Hey, 40th Ward—do us a favor and ditch Alderman O'Connor

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Alderman Patrick OConnor
One of the mayoral campaign's more ironic twists comes in the form of mail from Mayor Emanuel that blasts alderman Bob Fioretti for some of the more boneheaded policies of former mayor Richard Daley.

Daley, by the way, supports Mayor Emanuel in this campaign. Just as Emanuel supported Daley when he ran for office.

As if anything ever really changes.

It got me wondering—how would 40th Ward alderman Patrick O'Connor fare in Mayor Emanuel's litmus test of bad Daley-era council votes?

This is no trivial matter, as O'Connor—an eight-term north-side powerhouse—is facing a spirited challenge from Dianne Daleiden, a public school math and science teacher who promises a new day of 40th Ward independence should she miraculously win.

So if Daley-era council votes matter when it comes to mayoral challenger Fioretti, the same holds true for Alderman O'Connor. Right, Mr. Mayor?

For instance, Mayor Emanuel justifiably lambastes Fioretti for voting for the notorious parking meter sale of 2008. In that deal, the City Council—at Mayor Daley's insistence—took an asset worth as much as $10 billion and sold it for about $1 billion.

Just in case you forgot.

Alderman O'Connor not only voted for the parking-meter deal, he helped shepherd it through the council. He was Mayor Daley's council floor leader. Just as he is Mayor Rahm's council floor leader.

Remember what I said about nothing ever changing?

Then O'Connor doubled down, voting for Mayor Emanuel's renegotiation of that deal, effectively undercutting a lawsuit challenging the original parking meter sale.

Alderman Fioretti has renounced his 2008 parking meter vote. And he voted against Mayor Emanuel's reworking of the deal, as did several other north-side aldermen. But not Alderman O'Connor.

It would be beyond ironic if Fioretti paid the price for the parking meter debacle, while O'Connor, the mayoral floor leader, skated to reelection.

Mayor Emanuel has also slammed Alderman Fioretti for voting for several tax increment financing (TIF) deals, including Mayor Daley's proposal to give a $15 million subsidy to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Eventually the CME rejected the $15 million because they got an even sweeter handout in the form of a state tax break, which Mayor Emanuel enthusiastically endorsed, I might add.

For his part, Alderman O'Connor voted for the TIF handout to the CME. Just as he supported every TIF district and TIF deal that Mayor Daley proposed, including such boondoggles as Loyola, Central Loop, and LaSalle Central.

The list really does go on and on and on . . .

Alderman O'Connor kept voting for TIF deals long after Fioretti saw the light on this issue. It was Alderman O'Connor who helped Mayor Emanuel's $55 million Marriott/DePaul basketball arena TIF deal slide through the council without debate.

Those TIFs have collected about $6 billion in property tax dollars over the last 30 or so years. That money would have come in handy to help pay our pension obligations.

Instead Mayor Daley spent money that should have gone to pensions on other things. And Alderman O'Connor never said peep.

Now O'Connor's going to be shepherding Mayor Rahm's pension "reform"—tax hike and all—through the council—if they're both reelected.

So the guys who got us into the mess are supposed to get us out of it.

Mayor Emanuel's also criticized another opponent—Jesus Garcia—for voting to raise property taxes in 1986, when Garcia was 22nd Ward alderman.

Alderman O'Connor voted against that property tax hike, but I'm not sure his vote constitutes an act of courage.

In those days, Alderman O'Connor was a loyal member of a band of white alderman—led by Eddie Vrdolyak—who essentially sabotaged Mayor Harold Washington's administration by opposing much of what the mayor tried to do.

Sort of like what John Boehner's congressional Republicans are doing to President Obama.

Mayor Washington died in 1987. Soon thereafter Mayor Daley was elected and here we are.

In short, the problem with aldermen like O'Connor is that they lack the fortitude to tell their political patrons—be they mayors or other aldermen—I'm sorry, but in good conscience I can't go along with what you're proposing.

Dianne Daleiden swears up and down she'll have the guts to stand by her convictions on matters like pensions, taxes, TIFs, budgets, and privatization deals.

I can't say for certain she'll be the second coming of Alderman Leon Despres, the great Hyde Park independent, but I do know this: when it to comes to showing good judgment in the face of bad ideas from powerful bosses, she's got to be better than O'Connor.

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