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Poking the pigeon

Friday, Sep 28, 2007

* Recently, a couple of Tribune reporters have wondered aloud about Mayor Daley’s almost complete silence on the mass transit issue and the property tax assessment caps debate.

My column in today’s Sun-Times attempts to answer those questions and more. The bottom line for Daley, his raison d’être, if you will, is his quest for the Olympic games

Politicians love it when a fellow politician wants something really big. They’re called ‘’pigeons'’ because they’re ripe for the plucking.

Mayor Daley is now a pigeon.

Daley’s overriding lust to land the Olympic Games has put him at an extreme disadvantage in dealing with Gov. Blagojevich, who is playing the mayor for all he’s worth.

Several months ago, Daley used both barrels to blast Blagojevich’s proposed gross receipts tax on business, saying if the tax were enacted we could all wave goodbye to businesses as they moved out of state. The two men went out to dinner not long afterward, and Daley subsequently toned his comments way down.

What happened?

I’m told on high authority that Blagojevich laid it out for Daley. The mayor needs strong support from the state to convince the Olympics committee that Chicago is a viable siting option. The governor knows the same thing and told him so. The implication was clear: ‘’Mess with me and I mess with you.'’

Anyone who has watched this governor for any length of time understands that Blagojevich is just crazy enough to go all populist on the Olympics and announce that the cost is not worth the benefits.

So, despite the occasional mumbles and grumbles about the lack of comity in Springfield, Daley has done his best to stay mum.

Please, go read the whole column before commenting. Thanks.

* Part of my analysis has to do with Daley’s weakened political organization. There are a couple of articles today that provide more info on that…

* Sun-Times: Shakman monitor objects to Daley-run hiring office -Federal Watchdog cites ‘history of noncompliance’

* Tribune: Nobody in Mayor Richard Daley’s administration can be trusted to keep city hiring free from politics except the inspector general, a court-appointed official has concluded.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


28 Comments
  1. - Ghost - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 9:32 am:

    Daley wants the Olympics. Daley has lost a lot of his clout. Daley needs the Gov on his side. The Gov has hobbled Daley. The comment from blago about Daley being irrelevant and Daley swallowing it whole without a comment says it all. Daley needs to consider that the Gov is not well regarded and stop being afraid to fight him if needed. Otherwise Blago will do more to harm Chicagos chances overall with his handling of the CTA/RTA, Casino, and Capital plans. Right now Blago is more of a threat to Daley left unchecked and unfettered by Daley. Daley its time to fight or let your legacy be that of a sponge who could not put up a meaningful fight.


  2. - Levois - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 9:38 am:

    Meh a lot of people compare the Mayor to his daddy. Daddy mayor would not have let himself be subject to a situation like this. I can understand that Mayor Daley is weakened by a more independent city council or the loss of his own machine but it’s sad when he’s under the thumb of a guy who no body trusts. Daley should start showing who’s who or he might need to consider hanging it up.


  3. - RBD - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 9:40 am:

    Rich - Can you put a permanent copy of your article on the web, please. You have described the missing link that explains so much of RMD’s actions (or lack thereof) and it is going to be relevant for a long time.

    The only tidbit I can add is that Chicago City officials stopped referencing Springfield a long time ago (–long before the Olympics idea). For at least six years it has been Chicago, USA.


  4. - Anon - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 9:43 am:

    Great title to this post.


  5. - Gus Frerotte's Clipboard - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:02 am:

    One of Speaker Madigan’s strengths as a politician is that he never seems to want anything. If you want something (the Olympics, big health care expansion, a capital program, school funding reform, etc.), people will always be in a position to take a bite out of you. The state’s other leading Democrats — Mayor Daley, the Senate President, Governor Blagojevich — all put themselves out there wanting things, and purport to stand for something. That may be more noble in its way — I admire all of them for putting themselves on the line for policies they want to see achieved, even if I don’t agree with everything they want to see achieved — but it puts them at a huge tactical disadvantage against the Speaker.


  6. - Anonymous - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:25 am:

    Great column!


  7. - Hugh - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:34 am:

    great column!

    Daley found $42M for the CTA in 2005:

    Pedaling While Rome Burns

    As the CTA goes off the rails, what’s the mayor up to?

    http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/theworks/070928/


  8. - Innocent Bystander - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:45 am:

    Can anyone keep Blago in check? I thought Madigan or Daley would keep him in line, but he seems completely out of control and out of touch.

