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Daley Era Ending

Thomas F. Roeser 20 September 2010 No Comment

To non-Chicagoans…indeed tourists from throughout the world… Daley’s tenure has seemed exemplary and show-biz-like. During the nation’s boom times, he transformed the city, making it a vibrant center of the Midwest. City streets are festooned with plants and flowers ala Paris. For many Chicagoans, he was the country’s living embodiment that taxpayer-paid “bread and circuses” that made the rulers of ancient Rome popular. He re-did Chicago’s front yard with Millennium Park albeit with massive public overruns. He demolished the housing projects his father built for the poor, scattering them to the suburbs which made Chicago a whiter city.

And he put on a massive public display of entertainment with cheap entrance fees but paid for largely from the public purse—especially when police security is taken into account. These circuses included lakefront festivals that entertain residents during the summers. Last month it was “Lollapalooza” a three-day rock festival featuring Lady Gaga. Earlier there was, “Taste of Chicago,” “Gospel Fest,” “Blues Fest,” the “Air and Water Show,” “Viva Chicago Latin Music Fest,” “Jazz Fest,” “Celtic Fest” and “Country Music Fest”—not to forget 4th of July fireworks extravaganzas. They’re going to be scrubbed now, likely.

Also gone are the cocky days of Emperor Daley. Earlier in the old glory days, in the middle of the night, he seized control of Meigs field, a lakefront airport popular with business because CEOs parked their private jets there… and had bulldozers “x” out the landing strips, single-handedly turning it into a park—just because he wanted to. How many people recreate in what is now called Northerly Island is a good question. Not many. But the elitist greens love it.

The Big 5 Reasons

Here are the big five reasons he’s not running with what I think the biggest one at the end—No. 5.

1. Maggie Daley’s health. Last week was the first time that the media focused fixedly on her but as she stood by her husband at the rostrum it was clear she has lost weight and while always charming is clearly what she is: a cancer patient whose disease has spread. . Standing there she looked easily 10 years older than her husband…a decided change since the two had been photographed together earlier. But while Daley tears up when he talks about Maggie, she’s been well cared for and that’s not determinative. He can cry over a can of spoiled tomatoes.

2. No Olympics. Had Chicago gotten the 2016 Olympic Games…which Daley had counted on like a kid does Christmas…it would have been decided fun and to enjoy it he’d have run again in a New York minute. Construction contracts would be let immediately and with them jobs, consultancies, huge relocation projects which would boom and continue almost up to the day the Olympics began with resultant big bucks coming to The Squid for reelection of its minions.
So confident was Daley Chicago would get the Olympics that he began deconstructing vacant Michael Reese hospital and its 32-acre South Side site to make way for Olympic Village. It’s a symbol of the Olympics’ loss.
Chicago’s Budget Woes.

3) The city budget of $6 billion is hundreds of millions in the red.

There is no easy answer on ways to drag it back into the black which is scheduled to be $655 million in the red in 2011. Earlier as a stopgap he balanced his budgets with monies received from privatization deals like the Chicago Skyway. The trouble is he’s just about sold everything there is to be sold and debt still is rising. Moody’s cut the city’s credit rating to AA3 from AA2; the city’s debt burden rose to $5,399 per resident topping those from all U.S. states.
Closely tied to budget imbalance is under-funding of workers’ pensions. This intersects with Daley’s patronizing of public employee unions. In 2007 he agreed to contracts guaranteeing wages purportedly equal to private sector jobs but now they have surpassed some. Personnel costs make up 80% of the city budget and most of the money goes to pay cops and firefighters which nobody can begrudge: average pay range from $65,000 to $80,000 a year. But garbage truck workers get an average of $32.95 an hour which works out to almost $70,000 a year. Generous outlays like this is one reason why Daley has been able to win elections by 70%.

Another headache is education. In a grandiose act, Daley took over management of the city’s public schools in 1988. The man he put in charge, Paul Vallas, was an outstanding administrator and with his discipline exerted on the teachers, test scores rose. But he ran afoul of the teachers’ unions and Daley not only failed to back him up but eased him out. Test scores have slumped and are lagging way behind state and national averages and students displaced by closing some poorly managed schools are shunted off to other schools that are as bad or worse.

The hugely unpopular privatization of parking meters which enraged Chicagoans with ungodly high charges has nevertheless worked to build revenue—and is estimated to top off at #3 billion a year. Before privatization they earned $24 million. Now they’re at $34 million and next year will hit $47 million. The only problem is, like a giant porcine eating machine, Chicago can’t stop devouring revenue.

The only way to go in the black is to cut out the circuses, slash social spending to the bone and raise property taxes—a draconian anti-political formula.

4) Criminals are attacking the Police.

While crime is far lower than when Daley was first elected, it has taken an astonishing and depressing turn.
Worse than the statistics is the fact that recently, city gangs have shown they are not intimidated by presence of uniformed cops. In fact this past summer three officers were killed in broad daylight by gangs which made headlines across the country.

