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The Mechanics

Election 2015 Mon Aug 18 2014

Six Months in Chicago


Image via NBC5-WMAQ

For six months in Chicago, there may be a rare, once-a-decade opportunity to get some answers. If that sentence seems magniloquent, that's because I had to start big since the subsequent sentence is, "That opportunity is the 2015 Chicago municipal elections."

That opportunity is the 2015 Chicago municipal elections. Chicago is defined by confluence; in the first instance, literally, as sitting at the confluence of Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, and the Chicago Portage, the connection between the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheds. Soon after, the nation's railroad flowed together there; now, it's the confluence of the nation's air travel and trucking. Today, it is also a confluence of some of the country's biggest challenges.

Income inequality, gentrification, rising housing costs, under-resourced schools and creeping privatization, under-served mental health services, police brutality, street crime, segregation, environmental justice, exploitation of undocumented workers, police militarization, un- and under-compensated care work, wage theft, unemployment, over-crowded jails, hyper-criminalization, lack of government transparency, and crumbling infrastructure. These issues intersect on the orange-lit streets of the Great American City. Chicago is a beautiful city and livable city. It is also suffering.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Election 2015 Thu Jul 31 2014

How Karen Lewis Might Also Help Change Chicago City Council

Karen LewisFirst, the news you already know: Karen Lewis is likely running for mayor. Toni Preckwinkle isn't.

Since the news broke on July 15 that Preckwinkle is out of the race, some dominant themes seem to have emerged. The first, probably best epitomized in Ben Joravsky's "five stages of grief" article, has been lament over the person who was seen as most capable of beating Rahm Emanuel stepping out of the race.

Following closely behind is a reassessment of Lewis. It was easier to imagine what a theoretical Preckwinkle campaign might look like. It's harder to imagine that with Lewis. Preckwinkle was a multi-term alderman and is now Cook County Board President, who has expressed many views on many issues over time. Lewis, as President of the Chicago Teachers Union and having never held public office, has had little occasion to talk about things like potholes, tourism, and appropriate police deployment. There's also the question over what form Lewis's campaign might take, given that it would likely take form outside of existing entrenched political structures.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (0)

Elections Wed Jun 11 2014

Bernie Sanders: 2016's Most Interesting Man

Bernie Sanders is a busy man these days. He's currently chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, which has been in the news a lot more than usual. He's also preparing to introduce a constitutional amendment before the Senate which would essentially overturn the infamous Citizens United ruling. And maybe -- just maybe -- he's about to run for president.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (4)

Election 2014 Thu Mar 06 2014

Put Down That Latte - You're Running For Governor!

There's a good chance that, right this very minute, you've clicked on a link from Facebook or Twitter, and gotten to this article, while enjoying some sort of hot caffeinated beverage at a local establishment. Maybe you're seated at some sort of weird little round antique table, and you've got some paper to research, or some spreadsheet to format, or just some "work" to "do"... but you're easily distracted, and, hey, you secretly like being easily distracted.

Clearly, you should be running for Governor.

Or, if you're not feeling quite that ambitious, just run for Comptroller.

I'm serious here. Who would joke about something like Illinois state government?

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (0)

Elections Tue Feb 04 2014

The Elephants for a Day Are Coming. Are You One of Them?

An Ethernet cable. Carrie Underwood's career. What Derrick Rose does to people at the top of the key. That Nissan with the really stupid commercials. They're all crossovers. And the next big crossover is coming our way.

They'll go by a lot of different names. You can call them Grand Old Party Crashers, or One Trick Pachyderms, or maybe just Those Meddling, Conniving Democrats.

They're the Elephants for a Day. And they're diabolically plotting to pull Republican primary ballots this March even though they're not really Republicans.

And maybe you're one of them.

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Phil Huckelberry / Comments (2)

Elections Fri Jan 17 2014

Bruce Rauner's Bad Week

During the past week Bruce Rauner has flip-flopped on minimum wage and it has been revealed he gave money to a foundation for Walter Payton College Prep, a high school he used his clout to get his daughter into.

With the attention and criticism directed at him, Rauner even went as far as to say a forum among the Republican candidates was amounting to them beating up "Brucey all morning."

Although Rauner claims the abuse he received from other candidates was the result of him leading the polls, he really should look back at the news he's generated to understand why people are beating up "Brucey."

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Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Elections Fri Dec 06 2013

Ald. Moreno Endorses Will Guzzardi for 39th District State Representative

By Jeff Bishku-Aykul

Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) officially announced his support for 39th District state representative candidate Will Guzzardi at a Wednesday fundraiser for the 26-year-old, who will take on incumbent and fellow Democrat Toni Berrios in a March 18 primary. Guzzardi, a graduate of Brown University and currently a writer for the University of Chicago's admissions office, fell just 125 votes short of beating Berrios in 2012.

"I don't take these sort of endorsements lightly at all," Moreno said in a Thursday interview. Moreno, whose ward overlaps with part of the district Guzzardi is running to represent, supported Gery Chico during Chicago's 2011 mayoral election. Moreno and his Democratic political organization, 1st Ward First, are both endorsing Guzzardi.

Moreno cited inaction in and frustration with Springfield and Guzzardi's independence and accessibility as factors in his decision.

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Mechanics / Comments (0)

Good Government/Reform Fri Jul 26 2013

America's #1 Populist Tips His Hat to Illinois' Campaign Finance Reform Movement

If politics is a matter of who gets what, when, and how, then Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010) would aptly be described as a monumental political game changer. In the few short years since the Supreme Court of the United States decided money and speech are one in the same and withdrew restrictions on independent political spending, Americans have watched the whos, whats, whens, and hows of politics bending in one distinct direction: towards the interests of the 1%.

Former Texas Agriculture Commissioner, nationally syndicated columnist and radio commentator, New York Times bestselling author, and self described American populist Jim Hightower knows a thing or two about fighting corporate influence in government, and he is a leading voice in the movement to overturn Citizens United.

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Emily Brosious / Comments (0)

Column Thu Nov 15 2012

Wave of Democracy Changes Nation — or Not

By Dick Simpson

Election 2012 brought both change and continuity.

It was a wave election. In 2010, the Republican wave rolled. The Tea Party movement and reactions to the Great Recession combined to bring Republican control of the House of Representatives. It brought many Republican governors and Republican-controlled state legislatures. This year, that wave rolled back out and the new tide has brought Democrats back to power.

The winner and losers are clear. President Barack Obama won both the popular vote and the Electoral College vote.

Democrats gained seats and continued their control of the U.S. Senate. In the House of Representatives, they made gains but Republicans continue to have a safe majority.

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Mechanics / Comments (0)

Education Mon Nov 05 2012

The Threat and Promise of an Elected, Representative School Board

My friend and much-beloved one-time political consultant Mike Fourcher published an editorial in the Center Square and Roscoe View Journals urging voters to vote against a non-binding advisory referendum on the ballot in many Chicago precincts: whether there should be an elected, representative school board (ESRB).

Mike makes some compelling but ultimately unsatisfying arguments as to why voters should reject this referendum. His arguments, both in the piece and in the comments, are compelling enough to merit a response.

The thrust of the argument against the school board is three-pronged; first, direct elections of technically- or specialty-oriented board are not desirous because of the outsize influence of interested parties; second, more democracy can cut against efficiency; and finally, there is sufficient control over the school board via election of the Mayor.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (4)

Bottom of the Ballot Fri Nov 02 2012

The Bottom of the Ballot: Cook County Offices

bottom of the ballot - cook county offices - chicago electionsWhile "Dogcatcher" isn't on the ballot in Chicago, there are several positions that may leave you wondering, "What exactly do these people do?" In particular, the heads of several county-wide agencies that will be up for a vote next week. While some of these positions may seem obscure, they actually do play a major role in the day-to-day life of Chicagoans, especially when it comes to legal or property-related issues. Here's an explanation of what they do and who the candidates are.

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Mike Ewing / Comments (0)

Bottom of the Ballot Thu Nov 01 2012

The Bottom of the Ballot: Referendum-Palooza

bottom of the ballot referendums chicago illinois electionsIf you're registered to vote in Chicago, you won't just be selecting candidates. In addition to national, state and local office holders, you will also directly vote on at least four ballot measures: one that could alter the state constitution, one that could lower your monthly electric bill, and two non-binding, advisory votes of debatable significance. Depending on where you are registered in Chicago, you may even get to vote on additional neighborhood-specific questions.

So here's an explanation of each referendum that could appear on your ballot.

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Jason Prechtel / Comments (0)

Election 2012 Wed Oct 24 2012

Third Party Candidates Debate in Chicago

The day after the final debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, four third party candidates made their case for why they should be the next president of the United States at the Hilton Hotel here in Chicago.

Jill Stein of the Green Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party answered questions put to them by moderator Larry King that were submitted via social media.

Hosted by the nonprofit Free & Equal, the debate was not picked up by any major U.S. networks, but was shown through a live stream as well as on Al-Jazeera and the Russian Times.

Issues discussed included electoral reform, climate change and civil liberties -- many topics never mentioned during the four preceding presidential and vice presidential debates.

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Mike Ewing / Comments (1)

Election 2012 Wed Oct 17 2012

The Other Presidential Debate

free and equal foundationWhile millions have tuned in to see President Obama and Governor Romney debate, next Tuesday's presidential debate here in Chicago will be lucky to attract voters' attention at all. That's because it won't receive national television coverage, and it won't feature the Democratic and Republican Party candidates. Instead, the candidates participating are all the others -- the "third party" candidates shut out of the big show.

At 8pm on Tuesday, Oct. 23, the Chicago-based Free & Equal Elections Foundation will host a presidential debate at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. All six presidential candidates were invited; Obama and Romney are not expected to show (they'll be holding their third and final debate the night before), but Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Jill Stein of the Green Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party will be participating. Larry King will moderate.

The debate will be broadcast on Al Jazeera and streamed live on Ora.tv, Russia Today and freeandequal.org/live. Viewers will be invited to submit questions via Free and Equal's website, or on Twitter using the hashtag #AskEmThisLarry.

The Hilton's ballroom holds approximately 2,000 people. "People in attendance will be mostly students, voters... left leaning and right coming together," said Antonia Hall, a spokesperson for Free and Equal. The foundation will be selling a limited number of tickets to attend the debate on its website beginning Thursday, Oct. 18.

Andrew Huff / Comments (2)

Law Mon Jun 25 2012

Supreme Court Decision on Montana Statute Could Effect Local, State Elections

Taking the opportunity to go out of lockstep, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a state statute forbidding corporate expenditures on elections or political questions, sourced in the destabilizing political power held by the state's old mining interests going back to its territorial days. The parties challenging the statute appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that the statue conflicted with the Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC. The case was to be decided without additional briefing or oral arguments. To the question of whether states could regulate corporate spending independently, the Court, in a per curiam decision, let out a disinterested nyope, consisting of about three sentences of legal reasoning:

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, this Court struck down a similar federal law, holding that "political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation." The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does. Montana's arguments in support of the judgment below either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case...The judgment of the Supreme Court of Montana is reversed.

Any hopes states had of passing their own uniquely tailored legislation to keep corporate cash out of state and local elections just diminished a little bit. Justice Breyer, joined by the liberal and moderate justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, dissented.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Elections Fri Jun 08 2012

The Error of an Era: The End of Elections

The failure of Tom Barrett to beat Scott Walker in Tuesday's recall election was probably about a lot of things. For social historians of this era, though, it will be this: a miscalculation of epic proportions, an error that defines the post-Citizens United era.

