Monday, July 22, 2013

Are the times a changin’ for aldermen, or is da Boss becoming more almighty?

It’s one of the basic tenants of the Chicago political scene – the alderman is all-powerful, within the boundaries of his (or her) ward.

TUNNEY: Losing to the Cubs?
When the full City Council considers an issue, the viewpoint of the alderman whose ward is directly impacted is given great consideration. It isn’t often that an alderman can’t get his (or her) colleagues to sympathize.

WHICH IS WHY it is unusual to see a pair of happenings now occurring at City Hall – the political squabbling concerning the renovation (long needed) of Wrigley Field AND the replacement of retiring 33rd Ward Alderman Dick Mell.

In the case of Wrigley, one of the political opponents has been 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney – who has tried to present himself as the man who is looking out for the interests of the people who actually live in the Lake View neighborhood and would have to cope with the additional foot traffic that a renovated ballpark is meant to create.

But Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is the self-admitted not-much-of-a baseball fan, has taken the lead on this issue – arguing that the presence of the Chicago Cubs impacts the entire city.

Although I’m sure he also realizes that if the Cubs were to wind up taking one of those suburban offers for a new stadium, Emanuel would be the one who would wind up looking weak and ineffectual.

SO ANY THOUGHTS that Tunney had that he’d be the tough guy who’d stand up to the Cubs and the Ricketts family that owns them has pretty much shriveled up.

DEB MELL: Her father's pick? Or Hizzoner's?
Many of Tunney’s objections to advertising signs being erected along with video boards (the oft-mentioned Jumbotron) have been resolved in favor of the ball club. Although when the City Council meets Wednesday (likely to give final approval), Tunney may still have “demands” for his support.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Tunney wants a walkway over Clark Street eliminated, along with reductions in the impact of a proposed hotel where the McDonalds’ franchise is and a 10-year ban on outfield advertising signs.

I’m not going to be surprised if the council winds up ignoring those demands. Because Emanuel wants to get this issue resolved NOW rather than LATER.

THE COUNCIL TAKES the month of August off from public business. The last thing officials want is for this issue to linger for another month of speculation.

DICK MELL: Remaining the boss of his ward
But this isn’t the only issue in which the alderman’s thoughts aren’t being treated with knee-jerk reverence. Although when it comes to replacing Dick Mell, his views may wind up becoming the official stance of Emanuel.

Because Mell has made it known he wants his daughter, Deb (the current state representative for the legislative district that includes the 33rd Ward) to replace him as alderman.

Emanuel has gone through his self-created process of accepting applications to make it appear as though anybody could have come forth and become the alderman.

BUT EMANUEL HAS made comments implying that he’s not opposed to the idea of a new “Alderman Mell.” He just seems determined to stage the process in a way so it seems that she was HIS choice for the post, and NOT Dick Mell’s pick.

For those who are saying that it is somehow “good government” not to let the departing alderman pick his replacement, keep in mind that former Mayor Richard M. Daley was around for so long and got to make so many aldermanic appointments that he wound up controlling more than half of the City Council.

Do we really think it better than Emanuel gets to reinforce the notion of the City Council as his rubber stamp?

EMANUEL: Showing his authority
Although in the case of the Mells, Dick won’t be irrelevant. For he kept the position of Democratic committeeman for the 33rd Ward – the political party post that has the authority influence the alderman’s thinking and ensure their future re-election.

WHICH IS WHY it is reality that the most powerful government officials are the ones who double their influence by being committeeman AND holding a political post.

Those are the kind of officials who have the influence to tell the mayor what he ought to do. Which is something I suspect Emanuel isn’t terribly interested in having to deal with.


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