By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
Former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is pushing forward to establish a referendum that would limit the mayor of Chicago to two terms in office.
He stopped by the Chicago Crusader office for a one-hour interview, Tuesday, August 15, where he spoke about his “Take Back Chicago” campaign, an initiative he says would prevent “wealthy insiders” from becoming corrupt, career politicians.
Currently, mayors of large cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia are limited to just two terms in office. Quinn believes the same should be for Chicago’s highest office. Chicago has never had a law that imposes term limits on the mayor’s position. In June, Quinn launched a petition to obtain 100,000 signatures so the issue could be placed on the November 8 ballot as a referendum.
The deadline to collect that many signatures has passed, but Quinn is aiming to put the issue before voters in the March 2018 election, one year before Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s second term in office expires. With calls for Emanuel to step down because of the Laquan McDonald case, Quinn’s campaign is resonating with many residents in Chicago. So far, he has collected 20,000 signatures. With two years to get 80,000 signatures, Quinn is optimistic that he will reach his goal.
“There should be a limit on how long the mayor should serve,” Quinn told the Crusader. “It’s not fair for the people of Chicago.”
Emanuel was reelected to a second term in 2015 after surviving a heated runoff against Cook County Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” García. Emanuel’s predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley, became the longest serving mayor after he was reelected five times from 1989 to 2011. Although he was a popular mayor, Daley was often criticized for giving city contracts to family, personal friends, and political allies. His father, Richard J. Daley, was mayor of Chicago for 21 years from 1955 to 1976.
Emanuel has been portrayed as the “One percent mayor,” as big developers and businessmen continue to benefit under his leadership. With Chicago’s spiraling homeless population, school crisis and the city’s lack of affordable housing, many activists have for years challenged the mayor to help the poor.
“The best way to address the challenges facing the city is more democracy, not less,” Quinn said. “That’s why I’m launching the ‘Take Charge Chicago’ campaign to put two referendums on the ballot: a term limit on Chicago mayors and creation of a Chicago Consumer Advocate.”
Quinn said the Consumer Advocate would be an independent watchdog elected by voters instead of being appointed by the mayor. Quinn said the Consumer Advocate could fight for drinking water, consumers, apartment renters and students.
Since current Governor Bruce Rauner was elected in 2014, Quinn has largely kept a low profile. When asked of his future plans in politics, Quinn said, “I’m just focusing on getting this referendum to the voters of Chicago.