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Mystery Mayoral Debate Theater

Once again the Beachwood Mystery Debate Theater team of Steve Rhodes, Tim Willette and Andrew Kingsford gathered at Beachwood HQ to bring you the absolute best debate analysis bar none of the big Chicago Tribune/City Club debate moderated by editorial page editor Bruce Dold and WGN anchor Micah Materre.

Well, actually not quite. Despite Tim's plan to surprise us with Big Flats beer (broken here more than a month ago and now finally starting to show up in the lamestream media) and Andrew's plan to surprise us with a Red Baron pizza, we ended up having to watch from our separate domiciles, or residences, or homes. Depending on your definition of each.

Me and Tim still managed to wring some funny out of the proceedings. Let's take a look. (Edited for clarity and comedy.)


Pregame Chatter

STEVE: Question I hope Gery Chico asks Rahm Emanuel at the debate tonight: "Rahm, I'd like to invite you to my victory party. Now, what address should I mail the invitation to again?"

TIM: I keep coming back to Deep Throat's remark to Woodward in All the President's Men:

"You've done worse than let Haldeman slip away - you've got people feeling sorry for him! I didn't think that was possible!"

TIM AS DOLD: Mr. Chico, a recent poll shows a majority of Chicago voters believes the parking meter deal was a mistake. How do you think Rahm Emanuel would address their concerns?

Game On

DOLD: Was the Rahm residency issue a distraction from the campaign?

CHICO: No, not at all.

STEVE: I barely heard anything about it!

TIM: "The candidate left many personal items in the Hermitage House, including his bed, two televisions, a stereo system, a piano, and over 100 boxes of personal possessions."

I dunno about Rahm, but most of my peers would consider the location of their tunes to be their primary residence. Hell, for some folks, leaving the stereo behind for two years is an automatic disqualification for higher office. What was he thinking?

STEVE: Why is the Blue Man Group sitting behind Dold?

CHICO: I believe in ballot access and I've never challenged anyone in any campaign, including Rahm, who has proposed the single largest tax increase in history.

STEVE: I always thought having a bigger sleazeball than me in the campaign would help, though now I'm not so sure.

DOLD: Do you think politics was in play?

RAHM: The good news is, I've always said, the voters should make the decision.

STEVE: He didn't deny it!

TIM: Let the voters decide, until the ruling goes the right way, and then it's off the table.

STEVE: Let the voters decide, like the time I engineered Tammy Duckworth into a congressional race over the grassroots favorite even though Duckworth didn't even live in the district - though she intended to!


DOLD: How would you handle the budget crisis?

DEL VALLE: There is waste, fraud and inefficiencies in this budget . . . we have to cut back on deputies reporting to deputies, patronage positions protected by aldermen and other folks, unpaid water bills because someone knows someone . . .

STEVE: This guy is toast.


DOLD: Mr. Chico, is it a crisis?

TIM: I don't think so. At least, it's not anything I haven't seen before. For instance, recently I was managing partner at Altheimer & Gray.

RAHM: We're gonna go through the budget . . .

STEVE: Candidates are always going to go through the budget, usually line by line. Are we to believe that those holding office never go through the budget?

RAHM: Non-profits should also be paying for water.

RAHM'S INTERIOR MONOLUGE: Good God, I was chief of staff to the leader of the free world, and now I'm debating water reclamation? Is this the job?


RAHM: I propose a 20 percent reduction in the sales tax in the City of Chicago . . . and a luxury tax on services . . .

CHICO: 9.75 to 9 is not a 20 percent cut.

STEVE: Let's vote for the guy who can do math!

CHICO: . . . your luxury tax, charging the single mom for child care or to take a pet to the groomer to get clipped . . .

RAHM: At the WTTW debate, you said you were for a cut in the sales tax. There you had a completely different position.

CHICO: Oh, I'm for a cut in the sales tax . . .

RAHM'S INTERIOR MONOLOGUE: Good God, one minute I'm wrangling votes for a nuclear weapons treaty and the next it's dog toenails . . .

MOSELEY-BRAUN: It's not just a matter of taxes, but a matter of fees as well . . . the parking meter lease . . .

