News & Politics » Ben Joravsky on Politics

All I want for Christmas is a City Council with a backbone

Mayor Emanuel already got his gift: a new set of rubber stamps



As the holidays approach, I'd like to gather a little cheer to spread throughout the land, but so far my gift bag's got nothing in it but a hole.

Politically speaking, at least. Man, what a lousy year.

The mayoral campaign came down to a choice between Mayor Daley's north/northwest side faction (Rahm Emanuel) and his southwest side faction (Gery Chico). The north/northwest side ran away with it largely because the city's black voters went along with President Obama's wink-and-a-nod endorsement of Emanuel—and there wasn't an electable black candidate.

Now Mayor Rahm's the ruler of the land.

About the only good thing I can say about that election is that we were spared a runoff, in which we would've had to choose between two candidates knocking each other over to explain how they love Mayor Daley while proposing to change most everything he did.

As usual, the guy I voted for lost.

Of course, the guy I vote for generally loses. An exception came when I voted for the winner in the 2002 governor's race—and that didn't work out so well either.

Speaking of which—14 years is a long stretch in federal prison. Rod Blagojevich will have tons of time to recite Kipling, Shakespeare, and Greek mythology.

As long as we're on the topic of ineffective elected officials—how about our City Council?

For the better part of the election cycle last winter and spring, I trekked around town, hearing one aldermanic candidate after another vow not to be a mayoral puppet.

What great news: the rubber-stamp days were over!

In fact, I heard the rookies—Ameya Pawar, Tim Cullerton, James Cappleman, Debra Silverstein, Michael Chandler, and John Arena, just to name a few—wish they'd had been in the council in 2009 so they could have voted against the parking meter deal.

And the TIFs—my god, you should have heard them bash the TIFs. Pawar in particular worked to find different ways to describe how he would blow them up along with all the other slush funds and budget gimmicks in the city.

Well, they got elected and what happened? Folded like a bunch of lawn chairs.

In fact, Pawar is currently gearing up to endorse a $4.5 million TIF handout for a Mariano's grocery store at Lawrence and Ravenswood.

You know, because it's such a low-income, blighted community.

By the way, what's with the love—and money—for Mariano's? The upscale grocer is also one of the beneficiaries of a $7 million TIF deal in Greektown. Welcome to another low-income, blighted community.

If I'm the folks at Trader Joe's, I'm thinking: Hey, where's mine?

This reminds me to apologize for a little bit of wishful thinking I wrote last February in regards to Pawar: "At the age of 30 he's developed a worldview in which life is a series of potential emergencies that can be met through smarter planning. He views the city's government—with its looming debt—as an emergency brought on by catastrophically bad management.

"'In the aftermath of a disaster, you discover that everything's a direct result of preexisting conditions,' Pawar says. 'This is a financial disaster. We're coming up with gimmicks like TIFs and we're plugging the budget by selling off assets. It's like a pawn-shop government, selling the watch to fund the city.'"

Please forgive me—I was like a Cub fan hopped up on hope by the arrival of Theo Epstein.

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