Thursday, July 27, 2006

Chicago alderman inside their boxes: Thinking of themselves

While yesterday's passing of Chicago's "big box" living wage ordinance was the major local news story--and it's gotten pretty heavy play nationally--one story got buried. Chicago's alderman voted themselves pay raise for themselves yesterday, (free registration may be required to access the link).

As for the "big box" bill, the unions no longer bother denying that they've threatened to run opponents against the soon-to-be-a-little wealthier aldercreatures if they voted "wrong" on "big box."

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Aldermen had made commitments to organized labor months ago. They were not about to renege -- and test labor's threat to run candidates against sitting aldermen.

Today's John Kass column in the Chicago Tribune is a work of brilliance. Here is an excerpt, and yes, free registration may be required:

As public policy, the big-box ordinance is certainly unconstitutional. It is an insidious attempt by Chicago politicians to squeeze businesses that hoped to open new markets--particularly underserved minority neighborhoods--while providing tax revenue and thousands of desperately needed jobs to unskilled workers, many of them black and Latino.

"I've got these white liberals telling me what's good for my community. But this big-box thing will cost black people jobs," Ald. Ike Carothers (29th) told me during Wednesday's pontifications.

"If I put out a notice that there were 500 jobs waiting in my ward--what Wal-Mart was offering for each store--you'd see a line of people from my ward all the way to Mississippi. People want jobs. That's it."

Eventually, Wednesday's histrionics will cost taxpayers even more money, once lawyers start generating billable hours. Ultimately, the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, requiring equal protection under the law, should trump the council's economic populism.

Sure it'd be illegal, but it would be a fair ending to this tale if the 35 alderman who voted for the "big box" wage bill were forced to pay the legal bills resulting from "big box" out of their own salaries. After all, they just voted themselves a raise.

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