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An Accountability Moment for Chicago

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Reprinted from The Nation

Evidence of police misconduct demands federal oversight. And citizens need tools for holding Mayor Rahm Emanuel and others to account.

From youtube.com/watch?v=8AOJV-sFPIQ: Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy fired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy fired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel
(Image by MMW DMR)
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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."

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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 toolkit for holding mayors and city council members to account -- just as it lacks term limits for Emanuel and other top officials.

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