Sunset Chicago government

Now that we've cleansed ourselves of all the why questions about
Mayor Richard M. Daley's retirement, we can get on to the serious stuff.

No, not the question who will follow Daley, but what will be follow.

The "who" question will certainly have something to do with the "what"


question; just as surely as it mattered that Daley occupied City Hall's
fifth floor office instead of say, Cook County Clerk David Orr.

But it's been so long that a municipal election in Chicago has meant
anything that it's necessary to state the obvious: Issues matter.

Chicagoans should start with what they want to see happen to the city,
then they should decide which candidate would do it. All the punditry
about who has the strongest ward organization or who can raise the most
campaign money amounts to some much sports reporting. Talking about
issues is boring, but someone's got to do it.

So, in all modesty, here's my post-Daley agenda for the next mayor:

  • Fight corruption. No explanation needed.
  • Sunset city government. No kidding. The existence of every last
    function, every last department, every last employee has to be
    justified. As if Chicago was starting all over. Ald. Scott Waguespack
    (32nd) has a good idea: a forensic audit of where the money goes. But it
    doesn't go far enough. If we can't find a reason for this or that
    creature lurking in a dark corner of City Hall, then shut it down. By a
    date certain.
  • Privatize most of the rest. All the talk about streamlining city
    government is useless because it will never happen under the current
    patronage form of government. (Yes, I know that political patronage is
    technically illegal, but....) The parking meter fiasco doesn't argue
    against privatizing, in only argues for doing it right. Start by
    contracting out garbage collection to one-man trucks, like it's done in
    the suburbs.
  • Beef up the cops. What you save from privatization, pour into the
    police department, which is hundreds of officers short of what it should
  • Neutralize public employee unions. Once upon a time, it was illegal
    for public employees to strike. Go to Springfield for state legislation
    that would loosen the grip that the unions have on public policy by
    scaring the wits out of people with images of mountains of garbage
    piling up in allies or by threats of interrupted bus service, school or
    snow plowing.
  • Truly reform the schools. Take a clue from Sen. James Meeks
    (D-Chicago) and give every child and his family a real choice in
    education. Vouchers for anyone who wants them. Make it easier for
    competent schools to enter the competitive market.
  • Tax reform. Start with a complete compilation of every single tax
    that Chicago imposes and then examine its impact on individuals,
    families and businesses. For example, get rid of the loathsome head tax
    that drives business out of Chicago. Take a comprehensive look at how
    badly Chicago gouges its visitors, a factor that weighs against
    Chicago's strength as a convention center.
  • End the TIF boondoggle. No tax reform would be complete without
    returning TIF districts to their true purpose. It's robbing schools and
    other local governments of hundreds of millions of dollars and proving
    to be an enticement for useless projects, such as the "postponed"
    transit center under Block 37.
  • Get transportation priorities right. First step: Halt the wasteful
    and useless attempt to expand O'Hare International Airport. Other
    cost-effective and safer alternatives are available for improving
    O'Hare, without gouging airline passengers, taxpayers and the airlines
    for Daley's overwrought expansion. Keep it up and United and American
    will find better locations for their hubs. Fight to spend transportation
    money on mass transit that otherwise is planned for that high-speed
    rail fantasia. Get on board the more cost-effective south suburban
    airport, which was the consensus solution until Daley stepped in to
    block it. Rebuild the lakefront Meigs Field.
  • Restore regionalism. Daley dealt it a deathblow with his blind
    insistence on O'Hare expansion at the expense of its neighbors. It will
    take years to restore the trust that had been growing in the interlude
    between the all-consuming provincialism of the two Mayor Daleys.
  • Commit to democracy and a balance of power. Yes, it might be
    messier, as we discovered during the debate over building WalMarts in
    Chicago. A democracy is our chosen form of government. That presumes
    that the City Council will want to act like a democracy.

That's enough for now.

This column also appeared in The Chicago Daily Observer


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  • One related to these, especially transportation and regionalism. This, like those listed above, may require that the next city officials lobby the state legislature for them.

    --> As mentioned for several days in the CTA Tattler, convert transit from political fiefdoms to a regional service under the control of a regional board of directors who have business or transit experience, and insist on similar excellence from the executive directors or whatever they are called. At a minimum, the candidate for mayor must renounce how Daley II took over control of and from the CTA Board, and exercised effective vetoes over any action by the essentially do nothing RTA. Then, set service levels based on regional priorities and integration of the three existing "services."

    You are also correct about how the labor situation was turned upside down in this state by allowing public employees to strike. However, fixing that would take legislative changes to the Illinois Public Employee Relations Act, and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act. The New York Taylor Law has the right idea--not only are strikes illegal, but a striker loses two days pay for each day of a strike. The latter seems necessary, especially in the teacher area, as schools just extend the school year to get the minimum days in after a strike, so the teachers lose nothing.

    I also agree that the sports reporting doesn't serve a purpose. Someone should be asking the candidates how they stand on those issues. At least Meeks seems to have an education platform; however, if one believes posters in various other areas of Chicago Now, he doesn't have support in the hood.

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