    It seems Illinois has a dictator until at least 2010, if not longer. Checks and Balances are out the window.


  9. - tom73 - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:46 am:

    Why do so many people in Chicago (where I live) still think this guy can get things done? Do flowerpots along the streets really mean that much?

    I never understood this Chicago mentality, but then again, I am fron downstate.


  10. - RBD - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 10:58 am:

    The push by Daley for the Olympics has nothing to do with the games or international pride and everything to do with the federal dollars he believes will come with the designation.

    Mayor Daley doesn’t know how to lead in a Bush (everyone go shopping while I start a war) economy. In fact, I don’t see any indication that he and his long-time associates (like Gery Chico) even understand that times have changed. The Park District continues to ask Chicagoans to beg their Congressman for funds because they don’t know how to survive otherwise.
    All of these men (and they do appear to be all male) came of political ‘age’ in the booming Clinton economy. We may have another Clinton in the White House but we won’t see another Roaring ‘90s-style economy for many decades.

    In the corporate world there are experts who would be called in at this point to restructure the company. Until we have elected officials who know how to do that –set public expectations based on today’s financial realities, Chicago, Illinois and the country will be in a disruptive state.


  11. - Little Egypt - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 11:03 am:

    I’m hard pressed to figure out why the Olympic Committee would want the athletes competing in the Illinois humidity. Too bad the athletes can’t pick the Olympic venue.


  12. - Anon - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 11:06 am:

    Good work, Rich. You Ice Rocket shows a WBBM report that the Mayor is calling for Springfield to provide property tax relief to Cook Co. residents and he is calling for resolution to the transit issue. Good poking!


  13. - Garp - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 11:24 am:

    Rich, I really enjoyed your article. This piece and your “Blago back bencher” analysis really added insight into the workings of our local government that is unreported and spot on.

    Having said that, the Mayor appears to be willing to let Madigan do his dirty work for him and it is quite possible that, after the dust has settled, Daley could have a casino, mass transit funding and money for lots of relatives via capital projects. The mum strategy could turn out to be great for him.

    On the other hand, it could all go up flames. That would be my guess. There are too many egos involved, too many bad feelings and too many hidden agendas. There is no substitute for good leadership but the Mayor doesn’t appear willing to embrace that novel strategy.


  14. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 11:38 am:

    Great column, Rich.

    I could see the Mayor shriveling up in my mind’s eye as I read it.

    Instead of attacking Reilly, Daley should ask Reilly to be his hatchetman on the Governor. As Paul Vallas’s former campaign spokesperson, Reilly has that job down cold.


  15. - VanillaMan - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 12:08 pm:

    An ugly fact is that we have Blagojevich for three more years. So, love him or hate him, we have to deal with him.

    So Daley wants Chicago to be selected for the Olympics and he has Blagojevich as governor. He can either fight alongside of nearly all Illinois Democrats against the Governor into a stalemate, or he can stay out of the battles and pick up whatever scraps he can. Daley can’t look to Stroger for assistance because the County is broke and Stroger is flailing. So, this leaves Daley focusing on getting fiscal scraps from Blagojevich and Jones. That is the reality, and Daley has to deal with it for at least another fiscal year.

    Daley is not the only Illinoian hobbled by Blagojevich. There is a long line of people and institutions wondering how long this nightmare will last. What is news however is the fact that Daley is on the same list as everyone else, and this shows how far we’ve fallen over the summer. It is very troubling to see any Chicago mayor struggle because of an avoidable crisis brought on by a lack of governance at the state level.

    In the current atmosphere, Daley can’t make mistakes and we have seen Daley make mistakes often. The difference this time is that there is less room for failure and every blunder reverberates. Consequentially, Daley is getting hammered.

    If a Chicagoan can’t look to the Governor for leadership, and can’t look to their state reps and senators, who is left at the podium? The local guy - Daley. Look at his flop sweat! The Mayor isn’t used to this, is he?

    I suppose we can throw tomatoes at Daley, but I never expected him to have to deal with a county meltdown, and a state meltdown at the same time.

    Final note - RBD, your postings are so full of bias and factual error you end up looking like you haven’t a clue as to what you are talking about. Sorry about that, but your claims are farcical and kinda stupid.


  16. - FAN of CAP FAX - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 12:17 pm:

    Gotta say it, Rich. Never, and I mean NEVER, underestimate Mayor Richard M. Daley. He paints the big picture.


