CHICAGO (AP) - Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn kicked off a signature drive Sunday to impose a two-term limit on Chicago’s mayor and create a citywide elected consumer advocate position.
The binding referendums could be on ballots as early as November or in the 2018 cycle, meaning there’s potential to make Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel ineligible to seek a third term in 2019.
Quinn insisted his effort wasn’t aimed at any individual, and getting nearly 53,000 valid signatures before an Aug. 8 deadline for November’s ballot would be challenging. He explained how he got his start in petition drives - including laying the groundwork for the Citizens Utility Board - and wanted to give residents a way to bypass the mayor and City Council.
“Part of my mission in life is not to sit on the sidelines, but to try and organize movements and give people a greater say in their government,” he said. “It’s a way to let fresh air in and let the people into City Hall.”
The proposed consumer advocate would act as an independent watchdog, replacing a similar position appointed by the mayor.
Emanuel, who faced a tense 2015 re-election bid, has experienced increasing discontent among residents. Protesters have called for his resignation in the wake of the shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager shot 16 times by a white police officer. The city refused to release video of the 2014 shooting until a judge ordered it.
Emanuel’s spokesman didn’t immediately have comment.
Chicago - unlike other major U.S. cities including Los Angeles and New York - doesn’t have mayoral term limits. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley served for 22 years.
Sunday’s event was classic populist Quinn, who’s led petition drives since the 1970s, including one to pass a constitutional amendment to reduce the size of the Illinois House. He offered a history lesson invoking the nation’s Founding Fathers and trotted out his rickety ironing board for supporters to use to sign petitions while the cameras rolled. He then signed it himself.
Quinn, who once served on the Cook County Board of Tax Appeals, was state treasurer and lieutenant governor. He became governor in 2009 after Rod Blagojevich was removed from office. Quinn was elected to a full term in 2010 and ousted by Republican businessman Bruce Rauner in 2014.
Quinn wouldn’t say what groups he’s coordinating with. If the measure doesn’t come before voters in November, it could be on the ballots during the 2018 gubernatorial election.
He refused to answer if he’d seek public office again. Quinn has recently been making the rounds at political events, fueling talk that he’s wants to throw his hat in the ring again.
“I’ve run for office before,” Quinn said. “We’ll see about the future.”
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