Last week, we suggested
that one subtle but crucial impact of Mayor Richard Daley's impending
retirement would be the eventual changes in leadership at the city's
top departments and governing boards. In an excellent piece published this
morning, the Sun-Times' Fran Spielman points out that the new mayor won't have free rein to shake up City Hall agencies right away:
of Daley loyalists have been locked in to long-running appointments on
policy-making boards and commissions. They will continue to serve in
those posts for years to come, potentially undermining the power of
whoever becomes Chicago's new mayor.
Among those likely
staying on will be businessman Jim Reynolds, who was recently named
chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, and former Buildings Commissioner Mary Richardson-Lowry, who was
just selected as school board president. The new mayor will have some
influence over the influential Plan Commission; five of Daley's nine
appointees -- including alleged slumlord Leon Finney Jr. -- are serving expired terms. Read the full piece here.
This morning, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. called into WLS' popular Don Wade and Roma talk show for the first time in months, eliciting this introduction from host Don Wade:
WLS isn't the only outlet Jackson has visited this month. On September 9, CNN's John King interviewed the South Sider about Chicago's open mayoral seat. Jackson also talked to WVON, the black-oriented radio station, and held a high-profile meeting with Rahm Emanuel. What's Jesse Jr. up to?
In normal circumstances, this question would be ridiculous; most elected officials with Jackson's stature talk to the press frequently. But following the news in late 2008 that Jackson was "Senate Candidate 5" in U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's case against ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Jackson largely extracted himself from the public arena. There were "no op-eds railing against City Hall corruption, no public vows to finance candidates who can help topple the machine, no talk about his own potential runs for Senate, mayor, mosquito abatement district board, or anything other than the congressional seat he currently holds," Mick Dumke wrote in a blog post for the Chicago Reader this past January.
Significantly, Jackson defended his actions revolving around President Obama's old Senate seat to Don and Roma this morning. Blagojevich claimed on tape that an emissary from Senate Candidate 5 offered him $1 million in exchange for President Obama's old Senate seat; Jackson was said to be present at an Oct. 28, 2008 meeting where that exchange was discussed. Listen to Jackson's recollection of the meeting:
You can listen to the full interview here. As the mayoral race starts to heat up, Jackson's silence appears to be ending. What that means, precisely for the mayoral race, we hope to know soon.
The ground continues to shift at the Chicago Police Department. On Thursday, outgoing Mayor Richard Daley said he wanted civilians rather than uniformed police officers to run the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program. Ron Holt, the CAPS director, told the Tribune that too many of the 200 to 300 officers assigned to CAPS were doing administrative and civilian tasks. Many are expected to be reassigned to patrol work.
At CAPS' meetings, neighborhood residents meet with beat officers, make requests for service, complain about ongoing public safety issues, and view statistics about area crime patterns. In 2008, less than 49,000 Chicago residents attended a CAPS meeting, the lowest total ever and a rate 30 percent lower than 2002 figures. Still, some community leaders are worried about losing access to officers and info about local crime. "This will kill CAPS," one volunteer said of the changes.
CAPS has both been held up as a model and criticized since it was founded in 1993. A story published in the Chicago Reporter 10 years back found CAPS workers hired through a non-profit were used more for public relations than helping residents. The Chicago Justice Project, which analyzes criminal justice issues in Chicago, argued CAPS never forged true partnerships between police and community, never engaged city youth in a meaningful way, and abetted gentrification. An evaluation of the program (PDF) after its first 10 years by the Northwestern professor who helped bring CAPS to Chicago gave it generally good marks. With Daley soon out the door and a new police superintendent likely coming in with the next mayor, this is a ripe time for a debate about the CAPS program -- and community policing more generally -- in Chicago.
The Reader's Ben Joravksy, who has doggedly reported on Richard Daley's career for nearly three decades, explains his reaction to the retirement bombshell:
I wasn't nearly so jubilant on September 7, when Mayor Daley announced
he wasn't running for reelection. In fact, I was a little disappointed.
