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The City Council unanimously approved Mayor Daley’s picks to fill two vacant council seats today during a special session, then quickly offered the new aldermen a glimpse of how things work at City Hall by bitching about how hard their jobs are, heaping praise on the mayor, and standing idly by as Daley refused to let a critic speak.
After the votes installing Proco "Joe” Moreno and Deborah Graham as aldermen of the First and 29th wards, respectively, the two were sworn in and then escorted by the sergeant at arms to their seats, where they each gave a brief speech thanking the mayor and council members.
Then various aldermen began dispensing their advice to the two rookies. Fourteenth Ward alderman Ed Burke gave one of his silver-tongued orations, wishing the two rookies the best of luck while quoting as many historical figures as possible, from Thomas Jefferson to Tony Laurino, an alderman who was indicted in 1995 for mail fraud related to a ghost payrolling operation (he died before going on trial and was replaced in the council by his daughter, Margaret, who still represents the 39th Ward). Burke even gave a mini-history lesson on how vacant council seats were filled in the past through special elections, but he said those elections were often delayed and that the current appointment process “assures the continuity of representation.”
That's one way to put it. Daley has now appointed 19 of the 50 sitting aldermen. Danny Solis of the 25th Ward let everyone know what he thinks of the mayor’s selections.
“For the most part, the appointments you’ve made in your tenure have been very significant,” said Solis, who was one of those appointments.
Other aldermen sounded as if they were complaining about their jobs. “Your constituency is going to expect everything from you and you better be ready for it,” said Alderman Ed Smith of the 28th Ward. “You’re going to have a tough time trying to provide the services that you have to provide, so you’ll take these calls all night.”
Some even took time to congratulate Daley on how he made his most recent selections. Last month, Daley placed an ad on the city’s Web site asking for applications for the two positions. Nearly 100 people sent their resumes to the mayor’s office, though it's not clear exactly how Daley and his staff vetted them.
“During the application process, I heard a lot of buzz on the street about people applying for alderman,” said Rey Colon (35th). “And I think the fact that there was a pool of interested people and that they were selected is a good tribute to your caliber and competency.”
It was pretty much the lovefest everyone expected, but Moreno and Graham got a peek at what happens when someone doesn’t follow the script. Right before Burke called the meeting to an end, 49th Ward alderman Joe Moore tried to squeeze in an order to stop a plan that would restructure how city streets are cleaned. The city currently issues one street sweeper to each ward, but Daley indicated this week that he wants street sweepers to follow a grid system, which would reduce the number sweepers and therefore cut costs.
“Who are the citizens going to call when the streets aren’t swept?” Moore told reporters after the council meeting. “They can call us, but we’ll say it’s completely out of our control.”
But he didn't get to make his point on the council floor. With his microphone turned off, Moore kept trying to butt in as Burke moved the meeting to a close. Daley and Burke eventually told Moore he couldn't talk and cited various parliamentary rules—including one supposedly backed by a ruling issued by Burke’s wife, state Supreme Court justice Anne Burke—that limits what can be introduced in special sessions. Daley banged the gavel and declared the meeting over, and Moreno and Graham joined him for a photo shoot.