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Or, Does Mayor Daley get a free pass?

I've never met the Reverend Doctor Al Sharpton, but I'm willing to bet he was in Seventh Heaven, or whatever the public relations equivalent of Seventh Heaven would be, when he saw he made the cover of Chicago's brighter paper challenging the all-powerful Mayor Daley. As a political introduction, you could hardly ask for more.

Sharpton is setting up shop in Chicago in order to apply pressure to the Mayor's administration for a perceived negligence when it comes to stomping out police brutality against minorities. He may also be here to expand his own political base, which to date has been primarily the boroughs of New York City. A play for Jesse Jackson, Sr.-like status as the preeminent African-American political figure.

Whatever his reasons, he is here now and out of the gate he took a swipe at the city's established so-called opposition organizations. He said that police brutality in Chicago needs to be addressed, and that to date Mayor Daley has more generally been "getting a pass." The implication is not only that Mayor Daley is doing wrong, but that the opposition is inept, and thereby maybe even... kind of... complicit? Ouch.

But does Mayor Daley get a pass? It's actually a pretty good question. People sort of toss it off as a no-brainer, given his huge electoral margins and seeming immunity from prosecution — of course he does. How else could such a tyrannical serial gentrifier enjoy such popularity?

The media in Chicago has hardly given Daley a pass; the merest whiff of scandal gets reported on, makes the nightly news, and can usually expect three to six weeks of assaults by John Kass at the front of the Trib. From major debacles like Hired Truck or smaller, the-mayor's-cousin's-brother's-kid-got-a-city-job style dust-ups, the Sun-Times will blare it across the front page, the radio and TV political reporters will hammer it home, and you know Phil Ponce's going to be all over that piece.

The Mayor's few actual political enemies — and in terms of outright hostile aldermen, the only one that comes to mind is now-former Alderman Dorothy Tillman — like to jump on his scandals to get their names in the news and take a rare opportunity to chip away at the mayor's popularity. The city's progressive networks — like the labor movement generally and community organizations such as ACORN or the Organizations of the North East, or the Grassroots Collaborative — are fairly comfortable opposing the Mayor at least through proxy fights. Believe me, there're no passes coming from that crowd.

The only people giving the mayor a pass, it seems, are the entire rest of Chicago. It's a chicken-and-egg thing. Mayor Daley's popularity makes pissing him off politically dangerous for the aldermen and other area elected officials. Therefore they don't challenge the many policies they could organize an opposition movement around. Lacking such a movement, people fail to recognize the many policies that are probably screwing them in one way or another. Therefore Mayor Daley remains popular. Vicious circle?

Not really. Time will tell what Mayor Daley's legacy will be, but there can be no doubt that for whatever negative impact the Mayor has had, he has also done a whole lot of good. In the long run, we may find out that the good wasn't worth the bad, but there is a mix there. Bravery and conviction might just be enough to break the cycle. Determination to oppose and a capacity for organizing could be just what it takes to focus general disaffection and amplify it into powerful opposition.

Now, if Al Sharpton — an outsider with loyalties to no political faction — were to team up with a white or Latino politician on an issue, why, that individual could conceivably have a compelling enough inroads to the African-American community to build a voting coalition that could cement a victory in 2011.

Which would make Al Sharpton a pretty important dude.

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irishpirate / August 8, 2007 12:16 PM


you ignorant slut.

First, Tillman and Daley were all friendly and kissy face the last few years. She endorsed him and he endorsed her.

They both enjoy wearing funny hats so I assume they built that into a working relationship.

As for Sharpton....thpppt to him. He actually helps Daley. Reminds large groups of white folks that there is black opposition out there. That will solidify Daley's pasty faced white vote.

Right now I can hear shrieks about Al Sharpton emanating from the furthest reaches of the 19th Ward.

"EEEEK, a scary black politiician. Whaddya want. A black mayor. Support Daley".

Ramsin / August 8, 2007 2:23 PM

Mr. Pirate,

Tillman still at least publicly decried the guy occasionally. I was no Tillman fan (see also my entire archives).

And the second half of your comment depends on the idea that Daley will run again 2011, which although possible is not highly probable.

Not to mention the biggest point: that a politically unentangled African-American opposition figure could lend weight behind a WHITE or LATINO candidate to create a voting coalition.

irishpirate / August 8, 2007 3:07 PM


I disagree on Daley not running. Mike Flannery of CBS2 thinks he will run. I tend to agree. What is Daley gonna do? Retire? He is too big a control freak for that. Barring an indictment I expect him to die in office.

