Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) says she isn’t upset Mayor Daley didn’t select her as chairman of the Chicago City Council’s Police and Fire Committee, which is one of the more powerful committees of the Chicago City Council. Daley instead tapped Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) to head that committee, but Mitts didn’t come out empty handed.
Daley picked her as the new chairwoman of the council’s Landmarks Committee, which Beale is leaving. Mitts said she was “delighted and excited” about her new position, and she isn’t angry about being passed over.
“I like to take baby steps anyway,” said Mitts. “I’m going into unknown territory.”
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), who leads the council’s Black Caucus, had recommended Mitts and four other black aldermen to Daley as possible candidates to chair the Police and Fire Committee, which was left vacant when Ike Carothers resigned his 29th Ward aldermanic seat. Burnett said it was important for an African-American alderman to head the committee for some obvious reasons — including the alleged police torture of black suspects that took place under then-commander Jon Burge and the Fire Department’s spotty record of hiring and promoting blacks.
“We have more challenges in relationship to crime and police than any other community, so it will be good to have someone in the committee who’s sensitive to some of those things,” said Burnett.
In addition to Mitts, Burnett had recommended aldermen Leslie Hairston (5th), Michelle Harris (8th), Beale and Willie Cochran (20th). Mitts and Harris were the only recommendations who currently have a seat on the Police and Fire Committee, but Burnett said he didn’t believe that would have helped their chances of winning Daley’s appointment.
“Isaac Carothers was chairman of the committee, and he didn’t have seniority,” said Burnett. “[Daley] just picked him, so the mayor will do what he does. How he’ll do it, no one knows. But at the same time, we feel that if you don’t ask, you don’t get considered.”
According to the City Council’s rules of order, aldermen are supposed to decide who chairs the various City Council committees: “The membership of Aldermen on standing committees, and the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of such committees, shall be determined by the City Council by resolution duly adopted.”
But aldermen have long yielded that power to the mayor, who gets to decide who sits on what committee sometimes just hours before it goes up for a vote in the City Council.