Dec 092014
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A Tale of Chicago and a Distorted Political Process

CHICAGO, Illinois December 8, 2014 –

There are a number of reasons for having separately elected offices responsible for a wide range of areas that impact our everyday lives – and yes, some believe that one of the reasons is purely political, separate offices allow for an increased number of politically appointed positions that can be doled out.

But that is not the core reasoning. Rather, in a representative democracy, you do not want one individual holding all of the levers of power and the attendant control over the billions of tax dollars that fund local government.

Secondly, expert research has posited that elected officials may be more likely than appointed officials to pursue policies that are in line with the perceived preferences of the electorate.

Further, the thought is that separate elected offices become inherent checks and balances against each other’s potential for misuse of said power. For example, the Cook County Circuit Court adjudicates court cases, while a separately elected official, the Clerk of the Circuit Court is responsible for maintaining the official court case record. Another example is that in addition to the Mayor of the City of Chicago, we have fifty separately elected aldermen to better represent our interests and who collectively must pass the rules, regulations and other legislation that govern all aspects of running a city, as well as pass a budget that essentially directs how our tax dollars will be spent – this is a body we expect to place checks and balances on the Mayor and on each other, as well as one that strives to ensure that all parts of the City are served equitably.

This is also a means of sharing the levers of power and fostering a need to compromise in order to get things done. This additionally should lead to the people electing individuals qualified to manage the office they are elected to lead and, in turn, better assures that their respective statutory obligations and responsibilities are met in a fair and equitable manner for all constituencies.

Just as importantly, this should allow for the citizens to remove from office those that they feel are not delivering to expectations. In other words, said separately elected officials are responsible to the people that elect them.

But here in Chicago this process has been distorted. In Chicago, this process has been corrupted.

A political process that was intended to bridge the management of an elected Office until the next election is now being used to circumvent the electoral process.

Exhibit A is the recent events with the City Treasurer’s Office, clearly a series of events denying the citizens of Chicago a voice in who holds that Office and potentially having that Office controlled by the Mayor, as opposed to someone totally independent of the Mayor and accountable to the citizens of Chicago.

How have we arrived (again) at this undesirable juncture? We submit the following for your assessment:

1) The sitting City Treasurer ‘decides’ not to run for re-election approximately 30 days prior to the due date for someone to file the requisite number of signatures to run for the Office.

2) The Office requires that anyone wishing to run must file 12,500 signatures to get on the ballot (essentially meaning that you must collect and file at least twice that number to avoid not gathering the threshold number of good signatures).

3) The timing of the announcement along with the number of required signatures, as well as the time to seriously seek out solid candidates to run virtually assures what followed.

4) The Mayor, with prior knowledge (no 30 days for him), now appoints a person of his choice. A person who already has a campaign set in motion (no 30 days for him either).

5) The appointed individual must run for election, however, due to #3, no other candidates step forward, thus assuring an uncontested race and leading to:

6) Said appointed individual owing his position, not to the people, rather owing their position to one person in City Hall; and

7) The strong potential of all of the inherent checks and balances of a separately elected Office being lost; all of the desired independence of said Office being lost; all of the pluses that come from fighting through a competitive election and having to tell the people what you will do if they place their trust in you being lost…or maybe it should be stated as ‘taken from us in another naked act of political bullying’; and

8) What also is potentially taken from Chicagoans is the chance to elect someone who will chart a new course for the City Treasurer’s Office, an Office that is the custodian and manager of all cash and investments for the City of Chicago, the four City employee pension funds, and the Chicago Teacher’s Pension Fund. Do you really believe that our community institutions receive a parity share of business with this Office? Our financial experts?

However, this is not new.

In July, 2013, Alderman Dick Mel stepped down as alderman of the 33rd Ward. Who was appointed by Rahm to replace him, you ask? The mayor appointed State Rep. Deb Mell, the alderman’s daughter as his replacement. And who replaced State Rep. Deb Mel as state representative, you might further ask? In August, 2013, Democratic leaders picked top aide to Ald. Dick Mell, Jaime Andrade, to replace his daughter in the Illinois House of Representatives. The orchestrated dance was complete.

