A clear answer is needed
09/30/2009 10:00 PM
One of the items on the deferred agenda of the September meeting of the Committee on Zoning was a zoning change needed for massive new student dorm proposed for Van Buren and Wabash.
The developer backing the plan has yet to receive a formal commitment that any of the Loop-based colleges and universities will send their students to live there, so Ald. Robert Fioretti is blocking the proposal from even being considered by members of the zoning committee, of which he is not a member.
The move is the right one, as developers should not receive spot zoning changes for project proposals that could be described as hopeful at best and fuzzy at worst.
What’s perplexing, however, is how the alderman squares his ability to block such changes with his sense of “aldermanic prerogative.” He calls the term “nebulous” in this week’s paper. Under oath, in federal court, Fioretti defined aldermanic prerogative as “nothing more than an acknowledgment that the ward alderman knows his or her ward better than anyone else,” as Judge Ronald Guzman wrote in issuing an injunction prohibiting Fioretti from using aldermanic prerogative from interfering in labor negotiations between the Congress Plaza Hotel and the hotel worker’s union, Local 1.
Fioretti insists anyone who wants a sidewalk café can submit an ordinance for one, and allow the transportation committee to make a ruling on the application. Members of that committee can decided what they want, he said.
But we all know if there’s no signature on the application, there’s no permit.
This is what aldermanic prerogative is all about: the ability to control the micro, ward-level issues while Mayor Daley makes policy with little check from council members.
Maybe the blame here goes to the Congress. Fioretti’s verbal contortions are forced, in a sense, by their lawsuit. One would hope had the suit never been filed (perhaps if the hotel would settle, in good faith, with the striking workers) Fioretti wouldn’t answer questions about aldermanic prerogative by essentially denying the power exists.
When an alderman blocks zoning changes on the one hand and then claims aldermanic prerogative is nebulous and undefined on the other, constituents can be forgiven if they’re skeptical. And perhaps even incredulous. We are. Judge Guzman certainly was.