* Paul Green was a model “public citizen.” He revered the value of reasoned and informed public debate, and that was always at the very core of his outstanding chairmanship of the City Club of Chicago, his research projects, his books, his teaching and his punditry.
He thoroughly despised those who debased the public discourse with purely emotional appeals. He had his viewpoints, many of them strongly held, but he relied heavily on facts. And he could wield those facts like a machete.
But while Paul could deftly slice you ear to ear with his razor-sharp wit, you’d laugh as soon as you figured out what had just happened to you. He was an impossible man to hate.
* One advantage Paul possessed over many run of the mill pundits is he actually had political experience of his own. He knew what it was like to run for - and hold - office. He was most definitely not an ivory tower professor.
He was constantly curious about new developments and new points of view and could often be spotted at forums and events other than his own. His mind was like a voracious vacuum cleaner, but he could also analyze all those bits of information and present it in a fair and digestible format.
His knowledge of Chicago and Illinois history was always spot on. During the primary, I wrote about how Rep. Ken Dunkin’s campaign was allegedly buying votes for $50 a pop. Paul sent me this e-mail…
To show you political inflation—A century ago Hinky Dink and Bathhouse John would pay 1st ward flophouse residents 50 cents a vote—now $50
* I’m most certainly biased about Paul because he was a friend for over 25 years. After my surgery last year and my subsequent pledge to forever quit smoking cigarettes (after years of constant hounding from Green and others), Paul sent me this…
Two Words–THANK GOD–per stop smoking
As you may remember I told you how smoking basically killed my mom–
Stick to your pledge–TWO reasons–1. you are my friend and 2. the City Club now considers you a Xmas tradition!!
I kept that pledge, and going through our old e-mails today I realized that he often signed them “Your friend.” He was also one of the greatest public allies I’ve had through the years…
Rich Miller’s independent Capitol Fax site, for example, is an established must-read in the state capitol—Paul Green, director of the Institute of Politics at Roosevelt University in Chicago, even suggests that the new efforts [to start up Chicago and Illinois-centric publications] should leave the statehouse to Miller and focus on Chicago.
* From the Sun-Times…
In his head, Paul Green curated unrivaled stacks of knowledge about Chicago politics dating back to the 1800s.
As a political analyst, he regularly shared his thoughts on radio, television and in newspapers.
As a professor, first at Governors State University before heading the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University, he taught generations of students about the “Chicago machine.”
As an author, he delved into City Hall’s fifth floor occupants in a series of books, including one entitled “The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition.”
And as chairman of of the City Club of Chicago — a nonpartisan civic group that hosts forums and debates — Mr. Green served dually as a self-deprecating moderator and tough questioner of top local and national political figures.
“He was an excellent political scientist and historian, not only in Chicago, but for the state and national issues as well,” said longtime friend and colleague Ed Mazur. “He was very direct. He didn’t like BS or baloney. He always had a quick wit, so if you were two seconds too slow, he was already on the next page.”
Despite a rigorous academic background, Green was a self-styled humorist who was able to convey a sense of the city and its deep politics to national audiences in publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time and Newsweek.
“The Marquess of Queensberry Rules (for boxing) in Illinois politics is, ‘You wear your trunks around your ankles. There are no low blows,’ ” he once said.
Last month, hosting a City Club event featuring Greg Baise, the CEO and president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association decrying Illinois’ economy, Green quipped to the audience: “For those of you taking Greg’s advice very seriously, we’ll have small vials of hemlock out there for those of you who think it just ain’t worth it.”
* WGN Radio…
Long-time WGN Radio host Spike O’Dell, a friend and colleague of Green’s, posted the following on Facebook: “My heart is broken today with the news of Professor Paul Green’s passing. I always looked forward to our Wednesday morning conversation on WGN radio that I called “Paul and the Politicians”. He lived for the political “game”. He had a way of explaining it to our listeners in an informative, yet humorous way. He was my go to guy when it came to Chicago or Illinois politics. He will be missed by so many. I’m glad our paths had a chance to cross. Rest in peace my friend.”
* He would’ve gotten a kick out of tributes like this one from Mayor Emanuel…
“Countless people across the city know him as a gifted writer, teacher, historian, and analyst. I have known Paul personally for many years, and was always impressed by his capacious intellect, his boundless curiosity, and his quick wit. But beyond just his infectious personality Paul will leave an indelible mark on Chicago through his Institute of Politics at Roosevelt University, which has inspired a new generation of Chicagoans to answer the call of public service.”
* Sheriff Dart…
Many of us knew Paul as the whip smart and jovial host of the City Club of Chicago’s many influential events. But he was more than that. Paul cared deeply about the future of our city, and he was never afraid to engage directly and critically with the elected officials in positions to effect legitimate change. I appreciated him for his friendship, but I treasured him most of all for never hesitating to offer me ideas on how I could better serve my constituents. In an age of never-ending partisan squabbling and stalemates, I can think of no one who did not adore and respect Paul Green.
I honestly don’t know how our city will fill the incredible void left by this giant of Chicago politics. May he rest in peace, and may God bless his family on this very sad day.
* WMAQ TV…
Green was also the chairman at the City Club of Chicago, a non-partisan group that hosts newsmakers, debates, and forums – one of which he hosted as recently as Wednesday, according to a statement from City Club President Jay Doherty.
“As a professor, Paul taught thousands,” Doherty said in the statement. “As a researcher, he will touch generations to come. As a commentator on radio and TV, he helped us understand political currents in the moment, with unerring accuracy.”
“As the obligatory first stop for out-of-town journalists, he helped untold millions understand this city he loved. As an ambassador for Chicago on his many overseas speaking tours, he kindled interest in our region and connections that strengthened Chicago’s place in the world,” Doherty added.
* Public Radio…
“Impeccably honest and brutally frank,” Doherty said. “He just called it like it was. He had a very biting wit. As he said many times, ‘I don’t give a rip. I’m going to tell it how it is.’”
Businessman Ed Mazur, a fellow City Club member who knew Green since they were in college, agreed. “He didn’t care much for what you might call BS,” Mazur said. “He didn’t like to dance around the edges. He liked to get to the heart of the matter.”
* Daily Herald…
Politics were food and drink to Green, who liberally shared the vast riches of his knowledge through his writings, speeches and radio commentary.
“He loved government, he loved the city, he loved urban history, political history, public administration,” said Sharon Green. “He knew the numbers. He knew the facts. But he appreciated politics. He understood the good and the bad of politics.”
His book “The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition,” co-authored with Melvin G. Holli, is regarded as a classic.
* CBS 2…
Paul Green was the Director of the Institute for Politics and Arthur Rubloff Professor of Policy Studies at Roosevelt University.
“At Roosevelt, we know him as someone with such a strong supporter of his students and a mentor to his junior colleagues, and just a thoughtful colleague to everyone,” Bonnie Gunvenhauser, dean of Arts and Sciences at Roosevelt University tells WBBM Radio’s Nancy Harty. “He never really seemed happier than when he was telling me about some alum who had gotten a fantastic new job in politics, or with the Mayor’s office, or even outside of politics.”
“Paul was an instrumental player in Crain’s early expansion into political commentary,” said Crain’s Publisher and former Editor David Snyder. “He had a rare ability to blend his unmatched skill in dissecting local election results with a shrewd understanding of street-level politics in the city, county and state. Layered on top of it all was a wonderful sense of humor.”
I retweeted several rememberances of Paul yesterday, so click here if you’d like to browse through them.
* The City Club gets the last word…
We will miss him for longer than we knew him.