Illinois residents are always skeptical of their elected officials. And with two of the last four governors sentenced to prison, they’ve had good reason to not trust much.
The skepticism isn’t going away now that 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke is charged with attempted extortion for allegedly trying to direct business to his private law firm from a company attempting to renovate a Burger King restaurant in his ward.
A complaint also accuses Burke of asking the company to attend a political fundraiser for another politician, which reports said was Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, a mayoral candidate.
Preckwinkle has agreed to return over $100,000 in campaign donations from Burke. She has also called for Burke to resign from the City Council.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Burke resigned as chairman of City Council Committee on Finance.
Burke’s attorney has maintained his client’s innocence, but as troubling as the accusations are, voters should be grateful this has all occurred before the Feb. 26 municipal election. The more we know, the better.
Burke has been alderman of the 14th Ward for five decades. Mayoral candidate Bill Daley has called for aldermen to be restricted to three terms and making the office of alderman a full-time job in order to prohibit outside income, and he has proposed shrinking the number of aldermen from 50 to 15.
He also wants to end “aldermen’s privilege,” having the final say in building and zoning decisions in their wards.
Those proposals seem reasonable, although they would likely have difficulty becoming a reality considering that aldermen would have to approve placing a referendum on the ballot.
Some of Daley’s other recent moves and proposals haven’t seemed so reasonable. He wants to rename the Dan Ryan Expressway after Barack Obama, which some see as a patronizing way to earn votes from the black community.
In November, the Chicago Tribune requested four years of full tax returns from mayoral candidates in order to detail income, as well as financial interests and potential conflicts of interest as they campaign for mayor. Of the 15 still in the race, six complied. Daley provided partial information from 2017 and said “Every year is the same.”
Voters deserve to know as much as possible about candidates as the election draws near, and those seeking office should support efforts to make that happen.