Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is facing calls for inquiries, shakeups and even his resignation as he tries to address what a Chicago Sun-Times analysis on Tuesday described as “racial tensions brought to a boil by the Laquan McDonald shooting video.”
The mayor, a political careerist who long ago mastered the art of pointing the finger of blame at others, has already fired the police superintendent amid a national outcry over the long-suppressed video of a white police officer shooting an African-American teenager 16 times. Removing Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy is a significant move. But it will not be enough. The calls for Emanuel’s resignation are being voiced loudly enough, and consistently enough, that the mayor was forced to address them at the Tuesday press conference where he announced the removal of the superintendent. But Emanuel had no good answer. He simply responded with a curt, “Thank you.”
So what are citizens to do?
Unlike many cities, where voters can petition for a recall election and remove a mayor, neither the city of Chicago nor the state of Illinois has established clear provisions for dismissing a mayor before the end of his or her term. That’s a notable omission, as Chicago Tribune cartoonist Scott Stantis illustrated by showing Emanuel at a Thanksgiving table announcing “…and I’m thankful Chicago doesn’t have mayoral recall.”
“Seriously, a state that is corrupt and seemingly proud of it has no laws to impeach or recall crooked pols,” Stantis notes with regard to local officials.
Stantis makes a key point. The website Ballotpedia explains that, with the exception of a narrow provision for recalling governors, enacted in 2010 after officials and citizens had struggled to figure out how to remove scandal-plagued Governor Rod Blagojevich, “the Illinois Constitution does not specifically address recall of local officials.” While one Illinois city, Buffalo Grove, has experimented with a local recall provision, Chicago lacks an adequate tool kit for holding mayors and city council members to account—just as it lacks term limits for Emanuel and other top officials.