Public works projects totaling nearly $1 billion, including an expansion of O'Hare International Airport, were held hostage yesterday in a fight between Mayor Harold Washington and 29 Chicago aldermen.
"The two sides are like maddened dogs with fangs bared," said Thomas Roeser, president of the 600-member City Club of Chicago, which includes some of the city's most prominent citizens.
Washington, the city's first black mayor, has been opposed by a 29-member majority bloc of aldermen since he assumed office last year. He fired the latest salvo Wednesday by vetoing $826 million in public works projects, including the O'Hare expansion.
His opposition, led by Alderman Edward R. Vrdolyak, chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, countered Thursday by submitting to the mayor a planned $101 million bond issue to repair streets, sewers and buildings, plus an amendment to give the council control over contracts.
The amendment, which would change the way City Hall has done business since the two-decade reign of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, is the crux of the flap. Washington contends foes are trying to "bring the city to its knees."
The amendment, giving the council control over contracts worth more than $50,000, also was tacked onto the $826 million in public works projects.