PI Original Anthony Burke Boylan Thursday April 10th, 2014, 9:47am

Chicago City Council's Progressive Reform Coalition Raising Funds To Be 'More Active & Efficient'

The Progressive Reform Coalition will have something of a coming out party Thursday night with a fundraiser designed to introduce itself to the public and raise money to be a more active and more efficient force in city politics. Progress Illinois takes a look at what the caucus is hoping to accomplish with the additional funds.

The Progressive Reform Coalition (PRC) will have something of a coming out party Thursday night with a fundraiser designed to introduce itself to the public and raise money to be a more active and efficient force in city politics.

About a year after its creation, the caucus of nine aldermen formed to lead action on issues from pension reform to city budget transparency will hold its first-ever fundraiser at Buddy Guy’s Legends. The event will allow people to meet with and talk to the aldermen of the Coalition, as well as other local elected officials and leaders. Tickets start at $50.

“We want to grow to be able to do more,’’ said PRC member Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd). “Our operational costs have been minimal, but more money will allow us to do more. If we want to hold a budget hearing, the room is an expense. We want to hire experts to advise us on issues, such as ride shares. Having a budget will give us more ability.’’

The coalition cited reviews of privatization deals and budget oversight as the type of matters that spurred its creation, and the group has since focused on a number of issues, including the hiring of additional police, ensuring living wages for workers and school closures.

One alderman conspicuous in his absence from the nine coalition members listed on the invitation, however, is Ameya Pawar (47th), a founding member of the caucus. It won’t come as a great shock to anyone who follows city government, especially after Pawar compared the caucus to the Tea Party for what he considers is its intransigent nature.

Last year, Pawar also was a founding member of a rival progressive city council group, the Paul Douglas Alliance, named after the famous U.S. Senator from Illinois. At the time, the Douglas group positioned itself as the more solution-oriented group of progressives, though Pawar was the only alderman to be in both caucuses.

It seems sometime late last summer, though, Pawar quietly stopped being a part of the Progressive Reform Coalition. It seems it just wasn’t publicly announced.

“I'm not an absolutist on public policy and politics,’’ said Pawar, noting that his flexible nature has allowed him to get six pieces of legislation through in his first term. “I'm open to compromise. I'm also willing to work with my colleagues to pass legislation and make changes. You need pragmatists.’’

Critics have accused the Paul Douglas Alliance of faux reform and giving cover to the mayor, but the two groups do state nearly identical goals publicly. Munoz said it is distracting having two progressive groups in the City Council, but every issue still comes down to building a consensus.

“Organizing aldermen is like herding blind cats with no sense of smell,’’ he joked.

The Progressive Reform Coalition is convinced the city needs leadership based on principles and ideology, said Ald. John Arena (45th).

“We make sure these issues are heard and people are aware of them,’’ said Arena. “These are issues that are easily forgotten if there isn’t a group based on getting them addressed by the City Council.’’

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