Despite slight drop, city council still ‘rubber stamp’ for mayor

Daley Plaza and Chicago City Hall

At Chicago City Hall, Mayor Rahm Emanuel receives a high level of support from alderman, UIC political scientists say. Photo: Jeremy Atherton


Despite a minor decline, Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to receive a high level of support from the Chicago City Council, according to a new report by the UIC political science department.

The study, produced by Dick Simpson, professor of political science, and graduate researchers Beyza Buyuker and Melissa Mouritsen, measured aldermanic voting patterns and the opposition Emanuel has faced in the last 18 months

From April 10, 2013, through Nov. 15, 2014, the researchers say, there were 37 divided roll call votes in which at least one alderman opposed the mayor’s administration. During this period, the average level of aldermanic support for Emanuel was 89 percent on all divided roll call votes, which represents a small decrease from the average of 93 percent in his first two years.

For Emanuel’s entire tenure in office, the average level of council support is 90 percent.

“Although his support has slipped slightly, Mayor Emanuel still presides over a very compliant ‘rubber stamp’ city council,” said Simpson, 44th ward alderman from 1971 to 1979. “Despite louder and more organized opposition, Emanuel still hasn’t lost any council votes.”

The full report, “Rahm Emanuel’s Rubber Stamp City Council,” which details the voting patterns and historical comparisons, is available online.

Since Emanuel took office there have been 67 divided roll call votes, but only seven issues drew 10 or more dissenting votes.

Six of those issues — metered parking system concession agreement, elected school board referendum, building energy consumption benchmarking, redistribution of surplus funds from tax increment finance districts, ban on plastic carryout bags, establishment of licenses and regulations for alternative transportation services like Uber and Lyft — occurred during the last 18 months.

The report says the aldermen who most often opposed Emanuel- supported ordinances are 45th Ward Ald. John Arena, 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti, 36th Ward Ald. Nicholas Sposato and 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack, all members of the Progressive Reform Caucus.

Since 2011, 37 of the 50 aldermen have voted to support Emanuel’s position 90 to 100 percent of the time.

“With the upcoming city elections fast approaching, our report today on Mayor Emanuel’s Rubber Stamp City Council is especially timely,” Simpson said.

“Chicago voters will be able to see how their alderman voted on specific issues and will be able to determine their alderman’s overall support for the mayor’s positions.”


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