DALEY BUSINESS . . . The Chicago mayor has been flexing political muscle since his big win in the last election. "It's like he was just waiting for this last go-'round to pull out all the stops," says a reader.
One of the stops is for a downtown casino. Long after the Lords of the Levee have gone their ways, the city would have its own gambling den, to pay for schools, of course. Dennis Byrne in Chi Trib suggests a Southeast Side slag heap, but this won't happen.
Daley's coming out for a casino "sort of caught us a little bit by surprise," said Gov. Blagojevich, a Democrat like almost all recently elected state officials. Later, in a show of independence, Gov. B. said he won't go along.
The casino would be land-based. The river isn't big enough, says the mayor.
Some aldermen objected, claiming moral qualms. They need not take casino money, said Daley, sidestepping the gambling-addiction question. Playground-style, he said they can act "morally," refusing the money. "You wouldn't want to hurt them."
His father asked how many trees protestors planted. The son says, "I always love those people" who object to aldermanic pay raises but take them anyhow. They exhibit "profiles in courage."
Casinos may not be "socially healthy," says state Sen. Emil Jones, a casino-supporter. But people fly to Vegas to gamble. Why not stay here and do it?
IT'S A CRIME . . . Another big Chicago item is its murder rate, tops among big cities. "It's a societal problem," says outgoing police Supt. Terry Hillard. He has a "mantra" when cops are caught stealing, said a Chicago writer: Let there be more training for cops who make honest mistakes, let us throw the book at offenders. "We've been very aggressive" in going after them, he said. But everywhere in society are "shortcut"-takers, as "in business, medicine, religion or the press."
Some mothers aren't so good, and certain bakers are adulterating their apple pies. We are off to hell in a handbag, having thrown hands in air in combination disgust, disappointment, frustration, and surrender.
Would the next supt. or the mayor, who matters most, consider ideas from the Manhattan Institute, such as what turned NY City around in the 90s -- broken-glass theory which leads to crackdown on minor crime such as subway fare-jumping?
The problem here is that Daley lacks the two things that could make him a great mayor: guts and imagination. That is, he pursues no-risk policies and lacks adequate mental capacity.
Can you imagine Bush being as passive and unfocussed as mayor of the most murderous city? Or Guiliani who credited the Manhattan Institute with ideas he implemented and rallied New Yorkers after 9/11, as Bush did the country?
These are leaders. Daley is a politician, though maybe the best Chicago can come up with. As Royko wrote the day after the father died, Chicago had in him the mayor it deserved. (5/23/03)
MAYOR DALEY AND MEIGS FIELD -- 4/17/03
DOING IT . . . Discussing the need for a no-fly zone for the Loop, Daley said he would not close Meigs, which he said was not a security problem, because "we know who's coming in." A week later, 3/31, he closed it under cover of darkness, blocking the security camera so no one would catch on. He "vandalized a lake front jewel," Sun-Times editorialized. Began Sunday night, after 10 p.m. news was over. Sneaky, sneaky son of a . . . boss.
At Monday press conference, he made the "ludicrous" claim that the city's safety required it, as S-T put it. "Smokescreen," said S-T. He did it "for one reason: to catch opponents off guard and rob them of legal recourse" against closing Meigs down. It would have been "needlessly contentious," he said, otherwise. But a few city trucks parked on the runway would have prevented its use, said S-T; instead he had his people chop it up.
Reaction was swift and sarcastic. He was "the supreme high commander . . . feigning surprise" at the number of reporters on hand for the press conference, asking, "'What happened?' in mock astonishment," wrote S-T's Mark Brown.
DEFENDING IT . . . He does not argue or explain, just repeats his position. Did he win the battle with Feds over no-fly zoning of Loop? No, "in the sense that Mickey & Minnie [Disneyland] got it first."
Get him a Napoleon hat, said Roma Wade on WLS-AM. He did Soldier Field the same way a few years ago, beating opponents' legal moves to the punch, she noted, asking if he intended to shut the river down too, citing security, or drain the lake.
Sue him to repair the runway, says Roma. He threw a "hissy-fit" over delay by Feds on making Loop a no-fly zone, will post "no-suicide bomb" signs, pushing an ordinance through his compliant city council.
Safety first is the word, but the Meigs-FCC tower is disabled. The controller heard it on the radio on his way to work: no place to work today. He intended to show up anyway, until given a new assignment. Tower gone, it was easier for a plane to fly unobserved near Meigs, so Loop security was lessened, regardless of the mayor's reasoning. In addition, the Loop is five minutes from Midway or Pal-Waukee, which would be enough for a really bad guy.
But the backhoe maneuver that chewed up the runways "reduces [at least] the perception of risk," Daley said.
FEEDBACK . . . He's a liar, says caller to Don & Roma. Real reason he closed it? Mrs. D. complained of the overhead noise from Meigs after they moved from ancestral Bridgeport to South Loop; the small planes bothered her. That's when D. began to say Meigs had to go, says caller, an anonymous policeman. Cherchez la missus, also said a financial reporter encountered by this writer on a Monday-morning assignment for a news service, apparently voicing conventional wisdom among newsies.
