Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How different will things be under Rahm?

“Chicago ain’t ready for reform” – Matthias “Paddy” Bauler, April 1955.

“Today, more than any other time in our history, more than any other place in our history, the city of Chicago is ready for change” – Rahm Emanuel, May 16, 2011.


EMANUEL: Agent of change? I think not
Why do I have a funny feeling in the pit of my gut that former Alderman Paddy Bauler’s 56-year-old assessment remains more accurate than Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s official pronouncement Monday in the moments after he officially became the 46th person to serve in that position.

And yes, I count people like David Orr when I come up with that mayoral total.

BUT BACK TO the concept of “change.” Is the election of a one-time White House chief of staff and member of Congress to run our city government the factor that will bring about change (dare I think, "reform") in the way things are done in Chicago?

I suppose it depends solely on how one defines “change.” Because I’m not sure I see anything terribly significant being altered. If anything, I’d say the people who gave Emanuel that 54 percent majority WITHOUT having to endure a runoff did so because they want things to stay more or less the same as they were under Richard M. Daley.

There will be some things done differently, although I’d argue those will be superficial changes.

The Chicago White Sox won’t be able to count Hizzoner among their season-ticket holders. That Opening Day appearance Emanuel made at U.S. Cellular Field wearing a White Sox warmup jacket will probably be his last at the ballpark this season – unless the Sox seriously get their act together and make it all the way to the World Series. Even then, he might only grudgingly attend; with President Barack Obama nudging him along.

EVEN THEN, EMANUEL (who has been quoted as saying, “I hate baseball”) isn’t going to be that guy who plays at cheering for sports. A fairly decent write-up by the Associated Press that was published in many newspapers this weekend shows just how “into” the arts – particularly music and dance – our new mayor is.

It also does not shock me to hear from the activists who are screaming that this mayor is “too North Side” in his focus, and that much of his mayor-elect activities ignored the majority of the city south of Roosevelt Road.

This is a North Side guy in actuality. For the next four years (barring some sort of tragedy), there won’t be someone with the Sout’ Side in his veins working on the fifth floor. Anybody who didn’t realize that when they voted earlier this year deserves whatever aggravation they now feel.

If you wanted a hard-core South Side guy, you should have listened to Alderman Ed Burke and voted for Gery Chico.

BUT LIKE I said, these are trivial aspects.

The reason I don’t see serious change is because Emanuel was the candidate preferred by the business community. He also is the guy who ran Obama’s White House for nearly two years – the same two that has many progressive types thinking that Obama might not have been what they had hoped for when they voted for him in 2008.

Because Emanuel’s strategy, both in overseeing the effort in 2006 that saw Democrats take back control of the House of Representatives and in running the White House staff for Obama, was to search for those more conservative people who would be willing to wear the “Democrat” label – even though many of their ideological beliefs might make them a better fit for the opposition.

This was the guy who was instrumental in giving us candidate Tammy Duckworth for Congress over primary opponent Christine Cegelis because she was the type who wouldn’t attract Republican voters, and also kept Obama from even thinking of touching immigration reform because he didn’t want to upset those same voters.

HECK, THAT WILLINGNESS to put aside the ideological issues that bring many to the Democratic Party to begin with is the reason he gets the business community backing. If anything, it might very well be that relationship between government and business interests that most needs to be studied and considered for change.

If you view “change” as accepting defeat on certain issues and feeling the need to concede, then Emanuel is change. To me, it seems more like accepting the status quo on certain issues that need to be changed.

Not that I’m complaining (too much) about how the municipal elections turned out this year. I accept that Emanuel has certain administrative qualities from his past political posts that will come in handy.

I also like the fact that the people most offended by the concept of “Mayor Rahm Emanuel” are conservative ideologues who desire Rahm to wither away into nothingness so they can brand his Democratic Party political career a failure. There may well be times when Emanuel will turn that hot-head temperament of his against someone who has the city’s worst fears at heart. That will be something to see.

THEN AGAIN, WASN’T an ability to be stubborn and think that he was always correct when it came to urban issues one of Richard M. Daley’s traits (along with that of his father, Richard Joseph)? Where’s the change?

As for those who would argue the fact that a Jewish person is now mayor of Chicago, I'd argue that the reason many in this city voted for him so eagerly was because he was the closest resemblance to a traditional white guy candidate they could find in this particular election.

In short, I don’t see some radical shift in the way our city government does business. A part of me seriously wonders if Emanuel is merely the Fifth Floor seat warmer until the day that the next generation of the Daley family is ready to run a campaign for Chicago mayor.
BAULER: A "true" Chicagoan still?

It makes me wonder if Paddy Bauler hit on the very nature of Chicago on that date many decades ago when he reacted to the coming of the original “Mayor Daley.” His words still resonate, even though he has been gone from this Earth nearly as long as Daley, the elder.

INSOFAR AS WHICH North Side official you’d rather deal with (Emanuel or Bauler), consider this. Rahm may have once aspired to be a dancer. Yet Paddy used to brew his own brand of beer at his tavern at North Avenue and Sedgwick Street.

Take your pick.


No comments: