Gov. Bruce Rauner addresses Chicago City Council

Jessica D'Onofrio Image
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Rauner addresses City Council
"For Chicago to get what it wants, Illinois must get what it needs," Gov. Rauner told the Chicago City Council.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- "The good Lord did not make us Democrats or Republicans. The good Lord put us on earth to do his work to help each other, to work together to make the world a better place," Ill. Gov. Bruce Rauner said. "I work for you. I work for every family."

He spoke to the Chicago City Council about his "turnaround agenda" for the state on Wednesday morning. Rauner is the first sitting governor to address the council at least in recent history.

The governor made the request to speak at at time when the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois both face unprecedented financial and economic challenges. He said the city's agenda for fixing its fiscal issues cannot be separate from the state's own reform efforts. He says it will require shared sacrifice and asked council members to work with him. He did not offer specific details.

"Chicago's agenda does not and cannot stand alone from Illinois," he said. Rauner has been traveling statewide promoting his agenda, which includes program funding cuts, reducing business regulations and restricting union influence. "For Chicago to get what it wants, Illinois must get what it needs."

Rauner wants Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and City Council members to support his so-called "turnaround" agenda. The pro-business reforms aimed at generating jobs include reduced worker compensation costs and non-union "right to work zones" that would encourage companies to locate in Illinois instead of surrounding states.

"We must get more competitive," he said.

Rauner's agenda is widely perceived among Democrats, which make up the Chicago City Council, as pro-business and anti-union.

"What Rauner is proposing right now really goes against the grain of what has built our city," Alderman Danny Solis, 25 Ward, said. Council members spoke in opposition to some of the reforms before Rauner's speech, and workers in the audience applauded. Outside the council chambers, the Chicago Federation of Labor held a rally.

"When he talks about things in code like self-empowerment, I think what he really means is you're on your own," Jorge Ramirez, Chicago Federation of Labor, said.

Rauner, who likened his appearance at City Hall to the biblical Daniel's time in the lion's den expects to get at least part of his agenda in return for helping the city.

"There's clear indication that Democrats as well as Republicans realize that big changes are needed, and we're making progress," Rauner said.

Mayor Emanuel, who opened a low-wage, non-union soap manufacturing plant on the South Side last week said he remains opposed to right to work zones anywhere in the state.

"I think you're pulling the rug from underneath the middle class and people trying to get into the middle class," Mayor Emanuel said. However, he indicated there may be some room to negotiate workers compensation.

"There's a right way and a wrong way to do it, and I'm going to be clear on what we need to do," Mayor Emanuel said.

Before Rauner spoke, the City Council approved a $5.5 million reparations package for victims of police torture under the watch of disgraced police commander Jon Burge.

"This stain cannot be removed from our city's history but it can be used as a lesson of what not to do," Emanuel said.

As many as 80 victims of torture could receive as much as $100,000 each. In addition, the city will issue a formal apology, build a memorial and agreed that schools will teach children about the torture scandal.

Earlier, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich offered a prayer as the late Francis Cardinal George was honored. Mayor Emanuel said George's death leaves a "great hole in our city's fabric."