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The Mechanics
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Daley Tue Jun 02 2009

...B-but, I thought he made the trains run on time?

UPDATE: Whet Moser at the Reader is following the debate on the numbers--what a luxury now. Whatever valuations the former city CFO, Paul Volpe, can throw out now are residing comfortably next to meaningless. This is a debate to be had before the decision is final. In most Public Private Partnership frameworks--believe it or not, most parts of the country have statutes that lay out exactly how PPPs can be entered into--there is a stage for negotiation after the best offer is accepted. Having this public debate about valuation THEN almost certainly would have gotten the city a better deal. Instead the bidder knew there was going to be a railroaded process because Chicago has the "CEO Mayor" who "gets things done". It misses the point to debate what the valuation "honestly" is because that number doesn't exist. The value is whatever we the public could have gotten out of the bidder for the deal, and without a period of debate and discussion, we'll never know. A request goes out; bids come in; agencies, committees, and panels review the proposals and make recommendations to legislative bodies; legislative bodies hold hearings and solicit public comment; then bids are accepted but opened for negotiation based on the aforementioned process. That's what a reasonable PPP process looks like.

So the Inspector-General's office has released their report on the parking meter deal, and guess what? Mayor Daley's incompetence may have cost us $1bn.

That's one billion dollars. If you want to wrap your mind around what that means, it could pay the salary of 1,000 cops for a decade; or 3,000 teachers for ten years. If the city had gotten a one-time shot of $2bn, we could have added an additional 500 hybrid buses to the city's fleet for 10 years and paid their drivers. Oh, the things we could do. Because of the Mayor's action, we don't have that money.

Maybe it isn't fair to call it incompetence; but the other option would be stupidity, so it would be better to go with that.

And of course it wasn't just Mayor Daley's incompetence, it was the City Council's cowardice, too, their maddeningly comical terror of the Fifth Floor.

And this has nothing to do with Democrats and Republicans--in this instance we have Democrats rubberstamping an essentially conservative policy. It has to do with a lack of democracy. People who argue for more transparency, more democracy, deliberation, public participation, are shrugged off by the professional political class as being unrealistic, idealistic, wild-eyed haters who are just sore because they aren't in the cool kids club.

But the policies democracy creates are almost always better--particularly over the long term--than the policies dictated by elites. Why? Because the policies dictated by elites will, over time, trend towards favoring those elites over everybody else.

So what a surprise, that the parking meter deal has proven to benefit Morgan Stanley and the Mayor over the people of Chicago.

The Inspector-General's report (via wbez.org) takes no position on Public Private Partnerships per se, but includes this:

Because the deal was presented to the City Council with very limited information and because the Council scheduled its vote a very short time later, there was no meaningful public review of the decision to lease the parking-meter system. What is standard in the PPP "best practices" model - informed deliberation, transparency, and full analysis of the public interest considerations - was not present here.

Of course not! Our aldermen are so scawed of da big scawy mayor. They tremble in fear that he'll send his scattered and demoralized "army" of geriatric precinct workers after them. Who knows; if they stand on principle, maybe they'll lose reelection and have to get a job. I can't believe its come to taunting our elected officials for being scaredy cats, but what else is left? What else do we have to do? They obviously don't respond to reason. So maybe taunts will work better.

I understand it's scary to have your job be threatened, but its not like the Mayor is going to kill you if you vote against his public private partnership proposal. He'll just get comically red-faced and blustery and call you a coward in a way that makes everybody in the city laugh at him.

(comme ca:

)

Mayor Daley the efficient city manager is an apparition; his years of consolidating control gave the appearance of an efficient bureaucrat making things run smoothly; but all things now controlled, we find that the "efficiency" of amalgamation is just a shift of decision making from a slow public process to a quick private one. Democracy maybe chaotic, scary, and sometimes even ugly, but besides being theoretically right, it is often practically right, too.

Richard Daley has a mixed record in office. He has a right to defend that record, and we shouldn't give in to the temptation to turn him into an always-bad caricature. But this is a fantastic blunder, and one that is a direct result of the lack of leadership in Chicago.

These types of things are destined to happen again and again if we don't soon form a real, on-going effort to identify and encourage new leadership in the city.

 
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R.A. Stewart / June 5, 2009 10:30 AM

"Richard Daley has a mixed record in office. He has a right to defend that record, and we shouldn't give in to the temptation to turn him into an always-bad caricature."

That's a good point. We get nowhere with the twin camps of "He's the only reason Chicago isn't Detroit" and "He's no good," even if defections from the first camp to the second are picking up.

Lately I've been thinking of Daley almost in terms of classical tragedy: a man with, if not heroic qualities, at least considerable talents and virtues, who is being brought down by a tragic flaw--call it the love of power, a taste for autocracy, or just that old deadly hubris. And as too often happens in tragedy, taking the rest of us down with him.

"These types of things are destined to happen again and again if we don't soon form a real, on-going effort to identify and encourage new leadership in the city."

I have been trying and trying to remember something I read--it may have been by Malcolm X, though of course I didn't take notes--about the importance, beyond the immediate changes one might seek, of cultivating leadership in the community. Part of Daley's genius as an autocrat--a short-sighted kind of genius certainly, and ruinous from the city's viewpoint--has been his willingness and ability to suppress precisely that effort. Not only has he managed to cut short the development of any credible opposition candidates and organizations, but with the possible exception of Ron Huberman, he seems not even to have cultivated a successor. In that context, maybe Huberman's recent rise signals that Da Mare is finally thinking of stepping down from the throne. But anyone who has read a little about the history of monarchies knows that the time of transition is dangerous, even when the old king's or tsar's or emperor's subjects are glad to see his rule come to an end.

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