The public rage after Governor Walker instituted his de facto recission of public workers' collective bargaining rights was palpable and widespread. It was by no means universal, but it brought together lots of people who felt targeted, misled, and who saw the legislation as an existential threat to their economic security and well-being. Wisconsin's public sector after all is storied--Wisconsin passed the country's first public worker collective bargaining law--and public sector workers in that state came from all partisan stripes and economic classes.

The direct action that resulted, occupation of the capitol building, was a reasonable response. The decision to turn all of that activist energy into an election campaign was fatally misguided.

I argued, on the heels of the Citizens United decision, that the left could finally admit that elections are not a feasible method of obtaining particularly economic goals, and that it should begin exploring alternative, direct action methods; particularly, occupations, work stoppages, and boycotts:

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Election 2012 Fri Mar 30 2012

Cook County Regular Democratic Disorganization: Guzzardi and Berrios

by Caroline O'Donovan

The precinct captains, who had been preparing for election day for weeks, arrived at headquarters at 5:30am. A box of Dunkin Donuts, a campaign staple for liberals and conservatives, incumbents and challengers alike, was already waiting. Polls would open at 6 and not close for 13 hours; the day ahead would be long. Each captain was given a stack of door hangers, a list of addresses and a few volunteers while coffee brewed. The sole goal was to find as voters who had said they would support Will Guzzardi for state representative and ensure that they went to the polls.

To have informed the group of people assembled at Guzzardi headquarters that morning that voter turnout in the 39th District would be a record low this year would not have disheartened them. A low turnout rate could actually have been in their favor, because it meant that the machine operation of incumbent State Rep. Toni Berrios and her father Cook County Democratic Party chairman Joe Berrios, was underperforming.

Tellingly, it was not with voters on the street who campaign workers had the most fraught interactions last Tuesday, but with election judges at the polls. From reluctantly reported voter lists to lost tape to delayed results, many of the individuals who were voting and campaigning in the 39th district last Tuesday pointed to gross mismanagement on behalf of the Board of Elections. This claim made the final count, with Berrios leading Guzzardi by 111 votes, suspect to a number of Guzzardi supporters. The slim margin is frustrating to volunteers, some of whom have found it difficult not to want to find a connection between the strangely unprofessional behavior of the election judges and a loss that was just too close.

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Mechanics / Comments (1)

Election 2012 Tue Mar 20 2012

Why I am Not Voting

Unless a last-minute change of heart overtakes me, this will mark the first election I miss since becoming eligible in September of 2000. Since then, I have voted in every primary, municipal, and general election I was eligible to vote in--though I do think one of my "provisional" ballots was thrown out because I voted in the wrong precinct after moving.

voteno.jpgMaking the decision not to vote was a difficult one, not cavalierly reached. Voting is both a duty and a right, to my mind, and I personally support universal, compulsory voting on the Australian model. That's not the system we have, though, and with each passing election the meaning of my vote has tranmogrified into something ugly: a negative speech act against the apparitions and shades conjured up by those nearer to me on the political spectrum--my supposed ideological allies--rather than for any principles I can actually support.

In other words, accepting the proposition that a vote is essentially an act of speech, the dictum that if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all, would apply. Perusing the sample ballot, I see little nice to say.

I do consider voting a duty, but in all honesty my compulsion to vote in each cycle was more motivated by partisanship than civic responsibility. I was a Democrat full of visceral dislike and distrust of Republicans, to the point of virulence. Like most partisans, I built a shabby intellectual structure to house what was really little more than a set of strong emotions. I saw historic Democratic sweeps in state and federal governments, historic elections; I saw local activists whom I knew personally and admired get elected to local office; I breathed sighs of relief when campaign season predictions of Republican governing apocalypses were narrowly avoided by key victories. Years passed. And there was little meaningful progress toward any fundamental change; not only that, but the case for fundamental change wasn't even being articulated. From my remote vantage, peering through the window into the halls of power, the pigs and the men were increasingly indiscernible one from another.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (8)

National Politics Tue Jan 03 2012

Illinois Pols on the Romney Train in Iowa

by Tyler Davis

DES MOINES, Iowa - Many prominent Illinois political figures, including four in the U.S. Congress, and Illinois business-people have endorsed former Gov. Mitt Romney, but endorsements may not have much of an impact on Iowa caucus results, said some Iowa Republicans.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, a Republican representing Illinois' 18th district, joined Mitt Romney on the campaign trail.

"We were in Davenport on Tuesday, and we criss-crossed around the state on Wednesday," said Schock. "I introduced him at each stop and told why I support him."

Schock has endorsed Romney because "he's the most qualified to take on President Obama," and that, "once he is elected, he can do the job."

Schock is also on Romney's national finance committee, where he helps raise funds for the campaign. He will be campaigning with Romney in Iowa on caucus day.

First-term Illinois Senator Mark Kirk also endorsed Romney, as well as U.S. Reps. Judy Biggert and Robert Dold, former U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, according to Romney's campaign website. Rutherford is also the Illinois chairman for the Romney campaign and has donated $2,500 to the campaign.
Biggert donated $1,000 to the Romney campaign.

Hastert and Rutherford also endorsed Gov. Romney in 2008.

Iowa caucus participants, however, might not be paying much attention public endorsements and fundraising numbers.

"Endorsements don't make a huge difference in the long run [in Iowa]," said Kevin McLaughlin, chairman of the Polk County Republican Party in Polk County Iowa.

"What I think is a bigger deal are the people who stand up and speak for a candidate at the caucus," said Polk Count GOP chairman McLaughlin, referring to a portion of the caucus where individual representatives give a pitch of their candidate at each precinct.

"A prominent heart surgeon in Des Moines, Dr. Ronald Grooters, will be standing up for Newt Gingrich," said McLaughlin. "That might sway some people, especially if he's performed surgery on them."

"Endorsements might matter to the people who have been here [in Iowa] volunteering for months.The people who are more politically active," said McLaughlin.

Romney also has strong support from businesses in Illinois.

Of Romney's $32.2 million raised nationally, $679,714 of it came from Illinois, according to the last campaign finance report covering April through September of last year, the latest the data was available. Seventy-eight percent of the funds from Illinois came from contributions of $2,000 or more.

Chicago contributions account for $202,933 of Romney's funds raised in Illinois. Many in the Chicago business community have contributed, from attorneys and investment bankers to owners of Chicago restaurants like Tamarind in the South Loop and Arun's Thai in Irving Park, according to the campaign finance report. Neither restaurant owner could be reached for comment.

Also traveling with Romney last week were New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, said Schock.

Mechanics / Comments (0)

Obama Mon Nov 07 2011

Obama's 2012 Campaign Releases its First Commercial

The Obama reelection campaign released its first commercial, featuring 2008's Grant Park election night rally, on Saturday, one year out from the next election day. Titled "What if...," it ends with the crowds in Grant Park being erased, fading out to white text on a black screen reading, "One year from now all our progress could be erased." I'll leave it up to you whether you think much progress has been made.

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Elections Tue Nov 01 2011

A Week of News For the Green Party

On Monday, Massachusetts physician Jill Stein announced she will be running for president as a Green Party candidate for 2012. Previously, Stein was a gubernatorial candidate for Massachusetts in 2010. Stein was born in Chicago and raised in Highland Park and attended Harvard for both her undergraduate degree and medical school.

According to a press release, Stein plans to create a "Green New Deal" by initiating direct action by the Federal government in order to create jobs, "ending the Bush/Obama recession," according to the press release.

Stein also would try to create a universal Medicare system, forgive existing student loan debt, ending home foreclosures.

According to the press release, the Occupy Wall Street movement inspired Stein and some of her stances on the campaign issues are similar to the demands of some of the Occupy protesters.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Green Party filed a lawsuit against the State Board of Elections regarding the interpretation of the statute that defines who can be considered an "established party." Laurel Lambert Schmidt, who is running for the Third District state congressional seat, also filed the lawsuit.

If the Green Party would win their lawsuit, it would potentially make it easier for candidates like Schmidt to run for office. According to the current law, established party candidates need 600 registered voters in a district to sign a petition while non-established party candidates need 5,000 signatures and a petitioned filed earlier than established party candidates.

Any decision made by a court could potentially affect those in other parties and make it easier to run for an office in Illinois.

Monica Reida / Comments (0)

Democrats Wed Sep 07 2011

Epic Showdown Looming for Congress

South Side Chicago and the southern suburbs could be the battle ground for a Democratic heavyweight battle come next March. Former Congressional Representative Debbie Halvorson filed paperwork to explore a potential matchup in the second congressional district with Jesse Jackson Jr.

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Aaron Krager / Comments (0)

Column Mon Aug 22 2011

Growing Minorities Demand Political Action

by Dick Simpson
Seismic political changes are occurring unnoticed. Racial minorities have always been important in Chicago elections, but population changes now have profound effects on national politics as well. Minorities helped Barack Obama win the White House and Democrats control Congress until their setback in 2010 midterm elections.

In 2008, nearly one in four voters was a racial minority. Whites still made up 76 percent of the 131 million people who voted nationally, but blacks were 12 percent, Latinos 7 percent and Asians 2.5 percent.

In the 2010 election 6.6 million Latinos voted, again representing 7 percent of all voters. But they are predicted to cast as many as 12 million ballots in 2012. They continue to grow more rapidly in population and in voters than any other segment of society.
These trends are being played out even faster in Illinois. In 2008, 11 percent of the Illinois electorate was Latino, 13 percent was black and 6 percent was other (mostly Asian). With over 708,000 eligible Latino voters in Illinois, they are enough to swing any statewide election and many local ones.

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Mechanics / Comments (0)

Elections Tue Jun 14 2011

Duckworth Resigns from VA; Congress Next?

The new Congressional map has not even been signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn but the jockeying for position is already underway. Former Congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth turned in her resignation from the Department of Veteran Affairs yesterday. It is an apparent first move to run for the newly created 8th Congressional District encompassing her home in Hoffman Estates.

If Duckworth ran for the House again, she would have a much stronger position than the first time around. Her resume is more formidable -- since 2006, she has run the Illinois veterans agency and has been one of the top VA officials in Washington -- and she would be running from a more Democratic district.

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Aaron Krager / Comments (0)

Op-Ed Wed Apr 13 2011

Youth In Play: Ameya Pawar and the People

This editorial was submitted by Cali Slaughter and Harishi Patel.

If anyone reminded young, progressive Chicagoans of the potential of the underdog in our most recent election cycle; it was Ameya Pawar. Pawar, an Indian-American, just 29, is not only going to be the youngest member of the Council when inaugurated on May 15; he is the first Asian-American elected to the City Council.

His rival, Tom O'Donnell, was personally selected by incumbent Eugene Schulter, who boasted a solid (albeit rusting) thirty-six year rule over Chicago's 47th.

O'Donnell was buttressed by loads more money and he possessed that inevitable confidence accompanied by the endorsement of a handful of Chicago's old guard. It seemed that minimal effort would be necessary for a landslide victory.

Oops.

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Mechanics / Comments (0)

Election 2011 Mon Mar 21 2011

Chicago For Sale

Here's a troubling bit of news.

The Illinois State Board of Elections issued a decision denying that the For a Better Chicago PAC, which distributed as much as three quarters of a million dollars on the municipal election on behalf of pro-business candidates, had to disclose its donors. A complaint was lodged by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform against the PAC, which is operated by Greg Goldner, principal at Resolute Consulting and a former campaign manager for both Rahm Emanuel and Mayor Daley.

