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A few months ago, 38th Ward Alderman Tom Allen seemed to be in a low-level war with the Daley administration. He criticized police and budget officials for what he saw as their stubborn refusal to commit to hiring more police officers to crack down on dangerous driving. And he was disgusted when the mayor insinuated that supporters of the big-box minimum wage ordinance were uninterested in seeing development in black areas. At the time, Allen said Daley's moral posturing reminded him of Karl Rove's.
Daley's budget people eventually told Allen that the police department had filled more than 100 of its vacancies. Even though this didn't meet the alderman's original demand to bring on 100 new cops solely for traffic safety, Allen said he was happy and ready to move on.
During this week's City Council meeting, Allen gave the impression that he'd done so a long time ago. Strolling around as if he were at a cocktail party, Allen shook a few hands, told some jokes, and shrugged off any suggestion that life might not be grand.
"How many challengers have filed against you?" a TV reporter asked him as he milled in the council lounge.
"None," Allen said, struggling not to grin. "Not so far."
At a table nearby, two other aldermen heard that with envy. "How many you got so far?" one asked the other.
"Three--but another guy said he might get in too. If he is, he hasn't filed yet. You?"
"Yeah, last time out I had four, but I knocked two of them off the ballot before the election."
"That's what you've got to do."
For the moment, at least, Allen didn't have those troubles, and in fact was discussing how he could lend the mayor a hand. "I don't think the fact that the administration is not in lockstep with my initiatives--it's not a big deal," Allen said. "In previous election cycles in our ward we've always advanced the mayor's candidacy. It'll be the same here. He's popular in our neighborhood. He's earned the voters' respect."
Twenty-eighth Ward alderman Ed Smith walked through the lounge hastily. Smith has had his own public differences with the Daley administration over the last few months, but voters in his west-side ward are unlikely to be as Daley-friendly as Allen's northwest siders. Four other candidates have already filed to take Smith on.
"There's one person I know I'm going to endorse, without a doubt, and that's Ed Smith," Smith said, hurrying on. "I'm going to do anything I can for that guy, because I think he's done a tremendous job."