So every once in a while the Tribune gets it right and they did this week, pointing out the need for an independent body—an independent budget analysis office, something like a city GAO—to properly evaluate large financial deals struck by the city. Already it’s clear the new parking meter deal is bogus but it’s telling that, almost immediately after its release 24 aldermen praised it. Because the original deal was so good that there is really no need to read it right?
Although it was designed to be a check on executive power everybody knows the city council is a joke, with the exception of the Washington years the past thirty year or so the city council has been nothing but a rubber stamp on the mayor’s policies, whatever they may be, whoever the mayor may be.
My favorite part of the trib editorial was the suggestion—and they did not really put this forth seriously—was to pay for such an office by decreasing the number of aldermen. This is an issue that gets tossed around as a joke but it should not be. The fact is, 50 aldermen to tell the mayor, any mayor, he is right is not necessary. As detailed in the editorial the majority of things voted on by the council are administrative details like parking permits and the like. There is the prevailing attitude that the aldermen simply do not have the ability to evaluate large deals. This is probably true but this has become an important component of job now, it should be simply unacceptable that Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th) could tell people “ . . . we (aldermen) don’t know a lot about TIFs”. It’s funny how for all the talk about getting young people/the unemployed the ability to “win the future” i.e. develop needed, marketable skills, this trend does not apply to local politicians. Deciding on the best course of action for the economy of the city is vital, as federal and state money decreases every decision made by the city to allocate resources increases in importance. We need people in those offices to be focused on the economic security of the people—as opposed to corporate payouts that benefit the 1%. If this is too much to ask from the current city council members we need to get new ones.
Considering the history of the city it is probably impossible to expect city councils members to ever have the capability to judge economic decisions objectively, so in the meantime there is no reason why the city council could not be cut in half. That extra money going to pay for professionals, isolated from the political process, to do this work. It should be noted that 50 council members is a lot-New York has 50 but is much larger, Los Angeles gets by with fifteen. Isn’t this something we can all get behind?