The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

WBEZ's Natalie Moore on Tuesday's election

The veteran Chicago Public Media reporter says "Black Chicago has to stop chasing the ghost of Harold Washington:"

The spirit of Harold Washington won’t save Chicago.

Washington’s legacy as the city’s first black mayor and Democratic machine breaker is legendary. A remarkable 82 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the 1983 race in which he first won. Compare that to the dismal 34 percent earlier this week. Unfathomable numbers when you pair them side by side. Voter turnout in mayoral races has usually hovered around one-third of the electorate in recent years.

His mayoral tenure is oft referred as the halcyon days. It’s a story that reads like a modern-day political fable. The unlikely charismatic candidate who stood up to the powers that be. The experienced politician the white media initially dismissed. He split the white vote and bested a white Republican contender. Once on the fifth floor of City Hall, Washington ushered in new inclusive policies while giving blacks a better share of political power and jobs.

The power of Washington’s name and legacy is real, but today, it’s almost a figment of our imagination. We’ve embraced a romanticized vision of that time and a belief that it is the template for harnessing black political power. His name is always invoked in political campaigns. When local elections creep up, the question comes up: Who is the next Harold? How do black wards agree on a “consensus candidate?” The magic of 1983 won’t likely be repeated. Ever. We will be okay.

Make no mistake. Washington is unforgettable, particularly for black Chicagoans who witnessed his rise to power. That time will always have a place in our hearts. But true black political power has many faces. It helped created the opportunity for Harold to become Harold — not the other way around.

Natalie Moore is a reporter on WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk.

Lunchtime reading

I had these lined up to read at lunchtime:

Meanwhile, for only the second time in four weeks, we can see sun outside the office windows:

So many candidates for mayor, so little data

Chicago has 13 people running for Mayor right now, with early voting already open and the first round vote due on the 26th. If no candidate gets an outright majority, the top-two vote-getters will have a runoff election on April 2nd.

Several local news agencies have rounded up the candidates and their responses to stock questions. Here are the ones I'm reading:

There are also contested elections in several wards, including mine. I've got a lot of reading to do in the next 3 weeks.

There has always been local government capture

I wanted to post this when it came out but life intervened. A couple weeks ago, New Republic reported on the sad tale of exurban town Elwood, Ill., and the "opportunity" they seized on with a giant intermodal freight terminal in 2002:

Fifteen years before Amazon’s HQ2 horserace, Elwood had won the retail lottery. “Nobody envisioned what we have out here,” said Jerry Heinrich, who sat on the board of the planning commission that first apportioned the land for development in the mid-1990s. “It was never anticipated that every major business entity would end up in the area.”

But this corporate valhalla turned out to be hell for the community, which suffered a concentrated dose of the indignities and disappointments of late capitalism in the 21st century. Instead of abundant full-time work, a regime of partial, precarious employment set in. Temp agencies flourished, but no restaurants, hotels, or grocery stores ever came, save for the recent addition of a dollar store. Tens of thousands of semis rumbled through Will County every day, wreaking havoc on the infrastructure. And as the town of Elwood scrambled to pave its potholes, its inability to collect taxes from the facilities plunged it into more than $30 million in debt.

And that was before Big Tech rolled in. Just four years ago Amazon didn’t even have one facility in the region; now, with five fulfillment centers, it’s the county’s largest employer. Growth, once arithmetic, became exponential. Plans were made to build a new facility, this one bigger than the original Intermodal, with room for some 35 million additional square feet of industrial space.

It's astounding, but not surprising, that this would happen. And more than just a cautionary story about getting more than you bargained for, it should remind people that voting in local elections matters a lot.

An example of why Rauner lost

Crains' Springfield, Ill., correspondent provides a vignette showing why Bruce Rauner couldn't get anything done in his one and only term as Illinois governor. A bill the governor supports got lost in the shuffle between the Illinois House and Senate, prompting him to send a nasty letter to the press before sending it to Senate president John Cullerton. Why didn't the governor just use his legislative liaison office? Rich Miller explains:

[T]he governor's office employs a large number of people who get paid to lobby legislators. If this issue was so all-important to Rauner, then why not have one of his liaisons contact Bush in the months before the veto session began?

