April Fools', Chicago—meet your new independent aldermen | Bleader

April Fools', Chicago—meet your new independent aldermen


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Pictured left to right: Charles Williams, Commissioner of the Dept. of Streets and Sanitation, Rahm Emanuel, and Alderman Joe Moore.
  • Al Podgorski/Sun-Times
  • Pictured left to right: Charles Williams, Commissioner of the Dept. of Streets and Sanitation, Rahm Emanuel, and Alderman Joe Moore.
I was driving through the south side, talking to people whose mental health clinics Mayor Emanuel had closed, when word came across my cell phone of a new faction in the City Council.

That would be the Paul Douglas Alliance—named after the former alderman/U.S. senator—whose members were dedicating themselves to reforming Chicago by working with the mayor.

As opposed to working against him.

On the grounds that the way to get an all-powerful autocrat to change his mind is to be nice.

As though that strategy has worked at any time or in any place in the whole history of civilization.

At first, I thought it was a prank. Like April Fools' come early.

But, no, I chatted with the publicist who's helping the aldermen. And he assures me that this is no April Fools' prank. And that they are serious. And that two of those aldermen—Joe Moore (49th) and Michele Smith (43rd)—will be calling to explain this strategy sometime soon.

I look forward to those calls.

In the meantime, let's just break this down . . .

Since he took office almost two years ago, the City Council's given Mayor Emanuel the green light to do pretty much whatever he wants—like getting rid of the exemption on water bills for not-for-profits and outsourcing city jobs to private companies and closing the aforementioned mental health clinics.

So now the same aldermen who generally do what the mayor says contend that the best way to stop him from doing bad things is to do what he says.

I think it starts to make more sense once you've consumed massive amounts of hallucinogens.

The premise of the Paul Douglas crew is that traditional independent aldermen are too loud and critical to get things done. That we need more quiet cooperation—presumably behind closed doors. As though life in the City Council were like a political-science seminar at the University of Chicago and Mayor Emanuel were an enlightened scholar—think Siddhartha—searching for some universal truth.

The aldermen who have signed on to this premise are: Proco "Joe" Moreno (First), Pat Dowell (Third), Will Burns (Fourth), Rey Colon (35th), Brendan Reilly (42nd), Smith, James Cappleman (46th), Ameya Pawar (47th), Harry Osterman (48th), and Moore.

In all due respect, Paul Douglas aldermen, I must disagree. And here's why . . .

Our mayor is a cold-blooded, ruthless political carnivore.

And I say this with the utmost admiration and respect.

He doesn't give a shit about anyone or anything unless he's made to do so. And the only way to make him—if you don't, that is, have buckets of money—is to scream, yell, and rattle the cage.

And even then he might not give a shit.

As with the mental health clinics.

But to think that you're going to gently persuade Mayor Emanuel to do something he doesn't want to do is as delusional as me saying I could beat Michael Jordan in one-on-one.

Actually, it may be even more delusional. As my jump shot's been falling in recent days . . .

At the risk of sounding horribly jaded, I'd say that the main difference between a Paul Douglas alderman and a regular, good old-fashioned machine type—like, oh, Patrick O'Connor—is that the Douglas bunch wants you to believe that there is one.

A difference, that is.

When for all practical purposes there isn't—at least, when it comes to voting on the mayor's citywide initiatives.

In contrast, machine aldermen really don't care one way or another what you think about them because they figure you're too politically weak and/or stupid to vote them out of office.

In fact, at the risk of sounding even more jaded, I'd say the mayor had some hand in creating the Paul Douglas Alliance in order to undercut the aldermen who actually have the courage to occasionally vote against him.

Of course, there's always the chance that I'm wrong. If so, I look forward to the Paul Douglas Alliance talking the mayor into reopening the mental health clinics and getting back the exemption for needy shelters and clinics.

Any day now . . .

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