I didn't want him to leave this way. I wanted him driven from office in
a massive grassroots uprising, sort of like the one that swept Jane
Byrne into office back in 1979. I wanted the election to come down to
the wire, with the crucial votes coming from the poor west- and
south-side wards he's been neglecting all these years.
Oh, well—Mayor Daley wins again.
Read the full column, which includes a charming story about Joravsky's first (well, second) meeting with Hizzoner.
Quietly, the race for Illinois Comptroller has been the most
substantively interesting of all the statewide races this season.
Republican candidate Judy Barr Topinka launched her campaign with an unusual message:
Illinois should merge the positions of State Treasurer and Comptroller
into one financial office. It's a move for which the Democratic
nominee, David Miller, has also voiced support. Next, Miller unveiled
a comprehensive tax increment financing transparency proposal, one that
could prove extremely useful to Chicago-area lawmakers and voters as
they try to repair the city's finances in the coming years. Now, the
two candidates are debating how Illinois should divvy up its scare
Earlier this week, Miller told Chicago Public Radio that he would like to expedite payments to vendors and non-profits that are owed state dollars
and operate in undeserved communities. Topinka quickly dismissed that
idea as "social engineering." In a press release last evening, Miller
clapped back, calling the policy "social decency that goes to the heart
of public service." Ideally, the state would raise enough money to pay
down all of its bills. Since that's not going to happen
anytime soon, this debate is relevant. And Miller, for what it's worth,
has been a vocal supporter of comprehensive tax reform in Illinois,
which would begin to close that $13 billion deficit. Here's a video we
shot of him earlier this year in Springfield, reflecting on the
importance of the Save Our State rally:
Illinois already has too many working poor residents. Under a Brady
administration, that number could grow. The GOP gubernatorial candidate
has already taken heat from the Quinn campaign for saying he wants the state to freeze its (historically low) minimum wage. In an interview yesterday, a Brady spokeswoman told the State Journal-Register's Bernard Schoenburg that Brady thinks turning the Land of Lincoln into a right-to-work state is an "intriguing concept."
Right-to-work laws, on the books in 22 states, negate a provision in the federal Taft-Hartley Act that requires all new employees to join an established union after a minimum period of time following their hire. They also drive down wages. In 2009, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that wages for all workers were roughly 11 percent higher in union-friendly states. The AFL-CIO graphed the data:
accounting for personal and geographic characteristics, the Economic
Policy Institute has demonstrated that workers living in right-to-work
states earn, on average, 6.5 percent less than similar workers in
states with union organizing protections. What's intruging about that?
Some folks from Chicago Jobs with Justice showed up outside of the Illinois Republican headquarters in Chicago yesterday to protest the arrival of U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk and rally in favor of President Obama's job creation initiatives, increased unemployment insurance benefits, and ending the Bush-era tax cuts for the highest earning 2 percent of Americans. All three are opposed by Kirk. Here's some footage from the rally:
It's too soon to tell who will stay and who will go when Daley's tenure officially ends, though we predicted yesterday that Police Superintendent Jody Weis is likely out the door. Other top staffers and leaders are likely to quit as well; Crain'sadded (subscription required) Chief Financial Officer Gene Munin, Corporation Counsel
Mara Georges, Daley's press Secretary Jacquelyn Heard, and others to its watch list. What this jockeying will mean for city policy down
the road is something we'll be watching and assessing closely at
Progress Illinois over the coming months.
During a campaign stop yesterday, GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady told reporters that he did not support amnesty for undocumented immigrants. In what is beginning to appear to be Brady's mode of operation, the state senator also refused to outline any contributions he could make to improve what he calls a "serious crisis." He did deliver a general statement about the federal government's need to come up with a reform package:
This is going to require a federal reform package. As governor of the
state of Illinois, I'll work with other governors and the United States'
Congress and the president to bring about meaningful reform to take
care of this problem.
Despite an encouraging speech before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce last month, in which Brady stressed the importance of immigrants to Illinois' economic future, we questioned the depth of his commitment to protecting the interests of
immigrants. More and more, that outreach is looking like an election-year stunt. Yesterday, he wouldn't even voice support for the DREAM Act. That's a fairly uncontroversial bill and one any friend of immigrants would back.