Possible battle brewing between Ald. Burke, Emanuel

February 25, 2011 4:33:36 AM PST
A high-stakes political battle may be brewing between Chicago's most powerful alderman and Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel.

The powerful 14th Ward alderman Ed Burke was honored for his public service by the Center for Disability and Elder Law Thursday night. Burke and his wife, Supreme Court Justice Ann Burke, mingled at the awards ceremony. None of his infamous security detail was in sight. It was his first public appearance since voters chose Emanuel on Tuesday.

"I wish Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel good luck. Chicago is facing some daunting crises at this point," Burke told ABC7.

Burke is chairman of the City Council finance committee, widely considered the second most powerful position in city government after the mayor. He publicly supported Emanuel's opponent, Gery Chico, for mayor. And many believe he worked behind the scenes against Emanuel including on the legal challenge to Emanuel's residency.

Last week during a debate, Emanuel fired back at Burke, threatening to remove his security detail.

"Ed Burke has six police officers. That just can't continue," Emanuel said.

Some City Hall observers believe Emanuel may also strip Burke of the finance committee chair.

"All those things come and go. I think the media has overblown what was said," said Burke.

Emanuel made no mention of Burke Thursday as he introduced his diverse transition team.

Some political experts say the mayor-elect is free to make big changes.

"He's probably freer than most in who he owes, what he owes," said Professor Paul Green, Roosevelt University.

While he is publicly cordial, the next mayor clearly owes nothing to Ed Burke. And Emanuel seems intent on changing the city's political culture.

"The people that sent me are the voters. Very clear. They voted for reform. They voted for change and we sent that message out," said Emanuel.

The city refuses to disclose the number of officers or the cost involved in Alderman Burke's security detail. The Better Government Association has gone to court, citing the Freedom of Information Act to try to force the city to make that information available.