Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Does an alderman really outrank a legislator? In Chicago, of course!

Gov. Pat Quinn has been taking some abuse in recent weeks, ever since the Illinois auditor general’s office came out with its review of an anti-violence initiative the governor concocted back in 2010.

QUINN: Thinking state terms, or city?
Some think he only did it to try to make himself look better just prior to the gubernatorial election that year (the one in which he barely beat Republican challenger, Bill Brady), and the audit says there was a lot of wasteful spending – and possibly even some fraudulent behavior.

STATE SENATE MINORITY Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, came out and said she wants the U.S. Attorney to investigate Quinn, while Brady is going around saying the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative is really just a fancy label for a “slush fund.”

Which is to be expected. A lot of Republican officials are going to try to say nasty things about Quinn so as to weaken him for whichever guy they wind up nominating come the March 18 primary.

The part that gets to me about this is the fact that some members of the Legislature’s black caucus are also joining in the rants.

It was their home neighborhoods that were the focus of the initiative, and they have been upset with the governor for a reason that comes down to their own egos being besmirched.

BECAUSE THE WAY the program worked, the state gave funds to community organizations that were picked out by the members of the Chicago City Council from those neighborhoods.

It seems that some of those aldermen (Surprise! Surprise!) selected groups that were politically connected to themselves.

RADOGNO: Playing politics!
Which means we now have the state legislators for those areas saying they warned the governor not to trust the aldermen to make honest recommendations. That he should have known better than to let the City Council get involved.

Although I really don’t think those legislators really cared about the fact. They were most likely resentful of the fact that a governor wouldn’t let the legislators make the recommendations and have funds go to groups that were their own political supporters!

AS THOUGH HE went outside the “state government” family to reward someone else. Which may be true if you try to look at state government from a purely parochial point of view.

HENDON: Not the normal move
The problem is that Quinn appears to have viewed dealing with Chicago from the viewpoint that Chicago people view it. Which is that if he had put something like this in the hands of the legislators, he would have been mocked for putting it in the hands of lesser political people.

It’s just the way things work that an alderman in Chicago outranks a state legislator. Heck, even some Cook County Board members outrank legislators. When Rickey Hendon gave up his City Council post for a seat in the state Senate in 1992, it was the ultimate political demotion.

There’s a reason why people trying to get into the political structure in Chicago start out as state legislators to gain some experience, then “move up” to a post that doesn’t require them to make the three-to-four hour drive to the Statehouse on a regular basis every spring.

AND AS FOR the ones who don’t move up and remain on the legislative scene for years to come, there’s always the exception like Michael Madigan who became the almighty (and often lambasted) Illinois House speaker.

MADIGAN: An exception to the rule
But, by and large, they’re the ones who just don’t show the promise to move up in the ranks. For a Chicagoan, a seat in Springfield truly is either the beginning or the end of a career in public office. It’s NOT the middle part of substance!

It’s the complete opposite of someone from a rural part of Illinois who gets “rewarded” with a state Legislature post for putting in time as a village or county official “back home.” Which gives them that tiny perspective on life that often dictates their actions as a “state” official.

I often wonder how much that difference in perspective about the significance of one’s post dictates how much of a mess our legislative activity can become. When combined with the partisanship between the two political parties (which is what the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative rhetoric largely is), it’s a wonder that anything ever gets done right on the Statehouse scene.


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