Mayor Harold Washington and jubilant aides prepared today to take control of the Chicago City Council, promising to move swiftly on appointments and other issues long stalled by an entrenched opposition led by Cook County Democratic Chairman Edward R. Vrdolyak.
But Vrdolyak, who lost his majority on the council Tuesday when two Washington-backed candidates won runoffs in aldermanic races, made it clear he will continue to fight many of the mayor's priorities.
The elections Tuesday left the council split 25-25 between the Washington and Vrdolyak forces. The mayor has the power to break ties.
"We're not gloating or full of recriminations," Washington told reporters. "We have work to do."
He said his priorities are "appointments, ethics, budgets, fiscal policy." The mayor is seeking a rise in real estate taxes to help close a projected $100 million-plus budget shortfall this year.
In a prepared statement, Vrdolyak asserted that while he and his forces are the "loyal opposition," they remain "ready to work with [Washington] and his council supporters on programs that will benefit the city. . . . "
But he signaled that plenty of discord lies ahead. "We're against any other taxes," he told Chicago reporters. "We don't need them, and I'm opposed."
More than 40 of Washington's top appointments to powerful agencies remain bottled up in committee. These boards and commissions, such as the Chicago Park District, control thousands of patronage jobs.
But a fight is shaping up over reporting these nominations out of commmittees dominated by Vrdolyak forces. "If you control the committees, you control the flow," Washington said.
Final, unofficial results in two aldermanic ward runoff elections Tuesday showed the mayor's candidates resoundingly defeated candidates backed by Vrdolyak.
In the redrawn South Side 15th Ward, Marlene Carter rang up 65 percent of the vote to Alderman Frank Brady's 35 percent. Carter, who is black, benefited from the court-ordered redistricting of the ward, which raised black representation to 75 percent.
In the 26th Ward, a predominantly Puerto Rican area, Washington's candidate, Luis Gutierrez took 53 percent of the vote to 47 percent for the Vrdolyak candidate, Manuel Torres.
Carter, 41, and Gutierrez, 35, are scheduled to be sworn in on May 14.