The Chicago 2011 election looks to be a dull election, a study in foregone conclusions.
The lineup for next year's municipal elections, with a few interesting exceptions here and there, is comprised of Legacy politicians whose major accomplishments are tax increases, budget crises, and massive subsidies for crony businesses, along with reduced services and increased fees for nearly everything. Only in a few wards, such as the 46th and 48th, do Chicago voters have a choice of interesting, talented newcomers who might be capable of reversing the insanely destructive policies and initiatives promulgated by our outgoing Mayor and the 50 spineless, brainless rubber stamps who have never opposed Daley on any important issue and who've played the major part in making Chicago an expensive and altogether unattractive city in which to locate a major business without being offered a massive taxpayer-funded subsidy... and making life miserably expensive for taxpaying residents and businesses while reducing essential services.
Maybe we are all so occupied with the struggle to get or hold onto a job and make ends meet in this dismal time that we have little energy to spare for the 2011 Chicago games, but a curious inertia seems to have settled over the city, for this election seems to be generating very little interest among the population. That is really astonishing given the incredible mismanagement of the city's finances and assets by our current lineup of clowns, and considering that this is the first time in 20 years we've had a real opportunity to elect someone other than Daley as Mayor, whose grip on power was considered so unshakable that he never once during his 20-year reign had a truly serious challenger. Same thing in several of the wards, where entrenched incumbents are stepping down after decades of running virtually unopposed, such as the 46th Ward (Uptown) and 48th Ward (Edgewater), where Helen Schiller and Mary Ann Smith are both retiring, creating opportunities for political newcomers..
There are at least 7 candidates running in the 46th, all of whom are interesting, and a number of whom have extremely detailed and specific ideas to address the ward's major issues. I will decline to comment further on the 46th Ward race as I am employed by one of the candidates, and wish to avoid a conflict of interest.
In the 48th Ward, the bland legacy pol, Harry Osterman, a long-time representative to the State House, is opposed by newcomer Phil Bernstein, who is best known for his trenchant blog, Edgewater Intelligencer, and is a feisty and original independent with over three decades of experience as a business owner and public servant who has directed major public works projects, and who offers a detailed vision for Edgwater, including specific plans for reviving Edgewater's moribund Broadway and Granville retail strips and most of all, solving Chicago's increasingly serious financial problems. His opponant Osterman is a nice enough guy in his colorless way, I suppose, but there's more to being an effective leader than being a "nice guy" and Osterman has, after all, been a part of the state government that has made Illinois one or the most financially troubled states in the union. Bernstein, by contrast, not only has very detailed plans for the ward and the city that include viable ideas for reducing expenses and balancing Chicago's out-of-control budget, but has taken real risk in publicizing his positions, his vision, and his plans in great detail at his candidate's website, which most candidates avoid doing, preferring to mouth the usual vague palaver about "creating jobs" and "improving service" and "creating coalitions". It's easy to come through on promises that are nothing but vague, general statements that promise nothing in particular. You aren't expected to deliver what you never promised, but when you say that you absolutely will, say, donate 30% of your salary to local charities, reduce property taxes, and mitigate the city's budgetary problems, you had better deliver. Bernstein pledges to do all of this, and we can only hope that 48th Ward residents are sufficiently motivated by the recent spate of violent crime, the deteriorated condition of Edgewater's retail districts, and escalating taxes, to put their Iphones aside for a few minutes this February, and go out in the cold to vote to give this talented and spirited outsider a chance.
Here in the 49th, Joe Moore, the 20-year incumbent, has no credible opposition at all. It was not until a couple of weeks ago that I encountered anyone circulating petitions for any candidate at all, though I heard loose talk about a number of others, including Blane Roberts, Joyce Shanahan, Louis Herrera-Baker, Ben Meyer, and Brian White. I signed Brian White's petition, holding my nose, just so there would be somebody on the ballot besides the incumbent. I have not encountered anyone circulating petitions for anyone else since, even though I walk the streets a lot, and use public transportation.
Somehow, none of these people seem like they're likely to offer spirited opposition. Sorry, kids, but your Facebook page doesn't make it as a campaign site, and neither does a one or two page amateur website with a couple of pictures of you and your charming family, but only vague statements about "service" and no specifics about your experience or qualifications, and most of all no vision or specific, detailed plans as to how you will implement your plans.
Well, Shanahan, and recently, Herrera-Baker have dropped out of the race, and Shane Roberts and Ben Meyer are invisible, so Joe Moore's only real opponent at this point is Brian White of the Lakeside CDC. White sole agenda seems to be securing a TIF to cover the entire 49th Ward, designed to subsidize landlords to reserve apartments for low-income renters, and is patently a device for conveying property taxes to certain Rogers Park landlords. Does Rogers Park need more low-income rental housing? Does diverting our tax revenues from essential services and desirable public amenities to favored apartment owners for the purpose of securing housing for low-income tenants, benefit most of the ward's middle-class population? Since White and Moore are both supporting this TIF, and seem to have similar agendas altogether, White's candidacy seems rather pointless.
If anyone is opposing O'Connor in the 40th (Edgwater-Rogers Park-West Rogers Park, or Bernie Stone in the 50th (West Rogers Park), I haven't heard about it. If you've heard anything interesting, fill me in. These two wards are experiencing problems with spreading blight and crime, and their somnolent incumbents need to be replaced with energetic people who have visions for their wards as vibrant urban neighborhoods with well-maintained rental housing, clean streets, and lively, well-kept retail districts.