Automatic pay raises haven’t stopped Chicago’s corruption: NPR

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Three Chicago aldermen face criminal charges in federal court, and since the start of 2019, nine current or former Chicago aldermen have been charged or investigated for bribery, racketeering and tax evasion.

John Walton – EMPICS / PA Images via Getty Images


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John Walton – EMPICS / PA Images via Getty Images


Three Chicago aldermen face criminal charges in federal court, and since the start of 2019, nine current or former Chicago aldermen have been charged or investigated for bribery, racketeering and tax evasion.

John Walton – EMPICS / PA Images via Getty Images

This week, 45 of the 50 aldermen in the city of Chicago agreed to a 5.5% pay rise to bring their highest paid annual salary to $ 130,000.

The pay rise is automatic and tied to inflation – which, as we heard in that same program, is on the rise. This is a reform that prevents aldermen from increasing their own salaries. It also frees them from having to defend their pay increases when they run for re-election.

What has made this year’s increase controversial is that three aldermen are now facing criminal charges in federal court, and since the start of 2019, nine current or former Chicago aldermen have been indicted or charged. have been investigated for corruption, racketeering and tax evasion.

As a proud Chicago resident, I note that the investigated and indicted aldermen are an inclusive group, white, black, and Hispanic, spanning the entire political spectrum, from the centrist Democrat to the Democratic Socialist Democrat.

There would be Republicans in Chicago. But they can be as rare as the endangered brush-tailed bettong, although bettongs may be easier to find, in the Small Mammal-Reptile House at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Editorials and commentators criticized the aldermen for accepting salary increases.

David Greising, director of the Better Government Association, a non-partisan Chicago investigative group where, I must say, I started out in journalism by rummaging through a politician’s garbage cans, told us, “ municipal pensions are a failure. The mayor has just signed rich contracts with the police and teachers. With offices half empty, restaurants and theaters gloomy or gloomy, economic disparities greater than ever, now is not the time for aldermen to grant themselves salary increases … “

Aldermen are the link between Chicagoans and city departments. Their days are filled with permit applications, hearings, police meetings and garbage collection programs. Nights are booked with community groups, and if a city councilor goes to the Lincoln Square North Neighbors Meeting one evening, the Heart of Lincoln Square Neighbors Association still expects to see them the next day.

When it snows, phones in their pockets vibrate late into the night with calls from voters expecting their streets to be shoveled and trash hauled in the morning.

It was the hope of many reformers that increasing the salaries of aldermen might lessen the thirst for corruption among public officials. But since 1973, when many reforms began, around thirty Chicago aldermen have pleaded guilty or have been convicted of corruption. Maybe they should try and do something against the Chicago wind.


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