Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dick Mell: Is he in or out?

Long-time Alderman Dick Mell is on the verge of retirement. He wants his daughter, Patricia, to succeed him in the City Council.

Since Patricia is currently in the Illinois House of Representatives, that would create a vacancy there. And the one-time attorney for Mell’s son-in-law (a.k.a., Rod Blagojevich) says he’d like to get into electoral politics at that level.

A LOT OF movement? Or maybe it’s a whole lot of nothing!

Who’s to say what is going on – other than to express the thought that the idea of Deborah Mell someday moving up to a higher-ranking post than a legislative seat is a realistic one.

It’s just a matter of when.

For we got to see the old-school of Chicago journalism and the sense of competition at work on Friday.

THOSE OF US who woke up and checked out the news saw either on the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times the headline END OF AN ERA AT CITY HALL: Ald. Dick Mell Calls It Quits, or saw the story on the newspaper’s website.

But by the time 10:30 a.m. rolled around, the Chicago Tribune had come up with their response story – put on their own website under the headline Ald. Mell indicates he’s not retiring. I’m curious to see how this gets hyped up in the Saturday newspapers that supposedly nobody buys – and if the Sun-Times feels compelled to “pull back” their story.

So which is it?

Is he in, or is he out?

I DON’T KNOW for a fact. But I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that he actually said he was on the verge of leaving – only to change his mind. The Sun-Times itself refers to “associates” who told the newspaper that Mell has told them he wants to leave following 38 years as an alderman from the Northwest Side.

I also got my kick from the response that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is giving to reporter-types, mainly that he has heard Mell retirement rumors for years and added, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

But the newspaper reaction is what intrigues me the most. It is so old-school – as though someone spent a bit too much time watching The Front Page recently and had the spirit of those days nearly 90 years ago rub off on them.

For when the Sun-Times came up with an “exclusive,” the Tribune reaction was to wreck it!

WHICH IS SOMETHING I used to enjoy doing when I used to write for the old United Press International and the Associated Press would come up with some story that they would claim was of some significance. Sometimes, it works out. Sometimes, it doesn’t.

The public probably doesn’t know what to think, because nobody is going to know quite how to follow up on this. Although a search of Google News shows me that the ABC-owned television station in Chicago initially said Mell would resign, followed up by his denial.

But the Huffington Post that everybody seems to think is the future of journalism is sticking by the notion of Mell retiring “within the next few months,” although they did acknowledge the Tribune’s attempt to dunk a red-hot story in a bucket of cold water.

Not that I’m worrying too much about Deborah Mell these days. I’m sure her father will clue her in eventually when he does make up his mind what he wants to do. She is a competent public official, even if some will forevermore hold it against her that she wouldn't vote "aye" in favor of impeachment of her former governor/brother-in-law. (Although if you really want to know more about Deborah as a legislator, the Welles Park Bulldog lays it all out nicely).

ALTHOUGH A PART of me suspects that Dick Mell really is of that old-school just like Richard J. Daley – who couldn’t envision anybody but himself in his political post. He probably wishes he could have been like Harold Washington and died at his desk at City Hall.

Just like when Mell gave us what will be his lasting photographic image – that night in November 1987 when he stood atop his desk in the City Council chambers while trying to get attention for himself during the process of picking Washington’s mayoral replacement.

Why do I suspect a part of Mell would thoroughly enjoy going down fighting in that very pose?


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