I made similar remarks on my blog, and [Rauner adisor Mischa] Fisher reached out to say it was not the "role of the executive branch to shepherd legislation back and forth between the two chambers."

Um, yes, it is. "Why even have legislative liaisons if you're not going to use them?" I asked. "To communicate the governor's position on legislation as it moves through the two chambers," Fisher replied.

Did he not realize that this is exactly what I was talking about? There was zero communication with the Senate until the final hours of the veto session. Fisher replied that "making sure it wasn't lost is what the governor's letter is intending to do."

J.B. Pritzker beat Rauner by half a million votes last month and will be sworn in January 14th. Rauner will "return to private industry," in the parlance of politics. Pritzker, one hopes, will be able to get a bill passed before the end of his first term.

Rauner confident; should Pritzker worry?

Greg Hinz reports that Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner's internal polling numbers suggest his re-election race is a lot closer than the rest of the state believes:

The message came in an exclusive interview with Rauner campaign manager Betsy Ankney in which she claimed the incumbent has pulled within single digits of Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker in internal campaign polls, and promised to empty a "very full" book of opposition research on him.

 "In our focus groups, people can't cite a single positive thing about Pritzker even after he's spent $80 million" on TV ads, Ankney said. That's why, when Rauner in the spring spent "$4 million over six weeks" running ads tying Pritzker to imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, "his positive rating dropped 20 (percentage) points."

Ankney declined to release the latest results from her campaign's pollster, Dave Sackett. But said Rauner has pulled "closer than any public poll indicates." The closest poll that I'm aware of came a couple of weeks ago from We Ask America for Capital Fax. It showed Pritzker ahead just 36 percent to 27 percent, a nine-point margin. (Pritzker hasn't released his poll figures either, but it's believed they show him much further ahead.)

I'm not yet worried, because Rauner remains unusually unpopular for a governor (though he's still polling better than Rod Blagojevich's 9%). But I am curious how the polls can all be so different.

New Chicago gang map released

The Associated Press has obtained the latest edition of the Chicago Crime Commission's "Gang Book." It shows the turfs claimed by 59 gangs, including many small areas formed as groups split off from other groups after top leaders go to jail. The book also highlights how social media make gang disputes worse:

Gangs put a premium on retaliation for perceived disrespect. In the past, insults rarely spread beyond the block. Now, they’re broadcast via social media to thousands in an instant.

“If you’re disrespected on that level, you feel you have to act,” said [Rodney] Phillips, employed with Target Area, a nonprofit group that seeks to defuse gang conflicts.

Police say there was a gang connection to most of the 650 homicides in Chicago recorded in 2017 — more than in Los Angeles and New York City combined. Homicides so far in 2018 are down around 20 percent. Police partly credit better intelligence and the deployment of officers to neighborhoods on the anniversaries of gang killings.

So integral is social media to gang dynamics that when Englewood-area pastor Corey Brooks brokered a truce between factions of the Black Disciples and Gangster Disciples in 2016, he insisted they agree to refrain from posting taunts. The gang truce lasted longer than most — 18 months.

Some gangs provoke enemy gangs by streaming live video showing them walking through rival turf. Others face off using a split-screen function on Facebook Live and hurl abuse at each other.

I kind of want to see that map. And I kind of don't. Chicago Public Media has an online, interactive map that doesn't reflect the 2018 changes.

Illinois' population decline isn't actually a problem

Tim Jones, writing in Crain's for the Better Government Association, says the experiences of Minnesota and Kansas put the lie to claims that people are leaving Illinois because of taxes:

The scapegoat nominees include not just high taxes but House Speaker Michael Madigan, Gov. Bruce Rauner, government regulations, financial chaos and uncertainty from a two-year budget stalemate, not to mention old standbys greed and corruption.