The Board has in practice created a form of legal political money laundering in our elections. Any party can, by first giving to a corporate entity that subsequently creates a PAC, pour as much money as it wants into that PAC to be spent on elections. While campaign contribution limits would restrict how that PAC gave to candidates directly, there would be no practical limits on electioneering, a distinction hardened in law under the regime created by the Citizens United decision.

Information can now be disseminated without giving voters the benefit of knowing who is providing that information.

I wonder if groups like the Commercial Club who have for generations mewled and puked about city machines giving out $40k a year jobs to those who provide political support, will buck and howl about this new regime of unrestricted cash in politics, cash coming from unknown sources and therefore for unknown reasons. The legal trend has not been to limit the influence of this cash, but instead to protect it.

The result? Corporate power will continue to dominate our elections, and those on the side of economic justice will have to find some way beside elections to pursue that justice.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (11)

Rahm Emanuel Mon Jan 24 2011

Someone Really Wants to Vote for Rahm

I Want My Right to Vote for Rahm
Photograph by David Schalliol


Rahm Emanuel's campaign organized a demonstration at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners office tonight following an Illinois appellate court's 2-1 ruling that he does not meet residency requirements to run to be Chicago's mayor. For their efforts, several dozen demonstrators showed up, some with handmade flyers, most with official "Rahm for Mayor" signs. While the demonstration only lasted a few minutes before leaving the office, the issue will be around until the Illinois Supreme Court rules on the case.

Read Ramsin Canon's "Make Sense, Be Honest: Emanuel's Ballot Access" for an analysis of the issues.

David Schalliol / Comments (0)

Aldermen Tue Dec 14 2010

A Peek at Election Law Tweaks

On Monday, Dec. 13, a small group of journalists, reform advocates, and political junkies gathered in a conference room at the Michael A. Bilandic Building to hear a three-person panel review some of the important changes to Illinois election law enacted last year in what was finally passed as Public Act 96-0832 (click preceding link to view text of Act as it amended existing law; click here to download as a PDF). Cindy Canary of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Andy Nauman from the State Board of Elections' division that regulates campaign finance reporting, and Cara Smith (no relation), the Public Access [FOIA] Counselor for the Illinois Attorney General, did their best in a quick review to navigate attendees through a pastiche of legislation that, as Canary put it, is "like going into the inner chamber of hell." The changes have some immediate impact on the municipal elections barreling down upon us all, with larger ramifications for other future races. However, reviewing what the law does and doesn't do also highlighted new ambiguities created, and how in significant areas much remains to be done.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (0)

Elections Wed Nov 03 2010

Election Wrap Up: Mechanics on WBEZ

Hey everybody! Thanks for stopping by Mechanics in between booking one-way tickets to Ottawa on Priceline in anticipation of the proto-fascist Republican takeover of the federal government or researching your upcoming blog post, "The Democratic Party is Toast (For Real This Time)."

I joined Lenny McAllister of WVON and Nenna Torres of UIC to talk about last night's election results with Alison Cuddy of WBEZ's 848. Highlights include me calling Pat Quinn "a tough dude." For the record, I was this/close to calling him "one tough motherflipper." You're welcome, BEZ. Check it out.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Elections Wed Nov 03 2010

Berrios Wins; Most Everyone Loses

It may not have been the most high-profile race of the evening, but in many ways, the contest for Cook County Assessor between Democrat Joe Berrios and Independent Forrest Claypool may have been the most symbolic. In a victory for Machine-style patronage, Berrios cruised to a win with 48% of the vote to Claypool's nearly 32%.

Claypool HQ.JPG
Claypool Campaign HQ on Election Night

The largely white, relatively sparse, yet immensely supportive crowd at Claypool's election headquarters remained fairly subdued all evening, with expectations tempered by both the moneyed interests and the large Hispanic support Berrios was poised to receive throughout the city and county. Now, Berrios, the already clout-heavy chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, gets to openly operate as Assessor what have been his overtly tax-friendly tactics towards Loop high-rises while he served as a member of the Board of Review. If history proves to repeat itself, coupled with the political power that comes with the Assessor's office, Berrios will be looking towards the neighborhoods to make up the difference in collection.

Which leads to the inevitable question of how anyone in the neighborhoods could throw their vote behind such a candidate. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of identity politics is that it can also serve to eliminate true discussion of any possible consequences of long-term destructiveness of certain candidate's policies. The long-time congressman and 2nd Ward Alderman William Dawson is a shining example of such in Chicago's past. One of the great ironies of the long-arc of democracy as well is that the well-intentioned inclusiveness of identity politics - at least initially a way to excite and engage masses - can often lead to alienating and discouraging the most strident and most needed believers behind an honest candidate's cause. As one of Claypool's volunteers said, right before his concession, "there's something adrenalizing about getting involved in a campaign like this, and yet, it's demoralizing" knowing the outcome.

Claypool's concession speech highlighted the success of the campaign in "planting seeds" for good government. With Toni Preckwinkle's victory in the Cook County Board President race, there's room to believe that these good government seeds may slowly be taking root. Till then, here's hoping Cook County is able to cure its case of What's the Matter with Kansas-itis and we're not all taxed out of our underwater homes in the interim.

Claypool Fam.JPG
Forrest Claypool delivering his concession speech for Cook County Assessor

Ben Schulman / Comments (3)

Elections Tue Nov 02 2010

Sports Dollars in Politics

This article was submitted by Andrew Kachel

"Money is the mother's milk of politics." -Jesse "Big Daddy" Unruh

Back when Mike Ditka half-assedly ran for the US Senate then immediately backed out, he had this to say: "Five, six years ago I would have jumped on it and would have ran with it, and I know this, that I would make a good senator, because I would be for the people." Ditka said this at an impromptu news conference in front of Mike Ditka's Steakhouse on the near North Side.

Over the last two decades, American athletes and coaches as a group have been eerily quiet with their political opinions. Gilbert Arenas famously noted in the last presidential election that he wasn't voting -- both candidates were going to tax his enormous salary. When asked why he didn't back civil rights champion Harvey Gantt in the North Carolina Senate race, Michael Jordan shrewdly replied, "Republicans buy sneakers, too."

There's more than a little pressure from owners and management for athletes to conduct themselves as apolitical entities. PR coaches know this from the moment players step into their offices and ingratiate it into their psyches. Pro athletes aren't even supposed to criticize officiating (fines are inevitable when they do), so their ideas on the direction of foreign and domestic policy ride the third rail. Reporters don't ask and players don't tell.

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Mechanics / Comments (4)

Elections Mon Nov 01 2010

Email: Commercial Property Owners Prefer Berrios

This email fell into our laps, from a commercial and residential property tax firm, Elliott & Associates, sent to all their clients, urging them to vote for Joe Berrios for the assessor's office. They express concern that Forrest Claypool would continue too be to harsh on commercial property owners, as Houlihan (apparently) was. Presented for your consideration.

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: "Elliott & Associates Attorneys, P.C."
Sent: Mon, November 1, 2010 10:40:57 AM
Subject: Our Recommendation for Cook County Assessor Race

1430 Lee Street | Des Plaines, Illinois 60018 | 847.298.8300 | www.elliottlaw.com

Dear Client:
We have been asked by several clients to voice our recommendations for the Cook County Assessor race.
Assessor Jim Houlhan is retiring. Cook County Board of Review member Joe Berrios is running for Assessor as the Democratic Party candidate. Forest Claypool, an independent, is opposing him.
We recommend Joe Berrios for Cook County Assessor.
Over the past 10 years, we have observed the Assessor's office become increasingly unfriendly to certain groups of taxpayers, particularly, commercial property owners. This has included unjustifiably large assessment increases, the wholesale denial of legitimate assessment appeals and promoting legislation designed to make it more difficult and costly to obtain assessment relief.
Assessor Houlihan is a major supporter of Forrest Claypool. We are concerned that a Clayool administration could perpetuate the same unfriendly treatment of some groups of taxpayers that presently exists under the Houlihan administration.
Joe Berrios is one of three members of the Cook County Board of Review, the agency that reviews and corrects assessments rendered by the Cook County Assessor's Office. Our clients have been fortunate to be able to look to the Board of Review to correct the unfair assessments rendered by the Assessor's office. Were it not for the Board, our clients would have paid substantially higher taxes.
In our experience, Joe Berrios has been fair and open-minded. He and his staff understand the assessment process, are willing to give the taxpayer a fair hearing and render a fair decision. That's all we can ask for. We expect Joe Berrios will treat taxpayers fairly if he is elected Assessor.
Again, we urge you to vote for Joe Berrios for Cook County Assessor.


Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Elections Mon Nov 01 2010

Who Cares About a State Representative's Race?

As you may have heard, some people (but probably not very many) are going to be voting on some stuff tomorrow. It's been a wild campaign season locally and nationally, and both will probably see some shakeups. But unlike the fights for governor or senator, there's one tight race that isn't between a Republican and a Democrat and most Chicagoans (particularly those outside of the Northwest Side) know little about: the fight for state representative in the 39th district.

State rep races usually fly well below the media's radar, overshadowed by races for higher offices. This year has been no exception: much attention has been paid to Quinn vs. Brady and Kirk vs. Giannoulias. But the fight in the 39th district between eight-year incumbent Democrat Toni Berrios and insurgent Green Party candidate Jeremy Karpen should be worth watching tomorrow. While the winner will not be the most powerful politician in Illinois, an incumbent loss would result in the only Green Party politician in any state house in the country.

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Micah Uetricht / Comments (7)

Elections Sun Oct 31 2010

No Friends in Politics: Doherty v. Mulroe on the Northwest Side

This article was submitted by David Jordan

It's personal.

Two sons of Irish immigrants, mutual childhood friends from the old neighborhood, are in a close, nasty fight for a state Senate seat on Chicago's Far Northwest Side.

23533_1218424465630_1379445299_30512914_451227_s.jpg
John Mulroe (next to the young woman) at a party in the North Austin neighborhood in 1979. Photo courtesy of Brendan Egan

Like me, both Brian Doherty - for the past 19 years the city's sole Republican alderman--and his foe in the November 2 election, John Mulroe--appointed to the seat in August after a long-serving fellow Democrat resigned from it--graduated from St. Angela School, in the North Austin neighborhood on the West Side. I am SAS '74, Mulroe is '73 and Doherty, '71.

Neither candidate for 10th District senator--Doherty, 53, a standout amateur boxer as a young man, who started in politics as a volunteer to a Northwest Side state representative 30 years ago; Mulroe, 51, a mild-mannered but tough and tenacious accountant-turned-lawyer, who is a relative political neophyte--is pulling many punches in the bout, which has been heavily financed by both party organizations.

Both candidates, like me, are from big Irish Catholic families.

Mulroe was the third of five children, all boys. The family, like mine, lived for several years in a two-bedroom apartment in a two-flat with relatives occupying the other flat, near tiny Galewood Park, a North Austin neighborhood hangout for countless youths, including me and several of my nine siblings.

Mulroe's father, a longtime laborer with Peoples Gas, often carted a gang of us kids in his station wagon to various sporting events.

On the campaign trail, Mulroe often recounts how he began his work career at age 13 as a janitor's assistant at St. Patrick High School, an all-boys Belmont Avenue institution, where I was a year behind him, just as I had been at SAS, where he later was a director of the St. Angela Education Foundation.

In the 1980s, while Mulroe was working days at Arthur Anderson as an accountant, he attended Loyola University law school at night. Then he served as a Cook County prosecutor for six years before, in 1995, opening a small, general legal practice in an office that is a block from Doherty's aldermanic office, down Northwest Highway in the Edison Park neighborhood, where the senator and his wife, Margaret, live with their two sons and two daughters.

