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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mayor Daley's great big hush-hush

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Mayor Richard Daley has given the lie to one of President Barack Obama's key promises: transparency.

While Obama promises that everything about his stimulus spending and, indeed, his entire administration will be open to inspection, Daley has steadfastly refused to reveal to the public or his City Council how he plans to spend Chicago's share of the $9 billion in stimulus cash programmed to come to Illinois.

That Daley would stiff several freedom of information requests from the media for a glimpse of his wish list is standard operating procedure in Chicago. But he's also ignoring 46 of the 50 aldermen on the City Council who asked all city departments and outside agencies controlled by Daley, such as the CTA and the Chicago Public Schools, to reveal their spending plans. That kind of high-handed autocracy might surprise observers in other cities, but in Chicago, any alderman putting his signature on a petition to implore Daley to even pretty-please do something is considered traitorous.

Daley's explanation? "Yes, we do, we have our list, we've been talking to people," he said. "We did not put that out publicly because once you start putting it out publicly, you know, the newspapers, the media is going to be ripping it apart."

So might the voters be ripping it apart, if this was a normal city. But this is Chicago, which re-enthrones Daley every four years, and whatever paltry gratuity His Lordship decides to bestow, Chicagoans gratefully receive. In a normal city, such wish lists would be transparent and the public would have a chance to comment, and if it chooses, to rip it apart. That's how a democracy is supposed to work, but not in Daley's Democratic realm.

People wonder how Chicago can be so corrupt, and here's one reason. When Daley says "we've been talking to people" about the list, who do you suppose he means? Technicians who are using cost-benefit formulas to calculate where best to spend the money? Daley Cabinet members in all-night sessions debating where the money would most benefit Chicago? Spare us. The money gets carved up in the back room, by friends, benefactees and finaglers who intimately understand the opportunities arising from the arrival of the biggest pile of taxpayer cash, ever. Outside, we can smell the stink, but we won't know what's rotting until Daley, in his wisdom, decides to give us a peek.

But even if Daley's wish list was perfectly legit, it still ought to be disclosed because it presents legitimate issues for public discussion. Suppose Illinois is in line for $500 million for transportation projects. Should it go for Chicago pothole repairs or suburban intersection improvements? CTA track repairs or more rolling stock for Metra? New CTA buses or for the completion of the long-delayed Elgin-O'Hare Expressway? Should taxpayers look to the Obama administration to correct Daley's imperious, if not illegal, secrecy? After all, Obama has repeatedly promised "transparency" in government and a new way of doing business. Again, spare us. Obama's assistant for intergovernmental affairs is Valerie Jarrett, who herself rose through Daley's political apparatus to eventually head the CTA. Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and White House senior adviser David Axelrod (Obama's Karl Rove) also are Chicago products. For them to defy Daley's craving for distributing the loot as he sees fit is laughable.

Nor should we expect much from Obama himself, who will be engaging in blinding hypocrisy if he continues to allow Daley to get away with the in-your-face politics he practices in Chicago. Maybe Obama will cross me up and figure out a way to force Daley's list out into public view without humbling the mayor. My bet, though, is that Obama will keep his silence, because that will keep Daley happy. And the rest of the nation will continue its swoon, believing that "real change" has arrived.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good for you - we as voters receive no accountability from Mayor Daley. He simply says - we're out of money - and raised taxes - EACH YEAR SINCE HE HAS BEEN ELECTED. It is sickening. We are inundated with medians in the middle of the street surrounded by dilapidated buildings. At any give night blocks of street lights fail to come on. Parking fees are out of control, and he makes no apology. What else is left to outsource, other than his job. What is wrong with us (the voters. We are his boss. Where is it written only a person with the last name "DALEY" CAN BE MAYOR OF CHICAGO. The voters here are pathetic.

What good is 10 minute of coverage from Fox News - to get the respect the voters deserve in Chicago - we have to be relentless - morning- noon and evenings - SHOW HIM AND THE POOR EXCUSE FOR ALDERMEN - WHO'S THE BOSS - THE VOTERS. WHEN HE COMES TO WORK HE NEEDS TO SEE PROTESTORS - WHEN HE GOES TO LUNCH HE NEEDS TO SEE PROTESTORS - WE HE LEAVES - HE NEEDS TO SEE PROTESTORS FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES. HE FEELS HE IS UNTOUCHABLE AND HE HAS APPOINTED COUNTLESS ALDERMAN who SURRENDER TO HIS EVERY BECK AND CALL -- SURELY I CAN'T BE THE ONLY ONE To SEE THIS! Can you believe it - this man is so confident he will be mayor until God calls him in - he planning for Olympic in 2016. Most of us prey to see the next day - Not this Mayor - He's guaranteed the next day - WHY - Because the voter allow it - I say, I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more - what about you????? WE NEED CHANGE!