Friday, May 13, 2011

It’s gonna be a zoo come Monday

I can’t help but think that the last place any rational human being wants to be on Monday is Millennium Park.

Chicago’s downtown playground is the place where Rahm Emanuel wants to take the oath of office that makes him our mayor. Which in theory makes sense because it means that anybody who wants to show up to create the illusion that they were present for the event can just come along.

BIDEN: The presidential fill-in

THE EVENT WILL take place in the Pritzker Pavilion (named for the wealthy Chicago family whose members, if I recall correctly, were among the early presidential backers of Barack Obama’s opponent – Hillary R. Clinton).

Yet I don’t want any part of the park. Not because I don’t care. But because I think the actual oath ceremony is going to be such a mess. I don’t want to imagine how congested the crowds will get around Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue.

The rumor mill that had President Obama himself showing up to see his former chief of staff become mayor of his adopted home city washed out in a sense.

It is highly unlikely that Obama will be in Chicago on Monday.

WHAT DOES SEEM more likely is that Joe Biden will have to earn his federal paycheck on that date by coming to Chicago to “fill in” for the prez.

The Vice President is expected to be the official representative on hand when Emanuel takes his oath to uphold the laws of Chicago, along with the Constitution and all that other jazz.
EMANUEL: The new mayor

Which means that anyone who is going to get anywhere near to the place where either Biden or Emanuel will be is going to be someone who has gone through a Secret Service background check.

Now those checks aren’t the most complicated in the world. I have had to be subjected to them, from time to time during my duties as a reporter-type person. They basically want to know if anyone who’s going to get within the president’s sight is someone with a warrant out for their arrest or is someone involved with any kind of group that the president might consider “subversive.”

NOW THE SECRET Service isn’t about to conduct such a check on every single person who shows up at Millennium Park. So the bulk of us are going to be kept so far away from the action that I’d advise bringing a good pair of binoculars so you can see even a tiny bit of what happens.

Otherwise, the players in the city inauguration will appear to be little more than fleas. One might even mistake which one is which and start thinking that the Biden blip is our new mayor.

Let’s hope not. I can’t think of a more dreary image for our city. And keep in mind that I’m old enough to remember the days when Michael Bilandic was mayor.

I’d say I “vividly remember” those days, but somehow use of the word “vivid” in connection with the boring Bilandic just seems wrong. That was a man who truly had the personality fit to be a judge – the post to which he ultimately rose after his stint at City Hall was complete.

IT IS INTERESTING, to me at least, to see a bit of a federal presence being included in the city inauguration festivities. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood also will be in Chicago for the ritual that will make Emanuel (in the minds of some politically parochial types) the Most Important Political Person on the Face of Planet Earth.

You know what I mean, those people who believe that running for something like president or senator is what you do if you don’t have what it takes to be “da mare.”

I don’t quite buy into that line of logic. But it will be nice to see someone like LaHood in Chicago. While he might be an Illinoisan who got picked for Obama’s cabinet because of his “local” ties, he is a Peoria native (and represented a central Illinois district in Congress). Perhaps we can persuade him to move to Chicago once his government service days are done.

But back to the mess that will be Monday.

UNLESS YOU’RE THE ultimate political V.I.P., you’re going to be so far away from the action that you won’t have a clue what is happening.

Let’s only hope that the weather on Monday (tentatively predicted to be sunny in the lower 50s) isn’t as ridiculously humid as what we have experienced the past couple of days.

Otherwise, we will have the potential for Millennium Park to turn into a sweaty, stinky pit of humanity that could create an aroma reminiscent of the old Union Stock Yards.

Not exactly the image we’d want to create of our fair city. And one I likely will miss by watching the actual event over someone’s television screen.


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