Thursday, March 19, 2015

“Boss” Rahm, or “Boss” Burke; Is there really a political difference?

It seems that Willie Wilson enjoys the thought of himself as some sort of political powerbroker – the guy behind the scenes who gets to pick which officials get to have government authority to do things.

At least that was the impression I gained from reading the Aldertrack political newsletter, which on Wednesday reported that Wilson – the failed mayoral hopeful who already has publicly backed Jesus Garcia for the April 7 run-off election – now has nine preferred aldermanic candidates.

HE HAS CERTAIN preferred City Council candidates whom he’d like to see win election in their own right. According to the newsletter (which truly has been a gem of the ’15 election cycle in terms of keeping me informed about the candidates across the neighborhoods), Wilson wants aldermen Emma Mitts of the 37th Ward and Natasha Holmes of the 7th Ward to win.

In seven other wards, he wants the incumbent alderman to lose to the challenger who was able to force a run-off election.

As the newsletter points out, Mitts and Holmes publicly back the idea of Rahm Emanuel’s re-election to another mayoral term, while the others (including outspoken Garcia/Karen Lewis supporter Susan Sadlowski Garza in the 10th ward) all want the concept of “Mayor Chuy” to become a reality.

What caught my attention about all of this was the reasoning that Wilson campaign manager Rev. Gregory Seal Livingston gave for the endorsements – Willie wants aldermen who won’t necessarily rubber-stamp the mayor’s thoughts as eagerly as the current City Council backs Rahm Emanuel.

“THE ENDORSEMENTS ARE not based on mayoral allegiance, but on the importance of having a strong council, weak mayor system,” Livingston told the Aldertrack newsletter.

Aside from the idea of anyone caring what the campaign manager of a failed candidate thinks, I couldn’t help but be concerned about what could come about if such a thought were to be carried out to its natural conclusion.

An all-powerful group of aldermen thinking they are above reproach and acting in ways that would not necessarily be beneficial to the public interest.

Now I know that in theory, Chicago city government is structured in exactly such a way – with the City Council having the authority to govern the people and the mayor serving a lesser role.

THAT CONCEPT WAS long-ago trashed in reality as the “machine” of old made sure that the kinds of people who generally got picked to be alderman were the ones who knew how to follow orders!

Put a strong personality in as mayor, and aldermen become a rubber stamp for mayoral delusions of all kind.

But I can see where a strong personality in the City Council could wind up becoming just as dominant over city government to the point where things would become just as absurd as they often become now. Just as how I fear that an "elected" Board of Education would put the board's composition into the hands of the political hacks.

The way that long-time 14th Ward Alderman Edward Burke uses his seniority and influence over city government to dominate the City Council’s actions can be almost as intimidating a presence as that of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s control over Illinois state government through his domination of the House of Representatives. Is that what we want to encourage at City Hall?

HECK, LET’S BE honest. That period which many of us remember as “Council Wars” (a.k.a., the Harold Washington years) was technically an example of a “strong council” using its authority over the mayor.

Athough I’m sure only the most delusional of us would think that the mid-1980s and all the racial baiting that dominated the local political scene was an example of “good government” at work in Chicago.

I’m sure that Wilson, on some level, has some sort of fantasy in which the 50 aldermen act as independent agents of thought representing their home communities in trying to get city government to act appropriately.

Which is about as nonsensical a concept as those Chicago Cubs fans who think that their favorite ball club ought to have had many World Series titles throughout the seasons with the collection of athletic stiffs they have fielded in the past.


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