City Council presents Mayor Emanuel with gavel

May 18, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Aldermen presented Mayor Emanuel, who was inaugurated Monday, a gavel and then it was down to business.

Similar to the Daley years, the new mayor and the city's most powerful aldermen appeared to have worked out their differences behind closed doors during the transition period. The 50 council members unanimously approved new leadership and committee structures.

The mayor arrived 30 minutes early for the meeting. Some of the first time aldermen did the same.

"I have some ideas and I'm looking forward to sharing them with the administration about how we can make the city work better for everyone," Alderman Will Burns, 4th ward, said.

"It would behoove the new city council members to spend time with a lot of the senior members who can give them good advice at the onset," Alderwoman Sandi Jackson, 7th Ward, said.

Minutes later, the first female city clerk, Susana Mendoza, went over the roll call. Resolutions honoring high school ROTC cadets and heroic police officers and firefighters followed.

"I commend you and firefighter/paramedic Henderson for what you do," Ald. Nick Sposato, 36 Ward, said.

Known for his impatience, Mayor Emanuel stood throughout the 90 minute-plus meeting where the council approved its rules,saving ten percent of its budget by reducing the number of standing committees from 19 to 16. The 14th Ward's Ed Burke remains the finance committee chairman but will yield significant power to the 40th Ward's Pat O'Connor, an Emanuel ally who will head the newly formed committee on audit and workplace development. The rules changes also forbid former aldermen convicted of felonies from coming onto the council floor to lobby their one-time colleagues.

"You do not retain the right because you were once an alderman to go back on the floor and representing in some cases as a lobbyist representing somebody. You've lost that right. You've lost that privilege," Mayor Emanuel said.

The new mayor also formally presented his appointees for city department heads for council approval, including Acting Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. City council committees will hold hearings on those appointments between now and the next full council meeting on June 8th.

First meeting for 14 out of 50 aldermen

There is such a sea change at City Hall that many new aldermen are still waiting on their new offices; there are just so many to set up. That's not to say, however, that this new group of aldermen isn't hitting the ground running.

There are so many new faces on the City Council that City Hall police officers have been given a new seating chart complete with pictures.

Ameya Pawar of the 47th Ward is one of those new aldermen so new that he is still waiting for the key to his City Hall office.

Pawar is the first Asian-American on the council, and at 31, he is the first to be born in the 1980s.

"I think that I can bring a lot of new ideas and a fresh perspective, and also I think that there's a lot I can learn from the aldermen who've been here awhile," said Pawar.

But don't expect this new freshman class of aldermen to take a back seat to council veterans.

"There are no shrinking violets in the City Council at's a city that expects its leaders to be strong and to fight for what they believe in," said 4th Ward Ald. Will Burns.

Burns may be new to the council, but as a former state representative, he is no stranger to the legislative process.

"Just as we had to deal with the budget crisis in Springfield and what that meant for our revenues and our budget, we have to deal with that here in the Chicago City Council," Burns said.

"It can no longer be where we call ourselves as a global city and operate as a medieval kingdom. We have to look at addressing poverty in a meaningful way," said Pawar.

On Wednesday's committees memo, a quote captured this new dawn at City Hall, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."

"I just think exciting things are to come ahead," said 36th Ward Ald. Nicholas Sposato. "People wanted change. They got their change, so they have a bunch of hard-working, independent kind of people in there right now."

"I'm expecting great change. And I'm very excited to be part of the change," said 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith.

Smith has already proposed a zoning change for the redevelopment of the old Lincoln Park Hospital. That would prevent a developer from putting a controversial grocery store on the site.

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