The Chicago Noose


Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader has noticed that ridiculous Salon article I pointed out last month.

Joravsky's much more informed (that's why he makes the big bucks) take:

Soldier Field, Meigs Field, the proposed Children's Museum in Grant Park--these are just some of the better-known examples of Daley storming over his opposition. If he wants a project, he'll shove it down our throats. If anyone doesn't like it, he'll throw a temper tantrum. He'll call them names and scorn their leaders, playing the race card if that's what it takes. So much for overcoming a toxic political environment.

But those are the high-profile cases, where someone actually dared to mount an opposition. Much more insidious is the coercion we never hear about. Most aldermen are afraid to vote against him because they fear him and need him--they can't hold on to their seats if Daley messes with how well they serve their constituents. Several have told me that they typically don't know what they're voting on: if an ordinance comes from the fifth floor, that's all they need to know. Many still don't understand how TIF districts work, yet the City Council has been routinely approving new ones for the last ten years, sucking millions of tax dollars into slush funds. Now the city's gearing up to spend hundreds of millions of local property tax dollars on the Olympics.

Daley doesn't encourage discussion--he stifles it. He loathes criticism and disparages debate. He takes credit for the good and shucks responsibility for the bad. Just a few weeks ago I heard an alderman in an unguarded moment tell his northwest-side constituents what happens to bills that don't come out of the mayor's office: If Daley doesn't like a bill, he kills it. If he likes it, he rewrites it and claims it as his own.

As for Chicago in 2008 being a hospitable time for organizers "like the young Barack Obama," the truth is that Daley's pretty well destroyed community organizing in Chicago. Many of the fiercest groups have either disap­peared or been co-opted--they pull their punches because, like the aldermen, they don't want to get on the mayor's bad side. It took activists years to get the smoking ban passed over Daley's opposition, and even then the mayor forced them into water­ing it down. Despite backing from Cardinal George and would-be independent alder­men, activists still can't get an afford­able housing ordinance through the City Council, though they've been trying for more than a decade. There used to be several vigilant budget watchdog groups in Chicago, with the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group leading the pack. Now there are none.

Elsewhere in this week's Reader: Mad Libs -- Chicago Political Media Style!

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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on June 13, 2008 9:09 PM.

Edwina Froehlich, R.I.P. was the previous entry in this blog.

Giving the People What they Want is the next entry in this blog.

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