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The [Tuesday] Papers

I watched the Tribune editorial board debate between Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot this morning (via Facebook livestream!) and have a few notes to pass along.

* Lightfoot was much better than she was at last week's forum. More relaxed, less nervous and interrupty. She scored some points and once again was able to draw a contrast between her as the independent reformer and Preckwinkle as the status quo. Preckwinkle almost can't help but take on that role, as much as she's trying to cast herself as "the real progressive." And Preckwinkle, as I've said repeatedly, is progressive policy-wise. But she's also Machiney in her politics, and isn't the kind of disruptor the city seems to want right now; instead, she pledges to run a more efficient machine. Examples to follow.

* Credit to Trib board member Kristen McQueary, who finally asked the candidates about how they would work with the city council - lord over it like mayors past have, essentially deputizing it as the Department of Aldermen, or step back and let it (try to) flourish as an actual, independent legislative body. Lightfoot went with the latter, unreservedly. She even suggested the council should have its own lawyer to counter the city's corporation counsel, who in effect is the mayor's lawyer. Lightfoot said she was not afraid of an independent council, and that, in fact, we would be a better city for it.

Not so much for Preckwinkle.

"The critical issue is that the mayor has a vision for the city which is shared with the council," Preckwinkle said.

Really? I'm not sure that's the critical issue.

Preckwinkle said the council should "organize" itself, which means it should choose its own committee chairs and set its own agenda, but also said she would "collaborate" with the council in such an endeavor - the way she's done at the county with finance committee chair John Daley.

That's probably not what voters want to hear - not that I'm under any illusion that voters (who might have day jobs) were watching. (Like Lee Elia famously said, 15 percent of us had nothing better to do today.)

* Preckwinkle wants to preserve aldermanic privilege (also known as "aldermanic prerogative"). Lightfoot thinks aldermanic privilege is the root of city council corruption.

Preckwinkle, who was the alderman of the 4th Ward for 19 years, took issue with what she called a "derogatory characterization of what aldermen do." There have been, she acknowledged, "some true misuses of power, but that's gonna happen in any human enterprise." Voters, she said, have a chance to "make corrections" when elections come around every four years.

Oy. That's a very Daley-like view - the darkness of human nature and all - and rhetoric that comes from someone who feels pretty comfortable with the way things are.

* Preckwinkle also opposes term limits. Lightfoot supports term limits - two terms for mayor, three terms for aldermen, and two terms for aldermen to serve as committee chairs.

I'm not sure what I think about that, but I am sure that Lightfoot understands far more than Preckwinkle what some of the council's problems are, and is far more likely to try to fix them - because why would Preckwinkle try to fix something she doesn't think is broken?

* Preckwinkle does want to ban outside employment for aldermen. Lightfoot wants to ban outside aldermanic employment that poses a conflict of interest, so she is less strict on that point.

Of course, in the case of Ed Burke - and so many others who have come before him - it's the combination of outside employment (property tax appeals, say) aldermanic privilege (granting a zoning request in exchange for law business) that is so powerful.

* Both candidates said a final vote on Lincoln Yards should be delayed until the next mayor comes aboard, but aldermanic privilege (as Lightfoot noted) is what allowed Brian Hopkins of the 2nd Ward to single-handedly move the project forward.

* Both candidates - like pretty much the entire field before them - pledged to "invest" more in neighborhoods than Rahm Emanuel did, but I'm still not clear just what they mean by that. How does a city government "invest" in neighborhoods? Infrastructure? Schools and police stations? City services? Because when we talk about "investing in neighborhoods," what we're really trying to talk about is economic development in areas of the city that businesses generally don't want to locate in.

Lightfoot said her main focus would be small businesses, and she detailed some plans (as did Preckwinkle) for how the city can assist with small businesses, but nothing that is a game-changer.

Preckwinkle championed a $15 minimum wage (by 2021) and said that at the county she has created a bureau of economic development and council of economic advisors where none existed before.

That's great, but I'd prefer to hear bigger ideas from each of them. I'd like to hear one of them support the (still-breathing) Peotone airport as a way to fuel economic development on the South Side and southern suburbs, or suggest that they would have worked hard to persuade George Lucas to place his museum in Bronzeville, or require developers (to some degree) to mirror investments on the North Side with investments on the South Side (a Lincoln Yards on the USS Steel site). Smoothing the way for small business and expanding microlending (something both candidates mentioned) are fine things to do, but they will produce infinitesimally incremental change.

