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Blame it All on Daley, Says Chicago Alderman

Russ Stewart 4 August 2010 5 Comments

Chicago, observed Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd), has a multiplicity of problems, which can be readily cured by a simple, single solution: Get rid of Mayor Rich Daley.

“Blame it all on Daley,” said Waguespack, who said the mayor’s “reckless spending,” coupled with the city’s “perpetual scandals,” has “created a definite disconnect” between the voters and Daley. “Every day, every way, every City Hall decision is based on politics. It’s all about keeping Daley and his cronies in power.” And voters, he said, are now wising-up.

That thesis was validated by the Chicago Tribune/WGN poll results published on July 18, which put Daley’s “re-elect” at 31 percent, while 53 percent of respondents indicated that he should not be re-elected in 2011, when he next faces voters. According to the poll, only 20 percent approved of the mayor’s efforts to combat government corruption, 33 percent approved of his handling of the exploding crime problem, but 56 percent backed his stance in support of a gun ban.

Waguespack, age 40, a first-term alderman from Chicago’s Bucktown/Lakeview area who is exploring a 2011 bid for mayor, excoriates Daley for his “failed leadership. Every problem is directly attributable to the mayor.” Waguespack elaborated:

“Crime is rampant. That’s because we don’t have 13,500 sworn police officers. We’re short 2,500 every day. That means we have one-person patrol cars. In every potential crime situation, an officer calls for a backup. Hence, the police are less aggressive in fighting crime, and two cars are off the street for one crime incident.” In the police department’s 14th District, which includes the 32nd Ward, patrol is understaffed by 10-12 officers daily, said Waguespack. “We haven’t had a class in the police academy for 3 years.”

Plus, adds Waguespack, manpower from the lower-crime areas – such as Chicago’s Northwest Side — have been redeployed to high crime areas. “Criminals know this. That’s why crimes such as home invasion and robbery are escalating.”

So how is Daley to be blamed? “We have a $5.9 billion city budget,” said Waguespack. “At least 5-7 percent of that amount is pure waste, if not actual graft. We need to stop the cash flow to the mayor’s friends and family. His (Daley’s) nephew got over $68 million in police pension funds for a risky real estate deal. We need to re-prioritize. Fighting crime is more important than enriching cronies. We have the money to hire more police, but Daley won’t do it.”

Adds Waguespack: “It’s all pay-to-play. Look at the Hired Truck scandal. Daley needs people to work precincts, and promises them jobs or promotions. So, over the past 20 years, we have had thousands of new hires, and subsequent promotions.

“Now, Chicago is top-heavy with management. We’re like Enron. We have too many over-paid supervisors, who do little work, and too few workers, who are over-worked. Jobs are not getting done.” In his ward, noted Waguespack, “essential services are not being provided. There is no excuse.”

And, Waguespack said, the companies that get city contracts donate to the mayor or the Democrats’ campaign fund.

“We need an independent budget office, similar to that in New York City and Los Angeles,” argued Waguespack. “We need to change the status quo. In Chicago, the entire budget process is controlled by the mayor. There are no checks-and balances.”

And there’s Daley’s “privatization” plan: Sale of the Skyway, parking garages, and parking meters, with Midway Airport next on the agenda. “It’s just unbelievable,” said Waguespack of the parking meter deal. “We’re burning through the assets. We have a 75-year payment plan, and we’ve already borrowed against those receipts and spent 75 percent of the money in 3 years. It’s supposed to be a ‘rainy day’ fund. But we are spending future revenues on current operating expenses.”

And, last, there is Chicago public school education: “Class size is now 37-40 students per classroom,” said Waguespack. “Why is that? It’s because TIF funds are being diverted, costing the CPS about $2 million annually.”

Waguespack said that his ward, which includes Bucktown, south Lakeview, Roscoe Village, Hamlin Park, west Lincoln Park, Ukrainian Village and Goose Island, extending from Chicago Avenue to Cornelia, between Sheffield and Western, is a microcosm of Chicago: It was Happy Days during the 15 boom years that ended around 2007, but no longer.

“It was rezoning by payoff,” said Waguespack. “We had 350 zoning changes per year. Developers made donations to the alderman (Ted Matlak) or (Democratic) committeeman (Terry Gabinski), and got their project approved. We had more construction than any ward in Chicago.” And now, said the alderman, the ward’s infrastructure is collapsing. “There were no inspections. Development was unregulated. Sewers and water mains are overwhelmed,” he said. “Every finished project is a potential nightmare,” noting that $1 million homes were interspersed with turn-of-the-century bungalows. “It was absolute chaos.”

Historically, the 32nd Ward was a Polish-American enclave, and for most of a century dominated by the Rostenkowskis. In 1912, Albert Rostenkowski won an Illinois House seat, and from the 1930s onward, his nephew, Joe Rostenkowski, was the ward’s alderman and Democratic committeeman, and an early ally of Richard J. Daley. In 1958, Joe made son Dan a congressman, at age 30.

