How to challenge the mayor

07/14/2010 10:00 PM


10 Comments - Add Your Comment

Reading the tea leaves suggests Mayor Richard M. Daley will run for reelection this fall, asking for a seventh term from Chicago voters.

He hasn’t announced his intentions yet, but the mayor is unlikely to decline taking another shot to sit in the big chair on the fifth floor of city hall for a simple reason: getting out now means leaving the city’s top job and leaving Chicago in the lurch.

Getting out now means finishing his tenure scarred by the Olympic collapse. Getting out now means leaving while some of Daley’s biggest projects — the transformation of public housing perhaps most prominently — remain incomplete, stalled out like a car with a shot carburetor.

Despite his demurrals and recent above-the-fray attitude toward the grit of electoral politics, politics courses through the mayor’s bloodstream. He won’t leave, at least not yet.

The more interesting question then becomes whether Daley will face any credible challengers in the Democratic party primary slated for Feb. 2011, the election that will determine, ultimately, who gets elected next April.

The issues for a challenger are most certainly there.

Any successful mayoral challenge starts with public safety. As the investigative magazine The Chicago Reporter noted earlier this summer, Chicago’s violent crime rate is nearly double that of New York City and Los Angeles, metropolises comparable in size and complexity to our own city. Taken together, the 11th and 15th police districts on the West Side had the highest per capita murder rate in the country in 2009, an analysis published by the magazine showed.

Daley has also left himself vulnerable with the meter privatization, an issue that’s come to symbolize his administration’s secretive style of decision making and ramrod approach to city council, which meekly passed the deal without asking any hard questions. The meter privatization remains the issue that could allow a Daley challenger to mobilize the most public anger. The deal was, arguably, the most unpopular decision during Daley’s tenure. New meter installation was bungled, rates skyrocketed and the city has already spent off what was to be a rainy day fund.

A Daley opponent will criticize the meter deal and start a debate about privatization more generally. While the deal to lease Midway Airport has fallen through for now, many fear that the city plans to sell off the city’s water system, placing the most basic resources in private hands. And Chicagoans don’t want to pay higher water rates like they now pay higher parking fees.

City services have lagged during the economic recession, too. Thousands of recycling bins stay stashed in a South Side warehouse because the city can’t complete a recycling program. Roads like Lake Shore Drive buckle in the heat while too many side streets resemble a broken lunar landscape. The hole in the city’s budget next year will be gaping — that’s a promise — so there will likely be services slashed even before the February election. With CTA cutbacks and Chicago School teachers being fired, seething frustration with city services could be harnessed by a skilled campaigner.

This fall, meanwhile, voters will get their property tax bills. While a higher tax bill is not exclusively the Daley administration’s fault, the sticker shock of high property taxes coupled with faulty privatization, unsatisfactory services and astronomical budget deficits provide the basic planks of an anti-Daley campaign platform.

Ethics remains an issue too. The Daley administration has been riddled with corruption, attested by the stream of aldermen and city employees marching off to prison, and a Blagojevich conviction later this year will bring the spotlight back to government corruption once again.

Daley’s administration has tolerated patronage hiring and doled out contracts and subsidies to connected insiders. The occasional apologies issued by the mayor aren’t enough. A Daley opponent will demand a full explanation for the Hired Truck outrage, for ex-Daley aide Robert Sorich’s clout list and for other scandals.

A serious mayoral campaign will spark a debate about what kind of global city Chicago wants to become. Adornments like Millennium Park are fine, but can we really move forward when so many neighborhoods are beset by violence and economic despair? We want the fruits of a global economy here, but we need them to be distributed with more equity.

The late alderman Paddy Bauler once famously quipped that “Chicago ain’t ready for reform.” In this coming mayoral election, old Paddy may be wrong. But only if the right challenger emerges.

10 Comments - Add Your Comment

By I can't tell one alderman from another
Posted: 07/21/2010 8:44 PM

Daley can't last until 2015. Even if he wins in next year, his exit strategy will be to find a successor and bargain to have that person appointed [anointed] by the CC. Maggie is very sick, he is not always well, and if he doesn't leave he'll go out the same way his old man did. Part of me thinks he wants that, but another part thinks he knows he needs to get out but just can't. Think about voting in new aldermen who can be tough and savvy enough to appoint a strong, smart, decent successor.

