by Don Washington on 2012/02/02
What if CME, CNA and Bank of America giving $34 million dollars back to the city is a bad thing, that you not having an alderman is a worse thing and that the Mayor of Chicago is openly paying people to work against the best interests of parents and school children? By the way we used to call such behavior a felony, the Tribune and the Sun-Times have decided that such a thing may not be "appropriate". (A statement that I am personally nominating for the Donald Rumsfeld Phrase of the Year Award.) What if all of it was part of an evil plot to transfer public resources to private entities to feed/build a political machine whose agenda is so terrible that the last thing it wants is accountability? If any of the above upsets you please understand that it is happening to the entire city right now. It's happening because that's what the new machine is all about.
For the past month or so the Tutorial has been keeping track of three seemingly unconnected stories. We call that context and we are hoping that Hal Dardick or Fran Speilman are goaded into trying to engage in it from time to time. We promise it won’t hurt anyone who doesn’t have it coming. This week you were told that CME, CNA and Bank of America are giving $34 million in TIF money back. How civic and enlightened of them but these are corporations, and like their malign master Rahm they would rather part with a child than money. And they would kill you before they parted with a child so now you know how much they love money. We also found out that our Aldermen and Committeemen are not actually our Aldermen or Committeemen. So if you are upset with your present Alderman and you are getting a new Alderman you have zero impact on your present Alderman. That tearing sound is the Constitution. Finally Mayor Emanuel declined to say whether its “appropriate” for faith-based groups he’s giving millions of CPS contracts to pay protestors to lobby against parents and students in CPS schools. The word reporter was looking for was not “appropriate” it was criminal.
The context that ties all of these stories together is that the Emanuel political machine shifts public resources into private hands, creating the space for those in charge to act with impunity and puts the common trust to work for the corporate interest. What we are getting is ring-side seats to this winner take all, race to the bottom, plutocratic system. In economics there is something called an opportunity cost; DO NOT let your eyes glaze over! It’s a very simple concept. It has to be, total idiots like Libertarian and Conservative economists grasp it; which puts just above object recognition as a cognitive skill. If you spend money on one thing then you couldn’t spend it on another thing. So if you buy fancy bathrooms for the Board of Trade you can’t pay Librarians. Congratulations, you now know more about economics than our Mayor and everyone at the University of Chicago. Every dollar in the TIF fund should be addressing urban blight because that’s what it’s for. That could mean jobs, it might mean housing, it could mean fixing schools, it might mean fixing roads and look at how I’ve not mentioned redecorating a bank in one of the richest areas of the city as part of the TIF mandate. See, context strikes again.
You could hardly have missed Mayor Emanuel dancing around in front of a fawning media announcing this corporation or that corporation is now coming to Chicago and that they will be bringing a host of jobs with them. Bank of America and CNA were supposed to create 2,700 jobs as part of the deal that allowed them to renovate their buildings for free and they didn’t do so. Wonder how many other corporate deals are working exactly like those corporate deals? Wonder if there’s a mechanism in place to MAKE them give back the money if they don’t create jobs? Pondering the opportunity costs of giving them the money in the first place? Losing any sleep over the reality that there are many millions more in TIF funds NOT helping the city and not being given back to us? Context makes one painfully aware that the deal here is that we have a system designed to give tax money to private corporations with no promise of return at all and the only accountability is what they are willing to hold themselves to.
If you find yourself angry enough to get directly involved in democracy don’t start with your Alderman because you may not have one. If you have a “new” alderman you will not be getting them until 2015. If you have the same alderman then you still have representation. The key here is that a large percentage of Chicagoans effectively no longer have the capacity to compel an alderman to do anything for them. To give you a little more context if you have a gang problem on your block or do not like some vote in the City Council and you used to be able to treat Dick Mell like a piñata those days are done. Because now he has no reason to help people he got rid of and you are not yet the new person’s responsibility. Impunity is important when one is being asked to sign on to an agenda that actually sends kids to underfunded schools, that will be less clean and less safe and will have less teachers working longer hours for less money. If you had to answer for votes like that people might actually make it out to the polls. The machine protects those that protects it and that 50-0 budget vote makes even more sense now… doesn’t it?
Finally, there was a time when giving someone a city contract and having them use that money to work against the interests of children and their parents was considered a violation of the law. Let’s review. The Mayor gives you a bag of money to run an after school program. You use some of that money to pay homeless people to come to a school closing hearing and advocate for the school closing that is violently opposed by the vast majority of the people who live in the district. CPS even coordinates with you by not letting community members into some hearings who don’t have children in the school being discussed while letting all of your people and their signs in.
Now gentle readers how many crimes am I detailing here? Surely public money cannot be used in defense of charter schools in this manner. I can’t imagine that these entities are not in breach of their particular contracts here. If CPS is coordinating with them that has the definite ring of conspiracy to breach said contract. Are we seeing a quid pro quid here? Head spinning yet, waiting for investigative journalism followed by perp walks for high-ranking CPS officials? How is this not a scandal? The contextual thing to remember yet again is that public money is being used to fund the demise of public schools. It’s almost like recycling.
Context can make one start looking for the “appropriate” sets of torches and pitchforks. I am not advocating for a riot I’m just saying you may find yourself in search of one now. Especially when you realize how terrible Rahm’s political machine really is. Its agenda starts and ends with sacrificing the common public good for private interest and profit. When such is your agenda the one thing you kind of worry about is what I like to call the Wisconsin Scenario. There you are looting the public treasury, busting up unions like Godzilla in downtown Tokyo and getting the public to blame/attack working and middle class people with humane benefits instead of questioning why greedy people don’t want them to have those same benefits when bam… you go too far.
Then the people start doing the very sorts of things; you have media like Hal and Fran to prevent them from doing. They start assembling, asking questions, getting all read up on your agenda and that leads to protests and teach-ins and school kids traveling from other states to get a civics lesson. An actual community of shared values and interests jumps up around you and you get recalled or your agenda gets derailed. Occupy Movement people take note, if parents are bringing children to your events we are winning. If police are bringing riot gear and hosting wood shampoo and taser parties we are losing. What they don't want is for us to assemble, exchange ideas and take action. They are in fact doing everything in the power to keep that from happening. I want a Wisconsin moment and I think you do too because we need to be the monkeys throwing all manner of wrenches in the angry marmoset’s machine.