Watching today's debate on the Infrastructure Trust proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel got me thinking, since Alderman Joe Moore is now the Mayor's supporter - who is going to be the next Joe Moore?
Anyone who watched the political landscape over the last 20 years of Mayor Richard M. Daley's tenure knew to lean in closer when the 49th Ward Alderman took to the mic. Alderman Moore was hardly a Daley supporter (although he did work with the mayor more often then people understood) and the Mayor shared his dislike with the Alderman (publicly and privately). Undoubtedly the Alderman's most endearing quality for his incredibly progressive residents was his public clashes with the powerful mayor of Chicago from Meigs Field, Foie Gras to even Anti-Big Box ordinances. Now that Daley is gone, Alderman Moore has taken a softer approach praising Mayor Emanuel as a forward thinking elected official and lambasting groups like Occupy Chicago and the Better Government Association for "unnecessary" saber rattling. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise Wednesday to see the lead-off batter for Mayor Emanuel Infrastructure Trust Ordinance was non-other than the 49th Ward Alderman, Joe Moore.
Critics in the ward contend his recent shift has more to do with his desire to be appointed to a state administrative position (and subsequently have the Mayor support his wife to be heir apparent) than a new found centrist philosophy, however if you have ever really met the Alderman you would know he never was carved from the Bernie Sanders mold of progressive politicians. There is no hiding that Moore is a progressive, but he has always been willing to work toward a pro-buisness centrist position when engaged. However, if you discredit him (as Mayor Daley was oft to do), he would align himself with progressive allies and push their agenda. Which is why it makes the recent and extraordinary crusade by the Chamber of Commerce's to stop Governor Quinn from appointing Moore to the EPA that much more confusing. As a statewide employee the Chamber's members are likely to get a fair shake, as a shunned Alderman from a very public debate with the Chamber - we could be looking at legislation that makes the Big Box Ordinance pale in comparison.
For now, we have an Alderman and a Mayor that get along, and while that may create for a more cordial political atmosphere - it sure makes watching city council meetings a lot less exciting.
So I ask, who is going to be the next Joe Moore?
A couple of candidates come to mind, starting with Alderman Moreno of Chicago's 1st Ward. A former Chicago LSC member and community activist, Alderman Moreno has carved out a loyal supporter base focused on providing quality schools, low-income housing and alderman accessibility. He is also not afraid, and understands how, to play politics (a prerequisite for anyone looking to publicly challenge the new mayor). However, Moreno is still finding his niche as either a progressive antagonist or a consensus builder as reflected in recent ordinances in which both times he managed to find compelling reasons to side with the Mayor.
Two new alderman could fill the role, James Cappleman in the 46th and John Arena in the 45th. Both Alderman come from progressive backgrounds and have publicly questioned the Mayor's initiatives, however, both are too new to be the next Joe Moore - a solid support base is a must lest you risk the Mayor pushing a strong challenger against you in the next election.
Alderman Waguespack is an interesting choice if you think he is still coveting the mayors office. However, the money that Mayor Emanuel can raise in one cycle has already proven to be effective in drowning out dissent and you can't be the mayors council antagonist and his challenger and expect to leave the election unscathed.
The hands down easy pick should be Alderman Bob Fioretti, but even he can't fill Joe's shoes. Fioretti, Alderman of Chicago's 2nd Ward, has absolutely nothing to lose since his fellow colleagues removed from him his greatest security blanket: his ward. During the last ward remap (which takes effect in 2015) his fellow Alderman cannibalized his current ward while creating a new 2nd ward to the north that fails to share an ounce of former territory. While other Alderman lost key areas of their ward, Fioretti was shown the ultimate diss of losing his entire neighborhood and voter support that comes with it. A lameduck Alderman until 2015 Alderman Fioretti has nothing to lose in challenging the Mayor, but that is only 3 years away and 3 years of being the Mayors antagonist hardly equals the tenure Joe Moore has put in.
No, my pick is none other than Alderman Rick Munoz. A long time progressive and former constitutional law major, Munoz has been serving on the City Council since he was 27 years of age. He supported the Big Box Ordinance and was part of the rather small progressive caucus consisting of Moore and now Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. More importantly his last election attempt to unseat Dorthy Brown as County Clerk was met with very little support from the establishment and Rick Munoz is hardly a politician who easily forgets. Add to all this the new revival of the Better Government Association, and there may be no greater position for a non-establishment candidate to be in than on the outside commenting in. The path is not without precedent, Toni Preckwinkle easily managed to transition her progressive opposition into Cook County Board President - Rick Munoz could easily do the same thing to move him into Gutierrez's Congressional seat whenever that opens up. Without question he will need to refocus on Latino issues, but to raise the money needed he will be looking towards the progressive community and there is no better way to endear yourself to that community than to stand up to the mayor (regardless who he is or how willing he is to work with you).