Mayor Rahm and Joe Ferguson make love, not war

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Mayor Rahm
  • CHANDLER WEST/SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • Mayor Rahm
In a sign of their utter desperation, the liberals of Chicago have reacted to news of the mayor's plans to reappoint Inspector General Joe Ferguson with wild jubilation.

Or as much wild jubilation as liberals can muster.

The members of the City Council's progressive caucus—yes, there is one—issued a press release hailing the reappointment as evidence Mayor Emanuel actually gives a hoot about what they say.

Andy Shaw, president of the Better Government Association, was even more effusive. "The mayor has not gotten along well with Joe Ferguson," Shaw told the Sun-Times. "Yet, he understood that it's more important to have a strong, independent watchdog than a lapdog he can control."

I hate to rain on anyone's parade, but I don't see why everyone's so happy. I have no beef with Ferguson. As near as I can tell he's one of the only appointees unafraid to stand up to the mayor.

But, people, let's be real. Mayor Emanuel doesn't want a strong watchdog inspector general any more than Mayor Daley, who couldn't stand David Hoffman, Ferguson's predecessor, for blasting the parking meter deal.

If anything, Ferguson's "reappointment" is another slick move by the mayor, one of the slickest guys in town.

Yes, I know, Emanuel and Ferguson had a private confab last week, where they apparently held hands, kissed, and sang "Kumbaya."

Then they announced their deal. Mayor Emanuel would reappoint Ferguson, instead of making him reapply for his job, when his four-year term expires in November.

And Ferguson would step down after a year.

OK, we get Ferguson for another year. But then he moves on and Mayor Emanuel appoints his successor. And if his selection of school board appointees is any indication, it will be someone of the lapdog variety.

At the risk of pouring on parades, I don't think Ferguson's office even examines the things that are most wrong with this administration.

Follow me on this one.

My biggest knock on Mayor Emanuel is that he's redistributing public money from the poor and middle class to the well-to-do—for example, by spending the money he "saves" by firing teachers to buy land in the South Loop for his DePaul/hotel fiasco.

The pluses and minuses of that sort of redistribution are not something the inspector general's office is charged to investigate. It's what the City Council is supposed to monitor. But unfortunately, with a few exceptions, the aldermen are either clueless or looking the other way.

The people who really love Ferguson's office tend to be sort of, oh, nonideological about the whole redistribution thing.

It's not that they're for or against it—or have any opinion at all. They just want the mayor to be "transparent"—that is, if he's going to spend school money on South Loop land deals, at least keep a proper accounting somewhere on the Internet for everyone to see.

I'm all for transparency. But as one wise man once told me, transparency generally means you can follow the bloody tracks to the carcass of the animal that's already been killed.

I believe it was Tom Tresser who came up with that carcass line. He's the activist who founded the Civic Lab, a group of citizens dedicated to blowing up the TIF program as we know it.

Speaking of which, here's my advice for Ferguson . . .

If you gotta go, go out with bang. Have the guys and gals in accounting pore over those TIF accounts to see exactly who's getting what and how much money's left over to go back to the schools, as Andy Shaw and I may have suggested a few times before.

In other words, put some pressure on the mayor to hire back a few of the hundreds of teachers he's fired in the last few months.

Think of it as a double win. You'll win the everlasting gratitude of parents and students. And you'll really piss off the mayor, who wants to keep all that slush for himself.

That last reason might be incentive enough.

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