Currently, about one third of sitting aldermen were appointed by the current or former Mayor. Which means that we have been accomplices in distorting the process – it also could mean that maybe a few were smart enough to pivot to focusing on their constituents – or negatively, it could mean that because incumbency has its natural advantages, once appointed, they’ve held an advantage in remaining in Office even when they take orders obediently from the 5th floor.

Actions to Consider: Perhaps we should pursue and fight for legislation that forces a change to the date of election for any Office, wherein the current office holder announces that they will not run for re-election very late in the process, virtually assuring an uncontested race for the appointed person; perhaps we should pursue changing the rules that allow the Mayor to fill open aldermanic, city clerk and city treasurer seats and instead forcing an open election; And we should absolutely endeavor to elect individuals that will have more respect for the democratic process and our vote.

Let us be perfectly clear. We do not hold anything against the individual, Kurt Summers, who was appointed by the Mayor to the position of City Treasurer. It is up to Summers to demonstrate independence and political courage with an administration that exacts absolute fealty.  It is up to him to fight for policies and to take actions that focus on achieving parity and real benefits for our community from the City Treasurer’s Office.

Again, let us be perfectly clear. We do not hold anything against Deb Mell who was appointed to replace her father as alderman of the 33rd Ward. It is up to her constituents to determine if she represents their best interests as her primary focus or if their interests are secondary to supporting the will of City Hall.

We do however, deplore the orchestration of these and other appointments, the continuing corruption of the democratic process here in Chicago, and the blatant disregard for the citizens of this great city’s right to choose our elected leaders.

Further Action to Seriously Consider: Let us, as a community, be about developing a bench of talented individuals that represent our community, that owe allegiance to their constituency, and that we can call upon in a moment’s notice when this orchestration is re-enacted…

And history has shown us that it will be.

By the way:

Did the sitting City Treasurer have so little respect for the democratic process and so little respect for her community that she would be a part of such orchestration. This is no coincidence – to decide to not run for re-election, based on moving back to the private sector for a well-paying job, could not have happened overnight – the employee agreement alone took time.

The Mayor did not elect her. Her constituents did.

And yet the Mayor had time to identify a replacement and the replacement had time to secure a campaign manager and launch a campaign. The Mayor wasn’t her boss, this was not a situation where she had to give him notice, rather her allegiance should have been to her constituency, the citizens of Chicago, the black community. She should have given her community notice.

But let us go further since we do understand the nature of politics and of perceived and real power. Even if the former City Treasurer knew it to be prudent to work with the Mayor on this, surely she should have confided in someone(s) so that they confidentially could also have identified a candidate or two to make it a race, to better serve our community.

Thought for the Day: The Spook Who Sat By The Door (by Sam Greenlee) should be required reading for all of our community’s elected officials…

– And that is the Stone COAL Truth

BTW Part Deux:

We’d like to give a shout out to Michael Chandler, Alderman of the 24th Ward. Alderman Chandler recently announced that he would not run for re-election. But instead of resigning immediately, which would have allowed the Mayor to appoint another member of the city council,  Alderman Chandler made it clear that he would remain in Office until his term is up.

For respecting the residents of your ward and their right to choose whom represents them, and for supporting a fair and balanced election for all candidates running for alderman of the 24th ward, we commend the way in which Alderman Chandler handled this.


Click here for the full December 2014 2.0 Issue of COAL News.

  One Response to “COAL News – On a Distorted Political Process”

  1. Yes, corruption continues in Illinois Chicago style, there is a need for legislation that is passed to ensure that the people choose who their leaders are. There needs to be some conversations with our elected leaders that believe in honest representation and a move to an amendment added to the next time we vote. This may be the only way to get this passed.

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