Former Governor Pat Quinn brought his referendum campaign to term limit the mayor of Chicago to the city’s West Side Wednesday.
Quinn spoke with elders and community residents at the Austin Senior Satellite Center, 5071 W. Congress Pkwy. Quinn, a resident of Galewood, which is located in northwest Austin, launched his petition drive, which he’s calling “Take Charge Chicago,” last month, collecting about 3,000 signatures so far. He signed up about two-dozen more at the Senior Center.
Chicago is the only major city in the United States that does not term limit its mayor, Quinn said, citing New York, Los Angeles and Houston among the cities that do. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s fractious tenure is a driving force behind the referendum campaign, Quinn noted.
“There’s only one big city that doesn’t have term limits on the mayor, and we’re right here in Chicago,” he said, criticizing Emanuel’s 2016 budget that included a property tax hike and trash collection fee.
To ensure success, Quinn’s targeting 100,000 signatures for the term limit referendum, more than half of what’s needed to get it placed on the 2018 ballot, one year before the next mayoral contest. Chicago’s mayor would be limited to two four-year terms only.
In Illinois, Springfield, Lombard and Naperville are among the cities with mayoral term limits, Quinn said.
The former governor is also pursuing another referendum, this one to create a “consumer advocate” elected position in Chicago, replacing the City Hall appointed post by the mayor. The city, Quinn said, needs a “strong advocate for everyday people when it comes to taking on big corporations.”
The Austin Senior Center is run by activist group South Austin Coalition Community Council (SACCC), which also supports the term limit referendum.
West Side state Rep. LaShawn Ford (8th), who joined Quinn at the center Wednesday, said he’ll back the term limit referendum.
Ford proposed legislation last December to recall Emanuel over his handling of the Laquan McDonald police shooting case, including signing off on a $5 million settlement to the victim’s family in April of last year, shortly after the mayoral run-off election that Emanuel narrowly won.
“It’s clear to me that we can’t have another term with this administration,” said Ford, whose recall bill has stalled in the General Assembly, currently assigned to the Rules that Committee as of January of this year.
“Recalling the mayor is going to be much more difficult than getting term limits. But the term limits drive will really put the pressure on people to get what they want,” Ford said.
Quinn’s no stranger to this kind of shake-up-the-establishment grassroots activism.
In the early 1980s, he led the effort to create the watchdog Citizen’s Utility Board, and to pass a state constitutional amendment to reduce the Illinois House of Representatives from 177 members to 118. In the 1970s, Quinn was successful in getting a referendum on the ballot that stopped state lawmakers from receiving their entire year’s salary in one lump sum payment, a practice that dated back nearly a century.
Quinn, a former state treasurer and lieutenant governor, has been mostly out of the spotlight after narrowly losing to Bruce Rauner in 2014. The former governor is optimistic that’s there’s enough support to get a term limit ballot measure approved by voters.
“These mayor’s think they’re there forever,” he said. “In Chicago, we have some problems and we need to address them. One way to do that is to tell the mayor–you got two terms, eight years and get the job done.”
Former Gov. Pat Quinn on possible opposition by Mayor Emanuel to his term limit referendum
Quinn talking about building support for the Chicago mayoral term limit referendum