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By now anyone who serves as an aide to Richard M. Daley should know that his or her primary responsibility, regardless of job title or description, is to be prepared to get kicked in the ass and thrown out the back door whenever the mayor's taking heat and needs a fall guy.
The mayor has never explained how the Hired Truck program became a welfare-distribution system for mobsters and connected wheeler-dealers, yet he was happy to blame and then force out his respected budget chief, Bill Abolt, for not doing enough to stop it.
He watched his patronage chief and other top aides go to prison for running the jobs-for-campaign-work scheme that made him invincible on election day—but which he claimed to know nothing about.
And now he's demoted chief of staff Paul Volpe, best known for his work on and defense of the parking meter lease deal.
Just a few months ago Daley was singing Volpe's praises. But people are still hot over the meter fiasco, and the mayor is desperate to move on.
Naturally, Daley denied that the meter deal had anything to do with his decision to ship Volpe to the CTA, whence he originally came. He even said he himself deserves the blame for the poor transition from public to private management of the parking system—the only part of the deal he's ever acknowledged was problematic.
In truth, the mayor deserves the blame for everything about the meter deal—and records prove it.
In the last couple of days Volpe has been described as the person who "engineered" or was "responsible for" the deal. That's not accurate.
Records show that terms of the deal and estimates of the meter system's value were put together primarily by William Blair & Company, the financial firm that brought the idea of privatizing the meters to the city, then got the job of making it happen in return for $4.3 million.
And minutes [PDF] of the private meetings where offers to run the meter system were unveiled show that Volpe was just one of several top Daley aides who reviewed details of the deal. Others included former Daley chief of staff (and Olympic bid president) Lori Healey; Jim McDonald, one of the top attorneys in the corporation counsel's office; revenue department director Bea Reyna-Hickey; Matt Darst, one of her lieutenants; and Lisa Schrader, a Daley budget aide.
Most importantly, the deal would only go forward "if Mayor Daley elects to accept the bid."
Volpe can and should be blamed for helping to put the terms of the agreement together and—just as significantly—for vigorously defending it in the face of evidence that it was a stinker whose terms were far more beneficial to the private operators than to the citizens of Chicago. He should also be held accountable for going along with the plan to use money from the deal to balance next year's budget, which will rob taxpayers of a revenue stream for the next seven decades.
But ultimately there's only one person with the power to make any of this happen, and he's still got a job at City Hall.