Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Is political unity a problem? Would we be better off w/ state or federal split?

I remember one time when I happened to be entering the Cook County Building at the same time as county Commissioner John Daley.
PRECKWINKLE: A concensus leader?

We engaged in a couple minutes of chit-chat, and I made a wisecrack about how much more peaceful county board meetings had become since the departure of Todd Stroger as board president.

TO WHICH DALEY made a serious response about how “rational leadership” (in the form of current board President Toni Preckwinkle) can bring about more peaceful relations among politicians.

I couldn’t help but remember that moment when I learned Tuesday of the new study by the University of Illinois at Chicago. It seems that the county board has become about as compliant as the City Council.

During the first three years of Preckwinkle being in charge of county government, the county board backed her 73 percent of the time. That compares to 88 percent of the time that the City Council went along with the desires of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“Since she has been in office, the board now looks more like the ‘Rubber Stamp’ City Council of Rahm Emanuel, with Preckwinkle rarely losing a vote and with more agreement and cooperation with the board on issues,” the study reads.

PERSONALLY, I’M SURPRISED the level of support is that low for Preckwinkle. While I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a constant attendee at county board events and functions, I can’t recall that many moments when Preckwinkle didn’t prevail.
EMANUEL: Consensus, or strong-arm?

In fact, most of the actual county board votes on issues are structured as an “aye” or “nay,” rather than a specific roll call with actual votes recorded for each commissioner.

It is too easy for Preckwinkle to come out and say that board voted for her on just about everything!
DALEY: Wise observer?

The study has a slight tint of attitude in thinking that our government officials ought to be challenging each other – perhaps because one of its people included political science professor Dick Simpson; whose own political credentials include being one of the few aldermen who used to vote “no” on a regular basis when Richard J. Daley was mayor.

I’M A LITTLE more skeptical about political opposition – perhaps because I see just what it can be when we get people so entrenched in their own interests that they’re unwilling to listen to anybody else.
BOEHNER: Consensus? Or hard-headed?

Now I realize it can be just as bad to have a single tyrant-type figure who can strong-arm everybody else into doing what they want (which is what exists in many suburban municipal governments where few people pay attention). But are things really any better in Congress, where a Republican caucus is so determined to prevent anything desired by President Barack Obama that nothing gets done.

That may be a case where the ideologues have House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, strong-armed. But he often comes across as a willing and complacent accomplice in the inactivity.
OBAMA: Rubber-stamp Congress a fantasy
When it comes to the Springfield Scene, we definitely have a jumbled mess – leaders of the Democratic Party persuasion who can’t coordinate and a Republican Party leadership that thinks the solution is to dump Dems so they can strong-arm state government the way they did back in that fantasy spring of 1995.

THE BOTTOM LINE is that we have a state government these days that is very much dysfunctional – to the point where they’re passing state budgets that they know are flawed. But they just don’t want to accept reality and make tough decisions.

By that way of thinking, the activity around the Cook County Board these days comes across as ever so rational.

It’s almost a shame that Preckwinkle has heavily suggested she’s seeking re-election this year. Perhaps her approach to government could serve the people well at another level.


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