Mayor Daley and the Chicago City Council performed a real balancing act Wednesday by passing the city budget without raising taxes.
The city borrowed money from its rainy day fund and pushed other financial issues into the future to make the budget work. Not only is it Daley's last budget to push through, it's the last one several aldermen will pass as they step down from their posts.
After the city elections are finished next spring, the Chicago City Council could have as many as 15 to 20 new faces. Already, nearly one-fifth of the council membership does not intend to serve another term.
That includes Alderman Ed Smith of the 28th Ward, dean of the black caucus who joined the council in 1983. He made the surprise announcement he would not run and would resign immediately on Wednesday.
"I've done it right. And I've tried my best to be the kind of leader for young people who could come along and try to emulate what I've done," said Ald. Ed Smith, 28th Ward.
"When folks leave, there's already somebody else to step up and take their places," said Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th Ward.
So far, nine of the 50 Chicago aldermen have announced they will not stand for re-election in February. A tenth -- Sandi Jackson, 7th Ward -- has circulated petitions to run for city clerk but has not decided whether to file them.
Others leaving the council immediately include the Tony Preckwinkle, 4th Ward, who is president-elect of the Cook County Board; and the Tom Allen, 38th Ward, who was appointed a circuit court judge.
Seven aldermen are set to retire at the end of their terms next spring: Ginger Rugai, 19th Ward; Brian Doherty, 41st Ward; Vi Daley, 43rd Ward; Patrick Levar, 45th Ward; Helen Shiller, 46th Ward; and Mary Ann Smith, 48th Ward. All the above seats will be filled with newly-elected aldermen next spring.
"Government is flexible and resilient and it goes on regardless of who is elected," said Ald. Burke.
"We're gonna have truly a new City Council next year and, of course, a new mayor," said Ald. Joe Moore, 49 th Ward.
A neophyte mayor -- and depending on the ward election outcomes -- perhaps double figures in new aldermen, the city government experience drain would be unprecedented in modern times.
"I think what we lose in experience we'll make up in a new approach," said Ald. Moore.
"With the remaining aldermen that will be here, I think you're gonna see a lot of aldermen emerge in leadership and have a larger voice," said Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th Ward.
Mayor Daley will appoint replacements for Smith, Preckwinkle and Allan, who attended their final council meeting Wednesday.