Mayor Daley, meet ex-mayor Bilandic

It's 1979 and weeks of continuous storms had dropped a record seven feet of snow on the city. CTA trains ground to a halt, figuratively frozen in place on the rails. Main streets were a nightmare, clogged by snow and stalled cars, blocking CTA buses. Most side streets impassable. O'Hare Airport was a mess.

I'll never forget then-mayor Michael Bilandic standing in O'Hare with hundreds of lost, delayed or abandoned bags piled up in the concourse behind him. In this setting, he virtually denied that there was a problem. Anyone who had stepped foot outside his house for the past month knew that it was a crock. 

In the Democratic primary, he faced Bilandic had won the Democratic primary big time, but in the general election he faced his fired consumer affairs commissioner, Jane Byrne. No one gave her a chance.

Except the voters. In one of the most stunning upsets in Chicago history, Byrne retired Bilandic and proved that when voters get angry enough, the Chicago Machine is vulnerable.

Flash forward to this week, and see Mayor Richard M. Daley facing the cause of Chicagoans' anger that just won't go away: the privatization of the city's parking meters to a company that wasn't up to the job. Now, Daley is facing the press on a cold day and he's being pressed by reporters about angry motorists who could pay for parking because the meters were frozen. 

Reported the Tribune:

"There's frozen parking meters, frozen water hydrants, frozen doors, frozen cars. They're all out there," [Daley] said. The old parking meters also froze, Daley said, insisting the problem isn't linked to the pay boxes that have replaced meters around the city. "No, no, they've always frozen," he said.

My life in Chicago dates back to the early 1940s, and I don't believe I've ever encountered a frozen parking meter. More often I'd encounter one that just didn't work. Something tells me a lot of other people have had the same experience. 

Which brings us back to Bilandic. In defending his own performance, Bilandic's big mistake was not admitting the problems were so big that the city had virtually come to a halt. People would have understood if he had said, "We're faced with unprecedented problem, which--if we had anticipated them--we could have handled better. I'm sorry for that, but here's what we're doing...."

I was covering the CTA then for the Chicago Sun-Times, and its management also tried to downplay its problems. It failed to clear the tracks of snow in a timely way; it gave away it's big snow plow to a railroad museum. It's failure to acknowledge the reality that everybody was facing every single day for weeks on end just made people angrier.  

Daley is repeating the same mistake. Every new problem with the parking meter deal just makes people angrier, and appears to make Daley look like a bigger boob. Yes, everyone says that Daley, if he decides to seek re-election, is invincible. But if he keeps this up...who knows?


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  • I'll pay my dollar or two an hour to park but Daley will pay when i vote and yes i will vote.

    And yes i work too, city hall doesn't work they Steal.

  • Bilandic actually had the city shut down. If we now had the type of snow we had then, nobody would be able to drive into the city to feed the meters. Windshields would be so covered with snow that if the meter maids came by to check for slips, they couldn't see any.* So, the situation is not that bad yet.

    Also, a credible challenger to Daley has not yet appeared. Dock Walls isn't magically going to get a plurality. If we believe the Tribune poll yesterday, Dorothy Brown isn't going to give up the County Board Presidency to run for mayor. Apparently Senate Candidate 5 doesn't have the cajones to take on Daley. So, give us your darkhorse candidate** before making analogies to 1979.

    Finally, although King Richard II is bipolar, he at least realizes that one can't pile on more taxes in a recession. Maybe Stroger (the penny keeps the hospitals open), Quinn (raise the income tax 50-66%), Hynes (raise it even more and tax services), and the CTA union leaders (who want to raise the gas tax for a "permanent source of funding") should get that message.

    *I also see that the plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit claiming that the deal is unconstitutional haven't even received a temporary restraining order yet, although I wonder about using city resources to enforce the private concessionaire's rights. Just be glad that Daley let the application to get BRT lapse, which included, not only the parking meter deal, but also hiking parking taxes. Then you would be really crying about those taxes and the restricted bus lanes (and probably how the latter were not plowed).

    **Ron Huberman or Rich Rodriguez don't offer anything different, except that they aren't from the Bridgeport machine.

  • Chicagoans are ready for new leadership. We just need to show our progressive leaders that we're ready to support them. Check out this site to draft the next Chicago mayor: . Vote for who you'd like to see run and add your own suggestions.

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