The government reform movement is gaining traction in some of America's biggest cities. Corruption investigations involving public officials in Chicago, Baltimore and Los Angeles have prompted changes, or proposed changes, to everything from campaign finance rules to the authority of individual city council members.
On Monday, Lori Lightfoot was sworn in as Chicago's new mayor and immediately called for changing the culture of what has long been considered one of the most corrupt cities in the country. In her inaugural address, Lightfoot acknowledged that "putting Chicago government and integrity in the same sentence is ... well ... a little strange."
"For years, they've said Chicago ain't ready for reform," she said. "Well, get ready because reform is here."
The former federal prosecutor's first action was to sign an executive order ending the practice of aldermanic prerogative, which gave each council member control over almost every action by a city department in his or her district. Also called aldermanic privilege, the issue came to the forefront earlier this year when longtime Alderman Edward Burke was charged with attempted extortion for allegedly trying to shake down two businessmen seeking to renovate a Burger King in his ward.
Lightfoot said aldermen would still have power to help people in their neighborhoods. "It simply means ending their unilateral, unchecked control over every single thing that goes on in their wards," the new mayor said. "Alderman will have a voice, not a veto."
Here are reforms being considered in other major cities:
Baltimore: The City Council is considering a proposal to allow for removal of the mayor with the approval of three-fourths of its members. Now, the mayor can only be removed after being convicted of a crime. The proposal, which would require approval by the council and then by voters in a referendum, was prompted by the initial refusal of Mayor Catherine Pugh to resign in the wake of a growing scandal over hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of books she wrote. Pugh, who had been on leave citing health problems, resigned May 2.
Los Angeles: A City Council committee gave initial approval in April to a ban on developers contributing to local elections if they have projects pending before the city. It is thought to be the first ban of its kind in the country. The full council will take up the issue Thursday, considering a motion that would direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance and for the convening of town hall meetings on the subject. The council is responding to an FBI investigation reportedly looking into evidence of bribery, extortion and money laundering involving real estate investors, city politicians and their aides.
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RepresentUs acquired 8,000 signatures on a petition asking Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to keep working on a "revolving door" bill. Paula Barkan, Austin chapter leader of RepresentUs, handed the petition to Brandon Simon, Cruz's Central Texas regional director, on July 31.
Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?
To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."
The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.
The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.
Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.
While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."