Watching the aldermen
07/03/2012 10:00 PM
The late 43rd Ward Ald. Paddy Bauler once so eloquently stated, “Chicago ain’t ready for reform.” But Lincoln Parker Faisal Khan begs to differ.
Khan is the city’s new legislative inspector general, hired in November to be a watchdog over the City Council. His immediate goal is to be accessible, take complaints, and conduct investigations, and he encourages “anyone and everyone,” to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by his office at 740 N. Sedgwick St.
“I’m here to help,” said Khan, a 38-year-old former criminal prosecutor and assistant district attorney from New York who moved here in fall 2010 with the intent of opening his own law firm. “Every case, every allegation will be reviewed, whether they are of merit or not.
“I urge people to come forward — I want them to have every opportunity to find me and come talk to me,” said Khan, whose biggest goal is changing public perception about oversight in government and making sure Chicagoans’ voices are heard. “I want to have a place where people can come and talk about what’s going on with their elected officials.”
What’s noteworthy about Khan is that he has no ties to Chicago, other than a handful of friends and the fact that he got engaged to his wife — a neuropsychologist with a clinic in New York — at the Signature Room. He has no relatives here, knew no aldermen, and knew zilch about the ward system.
So how was a guy like that hired in a city like this? Khan was hand-picked by a six-person, blue ribbon committee. There were 140 people who applied for the gig, and that number was narrowed down to 30.
“Out of the 30, those poor suckers picked me,” he joked.
He actually happened upon the job after reading a newspaper editorial slamming the “fake,” and “pretend” legislative inspector general position and the ordinance’s restrictive rules, which could keep people from filing complaints. The piece also mentioned the City Council was moving ahead with plans to fill the “pretend” position.
“I have the experience and background,” said Khan. “I thought, ‘Let’s throw my name in this.’
“I had concerns knowing what I already knew about Chicago that this position would be a legitimate one,” confessed Khan, whose four-year contract provides a budget of $60,000 annually, which includes a part-time, contractual salary and running his office, which he does solo.
Yet, “I have the opportunity to build a city department from scratch,” said Khan, who put in a request for additional funding that may have been voted on at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “It’s an incredible opportunity. I want to make sure I create something that’s long-lasting and successful.”
Now I know some of you are probably laughing your butts off at the mere thought of policing our aldermen. You’re thinking it’s hogwash, and just can’t be done. But Khan swears matters will be investigated timely and efficiently, (BTW, he’s looking for interns from law schools or colleges) and he said he’s “working as much as I can with as many resources as I can.
“Even if I fail miserably at what I do, my goal will be to have a zero tolerance and get people to believe there is oversight in this government,” he said.
So what does this serious kind of guy do for fun? “I love exploring Chicago, reading, and sports including football and baseball,” said Khan.
So I asked where his sports team loyalties will lie, with Chicago, or the Big Apple?
“That’s gonna get me in trouble,” laughed Khan. “That will not endear me to the folks of Chicago, so I will leave that question be. But I do love my Yankees and my Giants.”