In which case "Urbs in horto" on the city seal (city in a garden, yes!) becomes "Hortus in urbe" (garden in city), with subtext not "Ubi sunt mea?" as Mike Royko once proclaimed (Where's mine?) but "Quidquid Margareta vult, obtinet" (Whatever Maggie Wants, She Gets).
Maggie wanted a garden, says Roma.
More indignities heaped on the mayor: Daley a nut, per Sun-Times cartoon 4/2. Or "banana-republic general [who] can barely tolerate anyone questioning his actions," as in Chi Trib editorial.
VOTE-GETTER . . . Daley was not concerned about small-plane pilots' response to Meigs Field demolition. Stalin asked, how many divisions has the pope? Daley asks, how many votes do they have? He not only has a vote-getting machine, he is one. His whole giggling, inarticulate self.
Private pilot Okla. Sen James Inhofe (R), in town for meeting of money-distributing committee, said Daley's pre-emptive defacing of Meigs reminds him of the [roaring?] 1920s for its "arrogant recklessness." He needn't have gone back so far. The 60s offer adequate precedent, in the original Boss Daley.
BRIGHT IDEAS . . . 4/9, Mary Schmich in Chi Trib ran write-in suggestions about Mayor D and Meigs, including:
* Remove 40 floors (the top 40) of John Hancock Bldg so a terrorist plane hits Water Tower Place instead, where prices are too high anyway. (Economic populism here)
* Abolish local elections for economy's sake in these hard times: Let the people play in a new park. (Not eat cake, which is passe.)
* End McDonald's openings in favor of more drive-up windows for the McD's we already have, for increased convenience. (In the spirit of adding runways to O'Hare airport, which D. wants desperately.)
FRIENDS IN THE PRESS (1). . . Some nominally good-government types, who ordinarily object to governmental high-handedness gave Daley a pass in this case for reasons of populism: He did it to provide park space for the many, and who cares about the few rich with their planes? (He said nothing about a park, only about security, so they give him a pass on the truth factor too. Hey. If he scratches my back, what do I care about other people? I'll never be rich enough to fly my own plane anyhow. So?)
The superlatively wired S-T columnist Michael Sneed liked that part but mostly the sheer efficiency of the operation, finding herself "impressed" with the maneuver, indeed in "awe." Daley wanted to do it, it was legal, he did it, finessing "the disgruntled nippers of the world," from whom he had in the past gotten "a bite in the shorts." No "talking everything to death" for him. He did not want to "endure the blah blah blah segment of our culture that results in nah, hah, nah. And I, for one," said the stateswomanlike Sneed, "don't blame him."
Why not? Because he intends to "turn an eyesore into a wetlands and pristine [sic] park," like her old boss (when mayor), Jane Byrne, who wanted the lake front should to have "glitz," which means getting rid of eyesores.
Some may recall this Sneed's page-one Chi Trib interview of Cardinal Cody's kissin' cousin who lived with him in the State Parkway mansion in 1981 while the Sun-Times series was exposing the relationship. The Sneed story was replete with picture of the subject fingering rosary beads. Sneed got access and pitched very soft balls. Why does Sneed remind us of the female reporter in the movie "Chicago," the one who ran with lawyer Billy Flynn's planted version of things?
FRIENDS IN THE PRESS (2) . . . Not just Sneed spoke up for Daley. So also did Sun-Times political columnist Steve Neal come riding to the rescue. On 4/4 Neal asked, "What's all the fuss about?" Critics of the Meigs-trashing "shrieked" their objections. "No doubt" Daley had "legal authority" to do it. He had "long wanted" to get rid of the airport for the sake of a park. (Yes, the park.) He had "a mandate," obtained in the last election -- apparently to remake the land, though Neal is not the clearest of writers and/or provides wiggle room for himself. As he does in quoting "a federal transportation authority." Which is what? An authority, i.e., expert, on federal transportation, maybe another newsie? What's federal transportation? A federal official? Maybe he was having too much fun writing this to stop and think about it.
Meigs had been "corporate welfare," said Neal. Daley "acted in the public interest" in ending it. Yes! Backhoes in the moonlight and all that, security cameras blocked, beating citizens to the punch. He had us in mind. What a guy.
Neal quoted Daley reverently: "As mayor of the City of Chicago," Daley said in true Senator Claghorn mode (not just mayor or mayor of Chicago), and Neal quotes it all, giving solemn high treatment. Courts have upheld closing this "playground for the rich," says Neal. As for reneging on his agreement with immediate past Gov. George Ryan, "Daley [Neal too?] regarded [it] as a deal breaker" that relevant federal legislation failed. "Republican Senator Peter Fitzgerald stalled" it.
"The power elite" did it, says Neal (with straight face?), using the 1956 book title of the late leftist if not Marxist sociologist C. Wright Mills, somehow turning a fairly naked power play into pure democracy, an act of naked populism. "Score this one for the people," he says, endorsing the Meigs maneuver 100%.
When Neal is through with Wright Mills, he might read George Orwell.
-- Copyright Jim Bowman, 2003 --