by Ben Joravsky
If Chicago truly were a democracy, the members of the Board of Education would admit they had royally messed up and would reconvert Ames from a marine academy back to a regular neighborhood school.
Like the people want!
But alas, Chicago is not a democracy. Not sure exactly what it is—probably a kleptocracy, as a firefighter named Bohdi once told me.
In any event, the school board will have its moment of decision at tomorrow's meeting, when members of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association return to the central office to press their case.
Here's the deal . . .
On December 18, the school board's members voted to convert Ames from a neighborhood school—open to all—to a restricted-enrollment marine academy. Read the story . . .
Their stated reason is that the demand for military schools was so strong, they felt compelled to bow to the public will.
The unstated reason is that they were—as usual—doing what the boss man wanted.
In this case, Mayor Rahm Emanuel—the boss man in question—had apparently cut a deal with 26th Ward alderman Roberto Maldonado in which the alderman exchanged his unwavering fealty to the mayor for a marine academy at Ames.
I'm not sure exactly why Maldonado hankered so passionately for a marine school. He never served in the marines when he was young and fit and capable of fighting.
My personal theory is that he's going through his own version of a middle-life crisis. If so, I can relate, Alderman. Though I think you'd be better off hankering for a little red Mustang—like the rest of us aging boomers.
In any event, the fight over Ames—at 1920 N. Hamlin—mushroomed into a furious local battle, with members of the LSNA passionately begging the school board not to mess with their school.
The neighbors brought to the board more than 2,000 signatures supporting their position. Maldonado countered by claiming most of the community wanted the marine academy.
The seven board members—all mayoral appointees—collectively shrugged their shoulder, as if to say: Oy, these things are so complicated—who knows what the community wants?
Then they voted to convert Ames to a military academy, just as the mayor wanted.
But, wait, it's not over . . .
Undeterred by the board's vote, residents gathered the signatures they needed to put the matter on the March 18 ballot in the form of yes-or-no referendum: "Should Ames be maintained as a neighborhood school, rather than be converted into a military high school?"
It came down to an election-day battle of strength between Maldonado and a bunch of Logan Square locals. Man, I haven't had so much fun since Triple H took on Randy Orton in WrestleMania XXV!
When the votes were counted, it wasn't even close. The locals whupped Maldonado, winning roughly 69 percent of the votes.
They even won about 65 percent of the vote in the four precincts in Maldonado's 26th Ward.
I'm telling you, Alderman—you should have gone for the red Mustang.
Now the Ames supporters will show up at tomorrow's board meeting, asking board members to reconsider the conversion in light of last Tuesday's vote.
Oh, what's a rubber-stamp board to do?
The answer, of course, is whatever the mayor tells them.
Hey, Mr. Mayor—here's my advice. Drop this baby into the same circular file where you dumped your plan to rename Stony Island Avenue for Bishop Brazier.
If only for the pleasure of watching the board members do exactly what you tell them—one more time.