by Don Washington on 2012/10/09
You may or may not know that Chicago has a Board of Ethics. In a city where the Mayor gave away our public streets as part of a deal negotiated by his brother’s bank and a political thug now runs a growing collection of badly performing but sure to expand charter schools the existence of such an entity probably comes as a surprise to you. So when news reached you that our newest Mayor for Life had replaced this collection of… shall we less than enthusiastic defenders of the public trust, I suspect that you were neither surprised nor upset. After all, does it matter which set of puppets is in place? I hardly think so but we should all take a moment to get a sense of what all of this means in the most transparent Chicago Mayoral Administration of the 21st century.
Our Mayor is turning out to not want to tell us things. He’s not holding public budget hearings. He’s not holding any kind of public forums when he cuts or closes down things. He won’t be telling us about his closed door meetings with World Business Chicago or this new Infrastructure Bank of his. He has turned the FOIA process into an eight-ringed circus of Monkey Dance Hell. Yes, he does not want the likes of us getting our filthy mitts and minds around his pristine agenda. This kind of behavior creates an environment where ethical shenanigans are very likely to happen. The old Board of Ethics had already proven itself about as useful as boots on a snake. IG “Silent Joe” Ferguson pointed out that it was about as effective at finding ethical violations as wrestling referee. So the question to ask is not is it ethical for the Mayor have gotten rid of this board or who is on it but why did the Mayor think it time to get rid of this board?
Let’s review; the last few months have been bad for Mayor Marmoset 1%. He started a fight with the Chicago Teacher’s Union, where he stacked the deck in his favor and lost. He gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention and got the kind embarrassed polite applause common to dance recitals given by uncoordinated five-year-olds. The City of Chicago got hammered by the courts on how it treated NATO protesters. His crime anti-crime plan of aggressive patrols, stat-chasing and more aggressive police has set in motion a cycle of violence that is not to be taken lightly. The big Motorola business coup is going south in a manner that would disturb Cassandra. They’ve yet to really set up shop and they are still firing people. By the time they really get here the Merchandise Mart will be housing a laptop and a phone for a part-time guy who turns the lights off and on. The School Board meetings have become farcical theater of the highest order. It’s gotten so bad that he has to openly discuss school closings that used to be designed surprises in targeted neighborhoods. CPS is hemorrhaging administrative personnel that were to act as his hatchet men and enablers of the corporate takeover of our public schools at an alarming rate. None of this was part of the plan.
This has led to our Mayor having the kind of approval rating that made Mayor Daley hang up his gloves and has created an uncertain political environment for him. No, not like he’s worried about re-election… that’s crazy talk. No I’m talking about the fact that when he appears in public he can never be certain if and lately when some kind of heckling protest he is going to have to run away from is going to break out. You can feel the stress coming off of Mayor Emanuel at a distance now. Not such a fun job anymore is it little fella? Rahm, however, if he is anything he’s resilient and that’s where the Ethics Board comes in.
Politics 101, when something bad happens; the one thing people in charge cannot look like is that they are not in charge. This means they take action and sometimes that action is rash and disastrous, like invading Afghanistan. We are fortunate here because even though we have a cartoon super-villain as our Mayor his relative power to say, hurl the Earth into the Sun is rather limited. You need to view the Ethics Board firing and hiring as political theater. He’s building a storyline of things he can point to that proves he is a great Mayor and distracts you from reality. He’s not going to tell us about the budget but we have a new Board of Ethics populated with people we love and trust like Judge Julia Nowicki and inspired by the legendary Cindi Canary. He gave into the CTU but he’s redefining what happened both the terms of the strike and its outcome. The Mayor doesn’t know where the money to pay the teachers is going to come from so you better believe that from now on when he cuts funding to anything he was already planning to do damage to it will be the pay raise’s fault. He’s not letting a good crisis go to waste.
So don’t spend any time wondering about the ethics of hiring and firing the Board of Ethics or even who’s on it. For certain do not spend any time trying to get a grip on what they do or are doing. It is the kind of thing that will not make you feel any better about government in the least bit. (We are revamping our Tutorial Directory with new improved information over the next few months. You can find them all in there.) Just remember that what you are watching is political cover fire and chicanery of the most interesting and if we are really lucky most desperate sort.