  17. - Independent - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 12:23 pm:

    Daley is probably longing for the happy days of 2003 when he just came off a landslide against almost non-existent opposition and scandals had yet to damage him. While he is still covered in Teflon the Hired Truck and Hiring scandals have diminished him somewhat. Aldermen occasionally have stepped up to oppose him when before they would have been silent.

    The Olympics are about a combination of federal money and Daley’s legacy. He does not want historians writing about scandals marring the latter half of his reign. He has put all his eggs in the Olympic basket and it would be devastating for him to lose. I question his judgment on issues affecting ordinary Chicagoans given his tunnel vision regarding the Olympics. As Rich noted he has already compromised his willingness to stand up to Blagojevich and fight for Chicago.


  18. - Rich Miller - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 12:32 pm:

    Fan, I agree about that. But he’s definitely in a box. We’ll see how he gets out of it. Should be fun to watch.


  19. - Rich Miller - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 12:32 pm:

    Plus, he’s had this coming for a while.


  20. - RBD - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 12:42 pm:

    Gee Vanilla Man - Are you a Chicagoan? (I haven’t kept track of such things on the blog.)

    Do you go to the community meetings? Are you on neighborhood organization boards? Where do Chicago officials tell you they plan to get the funds to accomplish the goals Mayor Daley has set out for your neighborhood?

    Are you saying that when you talk to Tim Mitchell, for example, he never mentions the failure of the federal government to fund the programs as he expected. He doesn’t hand you a stack of pre-printed postcards to distribute to your friends and family so they can contact their Congressman — not State legislators, federal.

    And when you sit through the meetings about the expansion of rapid transit downtown, for example, what’s the source of funds you hear them talking about.

    We obviously get our information from different sources.


  21. - Little Egypt - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 1:13 pm:

    I still don’t get it - Chicago for the SUMMER olympics, or any olympics for that matter. And when in the history of the olympics has there not been a scandal over money and construction? My mother used to say “Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.” This is as laughable as George Ryan being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.


  22. - Captain America - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 1:20 pm:

    The Shakman monitor is entirely correct in her assertions about the necessity of monitoring the city’s hiring process by an outside party. ON the other hand,I would recommend that the number of Shakman-exempt positions should be increased significantly.

    I applaud and support wholeheartedly the Mayor’s vision and passion for Chicago to be selected as the 2016 host city. I think the economic and spillover benefits would be tremendous. I’m still impressed about how well Daley used the 1996 Democratic convention to showcase and enhance Chicago.

    Blago’s political career is truly doomed if he is in effect blackmailing/extorting the Mayor politically using the Olympics as leverage.The long knives are really out now Governor -you’d better be watching your back 24/7!


  23. - Objective Dem - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 2:28 pm:

    I’m with Captain America on all three points.


  24. - Lainer - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 2:48 pm:

    I’m no expert on Chicago politics, but I’ve always understood that under the elder Daley the situation would have been completely reversed — HE would have been telling the governor “mess with me and I will mess with you.” Is it just the younger Daley’s drive to get the Olympics that has brought about that complete of a role reversal, or is there something more?


  25. - Objective Dem - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 2:56 pm:

    I don’t remember any scandals in Atlanta regarding the Olympics.


  26. - VanillaMan - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 3:45 pm:

    RBD - Much better!

    See you could make your points without sounding like a conspiracy nut!

    Well done!

    But don’t buy that “the feds are to blame” BS. Finger-pointing just makes the finger pointer look like a powerless loser incapable of finding solutions to problems they were elected to address. It is nonsense that shouldn’t be an acceptable answer at anytime.


  27. - VanillaMan - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 3:53 pm:

    OH and BTW -
    You thought the 90’s economy was great?
    Well, we are far surpassing it right now. Our economy has never been bigger! Don’t buy into that “economy is sick” BS either. Sorry, but the numbers speak for themselves. Perhaps there are other economic/social ills that need to be addressed, but blaming it on “the economy” would be dead wrong. We’re booming right now, even greater than when the Clinton/GOP 90’s boom (1993-1999) happened and ended during Clinton’s last year in office.

    Don’t listen to Edwards, or any of those other “populist” candidates right now. They are presenting an inaccurate picture to justify their social stands - understandable but fraudulent.

    If Chicago’s economy is sucky, which it is, you can’t blame it on the feds, or we wouldn’t be seeing the booming cities either.

    Nope - doesn’t add up.


  28. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Sep 28, 07 @ 4:41 pm:

    Excellent column, Rich.

    Just the same, Blago should be checking his six 24-7.


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