Similarly, Doherty, the third of nine children, was a presence in my youth. My father, the late Jack Jordan (SAS '38), St. Angela's longtime volunteer athletic director, became close to the future alderman while working as a manager for the Chicago Park District boxing program.

At the time, the future alderman was in the midst of his amateur boxing career, in which I remember seeing the slim Doherty out-pound heavier boxers on his way to a 19-2 record and Park District and Golden Gloves championships.

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Mechanics / Comments (21)

Elections Sun Oct 31 2010

Moving America Forward Rally with President Barack Obama Photo Essay

Democrats rallied on the Midway Plaisance in Hyde Park on Saturday evening for the "Moving America Forward Rally with President Barack Obama." The estimated 35,000 attendees heard performances by Chicago rockers Dot Dot Dot and hip-hop artist Common, as well as speeches by a variety of officials and citizens, including Mayor Richard M. Daley, Senator Richard Durbin, State Treasurer and US Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias, Governor Pat Quinn, Alderman and Cook County President Candidate Toni Preckwinkle and -- of course -- President Barack Obama.

A photo essay of the event by David Schalliol is below.

David Schalliol / Comments (2)

Elections Wed Oct 27 2010

Tennessee Tennessee, Ain't No Place I'd Rather NOT Be

Despite the title of this post, no offense is meant towards the lovely state of Tennessee. Its Smokies are indeed majestic, who could argue with a town like Memphis, Dollywood calls it home, and Nashville is home to the legendary Skull's Rainbow Room, first established by honky-tonk legend "Skull" Schulman. You won't find any qualms with the state here. But when GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady exclaimed the following at a debate last week, it's cause for consternation:

"If the viewers are happy with the way Illinois is going, elect Pat Quinn. But if you want an Illinois that looks more like an Indiana or a Tennessee --- a state that can turn the page -- we need new leadership in Springfield"

The Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn immediately picked up on the quote and did some quick head-to-head statistical comparisons that highlight Brady never would have made the allusions if he had done any amount of research at all. The sentiment behind Brady's statement though is something to keep heavily in mind when heading out to the polls next Tuesday. What Brady's comment conveys is a cultural argument meant to rile up Downstaters to challenge Chicago and urban hegemony against their interests. Politically, it makes a bit of a sense. Logically, it's an absurdity.

It is a further illustration of the tension between the political unit of measurement that is the State -- that is, Illinois -- and the economic force that enables its being -- Chicago. In a recent article by Bruce Katz, the Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, he notes that ""Greater Chicago contains 67 percent of the residents of Illinois and generates 78 percent of the state's economic output. But Illinois has pursued transportation and infrastructure policies that divert tax revenue from Chicago to subsidize inefficient investments in the rest of the state." Unless leadership can start being aboveboard about the realities of the economic structure of our co-dependence, Illinois will remain a mess, and Chicago will stagnate. All the while, Chicago will be forced to continue searching for private dollars for public works, as it becomes an ever-larger welfare donor to the rest of the atrophying state.

At some point, there has got to be a critical mass when the untenability of the illusion of the versus culture that pits states like Tennessee against Illinois and towns like Bloomington against Chicago becomes politically apparent. All places are equally vital and important in their own regard, but the truth dictates that some carry larger weight than others. As the process of right-fixing spaces across the nation begins, realizing that the one-size-fits-all prescriptions of growth that had been counted on for so long have become unsustainable, hopefully an embracing of the actual place one occupies will accompany this development.

Any potential candidate for statewide office is foolish not to be actively selling further investment in Chicago. Whatever faults it may carry, the reality of it is that Chicago is a top-tier alpha city in a region devoid of any others. It is an exceptionally powerful place of prestige could be utilized as a tremendous asset. Aside from the states of California and New York, no other state has a city as influential as Illinois. Not only should Tennessee be so lucky to have such a problem, but Brady's thoughtless thought process indicates Chicago is somehow apart from the rest of the state. With 78% of the economic output coming from the city, a responsible candidate would encourage more growth in the city to solidify the strength and virtues of the small, rural hometown. Poison the source of the river and soon, the banks of all of its tributaries will be bare.

There are two solutions here: honesty in management, or go it alone and have Chicago take measures to decouple itself from the state. The latter isn't a political reality, so the former better become in vogue fairly soon. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be so happening this election season.

The Grateful Dead's "Tennessee Jed"

Ben Schulman / Comments (0)

Election 2011 Tue Oct 26 2010

Quinn Campaign Ad: A Very Brady Recap

The latest ad from the Quinn campaign takes a page from "Glee."

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Election 2011 Thu Oct 21 2010

The Next Chicago Voter

This article was submitted by Michael Moreci

Political movements don't happen overnight. Changing a political structure, especially one so entrenched in its own power as the Chicago machine, requires organization, patience, and an ability to focus on the long view. But since Mayor Daley announced that he won't be seeking another term, community organizers across the city have seen the window to mounting an effort towards overhaul crack open after years of being nailed shut. And in this context, one name has been on everyone's tongue--Harold Washington.

For many, the former Chicago mayor who tragically died in office represents a myriad things, from progressive politics to community activism to grassroots politics. What gets lost in the nostalgia, according to Harish Patel, are the long years of organization that went into Washington's successful campaign.

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Mechanics / Comments (1)

Mayor Wed Oct 20 2010

Dart's First Financial Disclosure As A Possible Mayoral Candidate

Officially Sheriff Tom Dart is just running for reelection (although it's pretty clear he's going to run for mayor also), and because he's running for Cook County Sheriff again he is legally obligated to make campaign financial disclosures. Earlier this week the disclosure for his PAC Friends of Dart for the period between July 1-Oct. 3 was released.

The earliest donation came in late September, after Mayor Daley announced his intention not to run for reelection so every donation could have been toward Dart the candidate for mayor. Within this period Friends of Dart raised $170,000. Interestingly, $500.00 of that $170k came from Bettylu Saltzman, who The New Yorker's David Remnick described in his book The Bridge as President "Obama's wealthy friend and patron on the North Side." Rahm Emanuel's financial disclosure reports aren't due yet because the earliest and only election he's running for is in February, but it will be interesting to see if one of Obama's big name Chicago backers donated to Emanuel's campaign as well.

Besides Saltzman, other notable contributors include SEIU Local 73 B-Pac ($1,000) and the lobbying firm Nicolay & Dart LLC, the lobbying firm where the Sheriff's brother works. One of the oldest rumors of this still young mayoral race is that Dart would win the backing of the SEIU, which increasingly appears to be more than a rumor.

Did I miss anything? You can read the report below. Please let me know in the comments if you find anything interesting.

UPDATE: Readers have noted that Dart received $10,000 from the Burnham Committee, a PAC for Alderman Edmund Burke whose history has not always been squeaky clean.

Dart Pre Election Form Report

Daniel Strauss / Comments (3)

Elections Sun Oct 17 2010

Corporate Cash Flooding IL, National Federal Races

Holding signs with slogans such as "RepubliCorp: we buy democracy, one race at a time," members of MoveOn from Chicago and the northern suburbs held a press conference on Friday, Oct. 15 at the Northbrook office of Congressman Mark Kirk, who is also a candidate for U.S. Senate, to draw attention to a report entitled Buying Democracy: The impact of corporate and right-wing front groups on elections in llinois. The report's findings reinforce what many Americans have become aware of in recent weeks, namely, that an unprecedented flood of shadowy cash is making its way into the 2010 election. The northern Illinois group held their presentation in coordination with other MoveOn efforts taking place in all 50 states.

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Jeff Smith / Comments (21)

Elections Fri Oct 08 2010

Don't Forget to Remember November

Capitol Fax blogger Rich Miller has a particularly relevant column in today's Chicago Sun-Times. "Rahm Focus Blurs News on All Races" notes in detail has the media frenzy accompanying Emanuel's return home has obscured the facts emerging about the November elections. Although Emanuel is attracting hordes of attention, the November elections were bound to be overshadowed the moment Mayor Daley announced his retirement.

In some respects, it's encouraging to see people motivated and involved in the political process regarding the civic elections. Hopefully this initial puff of celebrity-like zeal over the race will actually translate into voter participation. As Miller points out though, before we jog around that track, there are earlier races that need attending.

Some of the apathetic disillusionment towards November, both in the media and the voter mindset, could be due to two extraordinarily bad gubernatorial candidates, which no doubt leads to rote feelings of "they're all the same"-ness. But between the US Senate race, the Cook County Assessor race (this may be the most important race of the Fall folks), and hordes of other statewide offices, there's a fairly large and important set of decisions to be made before all eyes start looking towards the Fifth Floor.

There's an undercurrent here of how this is a further illustration of Chicago decoupling itself from the State of Illinois, which deserves a more in-depth analysis at some point in time. But as that is more fantasy than reality at present, it would be best for all parties to focus first on November.

Besides, Pat Quinn somewhat resembles a waffle. How bad could a waffle, especially in comparison to some things, possibly be?

Ben Schulman / Comments (0)

IL-GOV Wed Oct 06 2010

March of the Morons: Brady on Evolution and Creation

Darwin_ape.pngI have one question that I believe should be used to disqualify people from running for executive office. It is, "Do you accept the theory of evolution?" Anybody who says no should be disqualified. No, it's not a religious test that would violate the Article VI prohibition. It's a moron test. We could also ask, "Are you a moron?" but then we'd be less likely to get an honest response. This way we could actually root out the morons.

This has nothing to do with conservative/liberal, Democrat/Republican. Evolution is a fact--in fact, it's more than a fact. It is a theory built upon literally millions of facts. Believe whatever other thing you want, but denying that evolution took place--maybe not exactly how science now conceives, but that it took place in some way--is absolutely no different than denying gravity. Newtonian physics got the mechanics of gravity wrong, but that didn't make gravity itself wrong. If you think "the jury is out" on evolution, you're not particularly bright, willfully ignorant, or poorly educated (which may not be your fault, but still--probably shouldn't be elected to executive office).

Bill Brady thinks it's okay to teach Creationism in schools. By doing so, he betrays his claim that he accepts "both" creationism and evolution. Accepting both as equivalent to be taught is like saying you accept "both" the theory of electromagnetism and fish are delicious. I don't care about any of the rest of his politics. How can you vote for a person like that? Creationism in schools? Really? We want the US to create well-educated kids prepared to tackle the most significant problems of the future--not to mention stay on the cutting edge of science--and we're going to allow school districts to teach Creationism? How stupid is this guy?

Apparently immensely.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (25)

Elections Mon Oct 04 2010

All Bets are Off for 2010 Elections in Illinois

We interrupt this 24-hour Rahm Emanuel coverage to give you something only related to Rahm Emanuel. Don't worry dear readers, you'll be able to read about exactly where Rahm stood and what shirt he was wearing on day 1 of his listening tour soon enough. In the meantime I wanted to call attention to this PPP poll released Friday of last week. There's been a good amount of commentary about some of the poll's results but the truth is that the findings are really so subtle you have to read it for yourself:

PPP Release IL 101

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Daniel Strauss / Comments (0)

Election 2011 Mon Oct 04 2010

Modeling an Open Chicago: Taking The City Back

This is the first in a series.

They know what's best for you.

cover2.jpgWith an open Mayoral seat, Chicagoans a generation removed from the last competitive election for that office are unsure of their footing. The media is either causing or reflecting that confusion, unsure where to start an analysis of what this election "means," what will determine its outcome, who the players are. Path of least resistance: we focus on the personalities running, the staff they're hiring, the money they're raising. Is this a new chance at democracy? Have we had democracy all along? Does Chicago need a strong hand? Or are we looking for the next Harold? White? Black? Latino? Man? Woman? Gay? Straight? Machine? Progressive?

