My irregular musings on city life, politics, baseball, roller derby, and whatever happens to be getting my goat today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Trib Says City Hall Discovers Clout

I'm glad I made an omelette for breakfast this morning instead of a fruit smoothie, or there would have been pink goo all over the kitchen. Today's Chicago Tribune headline read, "City Hall discovers clout." The article, by Trib staff reporters Gary Washburn and Laurie Cohen, went on to say:
The city's internal inquiry found the hiring system had been "compromised," and "specific instances" of abuse had been uncovered, Corporation Counsel Mara Georges said. But Georges and other top officials were tight-lipped about what they had found, pending the outcome of an investigation.
Like, no way. They investigated themselves and found patronage hiring? Next they're going to discover that Chicago is very flat, and that Lake Michigan contains a lot of water.
In the past, the mayor and his top aides have denied that City Hall has ever violated a long-standing federal court decree prohibiting political hiring of most employees.

The about-face comes as Daley battles in court to overturn the so-called Shakman decree, which the city contends is costly to implement and no longer needed because of federal hiring protections now in place.
So, yeah, we violated the agreement (which basically said people should be hired on the basis of competence to do the job, and not on the basis of turning out votes for the Democratic party), but it's a dumb agreement anyway, and it's not necessary because we would never do that stuff. These days we just whore for campaign cash like real politicians do. There's nothing illegal about that (unfortunately).
But critics contend that favored politicians, political organizations and union officials for years have been able to place their people on the payroll despite city rules that say hiring should be based on job qualifications rather than connections.
You've got to be kidding. Hiring your friends and neighbors is illegal? I thought it was just being polite. Seriously, though. Well connected folks can put "their people" on the payroll? Why don't I have any people? I want my own people in places of power. When do I get my own people? That's one I'll know I've arrived.
"The notion that the hiring process, a Chicago tradition, has been compromised--it's been compromised ever since I knew," declared Martin Oberman, who was a Chicago alderman from 1975 to 1987. "It strikes me as a little odd to suggest the mayor has been in office for 16 years, and he just discovered this?"

"I and most people who live in Chicago don't find it the slightest bit incredible that they found clout," said Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "How could they say that with a straight face?"
Good question. I couldn't read it with a straight face. Gary and Laurie, whoever you are, you have writty a very witty piece of satire and somehow got it printed on the front page of the Tribune! Fucking brilliant.

Then the article gets interesting:
Last year, four Carpenters Union members--including the 19-year-old son of a top union official--were fired as building inspectors when it was discovered they lacked the proper credentials. And the mayor's critics have long complained that the pro-Daley Hispanic Democratic Organization has amassed power by doling out city jobs in exchange for campaign work.

A 2002 investigation by the Tribune and Exito!, a Spanish-language sister newspaper, concluded that more than 500 HDO members were on the city's payroll. Members told reporters they joined the group because they wanted a City Hall job or a promotion.

Daley has denied that members of HDO, which is run by a former top mayoral aide, receive any special consideration in hiring or promotions.

Daley's new chief of staff, brought in last week to deal with scandals that have begun to erode the mayor's popularity, declared that the hiring process won't be tainted by politics.

"It doesn't matter who you are," Ron Huberman said Monday at the news conference. "It doesn't matter who you know. We are operating as a meritocracy, period. As a meritocracy, what will define who gets a job ... is simply who is the best person for the job."

And everybody knows all the best people are Daley supporters.

Seriously, the HDO is a great idea, and a masterful effort at rebranding. Someday soon Chicago will have a Latino majority, and all the same people will still run this town, because the HDO are their biggest supporters. They're building a new machine from the ground up, using the same tactics that worked in immigrant neighborhoods three generations ago.

The HDO is also nurturing a new generation of Hispanic Democratic pols, putting them in office and building killer resumes at a young age. 26 year old State Representatives are nothing unusual in Illinois. You go from office aide to an Alderman, to law school and then straight into office in a straight district. One day some of these kid are going to be in the U.S. Senate or staffing the White House. Which come to think of it, is not such a bad thing at all.

I posted today on other political stuff, over here. Check it out.

1 comment:

Bob said...

Happy birthday, Elwood. Trope made me say it.