Friday, July 26, 2013

Is it time to consider Latino political empowerment in NW Side lege district?

We now have 33rd Ward Alderman Deborah Mell, along with a vacancy in the Illinois House of Representatives from the city’s Northwest Side.

MELL: She needs a legislative replacement
And in a sense, the real politicking now takes place.

BECAUSE IT WAS always kind of a done deal that now-retired Alderman Dick Mell’s desire to hand the seat off to his daughter was going to be accomplished (as it was on Wednesday when Mayor Rahm Emanuel made it official).

But Mell’s political “promotion” means her seat from the Illinois House 40th district is now open. For the record, the openly-lesbian Mell has said she’d like it if the legislative post could go to someone who identifies as gay – so that there will be no loss in political influence in the Illinois General Assembly.

But she’s not being openly pushy about that point – which is good in the sense that it avoids a political battle with those who want the retirement of Dick Mell to result in some form of political advancement for Latinos – who comprise a majority of the 33rd Ward’s population these days.

Heck, most of the 12 publicly-named finalists whom Emanuel supposedly considered seriously for the aldermanic post were of Latino ethnic origins. There were those who wanted the new alderman to be a Latino.

NOW, THOSE PEOPLE are going to be pushing for the legislative post, at the very least, to go to a Latino.

It’s not impossible that it could happen. When Dick Mell initially said he was retiring from the City Council, the rumor mill had daughter Deb getting the aldermanic post, and long-time aide Jaime Andrade being picked to replace her in the Legislature.

It may still wind up working out this way. Although I wonder if one of the other Latinos who tried to become alderman will express interest in being a state legislator. Some of them who envisioned spending time at City Hall downtown may not like the idea of making the four-hour drive back and forth to Springfield every spring.

Personally, I hope it works out this way. Because I think the General Assembly (representing the entire state) needs a boost in its Latino ethnic composition; if just to show those people in the rest of Illinois who are either in denial or are clueless as to the growing potential influence of the Latino population.

ANYBODY IN CHICAGO proper who doesn’t realize the Latino significance is probably beyond redemption. Whereas I haven’t written off the rest of the state.

Besides, I believe it is possible for any Latino public official to work with the various interests that comprise the modern-day Democratic Party – including those who have as their top concern the rights of gay people in Illinois.

Picking a Latino official shouldn’t be exclusionary to the concept of picking a gay-sympathetic legislator. As it seems to have become this spring between the gay rights interests and the Black Caucus when it came to the issue of gay marriage being legitimized in Illinois.

Besides, every legislator (and alderman, for that matter) has so many differing individuals that they’d better be capable of representing different interests. Even though some legislators like to pretend they can ignore anyone who isn’t exactly like them!

THE POLITICAL FUTURE is now in the hands of Dick Mell, who in all this shifting is the one constant – he hasn’t given up his post as Democratic committeeman for the 33rd Ward.

Which means he gets to be the predominant voice in picking a new legislator – since his ward dominates the 40th Illinois House district and the committeemen (NOT the mayor) make this pick.

So in the end, we can talk all we want about political change and the idea that there is potential for Latino influence to grow at the state government level.

The bottom line is that the new state representative will be the person who most pleases the Democratic committeeman; who’s about as “old school” as our current lot of officials gets.


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