City Council Committee approves ethics reforms that could impact Ald. Burke

Chicago's longest-serving alderman is already under indictment on federal corruption charges.

However, Ed Burke may soon be forced to choose between his city council seat and his multi-million dollar, outside law practice.

A city council committee late Wednesday approved ethics reforms that would ban Burke, and any other alderman, from making money by cutting taxes for the rich.

It would have been inconceivable just a few months ago. 

“We should all be very proud that we've come to this moment,” said Ald. Michele Smith, 43th Ward.

The reforms package now moves to the full city council, which could vote on it as soon as next week. 

Federal prosecutors sidelined two of the biggest obstacles to reform, indicting longtime floor leader Ald. Ed Burke. He's made tens of millions of dollars getting big tax breaks for the wealthy, including for President Trump's Trump Tower.  

FBI agents also recently raided the offices of another veteran power broker, Ald. Carrie Austin. 

 “As we see new people and this new administration, Mayor Lightfoot come in here and lay down the law and say, ‘this is what taxpayers have been expecting for a long time,’ it feels good,” said Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd Ward.

In addition to banning aldermen from outside employment that would "affect the relative tax burden" of homeowners, the reforms empower Inspector General Joe Ferguson for the first time to audit, investigate and subpoena council members.

While some alderman are still pressing for a last-minute rewrite of the proposed ethics reforms, Wednesday’s unanimous committee vote was a powerful sign they're likely to become law.  

At that point, Ald. Burke would have 90 days to quit his law practice or quit the council.