The cat's away. The mice are frantic.

"Progressives" are eager to make this election a change election, to "take the city back" from what they perceive as decades of corporatist policies under Daley's leadership. Their archenemy is Rahm Emanuel, the insider's insider who has openly mocked progressive leadership nationally and who made a curious insta-fortune on Wall Street after his years in the Clinton White House. And, it should be noted, who made his bones raising money for Mayor Daley. Whet Moser of the Reader directs us to a painfully prescient piece by David Moberg from those days, wherein Moberg by simply looking at Daley the Younger's fundraising deduces that the "new Machine" will be run by big money rather than neighborhood patronage.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Elections Sun Oct 03 2010

Run Run Run

Rahm hits the ground running, (softly) talking tough, and barely stopping to blink.

Ben Schulman / Comments (0)

Elections Mon Sep 20 2010

Burris Off Special Election Ballot

This is a little complicated but stay with me. So in the upcoming Nov. 2nd election there is going to be two sets of names on the ballot for Senator Roland Burris's seat. One for the regular six year term and one to finish up the last two months of Burris's term. A good writeup of the background of all this can be found here.

The latest news is that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer shot down Burris's request to be put on the ballot in the special election to finish his term meaning that in the next six months Illinois could have as many as three senators occupying the same senate seat. It also means that any of the regular candidates (Giannoulias, Kirk) could become senators earlier than January 2011.

On Monday the Daily Herald published a Q & A with Senator Burris and from the title and some of the quotes, it's hard to believe Burris didn't see Breyer's ruling coming.
If you're interested, below the fold is the one-page ruling barring Burris from the ballot.

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Daniel Strauss / Comments (0)

Elections Mon Sep 20 2010

Help the Young. Make Them VOTE.

If you're reading this post, you're probably two steps ahead of the game as far as being an engaged, concerned citizen that does their civic duty with unadulterated pride. You keep score on the news, the blogs, the print, the web, all forms of communication so you know the scoop. And Election Day ranks right up there with Halloween as the reason for the season for you.

Well, this upcoming weekend is your chance to get other folks just as involved and enthralled with our invigorating, and oft-times messy political process. Progressive Alliance - Cook County (PA - CC) is conducting an outreach in high-density and youth-heavy districts within Chicago in an effort to mobilize the 18-to-35 demographic in registering and encouraging them to vote. Regardless of political affiliation, instilling the ethic of civic participation in the young and getting them involved in the political process is a must as we move ever onwards. So enjoy the encroaching fall weather and hit the pavement this weekend, helping your fellow citizens be more...well...citizen-like.

See below for the full specs and contact info from The Progressive Alliance Cook County (PA - CC) on how to get involved. If you happen to volunteer to take a shift in the SouthSide districts they'll be hitting up, make sure to take a break at Daley's Restaurant (no Mayoral affiliation- been there since 1892!) on 63rd and Cottage Grove and get some of their Navy Bean soup and Smothered Pork Chops.

*****Please contact ProgressiveAllianceCookCounty@gmail.com if you are interested in signing up for a shift or RSVP on our Facebook event page and we'll be in touch: http://bit.ly/YoungVoterReg. If you have questions, feel free to call Karlo (312.493.4903) or Joanna (312.307.0840).

The Regions:

- North Region - Wards 48 & 49 (Rogers Park, Edgewater, Andersonville)

- Mid-North - Wards 32,42, 43, & 44 (Lincoln Park, Uptown, Gold Coast, Lakeview, River North)

- Southside - Wards 5 & 6 (Hyde Park, Woodlawn, Grand Crossing, South Shore, Chatham)

The Shifts:

Each of the following shifts will be staffed by at least 4 volunteers per ward and coordinated by a PA - CC member:

Sat 11a-2p 2p-5p 6p-9p

Sun 12p-3p 3p-5p

Ben Schulman / Comments (0)

Election 2011 Mon Sep 13 2010

Chicago's First Latino Mayor--Gutierrez' Case

Is one of Mayor Daley's legacies ending the city's explosive racial politics?

Given the concerns that the race-based "Council Wars" of the 1980s could boil over again without a strongman at the top, that seems to be a hard case to make. Something that was truly ended wouldn't loom as an existential threat. The Mayor incorporated major identity groups into his ruling coalition using a not dissimilar approach from that of Harold Washington: minority contracting rules, grants and contracts to influential community organizations, and appointments of local leaders to influential city and state boards and commissions. He kept a balance that didn't fundamentally alter Chicago's racial politics, but merely placated the actors most willing or able to intensify those politics.

If identity does come to play an important role in the coming election campaign, years of idle speculation tell us that a Latino is the best placed to win the day. The Latino population has grown significantly in the last two decades--to approximately 25% of the population, when "Hispanics of all races" are computed--while the Black population has dropped by about 10%. Given the Black-brown affinity on economic issues and the prevalence of mixed white-Latino neighborhoods, there is some circumstantial evidence for that view. The candidacies of Luis Gutierrez and Miguel Del Valle could help us walk through whether there is a strong likelihood of a Latino Mayor in 2011.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (8)

Elections Tue Aug 17 2010

How Did Joe Berrios Fail to Buy JoeBerrios.Com?

This would be understandable in, say, 2004, when political consultants were still treating the internet like an embarrassing nerdy friend in middle school. In 2010, when it is basically the cornerstone of communication in the United States, it is mind boggling that the Joe Berrios campaign did not buy JoeBerrios.com. Berrios is the Chairman of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization--the organization that was once synonymous with the Chicago political Machine. If there was any doubt that the Machine is gone--and that even Machine Lite may be faltering in the face of a new era of political communication--it is the fact that the Berrios campaign was not together enough to buy their Chairman's eponymous domain.

It may be mostly a moral victory for Forrest Claypool*--how many votes for Cook County Assessor will truly be changed by diligent googling--but it should be a humiliating lesson for Berrios and his team. What's worse, Claypool's side is not treating it as a mere moral victory, using the domain to go after Berrios' character pretty seriously--and devastatingly, by using third parties like the Better Government Association and the Trib.

There's probably a strong instinct for schadenfreude in this case, given Berrios' terrible reputation among the city's political media. But if you're of the more charitable type, take a look at his big ol' smile and imagine him sadly typing his own name into his web browser and seeing a screaming headline calling him pay to play personified.

wbbm0519josephberrios.jpg

Sittin' there all sad, hitting refresh...

*Note his campaign URL.

UPDATE, 2:15PM: According to Scott Cisek at the Cook County Democratic Party, JoeBerrios.com has been owned for over two years. The Berrios team apparently believes an ally of out-going assessor James Houlihan gave the domain to the Claypool people.

Tom Bowen, spokesman for the Claypool campaign, took that wryly. "Berrios has been an elected official since 1988."

Bowen did confirm that the domain was donated to the campaign. "Someone contacted us and thought that Joe Berrios was such a bad choice for public office that he wanted to help...whatever way he could." Bowen was not able to immediately confirm or deny whether it was in fact a Houlihan ally who provided the domain.

Cisek indicated that the Berrios people are preparing an official rebuttal to what he called "libel" and misleading quotes on the microsite.

Of course, the real story is the content of the site, not the origin of the domain purchase--though for internet geeks it provides a good meme to get re-interested in history's longest campaign season. We'll await Berrios' reply for a proper evaluation.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

City Council Wed Aug 04 2010

A Remade City Council and Mayor Daley's Last Term

Is Machine Lite doomed?

Chicagoist's political guru Kevin Robinson reports on rumored aldermanic retirements before the upcoming February 2011 municipal elections, indicating that we may end up seeing as many as nine or 10 new faces in the City Council by next year, to add to the half dozen or so freshmen who came in in 2007. If this scenario plays out, seasoned mayoral allies could be replaced by neophytes, always an unwelcome change for a long-time incumbent executive.

If the Mayor runs again (and I don't see how he can't), he'll almost certainly win, though with a significantly smaller margin, even if he only gets token resistance from a dimly suicidal opponent. That potential challenge will certainly not be what dissuades him; in fact, a challenger emerging will probably whet his appetite and prove he's still got the muscle -- and perhaps more importantly to his psyche, the popular support -- to crush all comers.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Daley Mon Jul 19 2010

A Potential Challenge to Mayor Daley From the 32nd Ward

Scott Waguespack, the 32nd Ward Alderman who took on and beat the fading remnants of the Rostenkowski/Gabinski machine in the Bucktown/Ukrainian Village/Lakeview ward in 2007, told the Sun-Times that he is considering taking a run at the Fifth Floor whether or not Mayor Daley still resides there. (He lives there right?)

Give the man credit. Waguespack has been a City Council pest, voting against the Mayor's budgets, embarrassing the Mayor's staff by doing the actual math on the parking meter lease, and hectoring the Mayor in public about tax increment financing, or TIFs. Management of his ward is another issue; Waguespack has faced on-and-off criticism by his constituents for perceived slips in service in the ward. Still, by announcing a potential campaign to call attention specifically to the Mayor's failings, he's going out on a limb. Plenty of politicians have been ready to criticize the way the city has been run and the "Chicago Way" but rarely call the Mayor out by name. Mayoral pretenders almost universally qualify their interest by adding that those interests are post-Daley.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Daley Mon Jul 19 2010

How To Challenge the Mayor

This is an Op-Ed by UIC Professor and former Lakeview Alderman Dick Simpson, courtesy of the Chicago Journal

Reading the tea leaves suggests Mayor Richard M. Daley will run for reelection this fall, asking for a seventh term from Chicago voters.

He hasn't announced his intentions yet, but the mayor is unlikely to decline taking another shot to sit in the big chair on the fifth floor of city hall for a simple reason: getting out now means leaving the city's top job and leaving Chicago in the lurch.

Getting out now means finishing his tenure scarred by the Olympic collapse. Getting out now means leaving while some of Daley's biggest projects -- the transformation of public housing perhaps most prominently -- remain incomplete, stalled out like a car with a shot carburetor.

Despite his demurrals and recent above-the-fray attitude toward the grit of electoral politics, politics courses through the mayor's bloodstream. He won't leave, at least not yet.

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Mechanics / Comments (3)

Cook County Mon Jun 21 2010

Claypool Will Make the Ballot

I can't believe how much is ink is being spilled over the race for Cook County Assessor. While the Assessor can be an important advocate and has some policy-making flexibility, it is essentially an administrative office. Actually, maybe I can believe the ink being spilled since nowadays it's not very much ink. Maybe we need to update that cliche. I can't believe how many 1s and 0s are being coded? Too nerdy. I don't know, I'll work on that and get back to you.

Here's a modest prediction regarding that election anyway: Forrest Claypool, the independent politics darling who took on John Stroger in 2006, will make the ballot despite the onerous 25,000 signature requirement. Claypool has gathered a sufficient quantity, and, oddly enough, Scott Lee Cohen may help ensure his signatures survive.

How does bad-premise-screwball-comedy Scott Lee Cohen play into this? His oddball pursuit of an independent run for the governor's office may bring enough additional media attention to the process in the beginning to allow the Claypool people to hype any signature-challenge chicanery (or perceived chicanery) early on. The Berrios campaign is actually at a kind of disadvantage--even following the letter of the law, by challenging signatures, they may look petty or, worse, fearful of a campaign against Claypool, which will only add to his esteem among independent voters (it probably won't help that Joe Berrios is the chair of the county party). While we should probably expect Berrios' campaign to be aggressive, the public attention on the process could give Claypool a significant boost that may not be worth the electoral repercussions should he survive the challenge.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Labor & Worker Rights Fri May 21 2010

Decision Time: Chicago's Teachers Vote

Today is election day for the Chicago Teachers Union, an election we've covered over the last few months, which touches on issues we've covered exhaustively since Mechanics launched in '08.

