Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Seven steps to improve Chicago

Chicago's political system is a tangled, undemocratic mess.  Is there any hope?  While the city charter is set by the state legislature (with Chicago having less than ten per cent representation),  there is a rising possibility they will deign to modify the city charter and allow a recall election:  the legislature should also consider other improvements.
  • A clear mechanism to impeach or recall the Mayor.  Put it in the charter, don't make it a single-shot event.
  • Mayoral term limits.  Let Mayors go out at their peak, clearly defining different epochs of urban history.
  • Aldermanic term limits.
  • Elected School Board 
  • Zoning decisions made by an elected Zoning board. Aldermen stay in office to make millions for their friends through zoning -- if we got rid of the corrupt backscratch tangle whereby the City council tends to accept the zoning suggestions of individual alderman in exchange for tacit support of the ready-wrapped consensus on the city council, we might attract the Aldermen who are genuine legislators, who contemplate the laws the pass.
  • Police Superintendent as an elected office.  Is it enough that the Chicago Police Department covered up a murder committed by Mayor Daley's nephew? Structurally, the Police Superintendent shields the Mayor from responsibility rather than taking personal responsibility: free the police from Mayoral politics and let them have their own politics.
  • Five Super-district presidents. It is unchallenging for a strong mayor to divide and conquer the fifty member city council, while it is too difficult for a viable challenger to come up through the system -- aldermen have too small a power-base.  Our flawed city charter necessitates abrasive and tough mayors, and creating multi-ward elected offices would create a countervailing force to an autocratic mayor, making the post more suited to a conciliatory leader rather than a dominant autocrat.

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