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Mother of Mercy, Can This Be the End of Little Richie?

Don Rose 28 September 2009 4 Comments

The whole state was stunned mid-September when the Chicago Tribune published a poll showing Mayor Richard M. Daley’s approval rating down at 35 percent—the lowest any Mayor Daley ever scored. More remarkably, Daley did not question the numbers but attributed them to the hard economic times experienced by his constituents.

Polling also showed support for his bid for the 2016 Olympics slipping below the 50-percent mark—which could be either a reflection of the loss of confidence in Daley or part of the reason for that loss of confidence, since there is great fear that the Olympics may bring further financial burdens.

But everyone recognizes that the strongest issue against the guy, usually thought of as mayor-for-life, is his parking-meter fiasco. In sum, Daley rammed through a privatization of the city’s meter system in order to make municipal ends meet, which led to (a) an instant quadrupling of parking fees, (b) a series of screwups in the operation of the program as it moved from a coin-operated system to a sophisticated currency and credit card system, which (c) was further compounded by a poorly synchronized clocking system that robs parkers of precious minutes, resulting in improper ticketing.

Add to this the fact that the city’s inspector general determined that Daley sold the system too cheaply; worse yet, some smart lawyers saw potential illegalities in the sale itself and there is now a lawsuit that could blow it all out of the water. Furthermore, there may yet be new revelations suggesting that Daley consciously screwed the citizenry with this entire deal.

Meanwhile, his secretive handling of Olympics financing continues to build mistrust and suspicion that future generations may be on the hook for loads more tax dollars if the games do not bring in all the bucks expected—or, more likely, if all the contractors wind up charging the city for massive over-runs as they always do. That’s the Chicago way.

The International Olympics Committee will decide the city’s fate a few days after this article is posted. Speculation is that Chicago’s bid is running a hairsbreadth behind Rio de Janiero, but still highly possible—especially if President Barack Obama decides to make a last-minute personal pitch before the committee.

All of which leads to speculation about the political future of Daley himself.

Will he run again in 2011 as the successful winner of the Olympics if he gets the games? Will he not run if he gets the games and instead take on the lucrative job of Czar of the 2016 Olympics and assure his financial future? Could the latter be what the big pitch is really all about?

If he doesn’t get the games, does he buck the numbers and run anyway? Or does he retire in despair and disappointment?

He has time to decide—if he hasn’t done so already. But every political hipster in town has a theory. The preponderance of hipsterdom thinks that, yes—in Edward G. Robinson’s famous final words from “Little Caesar”—“this could be the end of Little Rico.” If he gets the Olympics he chooses to become czar; if not he either retires or is defeated.

But he is not exactly the retiring type. More important, you can’t beat somebody with nobody and there ain’t a somebody waiting in the wings. There’s lots of nobodies—good nobodies and bad nobodies.

There are plenty of bad nobodies from the Daley-Madigan constellation—what some of us call the Machine. Some of them could hardly deny they are machinesters, such as Aldermen Burke or Allen, who voted for meter privatization.

Some could pretend they are not part of the constellation, like the schleppers who recently ran in the 5th Congressional District.

There are still a few “independents” and reformers as in days of yore, but none have demonstrated any citywide leadership as did the Mikvas, Singers or Simpsons in days of yore—and many have otherwise disqualified themselves, intentionally or not, as have the Jacksons, Moores, Browns and Munozes.

Our recent switch to a nonpartisan mayoral ballot could have made possible a classy, civic-minded businessperson with moderate Republican origins, but the words “moderate” and “Republican” have become an oxymoron.

In my wildest thinking I come up with just one possibility with the right combination of record of capability, integrity, progressive reform, name identification and experience who could serve one term, permit the city heal and develop a few new leaders for the future. One negative: he’s almost 80. But from a great family.

Adlai E. Stevenson III.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer


  • Dan Kelley said:

    In meetings with rank and file Chicagoans, as opposed to city employees and elected officials, it has been almost impossible to find a person who is favorable to the Olympic bid. Everyone seems to think that hosting the games will be a costly boondoggle that will saddle the taxpayers with debts to repay for decades to come.

    The consensus is that the mayor failed to generate public support for the Olympic Games and tried to sell the plan from the top down. Not a good idea in the current economy.

  • Sports fan said:

    Food for thought: many of 2016 Olympic venues are in TIF districts.

    Maybe we can pay for the Olympics with quarters from the parking meters.

    I can’t see Adlai dealing with the aldermen. I don’t think he’d have that kind of patience not to mention stomach.

    I’m politically to the left, I’ve never voted for Daley in any citywide election since he has been on the ballot. If the election came down to Daley and a Beck/Rush/Savage/ad nauseum spouting Republican, the Gop candidate will get my vote.

  • Anonymous said:

    The tragic and senseless murder of Derrion Albert by a mob of unruly youths ought to be considered by the Olympic Committee. Any complaints about public safety in Rio can be counterbalanced by the daily violence taking place unchecked in Chicago.

  • Plush said:

    Mayor Daley is finito! He is the leader of a still corrupt Cook County organization in a corrupt state. The IOC knows his history and this surely played a part in eliminating Chicago from Olympic contention.

    Daley cynically sold out the citizens with tax after tax and crowned it with the extra daily “tax” to park our automobiles. It was a gross miscalculation and one in the same family as the Bilandic snow removal failure.

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