Monday, April 27, 2015

Claypool for chief of staff – how circumstances change with time!!!

Mayor Rahm Emanuel turned to an experienced political hand in choosing a new chief of staff; shifting Forrest Claypool away from his CTA post and putting him in charge of running the staff that does the actual work that the mayor gets to take credit for.

Not that I think Claypool is incompetent. He did hold the very same position twice under Mayor Richard M. Daley. He’s been around a number of local government positions. He knows how things operate.

IT’S JUST THAT the circumstances under which Claypool was picked by Emanuel actually amuse me.

Let’s not forget that Emanuel is now the guy whom all the good-government types demonize. He’s the ultimate political hack, as far as they’re concerned. They desperately wanted to dump him in this month’s municipal elections.

Except that Emanuel was the candidate with the big bucks that allowed him to spend the living daylights out of opponent Jesus Garcia – who had become a darling of those people who like to think they’re the good-government types.

Now Emanuel turns to Claypool to make sure things get done the way he wants them to.

YET I CAN remember back in 2010 when Claypool ran for Cook County assessor, ultimately losing to Joe Berrios.

Berrios managed to win that election cycle despite being demonized for being a political hack – a walking ball of conflicts of interest. The guy who conducted himself in ruling on tax appeal cases in ways that made it clear he was getting some sort of benefit (if not quite criminal in nature) that enriched himself.

Claypool’s election as assessor was supposed to be the move that would save us from the political hack days of old – the days when now-corrupt behavior was commonly accepted as standard practice.

The fact that a majority of voters picked Berrios in that election was supposed to be some sort of sign of our political stupidity – just as some, I’m sure, think the fact that Rahm Emanuel took 56 percent of the vote (not far off from those pre-season polls that said he’d take 58 percent) is a sign that we STILL haven’t learned any better.

DOES THIS MEAN that Claypool, who also ran the park district once and also served on the board of appeals that handled tax cases, has gone from being the goo-goo to being the guy who’s going to keep “politics as usual” operating in local government?

It’s probably more a piece of evidence that the people who were ready to anoint Claypool to political sainthood some five years ago were seriously over-exaggerating his good government sensibilities.

If he’s able to work with Emanuel – who actually was the guy who got him into the CTA position that he’s held in recent years after he lost that assessor election – then he’s probably got a practical politics streak. Although it could also mean that some of those practical political people also have a touch of government altruism flowing in their veins.

Although I do find one bit of irony. Berrios managed to get re-elected despite all the goo-goo griping because his Puerto Rican ethnic origins made him attractive to the Latino segment of the electorate.

THE SAME SEGMENT that this time around was the hard-core base of the Anybody But Rahm voters. Which amounted to all of 44 percent of the vote this month!

And which is what can make the Latino electorate unpredictable – because it often splits between those who want to be practical and back the winner and those who have an ideological streak for what they perceive to be the right thing.

Let us hope that Claypool, in trying to run Emanuel’s city government operation in a professional manner, can strike some sort of balance. That ultimately is what would benefit Chicago as a whole.


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