Teachers will be choosing between several caucus slates; the incumbent United Progressive Caucus, the Coalition for a Strong, Democratic Union (CSDU), Pro-Active Chicago Teachers and School Employees (PACT), the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE), and the School Employees Association (SEA Caucus). Voting is open all day today and the results will be announced by the union's press secretary, Rosemaria Genova, "between 2am and 4am" according to a press release.

Earlier this week, CORE's co-chair, Jackson Potter, filed a lawsuit against the Board of Education to force them to reveal the calculations that go into their budget projects--the same projections they are using to justify increasing class sizes and demanding union concessions.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Elections Thu Apr 29 2010

We Interrupt The Issues of Crime, Workers' Rights, Transportation, the Environment, Housing, and Education to Remind You That There is an Election Eventually

Alexi Giannoulias, who pretended his extremely brief time running a bank his father owned made him a financial expert, is suffering from a reduced public image because his opponent, Mark Kirk, is pretending that it matters that Giannoulias' father's bank failed at a time when lots of banks are failing. Reporters and editorial boards decided voters should care about these things, and so told them that they care about these things.

It was assumed that the national unidirectional conversation about financial reform would impact the race, as nationally Democrats pretended they didn't accept tens of millions of dollars more than the Republicans from the institutions they were yelling at, and Republicans pretended that they wanted to regulate an industry they have little interest in regulating.

As it turns out, apparently, the Republicans don't want to do what the Democrats want to do, and the Democrats don't want to do what the Republicans want to do, so the only bipartisan thing to do is to do neither, which means nothing. (But bipartisanship is good!)

Mark Kirk returned his donations from Goldman Sachs, as though that meant he was going to do something to regulate Goldman Sachs.

In other news, Pat Quinn pretended that he cared about Bill Brady's tax returns and that releasing or not releasing them had anything to do with how Bill Brady would be Governor. Bill Brady in turn pretended that two unequal numbers (the budget deficit and the amount of specific cuts he's offered) were, in fact, equal.

In local news, White House Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel expressed that at an indeterminate date in the future, he would like to have a prestigious job in his chosen field, but only when that position was open and available. Everybody shit, and then disbelieved the politicians who expressed surprise that they shit.

However, something cool did happen: state Representative Deborah Mell announced on the floor of the General Assembly that she was engaged to her Lesbian partner, and planned to marry her. I'm not being sarcastic, that's pretty cool. Not an election story, but cool anyway.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Race Thu Apr 22 2010

Michael Steele: Selling Minorities Real Estate in Lake Michigan

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele makes Joe Biden look gaffe proof. It seems like every time you turn around on CNN, or load up Huffington Post, Steele is explaining how the Republican Party is the party of one-armed-midgets, Republicans fought to outlaw slavery in the Bill of Rights (it was actually the 13th amendment, not the first 10), and apologizing to Rush Limbaugh.

Which is why I went to the Chairman's appearance at DePaul University. I appreciate good stand up comedy.

Steele's appearance was sponsored by the campus Republicans and the DePaul Cultural Center. An odd combination considering that the Conservative Alliance had once sponsored an Affirmative Action Bake Sale targeting the cultural center and organized pickets against the speakers the Cultural Center invited such as Ward Churchill.

Steele is the first Black person to be the national chairman of the RNC and was to speak on Conservatisms appeal to minority communities. Instead he talked about its lack of an appeal.

When asked , "Why should Blacks vote Republican?" Steele responded without hesitation, "You really don't have a reason to, to be honest. We really haven't really done a good job of giving them a reason to... We have failed miserably in that regard. We have lost sight of the historic integral link between the party and African Americans."

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Matt Muchowski / Comments (0)

Aldermen Thu Apr 15 2010

Feudalism in Chicago

An analysis by The Chicago Reporter shows that once appointed by the Mayor, aldermen are nearly unbeatable:

Daley appointees to the Chicago City Council seeking their first full term have won 90 percent of time. Click here to see a chart of the mayor's 35 city council appointments. Only former 49th Ward Alderman Robert Clarke, former 27th Ward Alderman Dexter Watson and former 7th Ward Alderman Darcel Beavers lost their first elections after being appointed.

The Reporter's research did show that the coronation effect lessened over time.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Democrats Thu Apr 08 2010

Forrest Claypool's Frontal Assault

Former County Board Commissioner Forrest Claypool has announced he'll take on County Democratic Party Chairman and Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios. Claypool in announcing his independent candidacy called Berrios a "clear threat" to Cook County taxpayers. That strikes a similar tone to his slogan when he ran for the Board Presidency in 2006, "It's YOUR Money, Vote Like It". Claypool's 2006 voters provided a base for Toni Preckwinkle's 2010 primary victory; good government Lakefront and suburban voters whose primary interaction with County government is to pay it. Preckwinkle's resounding primary victory may have provided a template for Claypool's path to an independent victory.

Still, going outside the Democratic Primary process is a cardinal sin in local politics. Taking on the Party Chairman is even more of an affront to party discipline, and making the Assessor's office an organizing focus for the good government wing of the party--as against the traditional Machine Lite elements--must be particularly galling for the party faithful. This is because party-connected attorneys have long made property tax appeals a lucrative revenue source.

If Claypool can get on the ballot, watch him gobble up the Preckwinkle voters--whether that will be enough to overcome Berrios' party line advantage is impossible to predict, but it could exacerbate a rift in the Machine Lite ruling coalition. Mayor Daley and the county party rely on a truce with the "Lakefront Liberal" good government groups on major issues; Claypool candidacy could force a public break between the party and independent organizations that would rub raw some sores.

Keep in mind that getting on the ballot is no sure thing--Claypool will need 25,000 valid signatures, and none of his petition-passers can have passed petitions during the primary. And with the Party apparatus behind him, Berrios will surely be scouring the petitions for technically invalid signatures.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Republicans Thu Mar 11 2010

IL GOP Attempting to Form Patronage Army?

I stumbled across this website, http://gopjobsillinois.webs.com a few days ago, and was pretty stunned.

Republicans often criticize Illinois Democrats for running a patronage army of loyal state employees. However this website is encouraging loyal republicans to be given state jobs as well.

Of course new administrations are able to appoint people to implement their vision for the state, to implement the policies that they campaigned on and were elected to enact. What is odd about this website is its tone, a confidence that the GOP will win Springfield back, and a gleeful lust for 6 figure jobs. In particular the site exhibits a tendency towards the corrupt and a disdain for "the awshucks-we're-sorry-for-having-principles-types."

When you click on the Jobs List, it lists different state departments that the Governor is able to appoint heads of. What is disturbing is the partisan descriptions for the jobs. Is the head of the Historic Preservation Society a partisan position?

The site implies that Republicans would only be interested in jobs enforcing Human Rights because, "Check out the pay scale here!"

It describes Homeland Security as "the new patronage place to be." A scary thought that our security and safety be entrusted to partisan hacks instead of trained and specialized experts.

It describes positions on the Illinois Gaming Board as though it were a casino, "Great spot to meet people and make money, come to work every once and a while, too!"

In what should be a scary comment to organized labor, the site claims that the GOP will, "rebuild [the Department of Labor] and remake it so that it is more efficient. Get on board and help."

The site is run by a woman named Jenifer Sims. It is unclear if she has any connections to the Brady campaign, the state GOP, or if she is just a crank writer. Attempts to gain quotes from the Brady for Governor campaign and the Tea Party Patriots were made. Neither gave any quotes.

Matt Muchowski / Comments (0)

Chicago Mon Mar 01 2010

Will Progressives Stand Up for Democracy?

Getting on the ballot should be easy. There are some regulations that make sense, but they should be stripped to their bare minimum: a small number of verified signatures and residency. The voters are perfectly capable of rooting out the losers and fringe candidates in the ballot booth. There's no argument against the loosest possible ballot access regulations that can't be answered by the fact of voting itself. Restricting access to the ballots is among the most effective tools of incumbents to protect their incumbency, and for political parties to protect their dynasties. There's no excuse for increasing restrictions.

So why are some Chicago Democrats trying to make those regulations more burdensome?

More importantly, will the so-called progressives in the local party step up to push back against this initiative first reported by Progress Illinois:

We recently stumbled across a bill (HB6000) introduced by State Rep. Joe Lyons (D-Chicago) that would make it a whole lot harder for new candidates to get on ballots in 2011. Lyons is attempting to bump up the number of required signatures on nominating petitions in Chicago elections to 500. Compared the current requirement -- a mere 2 percent of the votes cast in the ward during the preceding election year -- enacting the measure would raise the threshold in every ward. In some, the increase would be dramatic; last election cycle, for example, a 22nd Ward candidate only needed 87 names.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Springfield Sun Feb 07 2010

On the Lt. Governorship: Scott Lee Cohen edition

Well, after spending almost a week after the election with the revelations against Scott Lee Cohen over what occurred in the years before he became the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, we have seen Cohen drop out of the race. It was a very interesting ride while it lasted. It seemed for a while that he had no intention of stepping down and would continue to draw out whether or not he would leave the race.

It seemed this time that the pressure brought to bear on this man actually worked. We had others who probably should have let go in the best interest of Illinois and they wouldn't. Yeah, I would point to Rod Blagojevich and his senate appointment before his removal from office Roland Burris.

I will give Cohen credit for his attempts to bear (link to Chicago Tonight video 15:38) through the pressure. He even attempted to be honest, but his PR initiative seemed to have gone flat. He expected some of the women in his life, especially the one who he had allegedly assaulted and threatened with a knife, to speak up for him. Unfortunately that too fell flat when she declared him unfit to be lieutenant governor.

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Levois / Comments (2)

Chicagoland Fri Feb 05 2010

Now What? Taking on the Southwest Side Machine

I'm not entirely sure how I should feel after Tuesday's elections. Over a year of work on behalf of Rudy Lozano's state legislative campaign culminated in the single most bizarre Election Day I've ever experienced. Being there, at the Strohacker Park Field House at 4am on that snowy Tuesday morning was just the latest in a long list of "being there" days. Being there meant endless meetings plotting strategy, developing platforms, and setting up committees and what not to get the petition drive going. Being there meant the thrill of hearing words I wrote delivered in front of over 300 volunteers and supporters at Little Village High School on a warm August evening. Being there that day also meant having to go to the bathroom for 2 hours while collecting signatures and singing every Billy Idol song I knew waiting for the light at 25th and Pulaski to turn green before I wet myself. Being there meant days when we had big groups of volunteers knocking on doors for signatures and nights when it was just me, my 6 month old in a Baby Bjorn and Manny walking around Archer Heights. It was about late nights updating databases, running over to the Chicago Board elections for data CDs and ultimately, serving as a precinct captain on Election Day.

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Jacob Lesniewski / Comments (5)

Elections Thu Feb 04 2010

Soothe Your Brains, Mechanics

Hey guys. Believe it or not--election season is just beginning. Due to our impossibly early primary, we've been in some level of campaign season since October--my earliest email from a Senate campaign attacking another candidate is from September 24th. If you're like me, for three months already you've been refreshing the comments at your favorite political websites like a Stone Park truck driver dropping quarters at a tavern poker machine. And we have nine more months until it's over. Zygotes conceived on election night will be post-mature babies if they're born on election day.

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We'll name him Thecapitolfaxblogdotcom.

