Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner made a little history Wednesday, by becoming the first sitting governor to address City Council. In his speech to a tough crowd of pro-union aldermen, Rauner asked City Council members to be his “partners” in fixing both the state and city economies—but warned that there would be no bailout for the city of Chicago.
Before the governor even stepped foot inside the council chambers, aldermen and union members made sure their voices were heard.
Alderman Pat O’Connor, floor leader for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, led the charge, calling Rauner’s pitch for so-called right-to-work zones a “damn shame.”
Interactive: The Rauner Play-by-Play
“When we talk about creating a ‘right to work,’ what we’re really creating is a right for the employer to hire at a lesser wage, to hire at lesser benefits, to hire people who will take the jobs away that we have secured through collective bargaining and to put them in the hands of individuals who have no concerns for workers,” O’Connor said, at times getting applause from union members in the council gallery.
When Rauner eventually arrived, he acknowledged the “lions den” he was walking into; but joked it was more like sitting down for dinner with his family, “surrounded by Democrats with strong opinions who don’t always agree with me.”
Despite their differences, Rauner asked aldermen to work with him to address some of the financial burdens both the city and state face.
“For Chicago to get what it wants, Illinois must get what it needs,” Rauner said.
So far, what Chicago wants, or what Mayor Emanuel wants, is a list that includes assistance on pensions, a Chicago casino and, one topic Emanuel has really been pushing lately, relief for Chicago taxpayers who pay into both Chicago and suburban teacher pensions.
“The governor rails against the anti-business environment and anti-economic, competitive environment of high taxes. I can’t think of anything higher than two taxes when you only get the benefit of one,” Emanuel told reporters after Rauner’s speech.
Rauner didn’t seem open to fixing that issue, as he says, “folks outside of Chicago see Chicago getting its own special deal; receiving over half-a-billion dollars every year in net extra funding compared to the rest of the state school district.”
Other news from Wednesday’s City Council meeting:
This was the final meeting of the current City Council, a time when members say goodbye to retiring aldermen, or those who lost their races for reelection. They also cast votes on any old business that aldermen want resolved before the next class begins its term. If you need a refresher on the list of aldermen who won’t be returning next term, listen to this:
Aldermen also put their final stamp on an unprecedented $5.5 million reparations package for victims of torture under former Chicago police commander Jon Burge. Sponsoring Alderman Proco Joe Moreno read the names of victims who were in the City Council audience, drawing attention to what he called a historic day “for Chicago, for this City Council and most importantly, for the victims of some horrific behavior that happened right here in Chicago—not Iraq, not Syria.”
Attorneys for alleged Burge victims say their next step is working on the cases of 20 or so others who are still incarcerated.
Aldermen also signed off on some minor changes to the city’s controversial red light camera program, including: requiring public community meetings before cameras are removed, moved or added; accelerating installation of pedestrian countdown timers on existing cameras; and adding a payment plan for motorists with “financial hardship.”
Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ’s City Politics reporter. Follow her @laurenchooljian