I may be wrong. Time will tell.

As for the mythical black, white, brown coalition. That is a dream of Dick Simpson and Laura Washington. I don't think it is probable.

Outside Barack Obama I see no candidate who could forge such a coalition. I heard that Obama has his sights set on lower office.

As for Tillman her criticism of Daley was largely in the past. Like his lapdog Helen Shiller she went over to the "dark side". Or at least a different "dark side". Few Jedi knights anywhere in Chicago politics.


Nuke LaLoosh / August 9, 2007 1:23 PM


Just to throw a proverbial log on the proverbial fire, I want to challenge your statement that "the labor movement generally" is a progressiv force in the City.

Unions that endorsed Matlak and the Toddler have sacrificed any claim of being progressive.

I know you are probably drawing a distinction between individual unions and the "labor movement," but I think my point stands.

RC / August 9, 2007 6:06 PM


I'll take your challenge.

Not only is the labor movement generally a progressive force in Chicago, it is the most vital and important progressive force, and its current credentials are more or less impeccable.

The building trades, who you may have on your mind, have historically had serious deficiencies in their outreach to minorities and women, and thus obstructed their access to well-paying jobs. The trades have so dwindled, though, that access to them is restricted generally; even white guys have trouble getting access to many of them if they don't know someone. Still, the trades should reach out to minorities and women more than they do.

But this phrase is patently ridiculous: "Unions that endorsed Matlak and the Toddler have sacrificed any claim of being progressive."

Are you serious? So unions like SEIU's state council, which claims 150,000 members in the state, and represents janitors, security guards, child care and home health care workers, nursing home workers, nurses, "firemen and oilers", grave diggers, and toll booth collectors, and every year mobilizes thousands of people (and hundreds of thousands of dollars) to protect vital state services, and to organize new industries to raise the standard of living for thousands of people, can't call itself progressive?

What about AFSCME Council 31, which claims approximately 75,000 members and organizes thousands of workers and is probably the loudest voice in defending state services, as the primary representative of state employees? State services, by the way, that generally serve lower and middle income people.

They both endorsed Todd Stroger. I believe Council 31 also backed Matlak.

Even the Chicago Federation of Labor, generally considered closer to the trades, makes it a point to lend its political heft to progressive causes, from strike and contract actions to lobbying for the Big Box Living Wage Ordinance.

Labor in Chicago, primarily the big industrial unions like SEIU, AFSCME, UFCW, UNITE-HERE, Teamsters Local 705, and a handful of others, also fund not only political candidates, but provide vital resources to community groups, think tanks, and advocacy groups.

Ultimately, unions have a moral--and legal--responsibility to place the needs of their members first. So they may make strange or seemingly counter-intuitive endorsements at times, but they likely have their own internal calculus for that.

But to say they fail some sort of purity test based on a handful of political endorsement, when you consider the economic justice they fight for every day, is irresponsible to the point of obscenity.

RC / August 9, 2007 6:10 PM

I didn't even bother to mention the IFT/AFT, or the Teachers, without whom our children would be attending Wal-School, brought to you by Wal-Mart.

The labor movement has its internal problems to overcome, but your allegation is groundless.

Nuke LaLoosh / August 13, 2007 10:53 AM


I am not irresponsible; though occasionally I am obscene.

Your points are well taken, and I agree that the economic agendas of most labor unions are definitely progressive. I'm a former IEA/NEA member myself, and have been part of an AFSCME bargaining unit as well as a UFCW local, so I know how important unions are.

So let me be more specific:

Progressive unions can, should, and, as you point out, must stand up for the economic interests of their members. If you want to carry a “progressive” mantle, however, you should stand up for human rights and you cannot turn a blind eye to human rights abuses.

The inhumane living conditions and abhorrent treatment of juveniles at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center are increasingly well-documented.

The Toddler and his father allowed this abuse to happen -- and make no mistake, the Toddler was an important part of his Dad's brain trust and bears substantial accountability for what happened there in the past.

Unions had a choice about these issues -- Claypool made the abuses at the JDC a central part of his campaign every time heard him speak.

Hopefully Dunlap can be an important part of fixing what is wrong at the JDC.,0,6819290.story

By the way, and with all due respect -- please don't ever presume to lecture me about responsibility when it comes to politics. I vote; I organize; I register others to vote; I vote for progressive economic candidates.