That's where Minnesota looms as a spoiler of the tax-cutting political narrative embraced by many Midwestern states. Minnesota is a high-tax state, rated the sixth-highest in the nation in state and local individual income tax collections per capita and eighth in the combined state and local tax burden, according to the most recent rankings of the Washington-based Tax Foundation.

Minnesota has a graduated income tax, with rates ranging from 5.35 percent for those of modest incomes to 9.85 percent for individuals with annual incomes above $156,000.

The Tax Foundation ranked Minnesota's overall business tax climate among the nation's worst. Even so, the state was among Midwestern leaders in population growth, with a 5.1 percent gain since 2010 and a 13.3 percent jump since 2000. The state also has the highest median household income and the lowest poverty rate.

Focusing on taxation produces a distorted picture, said Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota.

“Clearly in Minnesota there are other things going on. Taxes are one component but also jobs, wages, quality of life, the education system,” Jacobs said.

The flip side of the taxation narrative, put into action by Kansas six years ago, is that cutting taxes will give a jolt to economic development and drive population growth. But it did neither, and Republicans who control the legislature had to backtrack on the tax cuts last year when revenue loss became untenable.

See, taxes pay for things that people want and need, like transport, schools, and police. Cutting taxes, as Kansas demonstrated, means you can't pay for those things anymore. Then people don't want to live there. QED. I'm not wild about higher taxes in general, but I understand we all need to pay them to get better living conditions. I hope that J.B. Pritzker makes that point as he runs for governor this fall.

You can't con a con man? Pull the other one

New Republic's Matt Ford points to Rod Blagojevich's cynical attempts at getting President Trump to pardon him as evidence that Trump is "the world's most powerful rube:"

All of this makes Trump essentially the perfect mark: a man who’s easily flattered, short-tempered, quick to blame others, intellectually incurious, brimming with self-assurance, and unwilling to reflect on his own misjudgments.

That’s an extraordinary stroke of luck for Blagojevich, since any other president would probably have seen right through the ex-governor’s plea for mercy.

Blagojevich’s description makes it sound like he was somehow convicted of bribery even though no bribes or explicit promises for bribes were exchanged. That would indeed be odd. In reality, he was convicted of attempted extortion, attempted bribery, conspiracy to commit extortion, and conspiracy to solicit bribes, among other charges. 

That Blagojevich failed to successfully exchange his honest services as Illinois’s governor for cash and favors doesn’t make his behavior less corrupt. John Chase and Bob Secter, who covered the trials for The Chicago Tribune, noted last week that most of the evidence that felled him came from Blagojevich’s own comments in wiretapped conversations. “The portrait that emerged from that up-close observation was of a leader sublimely self-righteous, comically vain, untrustworthy, uninterested in the process of governing, unsophisticated in the arts of policy and deal making and not particularly discriminating in whose counsel he sought,” they wrote.

Aiding Blagojevich’s campaign is a sympathetic conservative media that’s defending Trump against Mueller’s investigation. If those overzealous prosecutors in the Justice Department would topple a Democratic governor of Illinois on dubious grounds, the logic goes, why wouldn’t they do the same thing to a Republican president?

In reality, Blagojevich and Trump are cut from similar cloth. It doesn't surprise me that Blagojevich is trying this strategy.

Congratulations, Senator!

For the first time in the institution's 229 years, a sitting U.S. Senator—from my own state, no less—has given birth:

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) gave birth Monday to a baby girl, the first time a sitting senator has delivered a child and one of just 10 female lawmakers to bear a child while serving in Congress.

Duckworth, 50, and her husband, Bryan Bowlsbey, named their daughter Maile Pearl Bowlsbey after Bowlsbey’s great aunt. Pearl Bowlseby Johnson was an Army nurse during World War II. Duckworth is a double amputee from her service in the Iraq War as an Army helicopter pilot, getting shot down in 2006. The senator said that she and her husband consulted with former senator Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii, who died last week, about the choice of name, just as they did with the birth of their first daughter, Abigail, four years ago.

Wait, she's 50? Wow. I can't decide which is more impressive, her age or her first-ever record. Either way, it's pretty cool.