Take a deep breath, crack a beer or some red wine (in a rock's glass, please) and give your brain a few quiet minutes with some pleasant music to clear your mind, before the 24-hour-news-cycle horse race media starts to immobilize your synapses and turn you into a poll-eating zombie.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

IL-GOV Thu Feb 04 2010

Scott Lee Cohen and Reality

As most folks are likely now aware there are a host of allegations surounding the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor...

Just a bit from the Trib

Cohen did not deny choking his wife, as she alleged in the divorce, but said he had no recollection of it, and it actually took place before they were married.

His ex-wife, Debra York-Cohen, was with him today and said she stood by the allegations in the divorce but said his philandering and volatile behavior took place during a brief period time when he was using steroids. The allegations included him frightening their four children and threatening her verbally and physically.

His response to all of this and the calls to step down also from the Trib...

"I'm going to respond that my honesty and integrity in putting it out there is the best thing that could happen to the party,"

Yeah, the best thing that could happen for the Republican party. For the Democratic party the best thing that could happen is that you quickly go away.

I am a Republican but still, this is beyond messed up. This isn't embarrassing, it's sad. Perhaps this is a lesson on not having the primary so early or even having a Lt. Governor's office. But this is bad for everyone. Instead of people focusing on the state's budget issues (or even the closeness of the GOP Governor's race) folks are going to focus on the Lt. Governor candidate who seems to have come from a Springer episode.

I don't know what is worse (besides the things he allegedly did) , the idea that he thought this wouldn't be a big political s--- storm? That you may have been told by folks around you that this wasn't going to be a big deal and agreed with them? That you spent that kind of money to get the Lt. Governor nomination? You think this is somehow a positive for the Democratic ticket and the Democratic party?

Each of those in my mind show someone who isn't in touch with reality.

The `roid stuff, yeah that could have been a teary moment on the local news programs and you could have recovered from it.

But everything else? As Mike Flannery put it on the news on CBS 2 today..

Dude....

OneMan / Comments (2)

Elections Wed Feb 03 2010

2010 Primary Kudos

Yesterday Illinois had their primaries for such positions as Governor, Senator, and locally Cook County Board President.

First let's talk about the Governor's race.

Dan Hynes I will give him a lot of credit for making the Democratic primary more of a horse race than it was already. That was a good ad and although many people may have had a problem with it, it almost certainly made this race a close race. What Mayor Harold Washington said over 20 years ago was almost as prescient about Quinn's current situation as it was then.

Dan Proft Well I won't hold my breath over what I wish would happen. I think what he had said during the course of this campaign was spot-on. Hopefully he will continue to push for a policy revolution and the creation of unconventional coalitions to make needed changes in our state. Hopefully this race for Governor won't be his only foray as a candidate.

Mark Kirk I really never liked the term RINO. I can understand that we know that there are those who will sacrifice their principals or their party's principals for whatever. It's just that such a label can be easily used frivolously especially if say a Republican may generally agree with fellow Republicans on such and such issues. Let's say someone out there may want to call Ron Paul a RINO, although his views on the issues may bring needed energy to the Republican Party in general.

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Levois / Comments (0)

Elections Wed Feb 03 2010

Yes We Can?

I sat down this morning to write a piece about how disappointment over the Hoffman defeat last night--who, by the way, was supported by every individual in Chicago I spoke with about the subject, though he lost here 36-29-29 (thank you, @chitownpolitics)--should not end our commitment to the Senate fight. If our health care and foreign policy goals remain today what they were yesterday, it is exceedingly important that the seat is filled with not just a Democrat, but a Democrat as faithful an Obama supporter as Giannoulias.

At election's close, listening to Hoffman concede on WBEZ, I sent out some comments into the twitter-shpere and the vocalo live blog (which deserves its own post--seriously, that shit was crazy):

we tried. At an unusual moment, we've got an uphill battle ahead. But we can work together and do it.

Chicagoans are going to have to show mobilization of Obama proportions--large swaths of state will love Kirk's banker narrative of Giannoulias.

The disappoint stems from this:

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Danny Fenster / Comments (7)

Elections Wed Feb 03 2010

What This Means

Just kidding.

The most immediately important race for Chicagoans is probably the Cook County Board President's race, with the addition of insurgent candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia's win in the Southwest Side 7th District. John Fritchey, another reformer--based on his activities in Springfield--won election to replace Forrest Claypool, who retired this year.

If Cook County is truly cleaned up, a huge spigot of patronage dollars--of both the old-school and pinstripe kind--can suddenly go dry for significant portions of the Chicago machine. Contracts with the County and particularly it's hospital system are an important source of income and campaign donations for Regulars and their associates. Commissioner Moreno himself was embroiled in a scandal whereby he allegedly shook down a health care software company to hire a political ally in order to qualify as a minority-owned business.

Assuming the Board's reformers have the gumption to take that system head on, the machine system in Cook County, and particularly the city, could show the kinds of weaknesses that open up electoral fronts.

In other news, wow, Terry O'Brien. Dude spent a lot of money to do as poorly as he did. Also, Quinn versus Brady may poll close, but Quinn will have to do a lot wrong to lose the enormous Cook County advantage that Democrats enjoy. Bill Brady, among the most conservative of the GOP candidates, will have trouble bringing back those suburban Republicans-turned-Democrats. In the Senate races, lots of speculation that Hoffman is perfectly positioned to run against Mayor Daley in '11. That election happens in mid-winter 2011--a year from now. If Hoffman plans to run against the Mayor, he better start in the Spring. The Mayor raised more than $50 million dollars for the Olympic bid. What do you think he could squeeze out of people for a competitive race against a prosecutor? Hoffman of course lost to Alexi Giannoulias. Speculators as to Alexi's "baggage" forget exactly what Hoffman's three-week meteoric rise should have taught them: nine months is a long, long, long time in politics. Who knows what's going to happen by November? Nine months ago the only tea party we talked about here happened at the Drake Hotel, in white gloves.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Elections Tue Feb 02 2010

Follow the Results

Right now, the Chicago Current is reporting on its nascent exit polling operation. Tonight, you can join me, Josh Kalven of Progress Illinois, GB publisher Andrew Huff, the Tribune's Eric Zorn, and folks from the Chicagoist, and all your favorite local media at Steve Edwards' Primary Sources blog at Vocalo for a live chat.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Elections Tue Feb 02 2010

Don't Listen to What It Means

Ah, Primary Day--campaign staffers, in a controlled panic, fly around the city and suburbs responding to every rumor and wild-eyed report, impulsively counting and re-counting their pluses against the reports from precincts. Every poorly trained election judge is suddenly a master criminal/ward boss. And as the polls close and precinct workers start pulling tape, the campaigns send feelers out to the media to try to get a jump on the narrative that will set the tone for the general election. I loose-tooth-love Primary Day.

My advice to you: don't listen when they tell you "what it means." This isn't a maudlin media-sky-is-falling lamentation. Just common sense. Politics has always had narrative elements to it. In the time of strong ideological movements and parties, the narrative was just less important. Nowadays, it is everything. And much of narrative politics is a pretension that media experts are telling you what "people" are thinking--and who "Americans" or "Illinoisans" or "Democrats" really are--when in reality they are just instructing you on how to think. Constant discussion of narratives--"Will Black voters be offended by the Harold Washington ads?"--generates the attitudes that people adopt. It is a positive feedback loop.

By using anecdotes and plausible sounding rationales for voter activity--buttressed by often specious exit polling--media opinion makers come up with a story for why things are happening that excludes every important factor, and treat elections as sort if islands of activity divorced from day-to-day reality.

Narrative politics relies on a small, rapidly-cycling media establishment. Our elections turn into brand competition and Election Day into sweeps week. Strange categories of people are created--"NASCAR dads"--that act as characters in the story, albeit flat characters with impossibly singular motivations. We want to "have a beer" with George Bush--what? What the hell does that even mean? I don't know about "real" Americans, but generally I've wanted to have beers with smart, pretty girls; not millionaire recovering alcoholics. Before the media began this "meme" about people wanting to have a beer with this guy, who was saying they preferred him because they wanted to have a beer with him? It was a categorical created by flacks that then became a justification, not vice-versa.

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My George W. Bush

But the most wonderful, representative product of this narrative manufacturing process came when GOP pollster Frank Luntz was accused of using actors for his TV focus groups that supposedly gave an insight into what "real Americans are thinking". It was a crystal clear moment that laid bare what much of the media establishment unwittingly does: not investigate root causes, but dictate story lines. Luntz is not interested in studying human behavior and attitudes, nor calibrating posturing to real-world impacts. Rather, in a consumption-focused society, he wants to sell you something, and the best way to sell people something is to convince them they need it.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Republicans Tue Feb 02 2010

Well That's...Unexpected

How often does a Polish president endorse a gubernatorial candidate? At least once apparently:

On Friday, former Polish president Lech Walesa endorsed Andrzejewski, claiming that Andrzejewski's outsider campaign was similar to the Solidarity Movement Walesa is known for. In a state with a large Polish population, conservatives have said the Walesa backing carries a lot of weight.

Daniel Strauss / Comments (0)

Column Tue Feb 02 2010

Election Results Open Thread: So, How'd Your Guy/Gal Do?

Share your thoughts about yesterday's election in the comments. Yes, there was an election yesterday.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (3)

Elections Sun Jan 31 2010

Xavier Nogueras Hit Piece in 8th District

A nasty hit piece hit residents of the 8th Cook County Commissioner's district. Coming from the phantom "Taxpayers Coalition Initiative" which provides no return address, the piece delves into Nogueras' tenure with the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce and unpaid water bills. The piece is huge--22x17--full color, glossy. The 60647 post office, from where the piece originated, did not provide information on the owner of the "Permit #1" used to send the piece out.

Nogueras' opponent, Ed Reyes, is an ally of 33rd Ward boss Dick Mell, who engineered his elevation to the seat after Roberto Maldonado was appointed by Mayor Daley to replace Billy Ocasio, who in turn was appointed to Governor Quinn's staff after he replaced Rod Blagojevich. To get that straight: Blagojevich gets impeached, Quinn taps Ocasio, Daley taps Maldonado, Maldonado pushes for Nogueras to replace him but gets outmaneuvered Mell.

The Nogueras campaign offered this comment:

We are certainly aware of the piece. It is without a doubt a last minute effort from the Reyes campaign to make up for what has been a rough couple weeks on their end. The Fox story [Cf., This] really knocked the wind out of them. This particular hatchet job should be called for what it is. We put our name out front and center in every mailer we send out.

Some scans of the piece (hard to get, given its size) after the jump.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (6)

Elections Sat Jan 30 2010

Open Election Thread: Who Are You Voting For?

Feel free to chip in on local races, too. On election night, join me and other local political types over at WBEZ where we'll be liveblogging the results.

U.S. Senate Races

Democrats
Alexi Giannoulias
David Hoffman
Cheryle Jackson
Jacob Meister

GOP
Mark Kirk
Pat Hughes

Illinois Governor

Democrats
Pat Quinn
Dan Hynes

GOP
Kirk Dillard
Bill Brady
Andy McKenna
Jim Ryan
Dan Proft
Adam Andrzejewski

Cook County Board President

Democrats
Todd Stroger
Dorothy Brown
Toni Preckwinkle
Terry O'Brien

GOP
John Garrido
Roger Keats

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Mechanics / Comments (7)

Chicago Fri Jan 29 2010

No Shit

This just in from the always breaking, always facetious No Shit News Desk at Gaper's Block: "constant danger of illegal hiring at City Hall." Ah-chhhem: No shit.

