Friday, September 14, 2018

The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall and Rise of the Bridgeport Empire?


Me, a week ago:

From the Chicago Sun-Times 12 minutes ago:

When Richie Daley left office, he left a shambles behind.

The mighty Daley clout machine which Richard II had inherited from Richard I had been retooled for the modern age to run on a rubber-stamp City Council and contracting authority money instead of a rubber-stamp City Council and city jobs, but once the Great Recession hit and the city's revenues took a massive nose-dive, the whole machine seized irreparably up. There were city-wide upper management buyouts, which is how your 'umble scrivener accidentally ended up running an entire city department for nearly a year, and pulling some amazing moves and running some groundbreaking projects that ended up being incorporated into the vocabulary of the Obama campaign.

Then there were city-wide layoffs, which is how your 'umble scrivener ended unemployed and unemployable in the teeth of the Great Recession.   And the layoffs didn't end with drones and technocrats likeme who had no political protection, but of men and women with clout er Chrissakes!  Which threw the whole clout system -- which ran on absolute loyalty in exchange for permanent job security -- into chaos.

To stave off the coming collapse, Daley sold off the Skyway for pennies on the dollars, and then sold off the parking meters for a quick cash infusion.  Both were rammed through City Council as long-term, rain-day funds when everyone fucking well knew Daley was gonna spend every nickle of it fast and stupid, like Paul Manafort at the Ostrich Apparel Center.  But none of it was enough and so Daley decided it was time to exit as a legend before the villagers drove him out with pitchforks.

And so it came to pass that da city hired themselves dis guy, Rahmses, to run a caretaker government and say "No" to anyone who asked for anything.  And now that Rahmses has decided to exit as an asterisk before before the villagers drive him out with pitchforks, the question then becomes, does the heir presumptive of the Bridgeport Empire still have the juice to reclaim the ancient throne of the Daleys up on the 5th floor of City Hall.

Back in 1973, Mike Royko, the mighty chronicler of all things Chicago, peered into the the murky bottom of a Billy Goat beer stein and divined the future of the city thus:
Daley has already ruled Chicago for longer than most kings reigned in their countries. At this point, many of his loyal subjects view him as more a monarch than an elected official. It seems obvious that he intends to pass the entire city on to his sons, which is a gesture worthy of a king.
And after an interregnum that spanned the clueless (Bilandic) the hapless (Byrne) and thesaurus (Harold!) that is exactly how history unfolded. And so now the real question is, does the Chicago Machine still have enough functional gears and cams and fuel in the tank to put one more Daley back in charge?

If I had to bet, I would bet against it.  If I had to bet, I would bet the next Mare of Chicago will be named Dorothy or Chuy.  Hell, if the vote is sufficiently splintered, maybe even Paul Vallas gets through this time.  But I am far away from Chicago these days -- no longer within earshot of the boys and girls who work the dark magic of big city politics.  So instead of prophecy, let me share a little history, in the form of the last, large-scale post I did on the reign of Richard M. Daley.

Sun Sets on the Bridgeport Empire: Finale

The corrupt dealings and authoritarian follies of Da Mare's long rule has provided Chicago writers with a treasure trove of material over the years. because however often the bureaucratic deck chairs were reshuffled (about every 18 months) and however much good was done (a lot), under the hood, the instrumentalities of Chicago Cityguv always operated according to two imperatives:

1. Eliminate all potential rivals to Richard M. Daley.
2. Keep the Clout Club intact.

Obedience to these directives inevitably resulted in an Administration characterized by both a high-handed dictatorial approach to government, and a strain of malignant neglect that Da Mare allowed to spread throughout his political domain.

Splashy headline-generating promises were routinely made to about the Great No-Cost/Low-Cost Things that were going to be entrepreneurially unleashed for da good people of da city a' Chicago dat we all love so much... 
... that were later quietly reneged upon in private ("Wireless Perversity In Chicago").

Regulations ostentatiously unveiled to show how reformed and squeaky-clean and not-at-all-like-the-bad-old-days-of-two-weeks-ago things were now...were publicly broken without so much as a peep from the press ("The First Rule of Clout Club").

Public assets were frantically sold off at pawn-shop prices to provide Hizzoner with enough quick cash to prop up the Final Days of his administration...after which all those lovely, lavish assurances about how the proceeds would be carefully set aside as a rainy-day fund were promptly ignored once Daley got his hands on the dough ("The Clout Burglars").

These were the sorts of things about which some of us -- too damn few of us -- ot up in Hizzoner grill about over the years.

Did he care?


I mean, yes, Richie Daley was a bully -- charming as long as he got 100% of his way 100% of the time, but with a mile-wide vengeful streak in him and skin thin enough to read the fine print on a dodgy, nephew-enriching leasing deal through ("Layoffs, Nephews and Da Family Bidness")..on a moonless night...under a bridge -- but with a supine press at his feet, the tremendous machineries of the Chicago, Cook County and State governments at his command, a government press corps at his beck and call (including full-time Public Information Officers and Shakman-exempt [did you even know there was such a thing?] political enforcers at the elbow of every city commissioner and director), friends operating at the highest levels of Communist China
(never thought I'd live long enough to construct that sentence), the White House on speed-dial and his brother literally behind the throne, and virtually every civic, charitable and commercial board in the city stacked high with still-loyal formers executives and chiefs of staff...there was never any real chance of serious opposition to his Imperial reign.

Which did not relieve us from the moral obligation to speak out.

And now it is over -- a mayoralty never to be repeated or surpassed ...
daleymandias longevity, reach or power, that leaves behind it a demoralized and exhausted government that is heading off a financial cliff... 
("Nothing Left to Steal").

And as the Age of R2D2 passes into history, I cannot help but recall how Hizzoner used to handle the shouters who routinely showed up at the city's public budget hearings and demanded answers from Himself.

Da Mare and his crew -- as was his custom -- would sit there stone-faced and let whoever it was yell for his or her allotted two minutes or longer. Then, as the troublemaker's jeremiad started to run long (or as they were escorted away from the microphone) every once in a while Daley would lean into his own mic and drown them out by loudly repeating "Go wit God. Go wit God." until they were well out of earshot. 

And so, in that spirit, go wit God, Mr. Mayor. 
Go wit God.


Meremark said...

Running off da bulls. scramGOnow

starskeptic said...

Fire on the Prairie