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Mayoral Candidate Rahm Emanuel Calls for Ethics Reform

Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel on Thursday presented a list of ethics reforms he will bring to Chicago if elected mayor.

Standing alongside him as he talked about cleaning up the city’s image was David Hoffman — the corruption-fighting inspector general who often embarrassed Mayor Richard Daley by calling for new ethics rules.

Emanuel said he wanted to “change the culture” of corruption and cronyism at City Hall.

“People want to turn the page,” Emanuel said. “If I am elected, on Day One we’re turning the page. The tone you set at the top is very important.”

Emanuel’s campaign staff distributed a list of reforms in his proposed ethics package.

As mayor, Emanuel would require city employees to wait two years after leaving their city jobs before lobbying their former colleagues. He would strengthen the office of the inspector general, a job Hoffman once held, to extend oversight to the city’s park district and public buildings. The inspector general’s office would also get a bigger budget.

Emanuel said he would make the human resources department more professional and transparent. He also promised to strengthen the city’s board of ethics.

Emanuel pledged to stop accepting campaign contributions from city lobbyists. Under his ethics rules, everyone who participates in the zoning process — including aldermen — would be required to disclose their own or their family members’ conflicts of interest.

“I will sign an executive order on Day One to implement my ethics reforms,” Emanuel said.

Hoffman was asked if he was endorsing Emanuel by joining him in his call for ethics reform. He responded, “One step at a time. Endorsements are about politics. Today, for me, is about substance. We’ll deal with the future in the future.”

Emanuel, laughing, said, “Today is the second day of Hannukah. David will endorse me on the eighth day of Hannukah.”

Earlier this year, Hoffman was said to be considering a run for mayor. He finished in second place in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama.

“Rahm’s public commitment to a tough and wide-ranging ethics plan has convinced me that, if elected, he will be a strong and effective mayor on reform issues,” Hoffman said.

By offering up his proposed ethics reforms, Emanuel strongly implied that City Hall has not been as clean and transparent as he would like. Nevertheless, he was careful not to criticize Daley, whose endorsement he is seeking.

“What I’ve proposed clearly would turn the page and bring a new era of transparency, accountability and end business as usual in city government. I’m about looking forward. I’m about setting standards,” he said.

Emanuel said that when he was elected to Congress in 2005, he introduced new ethics laws.

He also said that while he served in the House of Representatives, he put his proposed legislative earmarks on his website. He noted that his earmarks provided only for public improvements, such as programs for the Chicago Public Schools or upgrades in roads. “I never once requested an earmark to help out a private company,” he said.

Emanuel also said that when he left public service under the administration of former President Bill Clinton, he turned down lobbyist jobs and declined to write a book to capitalize on his time in the White House. Instead, he said, he went into the private sector.

Earlier this week, another mayoral challenger, Gery Chico, proposed banning no-bid contracts, eliminating the Board of Ethics and Office of Compliance and shifting their resources to a single inspector general who would be empowered to investigate aldermen.

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