The Weekly Political Roundup: February 7th – February 11th
Whew. We’re just over a week from the municipal elections, and things are getting hot in the race for Chicago mayor - even if it’s cold outside. According to the latest Chicago Tribune poll, Gery Chico is cutting away a bit at Rahm Emanuel’s lead, raising Chico’s hope of forcing a runoff. Emanuel is at 49%, Chico at 19%. Meanwhile, Carol Moseley Braun’s support has dropped to 10% and Miguel del Valle’s at 8%.
In response to an earlier ABC7 poll, Braun says: don’t believe ‘em. The polling heightens the drama between Chico and Emanuel; this week both revealed their plans to cut spending. For starters, Emanuel says he’d cut $75 million within 2 months of taking office. He declined to say what he’d do about the city’s underfunded pensions. Still, Chico’s plan was less specific; though he’s indicated in the past that he’d favor a 2-tiered pension system, where Emanuel is more likely to cut pensions across the board.
That split has city unions supporting Chico; labor is thought to be behind this xtranormal video (swear warning!). More officially, public employee union leaders are hoping to create an ad rebutting Emanuel’s new commercial (called “Service”) that says “city government is not an employment agency.” Chico also picked up a slew of trade union endorsements this week, including one from firefighters. Emanuel picked up endorsements from the Tribune and the Sun-Times (both late last week), along with Illinois secretary of state Jesse White, and former city inspector general David Hoffman.
And we continue to learn more about the candidates: for one, all say they wouldn’t sell naming rights to Soldier Field. But in more serious matters, the LGBT Windy City Times is out with an election guide, including answers from the candidates to their own questionnaire.
Also this week, the WCT hosted a forum—but only half the candidates (Emanuel, Braun, del Valle) attended due to a conflict with a Chicago Defender forum. All six candidates made it there, sharing the stage in total for the first time during this campaign. All also agreed that African-Americans deserve reparations for slavery, though Emanuel’s suggestion that the funds be used for economic development drew a testy response from Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins. Then, on Thursday, Fox Chicago held another forum with all six candidates—you can watch it in total on their site.
In other mayoral campaign news, former Governor Rod Blagojevich made a cameo when his attorneys filed a motion claiming a conversation between him and Emanuel was missing from prosecutors’ evidence. Emanuel said no worries—he didn’t do anything improper in any conversations with Blago. Finally, be sure to check out Eight Forty-Eight’s one-on-one interviews with the mayoral candidates. Del Valle and Braun were both on this week; the rest of the candidates are expected to be on next week.
As for the aldermanic races, several are getting attention in the media this week. The open race for the 29th ward (formerly Isaac Carothers’ domain) got a write-up from Progress Illinois, as did the 35th. The Tribune had a story on the race to replace Vi Daley in Lincoln Park’s 43rd ward. The Sun-Times’ Carol Marin says this may be the toughest race incumbent 50th ward alderman Bernie Stone has ever faced. And Greg Hinz has a wrap-up of a forum he moderated in Uptown’s 46th ward. Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union and Sierra Club endorsed candidates for City Council.
Meanwhile, the current City Council voted for a 2 percent raise for city firefighters. Airport concession workers are also hoping for a raise—and a proposed city ordinance would provide a boost.
Speaking of airports, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood this week mediated a meeting between Mayor Daley and the heads of United and American Airlines, with no apparent breakthrough on the issue of O’Hare expansion.
And speaking of concessions, the Taste of Chicago will be scaled back this year, as Daley hands control of the festival to the Park District.
And another report this week reviewed the city’s pension funds and found them underfunded by $5.1 billion in the past decade.
Going beyond the city, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez began the process of laying off more than 100 staff members, a day after pushing back on Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s request to make cuts.
In state business, meanwhile, House Speaker Michael Madigan said he might consider cuts to state pensions. And the Senate approved a bill eliminating a loophole that allowed the Governor to indefinitely appoint “acting” heads of state agencies without getting Senate approval.
For Illinois politics in the national realm, Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk are asking for a federal review of Lake Shore Drive after last week’s blizzard caused major problems there (though, for the record, a poll found that Chicago residents were happy with the city’s blizzard response).
Finally, Greg Hinz says it looks like several congressmen are already gearing up for the next election—look out.
That’s it for this week in review—let us know if you think we missed anything, and have a great weekend.