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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, July 20

Gapers Block

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Mayor Daley's administration was shellacked this week with a series of convictions for fraud, based on patronage hiring. Yet Chicago's political community has been a-flutter with rumors that Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. will not challenge Mayor Daley next February. This has reformers and opponents of Chicago's regular Democratic Party scrambling to develop a logic that shows just why 2007 will be the long-awaited death of old-school Chicago politics and the birth of a truly open neighborhood democracy designed to serve the people. Given the current atmosphere facing City Hall and the Mayor's office, opponents of Daley and the regular Democrats are champing at the bit to "kick the bums out," and they know a media narrative would help them do it.

A former Northwest Side activist who supported an aldermanic opponent to a Regular Democrat in 2003 whined to me that if Jackson truly is out, it'll come down to another block-by-block street fight, with reward not at all in proportion to effort.

"And then half the guys you'd get elected would probably sell you out, anyway," he told me via email.

The problem is that without a high-profile candidate like Jesse Jackson, Jr. on the ballot as an organizing figure around which an opposition slate can be built, the aldermanic races that would be pivotal to altering the character of the City Council have to be fought one-by-one, requiring more resources and more focused and labor-intensive field work.

In other words, with an opponent like Jackson, who has been trying to build momentum for a mayoral run by harshly criticizing Daley, you would have a Daley Party and a Jackson Party, and opposition candidates could get instant legitimacy, media attention, and logistical support just by being part of the Jackson Party. Not to mention the vote that would come from being so clearly a legitimate "anti-City Hall" candidate. Without Jackson, no Jackson Party, and what one is left with are highly localized races where the incumbents' natural advantages as the master of services in the ward, and general voter apathy, come to bear.

If Congressman Jackson is indeed out of the race barring something unforeseen, then not only does the logic of a sea-change election falter, the math does, too. Chicago's low-turnout municipal elections are often cited as both the cause of "Machine" dominance and its greatest weakness — an aldermanic opponent often only has to mobilize a few thousand supporters to put them over the top. The reverse of that being, of course, that these elections are low-turnout for a reason: most people don't really care unless there is something big on the ballot, something that brings out all of the major institutional stakeholders — something like a high-profile bitter race for mayor.

And as for the worry that those elected would end up "selling you out" — a complaint levied at, among others, Rey Colon, who upset incumbent pro-Daley alderman Vilma Colom in 2003 — with an all-powerful, re-elected Daley on the Fifth Floor, just what would two, three or even six or seven reform Aldermen accomplish in City Hall, if they were even able to resist the temptation to turn pro-Daley?

Which brings us to the half-witty title of this column: you dear readers, how well do you know your alderman? Would you vote against him or her, and if so, why? The reason I ask is that my sense of it is Chicago's growing young and professional population has a natural instinct to oppose the status quo and so could be moved to vote in a municipal election if it grabs their attention (and they feel it is worthwhile), despite the fact that their alderman, for all intents and purposes, may serve their interests perfectly well.

Are most Chicagoans (you know, "normie" Chicagoans) dissatisfied with their aldermen? Is voter apathy a function of satisfaction, or dis-? When it comes down to the devil they know and they devil they don't, would most Chicagoans be willing to cast their lot with a newcomer on principle, when that principle is simply that the Council isn't "reformy" enough?

Congressman Jackson's rumored bowing out makes the long-sought-after death of the regular Democrats a long shot, the campaigns promising to be ugly wars of attrition, if competitive at all.

Or can opposition candidates unite behind a message and pull the fight out of the neighborhoods and across the city?

Inquiring minds — and nervous alderman — would like to know.

Over the next few months as we move towards the campaign season this winter, this column will evaluate as many of the 50 wards as possible, starting with those wards where, let's face it, most of y'all probably live.

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brian / July 12, 2006 10:44 AM

I have met my alderman (Laurino), and I think she's great. She reachces out to the community, and gets things done. I called about a garbage can and got one within a week.

