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Losing Aldermanic Privilege, and How Unprepared Illinois Is for the Next Recession

Plus, an unsurprising we-told-you-so on Cook County property taxes, and a plea from Rockford.

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What’s up this week? Well, in Chicago, our new mayor was sworn in Monday. In her inaugural speech, Mayor Lori Lightfoot vowed to end aldermanic privilege in city government, which she defined as an alderman’s “unilateral, unchecked control” over ward matters — and an issue we’ve been reporting on for a while now. Ending that aldermanic privilege is hardly an easy task, of course. The question now is: Will Lightfoot’s efforts actually shift the City Council’s deeply ingrained political structure of favor-trading to change the way it actually works? TBD. We’ll keep you posted, though.

One more point about Lightfoot: When she announced her picks for City Council committee chairs, she also proposed some new committees, such as one that would focus on minority- and women-owned businesses. Here’s a bit more analysis on Lightfoot’s proposed committee changes via our reporter Mick Dumke. But if you want to step back a bit before digging into that, I suggest you start here:

In other news — there’s so much news! Here’s a look:

  • No surprises here, but Illinois is very unprepared for the next recession, according to a new Moody’s Investors Service report. But look on the bright side, we get to go down hand-in-hand with New Jersey, the Illinois of the East Coast.
  • Speaking of our state’s massive debt and unfunded pensions, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently announced a $41.5 billion capital spending plan to help with that, which involves doubling the gas tax and financing transportation and other building projects around the state. Here’s a brief on the plan.
  • But Pritzker’s capital plan seems to ignore Rockford, the state’s third-largest city, as longtime Rockford Register Star writer Chuck Sweeny points out. Sweeny, who worked for the Register Star since 1984, died Monday, shortly after filing this column. It’s a good and important read, so, read it.
  • Oh, and some Republican state lawmakers are still actively trying to kick Chicago out of the state, which was apparently a story sparkly enough to catch the eye of The Washington Post this week.
  • Not gonna say “we told you so,” but … results are in from an audit of the Cook County Assessor’s Office, requested by new Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi. From the audit: “The task ahead is monumental, and the financial and resource commitment for modernization is substantial.” … We told you so.

What else?

Our Driven Into Debt and Stuck Kids investigations were finalists for the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards for Investigative Reporting. Awards are nice, but here’s a reminder from our reporter Melissa Sanchez of why we do what we do:

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