In 1969, Terry Gabinski, a 31-year old high school teacher, became alderman. He was a protégé of Dan Rostenkowski, who had become committeeman in 1964. And ward proceeded to snooze for the next 15 years. Rich Daley, with Rostenkowski’s endorsement, won the 1983 mayoral primary with 46 percent. Luis Gutierrez, a Harold Washington ally, ran against Rostenkowski for committeeman in 1984, getting 23 percent. Politics was fermenting, and the ward’s Hispanic population was exploding.

And then, in the early 1990s, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Lakeview and Goose Island were “discovered” by developers, speculators, and rich white people who could quickly build McMansions in close proximity to the Loop and Board of Trade. All it took for a spot rezoning was a donation to Gabinski or Matlak, his successor as alderman in 1999. From 1992 to 2002, the ward’s population turned over by 50 percent. Gone were the Hispanics and Polish ethnics; in came the upscale yuppies. Eateries, bars and boutiques now populated the main arteries.

The Rostenkowski Machine had sown the seeds of its destruction. The ward’s newcomers voted like they wanted (which was liberal), not as they were told. They paid high property taxes, and expected services as a right, not a favor. Rostenkowski was indicted, convicted and defeated. Matlak, renowned for his lackadaisical demeanor and inattentiveness to constituent needs, won by 6,725-4,019 (54 percent) in 1999, 5,518-1,959 (74 percent) in 2003, but lost 4,058-4,179 (49.7 percent) to Waguespack in 2007, a margin of 121 votes. Waguespack was in the right place at the right time.

In 2008, Gabinski retired as committeeman, and was replaced by State Representative John Fritchey (D-11), who backed Waguespack in 2007. In 2008, Barack Obama won the ward with 77.2 percent. The Machine was defunct.

But an Age of Aquarius has not dawned in the 32nd Ward. There is a bitter schism between Fritchey and Waguespack. “He (Fritchey) demanded control of all zoning in the ward after I won,” said Waguespack. “I refused.” Retorted Fritchey, who is running for county commissioner in 2010: “He’s (Waguespack) more sizzle than steak. My (state representative) office has had more requests for city services during the last three years than it had when Matlak was alderman. He’s not doing his job.”

“Abysmal,” concurs John Curry, the ward’s Republican committeeman, in describing Waguespack. “There’s no efficiency. This is a high-demand service ward. He doesn’t have the staff. He’s barely better than Matlak.”

Which begs the question: Is Waguespack running for mayor because he can’t win again for alderman? Is this a bail-out? “Absolutely not,” snaps Waguespack.. “I’ve done a great job (as alderman), People are satisfied.” According to ward sources, Fritchey is backing Brian Gorman, a field director for Organizing for America, for alderman in 2011. If Waguespack quits, David Hoffman, the city’s controversial former Inspector General and 2010 U.S. Senate primary candidate, will likely run.

Without question, Waguespack is not well-liked, well-funded, well-organized or well-entrenched. But his political career, indisputably, has been well-timed. In 2007, he won only because he was the innocuous, inoffensive alternative to the despised Matlak.

In a potential 2011 mayoral race, Waguespack lacks money, name identity and issue identification. He has no discernable appeal to blacks or Hispanics. “He’s a joke,” said Fritchey. But if no credible minority runs for mayor, if Daley’s popularity continues to wane, and if Waguespack ends up as the only credible alternative to four more years of Daley, then he’s no joke. The mayor, to coin a phrase, could be Matlaked.


Russ Stewart is a political analyst for The Chicago Daily Observer.

image Biblical blame shifter, Cain clubbing Abel from the Ghent Altarpiece


  • NickP said:

    Daley didn’t win the 1983 Mayoral primary. He came in last.

    Washington 37%, Byrne 33%, Daley 30%.

    Daley didn’t win the office until 1989.

  • John Powers said:

    I think Russ is just referring to the 32nd Ward, not to the primary overall. Russ, can you clarify?


  • dmlawyer said:

    The real problem is that white chicago is so afraid of having another black mayor that they keep sending this guy, who would be lucky to be driving a garbage truck if his name were not daley, back to office.
    No legit white candidate wants to be the “spoiler” to let another black mayor in.

    this city is going to heck in a handbasket, and mayor dufus is leading the way, however with his crooked pockets being stuffed all along the way.

    too much of a coward to make the real money saving decisions: stop paying union trades people prevailing wages (that should only be for journeymen, not guys guaranteed 40 hours per week), remove $1,000,000 security detail from Ald. Ed Burke, eliminate frills like fireworks, concerts, jumping jacks, etc. costing over $20 million per year, too many deputy, asst. deputy, managing deputy, positions all at over six figures managing fewer people, three man garbage truck crews (everyone does it with one), the list is endless, but the people are such sheep they will continue to send this mildly EMH (psychologist term meaning Educateable Mentally Handicapped) individual back into office.

  • ConcernedGOP said:

    Funny, didn’t John Curry, a so called Republican, have Matlak, A corrupt machine hack, distribute his nominating petitions in the last Committeeman’s race? The signature on the petitions are Matlaks.

    Talk about corruption!!!

  • JMK said:

    Dang CGP, if John Curry is the worst you can come up with in the GOP, the party is in great shape.

    The whole city and country can be burning at both ends and you are worried about who passes whose petitions around. Grow up and campaign the right way, and quit helping the crooks run the State of Illinois

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