that suffered roof damage due to excess pigeon poop. Alderman Mell, meanwhile, bought a chainsaw for his ward office in case constituents need a tree trimmed on short notice. Alderman Moore said he once had a staffer administer a pregnancy test to a worried young woman who visited his ward office.</p><p><strong>Why it works this way</strong></p><p>The structure of Chicago&rsquo;s curiously personal aldermanic duties has its genesis from the days of political patronage, Simpson said. Aldermen could trade city favors, such as pothole-filling and curb-cutting, for votes come election day.</p><p>While that sort of quid-pro-quo is now looked down upon, the scaffolding of the Machine ward system remains intact, allowing aldermen micro-manage their wards. Each of Chicago&rsquo;s 50 aldermen only has to deal with about 55,000 constituents. Compare that to about 162,000 constituents a piece for <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml">New York</a>&rsquo;s 51 council members, and a whopping 255,000 constituents for the average <a href="http://www.lacity.org/government/AbouttheCityGovernment/index.htm?laCategory=1936">Los Angeles</a> council member.</p><p>While some newer council members are concerned with this sort of aldermanic co-dependence (&ldquo;Can&rsquo;t they just call 311?&rdquo;), Moore said it&rsquo;s one of the reasons he loves his job.</p><p>&ldquo;All of humanity comes walking into my office, with all sorts of problems from the very serious to the mundane, and everything in between,&rdquo; said. Ald. Moore. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re looking to us to help solve them.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alex Keefe reports on Chicago politics for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a></em></p><p><em>Correction: This story originally misstated Andrea Lee&#39;s age. She is 35 years of age.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Tue, 11 Jun 2013 17:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/pregnancy-tests-pigeon-poo-what-chicago-aldermen-really-do-107648 Watchdog: Emanuel hamstrings probes of waste, fraud http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-emanuel-hamstrings-probes-waste-fraud-106705 <p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s City Hall watchdog on Wednesday threatened to publicly call out Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration whenever it refuses to cooperate with investigations, suggesting the mayor is reinforcing &ldquo;deep-seated doubts&rdquo; about a city with a long history of public corruption.</p><p>The comments from Inspector General Joe Ferguson, written in his latest quarterly report, is the latest chapter in his struggle with the Emanuel administration over whether the watchdog agency can enforce its own subpoenas on city officials.</p><p>Last month, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Ferguson must rely on Emanuel&rsquo;s administration to enforce subpoenas during inspector general investigations &ndash; even if the mayor or his cabinet members are the targets of those probes.</p><p>In Wednesday&rsquo;s letter, Ferguson accused the mayor of hampering his investigations by refusing to back changes to the law that could give him greater independence and authority.</p><p>&ldquo;[T]he Mayor and his Corporation Counsel can cut off access to the evidence needed to definitively determine who, or what, is responsible for possible waste, fraud, and abuse in City government,&rdquo; Ferguson wrote. &ldquo;That is true whether the transgressor is at the ground level, in middle management, or ensconced in the corridors of real power in City Hall.&rdquo;</p><p>Ferguson has been asking for changes in city law that would protect his office from the political budget-making process, and would let him take investigation subjects to court for ignoring subpoenas, instead of relying on City Hall. But Emanuel, for his part, gave no indication on Wednesday that he would support broader powers for the city watchdog, as Ferguson has requested.</p><p>&ldquo;The IG has the same power and capability [as] the state IG and the federal IGs have,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;Now, I don&rsquo;t think that they&rsquo;re not capable of doing their jobs, and I think he&rsquo;s a good IG, so therefore I think he can do his job.&rdquo;</p><p>In his letter, Ferguson complained that Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has previously refused to enforce the inspector general&rsquo;s subpoenas, and sometimes simply doesn&rsquo;t respond to its requests. From now on, Ferguson said he plans to let the public know whenever the mayor&rsquo;s office isn&rsquo;t cooperating.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s the mayor who calls the shots at the end of the day, when &ndash; when things reach, uh, places that he does not want them to reach,&rdquo; Ferguson told WBEZ in an interview Wednesday.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s top lawyers have backed the inspector general during previous subpoena fights, Ferguson said. But he stressed the need for his office to be independent in cases like the one that ended up before the Illinois Supreme Court, after former Mayor Richard M. Daley&rsquo;s administration refused to enforce a subpoena on one of Daley&rsquo;s former top advisers.</p></p> Wed, 17 Apr 2013 19:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/watchdog-emanuel-hamstrings-probes-waste-fraud-106705 Gag order against attorneys in William Beavers tax trial http://www.wbez.org/news/gag-order-against-attorneys-william-beavers-tax-trial-106066 <p><p>The judge in the tax-evasion trial of an influential Chicago Democrat has imposed a gag order on attorneys a day after a defense lawyer said jury-pool selection was &quot;rigged.&quot;</p><p>The judge in William Beavers&#39; trial on Wednesday did not refer directly to the comments made by the Cook County Commissioner&#39;s lawyer, Sam Adam Sr.</p><p>But Judge James Zagel&#39;s meaning was clear. He said statements from attorneys in public during a trial often &quot;distracted&quot; from &quot;the purpose of the trial.&quot;</p><p>Adam angrily told reporters Tuesday that he was &quot;outraged&quot; there were no black men in the 50-person jury pool. And he suggested its composition was somehow fixed in advance.</p><p>Jury selection is done using a random system and is carried out by an independent office within the federal courthouse in Chicago.</p></p> Wed, 13 Mar 2013 10:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gag-order-against-attorneys-william-beavers-tax-trial-106066