Emanuel considers cutting down City Council

March 25, 2011 3:55:55 PM PDT
Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel's transition team is discussing cutting the number of aldermen in half to save money.

Emanuel confirmed what he called "serious discussions" with aldermen and others involved in the government transition about the possibility the City Council might be reduced from 50 to as few as 25 members. The mayor-elect said its only one of many reform ideas on the table.

"This was an election about change and reform, and the public is ready for it and that means the City Council itself cannot be immune from it," he told ABC7.

The current 50-member council is among the largest in the country and costs taxpayers around $20 million a year to staff not only at City Hall but also in the aldermanic ward offices. A change by 2015 would require an act of the state General Assembly or a binding referendum locally.

"Cities such as Los Angeles which has a larger population. Boston, Philadelphia all have much smaller councils," said Lawrence Msall, Chicago Civic Federation.

Emanuel spoke Friday afternoon after helping celebrate the state championship won by a South Side high school. A self-described huge basketball fan, the mayor-elect said coming back to celebrate Simeon High School's basketball win was natural. He had watched the team play several times during the season.

"I'm proud of what they've done. You've heard this before. I am proud of what you do in the classroom. Eight five percent of the kids here, from freshman year to senior year, graduate. That's what we want in the entire city of Chicago," said Emanuel.

In his praise of teens at Simeon and other Chicago Public Schools, the mayor elect scolded the media for paying too much attention to the negatives.

"There are kids every day doing very good things and accomplishing great things for themselves and their fellow classmates, and I think they deserve as much recognition as when something horrific happens," Emanuel said.

The mayor-elect's connection to Simeon High School goes beyond sports. Emanuel says he will use an after-school program devised by a Simeon student as a model for other high schools in the city.