By Bradley O'Brien from Budlong Woods
Posted: 07/19/2010 7:11 PM

only 500 characters? you dare want to take away our God given right to protect ourselves? coming from a man who is surrounded by security with guns you're a joke! You're selling this city piece by piece, you dont care about education or the children of this city yet our motto is "children First"? How do you even sleep at night? To be a fly on the wall when your time comes to meet your maker I would give anything for. You're a power hungry union busting good for nothing that needs to go!!!!

By Anonymous from Bridgeport
Posted: 07/17/2010 10:44 AM

Hey, Richie. Retire now. You screw up with the parking meters, you took Meigs as if its your own, while it in FAA jurisdiction, and now this botch up 2016 Olympics, because no one trusts you or your cronies. Oh give Balcer a bone to chew on just too keep him from barking too much, crap.

By chitownteacher from Ravenswood
Posted: 07/16/2010 10:25 PM

Please name which Aldermen are most vulnerable, why, and if there are any declared opponents.

By here4ever from Dearborn Park
Posted: 07/16/2010 1:17 PM

Ah, Dick: you mention the "Feb 2011 Democratic Primary Election" in the piece. Chicago Mayoral Elections have been officially non-partisan for over 10 years. Hello? There is no party primary. There is a runoff system in which if no one gets 50% of the vote in the 1st round, the highest 2 vote getters compete in the April run off. I know you are caught in the '70s, but come on! Being a professor and what not, I thought you'd know at least that much.

By CHALLENGE YOUR ALDERMAN from Several of them are vulnerable
Posted: 07/16/2010 12:14 PM

"Time for a change," I agree with you that now is time for change - BIG TIME. I predict some serious political blood-letting in Nov, and if we continue that trend in Feb, a number of aldermen can end up on the unemployment line where they belong. Actually, many of them double as lawyers, so they'll still have jobs. I just think that Daley cannot be beaten, short of BA #2 appearing. I think our better effort would be to strongly focus on defeating as many of these bad aldermen as possible.

By Time for a Change from S.Loop
Posted: 07/15/2010 10:37 PM

All true -But there is a palpable under current of - hatred is probably not too strong a word- from an unusual source - lower, middle and upper middle class voters. I lived in Bridgeport and plastered my house with Daley posters for both the Old man and Richie as did my neighbors/relatives. Everyone now feels Daley has abandonned them and is ruining the city. He sometimes looks disheveled and is increasingly incoherent. I think he is losing his grip. Subservient media could be key.

By CHALLENGE YOUR ALDERMAN from Several of them are vulnerable
Posted: 07/15/2010 3:36 PM

I agree: Daley is invincible. Only a Barack Obama type might be able to defeat him - but nobody is out there. If the goal is to fight corruption and not simply to defeat Daley however, then there's a more viable way: Defeat some of these spineless rubber-stamp aldermen who always vote Daley's way (I admire the 5 aldermen who had the courage to vote against Daley's parking meter deal). As I look at the 50 aldermen, I identify several who can with a lot of hard work be defeated including mine.

By I agree
Posted: 07/15/2010 12:40 PM

Daley's supposed vulnerability is something only the media promotes. He has $2.5 million in campaign cash and could double that in a month. He has 20 years of favors to call in. He will squelch any donations to a true challenger because of perceived retribution. And he will opp research in a scorched earth campaign. If there is a well qualified challenger out there with $3-5 million ready to spend then there could be an actual race. When the media identifies that person wake me.

By Daley will win in 2011 from But 2015 is fertile ground for those who plant the
Posted: 07/15/2010 0:21 AM

My prediction: Despite his scandals, Daley will still win re-election by 55-60% of the vote cast (there's too much reasoning behind these #s to explain here), not the 71% that he won by in 2007. I also predict that Daley will have at least 2 challengers (maybe more) who will be fairly well known within their own communities, but who will not necessarily have the name recognition to carry a majority of Chicago. It will be great training for these challengers if they run again for mayor in 2015