Sunday, October 25, 2009

An Olympian Failure...

Richard J. Daley, the father, was known as "the kingmaker." As mayor and as head of Cook County Democratic Central Committee, he controlled the votes of one of the largest block of Democratic votes.

Thus, back in the old days, when powerful Kennedys were plentiful, all Democrats seeking the highest political office in the land came to see Chicago's mayor, Richard J. Daley, the man from Bridgeport, hizzoner, the boss. The men who would be president would come to see to see this man who rose to prominence from very humble beginnings.

Richard M. Daley, the son, is not a kingmaker. There's no one in America who thinks Daley is the reason Obama was elected president last year. The vast blocks of city voters have been chopped up, segmented into smaller chunks, often powered-up by single issues like abortion.

In the third largest city in America, Daley is instead the king, ruling virtually unopposed in all areas.

He came to power after a turbulent decade of non-Daley rulers, including the first female (Jane Byrne) and black mayors (Harold Washington & Eugene Sawyer) for the city.

And today, he rules as an autocrat. When his father was mayor, you could count on the lakefront alderman of the 43rd ward to raise up an alarm over some issues. You had Mike Royko writing columns and his famous book that named the mayor for the world as "Boss."

The son has no voice raised against him. Not the Republicans, who've been emasculated in Chicago for decades. Not the City Council, which rubber-stamps virtually everything the mayor wants - without reading it apparently. There is no Royko in the local media to act as a gadfly.

Daley rules alone. A king over all.

And when one rules in such isolation, there is no one else to blame for failure.

In the weeks leading up to the big IOC vote, it became increasingly clear that Chicagoans were reluctant to assume the cost-burden of such an event. They live in a city with the highest sales tax. Thanks to a terrible 75 year parking deal, Chicagoans also pay some of the highest meter parking rates in the country. Property taxes have skyrocketed in recent years - as has the debt load carried by the city.

Daley's 75 year parking contract brought in $1.2 billion, but apparently short-changed the city. Not only did the terrible deal mean parking rates increased dramatically overnight, Daley actually could have gotten at least a billion more - but didn't. And Daley's using that money now - apparently taking money we've been paid for existing and future assets (parking and Skyway revenues) to today pay for the debt acquired yesterday.

Apparently to pay for everything this year, we'll saddle future generations of Chicagoans with even more debt.

So a great many citizens of my favorite city looked at the Olympics with absolute fear. How could we afford such a spectacle, given the very poor financial situation we face today? As the IOC came closer to its vote, Chicago support for the Olympics waned dramatically. Less than 50 percent of Chicagoans polled wanted the event to come to Chicago.

The king failed in his bid for glory. And the city that works is increasingly becoming the city that's broke. A terrible legacy for any ruler to leave.

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