Ald. Stone on the other hand, is a fossil. We tried to work with him about building a bike path in a park (who can oppose that?) and we were stonewalled. My favorite part about meeting him was watching someone get a zoning change and saying immediately "I"d like to make a donation to Alderman Stone's re-election campaign." Sheesh.

asdfg / July 12, 2006 12:18 PM

When I lived in Schulter's (47th) ward I voted for the guy who ran against him a few years ago. Now I'm in Mary Ann Smith's ward. I don't know if she will even have an opponent, but if she does I'll definitely hear the person out. I think too many aldermen take credit for how their wards have changed, when all they've really done is ride a boom. When the Brown Line station closures were announced, I was pleasantly surprised (at a community meeting at Lane Tech) to see Schulter literally screaming mad about it. It may have been a performance, but it showed he was listening to constituents and area business owners. Still, in 2003 when my friend was shot and killed in his ward, we could hardly get his attention and the chamber of commerce was ripping down all our fundraiser signs so the yuppies going to Germanfest wouldn't be perturbed. This was the same guy who, a year or two earlier, had offered a $5,000 reward to catch the teenage vandal who was scrawling "no yuppies" on all the condo signs in the ward.

Frank Coconate / July 28, 2006 11:34 PM

Very Good Job.....The 2007 Aldermadic Races will go down in history as the City Council Slaughter!!!!Then they can take there raise and shove it! Rich....e-mail me! I have alot to say!

Joon / September 15, 2006 12:26 PM

In the 10th Ward, we have John Pope. Really disappointed in how I've heard him speak to community people at public meetings. More than a bit condescending. Plus the fact that some of Mr. Sanchez's relatives work in his office seems like Chicago business as usual. 10th Ward is long overdue for some major change.

SE Sider / October 11, 2006 12:23 PM

I agree. Let's get Pope out.

Rich / October 27, 2006 10:43 PM

Alderman Stone (50th ward) is worried about this next election because there's real competition to unseat him.

He's at the end of his rope and he knows it. Many agree that he should just hang it up and retire with what little dignity he can muster.

He's in for the toughest race ever after which does anyone really think he can really stay awake long enough on election day to see how much he lost by?

Not I.

will crosby / October 28, 2006 2:05 PM

William ?Bill Dock? Walls, III is the third eldest of seven children born to Mary and William Walls, Jr. Dock attended Chicago Public Schools and graduated Horace Mann Elementary (1971) and Chicago Vocational High School (1975), as a proud member of the Public League championship football team. Thereafter, he graduated Tuskegee University with Honors (1980) and IIT-Chicago Kent College of Law (1986).

During the late Harold Washington?s successful campaign for the office of Mayor of Chicago, Bill Walls helped to organize the Lawyer?s Committee for Harold, served as president of Law Students for Washington, assistant scheduler and, finally, as direct assistant to the candidate. From 1983 to 1986, Bill served as Confidential Assistant to the Mayor.

Recently, Bill co-managed Joyce Washington?s campaign for Illinois Lieutenant Governor which netted over 360,000 votes, served as National Political Director to Rev. Jesse L. Jackson?s Rainbow PUSH, and submitted nearly 40,000 signatures on Nominating Petitions for the office of Chicago City Clerk. He also served as the Illinois primary surrogate for John Kerry in his 2004 bid for U.S.President. Currently Bill is director of the Committee For A Better Chicago, an IRS 527 Political Organization.

William ?Bill Dock Walls, III is a member of Trinity United Church of Christ. He is married to Pamela and father of three adult children, Anika Benay (32), William IV (27), and Ashley (21). Additionally, Dock Walls is a grandfather of four.

Toqueviller / November 4, 2006 10:59 PM

You can track the 2007 potential aldermanic candidates at

Dinah Ramirez / December 1, 2006 10:55 PM

I am one of those reformers running as a candidate in the 10th Ward. As a life long resident and community activist I am fed up with the business as usual attitude. What do you expect when the Alderman's 10th Ward adminstration has direct family ties to HDO Al Sanchez, who is being investigated by the feds. There were alot of promises made and only a few kept to those that paid the toll. The 10th Ward is up for sale and Daley henchman (Pope) has started the process of selling it lot by lot with USX Development the pot of gold. Walsh construction has already moved into the 10th Ward in preparation.. . I guess there are leprechauns afterall. In the last 5 years we have had over 10 major construction jobs over 100 million worth and yet a community of minorities we have not gotten our fair share of jobs nor contracts.
NOW is the time for a change or it will be too late to turn back. Every vote counts towards change.

Dmlawyer / December 2, 2006 6:49 PM

Crosby is a loser who constantly gets knocked off the ballot in the races he enters.

Regarding all these challengers, where have they been ? You only hear from them around election time.


About the Author(s)

Richard F. Carnahan is a true South Side Sox fan who's played a bit part in Chicago politics more than once over the years. Contact him at

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