I am also responsible enough to not vote for or endorse an clearly underqualified likely corrupt party hack to serve as the President of the Cook County Board.

You don't have to be a lefty "goo-goo" nut who demands "ideological purity" to say that human rights and competent leadership matter, even in Cook County.

I still like your columns, but kindly dial down the rhetoric.

Good day, sir.

Nuke LaLoosh / August 13, 2007 11:18 AM

Also, perhaps I should make a distinction between the political agendas of union leadership versus the point of view of rank-and-file members, but that seems pretty obvious.

I'm also not saying that unions lose their relevance just because they back poor candidates.

I'm just saying that the word "progressive" has connotations that go far beyond one's economic agenda, however legitimate that economic agenda is.

Chef / August 13, 2007 2:18 PM

Well put, Nuke.

Can Nuke write for Revenge of the Second City?

Ramsin and Carnahan suck.

They both are uninformed and when challenged about a point they immediately digress and go on the offensive and, for lack of a better phrase, just start name-calling.

I am even more bothered that Gapersblock gives these socialist pigs a platform to write.

Ramsin / August 13, 2007 4:18 PM

I'll just let Chef's comment, wherein "just start name-calling" and "socialist pigs" appear, to stand by itself.

And Nuke, you made a very broad claim: that Chicago's unions can't be considered progressive based on two endorsements. I laid out a pretty straightforward argument for why I thought that was an irresponsible claim. No need to provide your resume.

I'm not even necessarily contesting your assertion that it was wrong to endorse either Stroger or Matlak. I think that when Stroger almost immediately proposed cuts, there was second-guessing all over the place, and people like yourself, who were saying it all along, definitely got some Told You So rights.

But you made a very broad, very strident assertion.

In any case, I'm not entirely certain SEIU, AFSCME, or any other of the "progressive" unions would really care if they could carry that banner so long as the economic justice they sought for their members and workers generally was being won.

T / August 14, 2007 8:35 AM

No, Sharpton is not a genius, he is a self-serving, money grubbing, showman. He and other 'community leaders' of his ilk are in the business of helping themselves (note: for the best example see Jesse Jackson's sons, who had zero experience running a liquor store let alone a major liquor distribution corporation, getting Chicago's Bud distributorship, as if by magic) at the expense of the greater Black community. Sharpton is here to gather some cash, that's all. It should be interesting to see if Jesse wants to share his territory with Al.

Nuke LaLoosh / August 14, 2007 10:20 AM


Your point is well-taken. I made an unfairly broad assertion, and you were right to call me out on it.

I felt that your use of the word "progressive" was also too broad.

I made the subsequent posts to narrow my point. Pardon me if the tone seemed prickly. Mabye its this heat.

Glad we had this conversation. BTW, I want to say that I liked your comments regarding Edwards last week.

Chef / August 14, 2007 4:19 PM


I’m going out on a limb here, but I think our socialist author here would say that as long as a minority is getting the contract, he will brush it with the broad stroke of being “progressive”. A minority, due-paying union worker getting a huge city contract…no matter how we get to that point, it is “progressive”…right?

City officials gave out this contract…so how are we supposed to swallow this? According to the author, he gives us his rationale: “They (unions) may make strange or seemingly counter-intuitive endorsements (of city officials) at times, but they (unions and city officials) likely have their own internal calculus for that (minority awarded a city contract).”

Further, according to the President of the Gapersblock Socialist Party, it is “irresponsible to the point of obscenity” to even point something like this out.

Ramsin / August 14, 2007 5:21 PM

Tovarisch Chef,

Thanks for nominating me as president of the Gapersblock Socialist Party (GSP). Unfortunately, I have to decline the nomination, but only due to my busy schedule.

By the way, I totally agree with your condemnation of privatization, which you brilliantly if awkwardly shoehorned into a sentence I wrote about something else completely.

I agree with you that the Conservative-pioneered sham of "privatization" as a way to exploit taxpayers to fill the pockets of the rich needs to be curtailed. Perhaps by increasing the number and size of government services.

However, the federal government should start the process by setting a good example for municipalities. All those no-bid contracts handed out by conservative administrations are a national blight. Will you set up an iPetition to end privatization of government services? With the signatures you gather, perhaps you could launch your own candidacy for presidency of the Gapersblock Socialist Party.

Comrade Canon


About the Author(s)

Ramsin Canon studies and works in politics in Chicago. If you have a tip, a borderline illegal leak, or a story that needs to be told, contact him at

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