So the IG, Joe Ferguson, filed a report Friday concluding that "the dangers of political hiring remain real and constant." Late last year the Mayor made mention of his plans to end the independent oversight installed in the wake of the 2006 trial of Robert Sorich , the mayor's former patronage chief who in that trial was found guilty of rigging city hiring for political concerns.

Weeks after the Sorich verdict the city found itself again in the grips of a campaign season. Two years later, as a journalism student at Columbia College, I wrote a retrospective, quasi-investigative story looking at one election that year that involved the real dangers in how political hiring effects city government (which I have since submitted to my esteemed and estimable editors for publication here--if you'd like to see it, let 'em know in the comments section).

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Danny Fenster / Comments (2)

Elections Thu Jan 28 2010

Video Thursday: Critiquing Candidate Commercials

848 film contributor Jonathan Miller analyzed campaign ads from Toni Preckwinkle and Terrence O'Brien on the WBEZ blog.


(View the original ad on YouTube.)


(View the original ad on YouTube.)

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Cook County Board Tue Jan 26 2010

The Preckwinkle Campaign Finds the Path to Victory

On paper, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (4th) was likely to be the only candidate with the record, temperament, and political wit to survive a crowded field looking to replace the doomed Todd Stroger as President of the nation's second largest County organization. Her zest for picayune policy matters and her regular conscientious objections to Mayoral initiatives squared with a carefully cultivated reputation for good government progressivism, and her South Side lakefront political base offered both an early fundraising engine and added diversity to her electoral appeal. But Cook is a big and tough county with maddeningly feudal politics--it would take uninterrupted hard work to define and pursue the path to victory.

Preckwinkle's run for the Presidency was born out of frustration over a comparatively obscure policy issue: the overhaul of the County's temporary juvenile detention facilities. Todd Stroger tapped Preckwinkle, a well-regarded "progressive" South Side alderman, to serve with high-powered attorney Demetrius Carney to serve on a transition team to advise him on how to fix the system. Preckwinkle says she and Carney worked intensely to produce a report for Stroger. The result?

"He ignored it. He appointed the judge to oversee the system. I asked Demetrius why we went through all that work, and he told me that was the first he was hearing about it himself." Stroger was unresponsive and uninterested in the type of reform that Preckwinkle claims as her primary motivation: making government transparent, efficient, and a force for good.

These principles are encapsulated in one of Preckwinkle's primary campaign messages, that she is the only independent and progressive candidate running for the position.

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Ramsin Canon / Comments (4)

Elections Thu Jan 21 2010

Chicago Journal Covers the 5th, 9th, and 10th

The Chicago Journal has some great coverage of local state House races, including the peculiar case of the 9th District, which has shaped up into a proxy war between two local power brokers:

The race is shaping up as a proxy war between the elder Representative Turner and State Sen. Rickey Hendon, who is backing Dorothy Walton's campaign for the seat.

The Journal looks at the word on the street and fundraising to date.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Chicago Wed Jan 20 2010

Twitter and the Chicago News-O-Sphere

Woke up on the couch I call bed the other day, rolled over and popped open my Mac. Email; check. Facebook; check. Grab some coffee, head back to couch. Twitter feed; new updates from @ChicagoCurrent, @WBEZ, @chicagonewscoop, not to mention the dinosaurs.

Checking my twitter feed in the morning is sliding comfortably into that sacred place once occupied by pouring over the broadsheets, grey paper no longer splayed out across the table, coffee in hand, trying awkwardly to fold the page back upon itself.

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Danny Fenster / Comments (4)

Elections Mon Jan 11 2010

Early Voting Begins Today

The mayor cut the ribbon on the new Fullerton L stop over the weekend, imploring us all to behave more like China. Their infrastructure projects are done "on a daily basis," with full cooperation from "federal, state and local offices." Of course, federal, state and local cooperation is mandated by the communist party hierarchy. Perhaps he just yearns for the good old days of daddy's machine, when power was centralized and things were easier.

Reminded of the particulars of the Chinese political order, the mayor responded:

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Danny Fenster / Comments (2)

Chicago Thu Jan 07 2010

Rumble in the Park

You have to care at least a tiny bit who your elected representatives are to leave home on a cold wintry night in Chicago, so naturally, the showing last night at the Wicker Park Field House for the Fritchey-Matlak debate was slight (yes, Chicago, I'm saying you don't care who gets into local office--please, prove me wrong).

Fritchey and Matlak are running for the Cook County Commissioner seat to be vacated by Forrest Claypool, representing the 12th district. Fritchey is currently a state rep and Matlak was alderman of the ward encompassing Bucktown and Wicker Park before losing the seat in 2007 to Scott Waguespack.

Steve Rhodes, a brilliant mind of political wit if there ever was one, considers Fritchey's time in Springfield impressive. The best that can be said for Matlak, on the other hand, is that he's no longer in office. He angered residents as alderman with his cozy relationship with real estate developers in the area and lack of communication with residents. When I heard Matlak was going to be there, I was excited for a good Chicago brawl, but things remained fairly civil save for one outburst at the end. A resident approached Matlak and exchanged some words, then walked out of the room shouting "you know damn well what I'm talking about!" Matlak donned a confused look that was hard to take seriously. I asked the guy what the beef was, but he responded brusquely "this is between me and Matlak."

A source familiar with the situation tells me that Matlak approved spot zoning on both sides of the man's home, which is now sandwhiched between two so-called McMansions.

The candidates began seated at a fold-out table before a crowd of forty or so residents, nudging one another and sharing some laughs and whispered words. When it came time to speak, the two danced that same old dance; one pointed out the others flaws then conceded that that's not what's important--"it's the issues that matter"--and the other followed suit.

Most residents I spoke with didn't quite share the impressions of Rhodes. They voiced disappointment with the lack of choices, a lose-lose set of options. "It's like two of the same guys up there talking," said one.

I headed back out into the winter evening and biked down the road, past the six corners, past bulging new condos and corporate retail chains.

Danny Fenster / Comments (0)

Chicago Tue Dec 29 2009

The Decline and Fall of Richard M. Daley

Like clockwork, it happens every year. It begins with the subtle deception of the changing leaves, a cold wind blowing in from the lake. Soon comes the onslaught of the brutal Chicago winter, the Hawk stalking 'round every corner. And every year, from behind a thick wool scarf, I declare: "god damnit, this is the last year I spend in this miserable city!"

Alas, I'm still here. But I swear to god, Chicago, if you don't throw this clown out of office in 2011, I'm gone.

And there's hardly been a more likely time to see that happen.

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Danny Fenster / Comments (2)

Cook County Board Mon Dec 21 2009

The Curious Davis Endorsement

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger--whose political narrative was traced, rather unflatteringly, by Chicago Magazine not too long ago--has seen better days. The incumbent lags in third place in his reelection bid, according to recent polls, behind County Clerk Dorothy Brown and current alderwoman Toni Preckwiknle.

On top of that, and perhaps not too surprisingly, two Illinois congressmen came out last week endorsing Stroger's opposition. Rep. Danny Davis endorsed Brown, ahead in the polls at the moment, because he wants "to be with the one who's going to win." Rep. Gutierrez endorsed Preckwinkle, he reportedly said, because of her progressive values.

But let's back up a moment. The interesting thing here, I believe, is Rep. Davis's reason for endorsing Brown.

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Danny Fenster / Comments (3)

State Politics Wed Dec 16 2009

Syron Smith in Michael Madigan's neighborhood

I've written a post or two about him here at Mechanics. He's a community organizer who left his job as head of this group National Block Club University in order to run for state representative for the 32nd District. Unfortunately he withdrew from the race according to the Illinois Board of Elections after various petition challenges.

In these series of videos posted around December 7th on YouTube, Smith takes the fight directly to the state House Speaker Michael Madigan. This first video shows him leaving a letter at his doorstep.

Then he talks about his activities in Speaker Madigan's neighborhood:

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Levois / Comments (0)

Elections Thu Nov 05 2009

Turning in Petitions

Understanding that the period for petition signatures and filing has passed as of this past Monday, I wanted to show two videos of candidates running for state offices making their filings in Springfield .

This video from the Quinn campaign is a bit more "glamorous." The production values are very nice, although it doesn't seem to convey how long they've stood in line to turn in the petitions. Found this via Capitol Fax in discussing an asset the Quinn campaign doesn't utilize or even publicize enough.

This video may not score much as far as production values, but it sure does convey how serious the petition filing process is at the state level! This video was by Syron Smith running for state representative in the 32nd District. I posted another video featuring him earlier.

Well, hopefully the candidate of your choice has put in all the hard work to file his/her petitions, whether on the federal, state, or even county levels. Hopefully the candidate of your choice will have solid petitions to remain on the ballot in 2010. I think we'll have some interesting elections to watch next year!

Levois / Comments (0)

Elections Wed Nov 04 2009

One Year Ago Today...

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Exactly one year ago this evening--on November 4, 2008--Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States of America. Just prior to his victory, thousands of supporters spent the day on the outskirts of Grant Park, and lucky ones with a ticket were able to get inside the park and listen to his victory speech, creating a serenity not always seen in Chicago. Police and security surrounded every single corner around Grant Park while crowds aligned in excitement in anticipation of the evening.

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Sheila Burt / Comments (0)

Good Government/Reform Fri Oct 23 2009

The Term Limit Debate: What About Generational?

I've argued in the past in favor of term limits, and addressed the concern that the government bureaucracies, or career staffers, would simply come to dominate government, and that legislators, seeing their pending unemployment, would spend the bulk of their time in office jockeying for private sector jobs or higher office. (The response was that, of course, legislators are kind of putty in lobbyists' and bureaucratic operators' hands now). I do think that the argument around unintended consequences is a good one and worth keeping in mind.

Larry at Archpundit sums it all up in a characteristically succinct line:

Does it happen in Illinois too-sure, but experienced legislators are the best defense against determined lobbyists.

While I agree with Larry (and the Rich Miller piece he cites) that term limits could likely end up having unintended consequences, like shifting power to the executive bureaucracy and lobbyists who are permanent residents of state government, I don't think this rules out term limits completely. It only rules out unreasonably short term limits (like Michigan's).

What makes a state Representative "seasoned" or experienced enough to know the players in government and how to move a piece of legislation? A combination of natural instincts, political influence, and relationships with legislators built on mutual respect and trust. Those latter two can only develop with time. So having a one-, two-, or three-term limit on legislators (particularly with no similar limit on the governor) is not a good idea.

But what about five, or ten? At some point, there is diminishing return, and legislators accrue power based on their seniority and immobility out of proportion to their legislative prowess or willingness or desire to move legislation at all (Cf., Phil Crane).

As I stated in that earlier piece, lobbyists thrive on long-standing personal relationships, not cyclical bullying. Who do we see going down for scandals with lobbyists? Is it more often some fresh faced legislator with no influence? Or their relationships with powerful, long-serving legislators? Tom Delay, Ted Stevens, Randy Cunningham, Dan Rostenkowski, potentially Charlie Rangel--these are scandals that come about because people have accrued power over time, not the result of powerful lobbyists preying on the uninitiated.

I understand the point of view of those, like Larry and Rich, who oppose term limits: there is a distaste for "naive" reformism that paints with a broad brush. But surely limiting one person to a decade in office as one piece of reform to chip away at dynastic politics would do more good than harm. The organization put Bilandic in there to replace Daley; even with a strong organization "controlling" the office, eventually the bench depletes and elections can become more competitive.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (0)

Feature

How Lawsuits, Lobbyists and Parking Meter Deals Led to Ventra

By Jason Prechtel / 2 Comments

Cubic learned early on that if you don't win a contract through bidding, there are other ways to prevail. More...

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About Mechanics

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