By PATRICK BUTLER Staff Writer
Don't expect the new crop of aldermen to be pushovers. But at the same time don't expect another Council Wars either, a sampling of veteran aldermen agreed after their nine new City Council colleagues were sworn in last week.
Reactions ranged from 50th Ward Alderman Bernard Stone's belief that the City Council is already as independent as anyone wants it to be to 26th Ward Alderman Billy Ocasio's argument that "we need to stir things up" even more.
"There was terrific debate on affordable housing and Big Box (proposal) and in the end, the council voted against the mayor on Big Box. I don't know what you'd expect beyond what we've had," said Stone, 80, the longest-serving alderman with 34 years under his belt.
Most, however, were somewhere in the middle.
"I think we're going to see more aldermen willing to speak out. Many of the new aldermen don't owe the mayor anything. They got elected on their own, or with the support of labor," said Alderman Joe Moore, 49th. But while the mayor is still a potent political force, "he doesn't have the armies of campaign workers he once had," said Moore, an alderman since 1991.
"It's going to be different," said Alderman Helen Shiller, 46th, but not with the kind of fireworks some observers have predicted. While the new crop of aldermen are raising different issues, "they're serious about learning their jobs and being effective. And 90 percent of what we do is responding to people on a day-to-day basis.
"I think it's going to be more my kind of thoughtfulness," said Shiller, a 20-year council veteran.
Aldermen Dick Mell, 33rd, and Tom Tunney, 44th, agreed.
"Some of the new aldermen will have what I consider their non-negotiables. However, in terms of their own wards, I truly believe they will be as responsive as they can to the people who put them in office, whether it be the community groups or organized labor," said Tunney, an alderman for the past five years.
While some of the new aldermen "came in fighting against the (regular Democratic) organization, and I think they will probably be concerned about issues that go beyond their wards," they seem to realize they're housekeepers as well as lawmakers, said Mell, a survivor of 32 years in the council. "During the welcoming presentation Alderman Ed Burke, 14th, and I held for the new aldermen, I told them that if they think all they are is legislators, they're only going to be serving one term."
"I think they'll put the city ahead of everything else, but I do think there will be a lot more creativity. I think some of them (the newcomers) are going to be coming up with some really original ideas. I think they're going to be a breath of fresh air," predicts Alderman Gene Schulter, 47th, who joined the council the same year as Mell.
But nobody last week was predicting another Council Wars reminiscent of the parliamentary bloodletting that marked much of the Harold Washington years.
Not even Alderman Ocasio, a 14-year council member who pushed to expand the affordable housing set aside ordinance last month to the chagrin of Mayor Richard Daley, sponsor of the ordinance.
"I hope the new council speaks its mind and its conscience. If that leads to confrontation, it leads to confrontation."
And in the unlikely event of another council wars?
"It might be fun," he said.