STEVE: Ding, ding, ding! It took 14 minutes for the words "parking meter lease" to be spoken.


DEL VALLE: There's been a very oppressive climate created in the City of Chicago . . . we give people the boot for two tickets. Two tickets!

STEVE: Stop interrupting with hard truths.


MATERRE: How would you modify the Chicago Police Department? And would you fire Jody Weis?

CHICO: In 1993, we brought 1,000 officers onto the force . . . I'm the only one here who's hired a police officer.

MOSELEY-BRAUN: Gery, you can't take credit for what Mayor Daley did.

CHICO: I recommended it to Mayor Daley, you can ask him.

STEVE: He'll just say, "Gee, I dunno."


RAHM: I helped President Clinton pass the assault weapons ban, the Brady Bill, blah blah blah . . . yes, I do think Jody Weis has to go.


DEL VALLE: This is not just about adding more police officers, it's about building communities. And you don't build communities with a program here and a program there; you build communities by confronting the issues that are confronting communities on a day-to-day basis, like unemployment.

STEVE: Who let him in here?

DEL VALLE: We need role models in our neighborhoods setting examples for our kids. We need teachers, we need police officers, we need firemen!

TIM: We need mayors!


CHICO: Anyone who can't figure out how to add 2000 police officers to the streets shouldn't be mayor.

STEVE: Therefore, I call for the impeachment of Richard M. Daley.


DOLD (wearing a Walmart greeter's vest): The city council resisted Walmart. Is the city in a position to pick and choose?

MOSELEY-BRAUN: The answer comes not from the giants like Walmart but the entrepreneurial sector . . .

DOLD (wearing an oddly happy face): But do you turn your back on the giants?

MOSELEY-BRAUN: You can't have people working for a minimum wage and expect to have a health city . . . we can't have a tale of two cities.

DOLD'S INTERIOR MONOLOGUE: Why not, it's worked so far!


RAHM: Within the first two months, if elected mayor, I would call big box stores and all business owners into my office . . . and I'm gonna explain the facts of life to them.

STEVE: Which worked so well crafting health care and Wall Street reform.

RAHM'S INTERIOR MONOLOGUE: I can't believe I'm on the ballot!


MOSELEY-BRAUN: I'm the only person on this panel who's actually started a small business.

CHICO: Ahem.

MOSELEY-BRAUN: Okay law firms, that's difrerent. We can talk about law firms if you want to go there.


DOLD: Why were your taxes consistently late?

MOSELEY-BRAUN: I was trying to keep a small business going. Other members of this panel paid property taxes late. I held on, and I'm still standing.

DOLD: Who else paid late?

MOSELEY-BRAUN: Rahm paid late.

RAHM: I paid my mortgage late once, two months' late, out of 24 payments.

STEVE: And that's because I hate to mail my check in from Washington!


MOSELEY-BRAUN: And I paid mine late only when I started up my company. I paid the late penalty . . . and I've balanced my company's budget. I started a business in the inner city, in a food desert . . . I was on a mission.


DOLD: Rahm, you were on the Freddie Mac board [and made $300K-plus] when there was an accounting scandal. Did you earn the money?

RAHM: That report doesn't mention me at all and I wasn't on the audit committee.

DOLD: You have an ad that says politicians shouldn't get rich on the backs of the people.

RAHM: I was paid what they were paid at the time.

DOLD: Do you feel bad about it? Did you earn it?

RAHM: [punt]

CHICO: I didn't hear an answer.


MATERRE: What about Altheimer & Gray?

CHICO: I started my small business right after that [bankruptcy] with two people and now I've grown it to 40 people.

MOSELEY-BRAUN: I've never profited from public service. No government contracts, no government loans. Just be honest, Gery, most of your clients are people who do business with the City of Chicago. And you have gone through one revolving door after another. And Rahm, you have gone through one government job and another. There's a bright distinction in this race - how do you see public service? As something to profit from, or something you owe . . .

CHICO: Never has there been a question that I did anything but pursue the public interest.

STEVE: Unbelievably not so.

DOLD: But you do have 89 clients who have lobbied the city or done business with the city.

CHICO: I have proposed a series of ethics reforms that will get to the root of the problem . . .