The police department is short 2,000 officers because the city can’t afford them—but the crime and murder wave isn’t just because too few cops walk the beats. His way to fight crime is to push “gun control” which pleases minorities and editorial boards– but it doesn’t work and everybody knows this including Daley.

Moreover, to further appease the political left, angry racial minority spokesmen, liberal editorial boards and oracular showboat churchmen like our own Fr. Michael Pfleger (whom the Chancery allows to run free and unleashed) Daley has invariably taken the side of the ACLU whenever so-called “police brutality” cases are raised—and “brutality” is raised all the time when gang leaders are rounded up.

Lefty preachers, media and inflamed minority spokesmen understand that gang murderers have numerous notches in their belts from rite of initiation murders they perform to “belong” and are trained to scream “brutality!” whenever serious police question so as to protect them from their pals outside the prison walls.

A big blow to law enforcement came a few months ago when U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald…the dogged “Inspector Javert” of our time who prosecuted Scooter Libby for obstructing Justice in the Valerie Plame case when all along Fitzgerald knew the identity of the leaker… convicted a retired top police commander of “brutality,” a decorated Army veteran, Jon Burge, who earned a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and two Army commendation medals for pulling wounded men to safety while under fire.

As a police officer Burge earned 13 commendations, a letter of praise from the Department of Justice and received a number of promotions for gallantry. He secured numberless convictions in the toughest areas of the South Side which led Jesse Jackson, Sr. and a host of critics including Fr. Pfleger to single him out as “target for tonight.” Squid-dominated GOP Gov. George Ryan tried to gain jury favor for his upcoming trial on corruption by commuting 167 criminals on death row (didn’t help: Ryan got sent away for 6 years).

In April, 2000 the Illinois Supreme Court reversed two Burge death row cases based on convicts’ allegations of torture by the police. After being pardoned by Ryan, the formerly convicted murderers filed lawsuits. Although Burge had been protected by statute of limitations, Inspector “Javert” Fitzgerald re-tooled the supposed offenses and charged Burge with two counts of obstruction of justice and perjury. Last June, Burge was convicted on all counts.
When dramatically sobbing on cue, freed gang members and their relatives appeared on TV, sob-sister liberal media viewed them as innocent on all charges: not so. Everyone who has ever covered crime here knows that the notches on their belts certify they are as guilty of countless executions. In fact, to gain respect with their seniors, new gang members must prove their adeptness at murder. It’s called rites of initiation.

Burge’s conviction and Daley’s knee-jerk adherence to the ACLU have demoralized cops who put their lives on the line every single day.

Getting Out While the Getting’s Good.

5. Fear of ending one’s days wearing an orange jump suit and making license plates in a federal prison camp is every Illinois politician’s nightmare. For decades winking an improprieties and then ignoring more serious offenses were part of state and city politicians’ romantic rogue aura. But those days came crashing down in 1976 when a supposedly impeccable public servant, former Gov. Otto Kerner, a member of the U. S. Court of Appeals, was convicted for what to the eyes of everyday politicians here appeared to be a minor-league thing.

After all, here was the renowned author of the “Kerner Report,” a Cambridge scholar, Northwestern law grad, a former army reserve brigadier general, from a prominent family, a liberal who postulated the U. S. was composed of two societies, separate and unequal: black and white and who was canonized by liberals for it.

A Brahmin, he was supposedly immune from attack. To this day Chicago pols shake their heads and privately believe the sin having an aide accept race-track stock for them both in return for designating favorable racing dates at Arlington and Washington parks…while a governor was frantically busy dealing with the legislature… seemed ridiculous. But whether he had a temporarily venal moment or just suffered a mental lapse, Kerner was found guilty.

The glory-hound federal prosecutor was Jim Thompson who went on to become governor. (Note: he has “reformed” and is the biggest lobbyist in the state, enmeshed in all kinds of special interest deals).
Kerner went to jail but was released early in disgrace because he was dying from terminal cancer. But the “Inspector Javert” tendency for federal prosecutors to win national applause still exists. Everyone acquainted with Fitzgerald knows how easy it would be to indict Daley given that all linkages to patronage abuse.

Now we come to what I believe is the deciding reason. The longer he sticks around, the more likely is Daley to fall into Fitz’s trap of becoming the major quarry. Fitz is getting closer. A few years ago, the personnel chief of the city Water Department went to jail and an angry crowd gathered declaring—rightly—that he was only following orders and the guy who should be shunted off to jail was Daley himself, the man behind the screen like the Wizard of Oz.

Javert came closer in the Hired Trucks scandal, a $40 million a year program and closer still in probing a corrupt city hall hiring scheme which sent a top aide to jail for 46 months and narrowly missed implicating Daley.

Fear of wearing an orange jump suit is I believe, is the real reason why Daley’s packing it in.


Tom Roeser is the Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Chicago Daily Observer

image Geoffrey Rush appears as Inspector Javert

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