It was an overcast, gray day in Chicagoland that may have brightened up with Ald. Brendan Reilly’s appearance last evening at 6:30, in the Fairmont International Hotel Ballroom. I, for one attended the neighborhood meeting wanting to get to know my alderman up close and personal.
Brendan Reilly has been the alderman of the 42nd Ward for three and a half years, so he was in office a little over six months when I moved to Chicago. There are seven neighborhoods that make up my ward: Streeterville, Near North, Gold Coast, River North, New East Side, Fullerton River District, and the Loop. A constituency of 100,000 people in downtown Chicago.
After introductions, Alderman Reilly got right down to business. The word “mayor” kept coming up, so he began by describing what attributes he thought the next mayor should possess.
The man or woman in charge should be a coalition builder. A chief executive, able to crunch numbers. Work with a fresh cabinet. Shrink the government to one we can afford. Results-oriented, (he emphasized we don’t need celebrities to come in and run this city). Able to maintain the infrastructure. Work with the police department. And, they must definitely decrease the $655 million deficit.
The alderman highlighted the city budget, candidly addressing pertinent issues in addition to making recommendations. Reilly was quick to point out he was one of 12 aldermen who voted against Mayor Daley’s new budget.
Some of the issues discussed to relieve the heavy dollars on the budget were Real Estate Property Transaction Taxes which are down 80 percent due to the low sale of homes in this slow market; Zero Base budgeting, a method of efficiently balancing the budget that used to be implemented by the state but is no longer used; reducing overlap in jobs, duties, and responsibilities, as well as consolidating and merging smaller departments.
Most of our budget is allotted to public safety, some 70 percent, which needs immediate attention. Health care also took a place in the forefront, with Ald. Reilly advocating the creation of satellite health care clinics transferred under the control of Cook County Health.
Additional budget items include procuring big dollars in government grants available to the city; shrinking the city car fleet; reviewing the outsourcing of legal work by the city; and better managing our revenue streams of money coming in. Ald. Reilly also touched on Blanket Waiver Fees, plus TIF, (Tax Increment Financing) Districts.
That takes care of the budget. Other items on the agenda included the Children’s Museum, an elementary school in Lake Shore East, the “New Eastside” School, and cleaning the lower streets, sidewalks, and undeveloped lots.
Commissioner Kennedy, of the first police district, (everything south of the river), was introduced to the audience. Ald. Reilly commended Kennedy for being very responsive, having given 1100 citations since the beginning of summer.
As for privatizing lake front festivals and other city events, during the Q&A Session, Ald. Reilly responded that he cannot comment on Mayor Daley’s plans to privatize because he has not seen the plans yet. However, Reilly is not sure the city will receive a substantial savings, adding that he is not a big fan of privatizing which causes the city government to lose control.
Finally, after many “shout outs” calling for him to talk about running for mayor, Ald. Reilly revealed, much to everyone’s dismay, that he has decided not to run. He says, “You never completely close a door, but I love my job as alderman downtown and I’m running for re-election.”
Here are a few things to consider: the handsome alderman recently got married. With a smile, he mentioned a mayoral run and time in office isn’t good on a new marriage. Got ya! Good point. He alerted Chitown residents of the 42nd Ward what the new mayor will be up against, which was a lot. He or she will be an unpopular mayor, with a monumental task of trying to get the support of his cabinet, in a city burdened with an astronomical deficit, in office trying to muster up the majority 26 or so votes they will need as mayor to get things done. It’s a daunting task for anyone.
In any event, his re-election bid is underway as alderman, but I wouldn’t count him out of the running for mayor yet. I have a strange suspicion we will be seeing more of this young Chicago politician; maybe when he’s done all he can as our alderman and there’s no place for him to go but to City Hall as mayor.
More on Ald. Brendan Reilly here and here.