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The [Wednesday] Papers

The prosecution in the ongoing City Hall corruption trial rested its case on Tuesday. More importantly, a Tribune report this morning sheds further light on the mayor's political operation and the way it enmeshed city workers in a spoils system that left the city council cowering on the sidelines.

"Even as aldermen and committeemen remain the public faces of political power in Chicago, the true clout belonged to obscure city officials who could marshal their workers to campaign for Daley, judging by a hiring list allegedly kept in the mayor's office," the Tribune says.

The Tribune cross-referenced the Daley hiring list with a map it obtained of ward coordinators from the mayor's 1995 re-election campaign, illustrating the way the mayor effected a major shift in the way political power is leveraged in the city.

In short, Daley appointed his own ward coordinators from his own operation - including the Hispanic Democratic Organization that he created - to run his political and campaign operations, squeezing out the traditional roles of aldermen, ward committeemen, and the precinct captains of old.

It was an ingenious - and even devious - way to consolidate power. Daley rewrote the rules. One alderman, astonishingly, described the result to the Tribune.

"[T]he enduring power of patronage was crucial to Daley's dominance of local politics the past 17 years," the paper says. "The mayor's political armies solidified his control over the City Council, said Ald. Thomas Murphy (18th).

"The new pro-Daley groups recruited members from city departments, Murphy said. That led aldermen to fear that the groups would be deployed against their re-election bids if they crossed Daley, he said.

"'[Daley] gutted the ward organizations and built his own organization,' Murphy said. 'The mayor's groups took people away from the ward organizations, because the workers saw that the way to get ahead was with these new groups.'"

It may also have been illegal, dependent as it was on an exchange of political favors for city employment. That's what the current trial is about. Defense attorney Thomas Anthony Durkin is right about one thing: Robert Sorich was just a cog in a machine. Daley's machine. That doesn't make him any less guilty of fraud. It means the investigation doesn't stop with him.

Tribune Tips: You can download a PDF of the Daley hiring list from the Tribune website here. You can send your own "clout tips" to the paper here.

Movin' Out
If Chicago is so great, why are so many people leaving?

The city has lost 18,000 people in the last year alone, and 53,000 since 2000, according to the Tribune. (If I read the Tribune's story right, more than 500,000 residents have left the city in the last six years; 53,000 represents the net loss after taking new arrivals into consideration. Also, I'd like to provide a link but I can't find the story online. )

You might think this would be cause for alarm, but, as the Tribune's sub-head shorthand puts it, "Population dip is no problem, experts say."

"[U]rban planning experts, economists and demographers say the gentle decline in Chicago's population is no cause for alarm - at least, not yet."

Okay, when?

To be sure, Chicago, like most of the nation's largest cities, has been losing people since the 1950s - buoyed only by an influx of Hispanic immigrants who were responsible for the city's slight growth in the 90s.

That's the big picture. We know the why; namely, the appeal of the suburbs, awful schools, crime, and white flight.

But does this still hold? Maybe this is one of those rare times when we ought to look at the little, more immediate picture, rather than get lost in long-term trends.

Between 2000 and 2004 alone, for example, the city has seen net decreases of 35,000 whites and 42,000 blacks, according to Loyola demographer Kenneth Johnson.

"Families are leaving the city and young adults are moving in," Johnson says. The Tribune adds,"That coincides with a recent surge in the number of jobs for attorneys, accountants, and architects."

In other words, the city, as is only partially and grudgingly acknowledged by the media and those in thrall to the gritty byways of Chicago past, is no longer a blue-collar, working-class town. It is a yuppie paradise.

"In fact, [the experts] say it is a natural evolution with some potential benefits. What may come of it is a city with less-dense neighborhoods, smaller families and more young professionals and empty-nesters living in newly built condos and townhouses, they say."


Now, I suspect these experts would be praising growth in population as a good thing too, if that's what was occurring. They're handy like that. But I find it odd that they - or reporters - would look only for the "potential benefits" without explaining the other side.

For example, do we really want less-dense neighborhoods? This goes against the central tenets of New Urbanism, for one thing, of which the mayor is supposedly at least a partial adherent, and one of the very characteristics that has made Chicago neighborhoods so unique. The value of density has become so recognized that suburbs are trying to duplicate it in their communities.

And do we really want to become a city of more young professionals and empty-nesters living in newly built condos and townhouses?

The housing stock in Chicago is far more thrillingly unique and beautiful than anywhere else I've seen, and to see it destroyed in favor of poorly-made, out-of-the-box condos that are genericizing not only individual neighborhoods, but the city as a whole, is soul-crushing.

Finally, isn't this confirmation that the city is no longer affordable to large chunks of people? What are the ramifications of this? Is this really the kind of city we want to live in?

As I've written before, this transformation of the city's neighborhoods is one of the most significant aspects of Chicago life in the last 15 years, but the press has yet to get its head around it, or even try very hard. This goes far beyond the oh-well, shoulder-shrugging, first-level gentrification stories that get trotted out every year, naive and shallow stories story framed on false premises and lacking an understanding of the wholly unnatural forces of development.

Something else has been afoot, and the starting place for finding out what is City Hall.

Dusty FitzSimons
For a couple years now, Tribune Company CEO Dennis FitzSimons has insisted that Wall Street has undervalued his company's stock. He did so again Tuesday, when he presented his case at the Newspaper Association of America's Mid-Year Media Review in New York City.

"We strongly believe that Tribune's stock price does not reflect the underlying value of the company or the potential we have for creating shareholder value," FitzSimons said - again.

Maybe FitzSimons just wants to see what he can do once he gets his company back.

Land of Oz
Thank you, Greg Couch, for calling out homophobic headhunter Ozzie Guillen. Ditto to Phil Arvia. For a season long compilation of Ozzie's idiocy (and Dusty's), see The Dusty & Ozzie Show.

"Writing stories about the Shaw brothers is a lot like eating potato chips. You can never stop at just one."

Reading Carol Marin columns is a lot like that too.

Midway Mishap

Blago Bucks
The governor, who once chastised the General Assembly for spending money like drunken sailors, rocks the system.

Onion or Wall Street Journal?
"Lego announced plans to outsource toy-brick production to electronics company Flextronics."

Beachwood Tip Line: Building a new machine, one brick at a time.


Posted on June 21, 2006

MUSIC - December In Chicago Drill.
TV - Don't Weaken Media Ownership Limits.
POLITICS - Another SRO Crisis.
SPORTS - TrackNotes: Mom.

BOOKS - How Stereo Was Sold To A Skeptical Public.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicago Footwork King's Bail Battle.

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