STEVE: I'll be watching me from day one!

CHICO: . . . that would end the revolving door practice that people feel is so wrong.

STEVE: No one will benefit again from the revolving door the way I have!


DEL VALLE: I will not accept campaign contributions from businesses doing business with the city. We are known as the state of pay-to-play. Now we've added pay-to-influence - influence the decisions that are going to be made at City Hall. The phone calls that are going to be returned are those who have contributed millions and millions of dollars to these campaigns.

MATERRE: How are you going to stay in the race?


DEL VALLE: I have a question for Gery. I talked to someone today who was laid off by AT&T and who is going to go back to school, to community college. When you were the chairman of the community colleges, you proposed eliminating the development courses. You're locking out a huge population that is in need of a second or third chance . . . to then transition to college-level courses. Why did you propose that?

CHICO: Of 100 students beginning to purse an associates degree, only seven ever got one. That told us something was wrong with what we were doing.

STEVE: Getting rid of the most needy students seemed like the answer!

CHICO: Students were burning through basic recovery subjects only to get to college-level work and their Pell Grant money ran out.

STEVE: And if they're gonna run out of money, then we don't want them!


MOSELEY-BRAUN: That is a bright line - your attitude toward privatization of education . . . community colleges . . . charter schools . . . Gery has embraced [privatizing these] over the years.

MATERRE: You oppose charter schools?

MATERRE'S INNER MONOLOGUE: Do you oppose mom and apple pie too? (sniff)

MOSELEY-BRAUN: Not the ones we have already, but I wouldn't focus on more of them instead of our neighborhood schools.

RAHM: Community colleges are the lifeblood of our economy.

STEVE: As opposed to the kind of schools you went to?

CHICO: I'm happy to have ushered in charter schools. Why? Parents were asking for them.

STEVE: White parents. With money.

MOSELEY-BRAUN: If you're going to throw in the towel on public education, you can just hang up the sign on the middle class in Chicago too . . .

DEL VALLE: Some time ago, a decision was made to set up a parallel system of education in the City of Chicago; one track the magnet and selective enrollment schools, the other the neighborhood schools . . .

STEVE: I thought I told you to stop telling hard truths.


Each candidate is given a minute to tell us why they should be mayor.

RAHM: Yogi Berra said that when you get to a fork in the road, take it.

STEVE: Oh my God, he's trying to activate his alien army!

CHICO HASKELL: Thank you very much for having us, by the way.

BRUCE DOLD'S INNER MONOLOGUE: The pleasures been all ours, Gery. (eye roll)

CHICO: It takes plans, it takes planning, so we're following a path . . . 16 balanced budgets, with surpluses . . .

STEVE: It just struck me. Chico is the CEO candidate.

MATERRE: What makes you think you would make a good mayor for the City of Chicago?

MOSELEY-BRAUN: Well, I've been friendly with dictators for years, so that's a start.

DEL VALLE: Chicago is ready for reform. It really is!

Postgame Analysis

Two candidates helped themselves in this debate. Gery Chico got beat up a little as things went on, but overall he seemed large enough for the job. He projected authority, knowledge and managerial competence, if not a little sleaziness. He wore a big watch.

Carol Moseley-Braun also acquitted herself well - at least when she wasn't rehashing platitudes at the beginning and the end. She was personable and also projected a largeness of persona and a calm but affable demeanor with a clear set of values and priorities. She probably surprised some folks.

Miguel Del Valle is the most earnest, honest and scandal-free guy in the race, and it showed. He's not slick, but unfortunately he also did not come off as forceful enough to run the city, though that doesn't mean he isn't. He represents true change and reform.

It eludes me how anyone could have been persuaded by Rahm Emanuel. No wonder he's been skipping public forums. He comes across as a little pipsqueak without an original idea other than breaking kneecaps - a side to him (the only side, perhaps) that he tried to keep hidden in the interest of portraying a warmer personality than he has. He was easily the least interesting candidate, outside of the fact that he's Rahm Emanuel. That made him slightly more interesting than del Valle, whom I happen to favor. Who would I like to have a Big Flats beer with? Dock Walls. -Steve Rhodes


Comments welcome.


Posted on January 28, 2011

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