It seems to me that Lightfoot is more likely to be open to such ideas - and to go for it. Preckwinkle promises to just be a more efficient version of what we've already had.

* Lightfoot clearly has a new strategy of trying to make her role as an equity partner at Mayer Brown a plus, instead of the minus that Preckwinkle's people say it is in trying to define her as a corporate lawyer.

At Mayer Brown, Lightfoot handled complex litigation including, according to her, "the intersection of civil and criminal regulatory matters," and advising corporate executives.

* Lightfoot often comes off as dull and platitudinal in these forums, but it's clear from her resume and what others say that she's very smart in real life.

Preckwinkle can be really good at explaining herself - even if she's not always honest, which she's not - but seems to have little patience for actually answering questions, like it's a chore she barely tolerates before getting back to her desk.

As a politician, Lightfoot is still a work-in-progress. That's fine. She can be reached; she's not set in her ways. (She's also a bit ham-handed when it comes to what I can only guess is a political handler's advice on what attacks she should try to slip into her debate answers. For example, when asked about revenues, Lightfoot said that one thing she wouldn't do is one of two things a mayor can do unilaterally: impose a soda tax. I rolled my eyes at that one.)

* Lightfoot has been reading the reports emanating from the city's inspector general's office, and seems eager to implement much of what he's recommended ("They've landed in the circular file, but I'm gonna run with them.") Preckwinkle has been at odds with the county's inspector general.

* When Preckwinkle mentioned the "inherently inequitable property tax system," I winced. I still can't get past the fact that, even when presented with the Tribune's utterly remarkable and astonishing report, she pushed back against it, and stood by the man at the center of it, Joe Berrios, until the end.

* Preckwinkle: I built 1,500 units of affordable housing in my ward during my 19 years as alderman. Is that a lot? It doesn't sound like a lot to me - fewer than 100 a year - but I have nothing to compare it to. How does that stack up against the documented need in her ward?

* Lightfoot's facial expressions were amusing during this morning's debate. Preckwinkle kept monopolizing the floor, often ignoring questions and veering instead into her talking points and stump speech. Lightfoot kept narrowing her eyes, or raising her eyebrows, or giving sly little grins to . . . someone. When Lightfoot got her turn, she would often note that she was going to answer the question asked - and did - and would try to be succinct. She was clearly exasperated by the Trib moderators' unwillingness to rein Preckwinkle in.

* At the end, each candidate was asked to pretend they were on the Tribune's doorstep and had one minute to say why the (personified) Tribune should vote for them. Preckwinkle repeated her laundry list of experience and platform points. Lightfoot said, and this quote is not exact, but close: "Hello neighbor, if you're sick of the same-old same-old . . . and you want change, then I'm your candidate. I'm not tied to the Machine. I haven't aspired to climb the ladder of the Machine. I'm an independent reformer."

Winner.

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Meanwhile . . .

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

The Political Odds
Updated to reflect recent developments, including aldermanic runoffs.

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John Oliver, American Hero, Robocalls The FCC
"If only there was a way to get the FCC's attention on this issue," Oliver mused. "Of course, one way to do that would be if someone had, oh, say, the office numbers of all five FCC commissioners - because then you could, hypothetically, set up a program to robocall those numbers every 90 minutes with a message."

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World Cup 2022 Growing Pains
Corruption of Qatar bid comes full circle.

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Sanación De Generaciones: Esperanza Del Mañana
A worker-led movement to end gender-based violence presents a community-designed art exhibit, Hope Of Tomorrow.

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SportsMondayTuesday: Last Blackhawks Gasp
Back at almost being in it.

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ChicagoReddit

Lakeview: Early 20th Century Bankes Coffee Signage - Recently Uncovered After a About Century of Being Hidden by the Building Next Door, and It'll Be Gone by the End of the Day. from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Homewood-Flossmoor Art Students.

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BeachBook

ESPN Launches As Legalized Sports Betting Comes Online.

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Houseplants Don't Clean The Air.

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At The Field | Wildlife Photographer Of The Year.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

Mini-thread.

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The Beachwood McRibTipLine: High yield.



Permalink

Posted on March 12, 2019


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