Like Emanuel, Burke will get involved in run-offs

February 25, 2011 8:16:17 PM PST
Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel says he is ready to work with one of the City Council's most powerful members.

Ald. Ed Burke, 14th Ward, is currently the chairman of the council's finance committee, but could he be demoted?

For the time being, Emanuel and Burke are toning down the rhetoric and keeping their political weapons holstered.

The alderman said Friday, however, that like the Mayor-elect, he would get involved in run-off races to determine the City Council's makeup and possibly Burke's leadership position.

From across the room, the five-second encounter between Emanuel and powerful Burke appeared cordial.

"Some media types want to create a conflict where none exists," Burke said.

The alderman supported Gery Chico in the mayor's race, and could lose his 20 year-long city council finance committee chairmanship if he does not accept Emanuel's reform agenda.

"What I said is that in City Council, I'm looking for a partner in reform," Emanuel said. "If he's ready to do that, I'm heartened because we must reform."

Emanuel would need a majority 26 votes on the council to demote Burke, who indicated he would use his own political influence and money to elect aldermanic run-off candidates of his liking.

"There's certain members I have supported in the past that I will support in the future," Burke said.

So could there be another 1980's-style "Council War?"

"Those of us who've been through it will never do it again," Burke said.

On Friday morning, Emanuel toured the South Side's Ralph Ellison Charter School where test scores and graduation rates are much higher than neighborhood high schools.

The students rapped about the violence they must endure just getting to school.

"People outside, they don't know how we are and how we have to live with this," said Ellison 10th grader Jonathan Grayer.

"Children are facing a reality today where they're thinking about their safety and not their studies," Emanuel said.

The Mayor-elect, who has three school-age children of his own, says for them, he's still considering private schools.

"If it comes with political price, I'm willing to pay it," Emanuel said. "We're looking at public and private schools and we'll make what's in the interest of our individual children."

Now back to the Burke story. Chicago police have arrested a 48-year-old man for allegedly threatening the 14th Ward alderman. Suspect Timothy Hercog left messages on Burke's district office e-mail.

For the past 21 years, Burke has been assigned a security detail of six Chicago police officers.

Emanuel has questioned the expense of that detail. It remains to be seen how the arrest will affect that debate.