No Third Coast Candidates will Help Emanuel Coast To Victory what good reporting
January 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
Posted: 10 Jan 2014 05:41 AM PST
Some years ago, I remember meeting a Chicago-based writer who was pondering an aldermanic bid in the northwest side 41st Ward. “You can describe me as a mid-coastal author,” she chirped. Say what?
“Oh,” she responded. There are East Coast “people of creativity,” mainly from New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C., and there are West (or Left) Coasters from Hollywood, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, she explained, but “those of us in Chicago are mid-coastal.”
Welcome to the new reality — as defined by the Manhattan intelligentsia and the Hollywood glitterati. Those who are truly “progressive” and enlightened live on the coasts, while we in backwoods Chicago are no longer the “City of Big Shoulders,” but rather some politically and culturally insignificant hamlet rating cursory recognition and exhibiting minimal creativity.
After all, none other than Hillary Rodham Clinton, born and raised in Park Ridge, Illinois, jilted her home state in 2000 to seek a U.S. Senate seat from New York, where she and Bill had a Westchester County mansion, rather than return to Illinois and wait to run for senator in 2004. An East Coast base trumps a mid-coast base. In retrospect, had she done so, Barack Obama would not have been elected senator in 2004, and would not be president.
But the point is that media, financial, political, literary, entertainment and advertising power emanates from the coasts – Hollywood, Broadway, Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Times Square, Greenwich Village, Haight Asbury, Nob Hill. The U.S. senators from New York and California can raise $20 million per election cycle
The November election of Democrat Bill deBlasio has spawned a plethora of media outbursts about the laggardness of Chicago, the so-called “Second City.” In actuality, Chicago is now the “Third City,” with its 2010 population of 2,695,598 putting it behind New York City’s 8,175,133 and Los Angeles’s 3,792,621. Why, the media bleats, if New York can elect a socialistic, tax-the-rich-more, redistribute-the-wealth, handcuff-the-police mayor, what’s wrong with Chicago? Or, more specifically, what’s wrong with Mayor Rahm Emanuel? Wasn’t he a firebrand liberal while in Congress?
Is Chicago languishing in the mid-coastal Dark Ages? And the answer is: Absolutely. Chicago will never be a clone of the Big Apple.
First, in Chicago, social issues are irrelevant. For Chicago voters, regardless of race, low taxes, low crime and city services are paramount. Chicago’s mayor must be fiscally conservative, rein in spending, not raise taxes, and use the police force to fight crime. Not in New York, where political-correctness is obligatory. DeBlasio’s two main issues were to bar police from stop-and-frisk tactics, and to sock the “wealthy” to pay more taxes to fund “universal early childhood education.” DeBlasio won with 73.3 percent.
Unlike Chicago, which last elected a Republican mayor in 1927, New York elected a Republican mayor in 1965 (John Lindsay), 1993, 1997 (Rudy Giuliani), 2001, 2005 (Michael Bloomberg); an independent in 2009 (Bloomberg), and a “fusion” – meaning Republican and Liberal – mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, in 1937, 1941 and 1945. New York’s Democratic mayors have been intermittent; Chicago’s have been permanent New York has a three-term limit; Chicago has none.
Under the regimes of Giuliani and Bloomberg, fiscal responsibility and tough-on-crime stances were the norm. Giuliani, a former U.S. Attorney, subscribed to the “broken window” theory: If crime spikes in a certain area, flood it with police. That’s exactly the philosophy of Emanuel and Chicago police chief Gerry McCarthy. If murder is up (as it has been), redeploy all available manpower to the troubled area. It works. Bloomberg continued Giuliani’s anti-crime policy, and focused on providing services. After easy wins in 2001 and 2005, he barely beat a black Democrat in 2009, winning by just 532,726-486,721 (51 percent).
Unlike Chicago, which since 1997 has had a non-partisan mayoral scheme, with a primary and runoff, and always had non-partisan aldermanic elections, New York is still partisan. There is a profusion of political parties: Liberal, Conservative, Reform, Independence, in addition to Democratic and Republican. Candidates can run on one of more lines, and when Democrats nominate somebody too liberal, or a minority, voters have alternatives. Unlike Chicago, with a population which is 32/33/27 percent white/black/Hispanic, New York is 44/26/29.
Second: In New York, political correctness has resurfaced with a vengeance, and run amok. It used to be that the hallmark of a “sensitive” liberal was to let his wife keep her maiden name, as has Emanuel. Now, superficiality has risen to an art form.
In New York, the path to Gracie Mansion entails winning a Democratic mayoral primary with at least 40 percent; if not, winning a runoff; and then beating a Republican and a bunch of other party nominees. Giuliani won as Republican-Conservative; Lindsay as Republican-Liberal and then (in 1969) as Liberal; Bloomberg as Independent-Republican.
In the 2013 Democratic primary, each candidate tried to position as the most politically-correct, pro-diversity, wealth-redistributor. They all agreed: No more of those oppressive Republican mayors. It’s time for a real liberal. Therefore, the race was all about perceptions. New York’s elected city council president, Christine Quinn of Manhattan, an open lesbian, was an early favorite to be the city’s first female mayor. But de Blasio, the city’s Public Advocate, which is a job in which he can meddle in every city bureaucracy and generate endless headlines, checkmated her; he was from Queens, married an avowed black lesbian, fathered two mixed-race children (whom he featured on his TV ads), and campaigned on the premise that the rich need to pay more taxes in order to subsidize the poor. Guilt prevailed, and he won the primary with 40.3 percent, and beat a Republican 77-23 percent.
Will that scenario ever play out in Chicago? Never.
Another distinction: In 2013, just 24 percent of New York’s 4.3 million registered voters turned out; in 2011, 42.2 percent of Chicago’s 1.4 million voters turned out. In New York, a very small minority of the population, not more than 15 percent, can dictate the mayoral winner; in Chicago, it’s close to 30 percent.
Third, economics matter. The urban tax base is shrinking. In New York, the 2007-2008 bank meltdowns cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenues. Chicago’s fiscal 2014 budget is $7.8 billion; New York’s is $70 billion – or eleven times greater.. New York’s population is 3.2 times Chicago’s, which means the per capita tax burden on every New Yorker is $8,500, compared to $3,000 per Chicagoan. New York contains 301 square miles, and Chicago 228. The cost to government of servicing, policing and maintaining that real estate is $23 million per square mile; in Chicago, it’s $3.4 million.
Fourth, Chicago’s political infrastructure is far less robust than New York’s, which has five borough governments – Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island – in addition to a citywide government, including an elected mayor, city council president, controller and public advocate; each borough has a president, district attorney and sheriff. Also, there are 51 council members, elected from districts. That’s a huge reservoir – like about 68 ambitious politicians – all of whom are lusting to be mayor. Unlike Chicago, New York has three Republican aldermen; Chicago has none.
Unlike Chicago, New York last elected a Tammany Hall (meaning Democratic machine) mayor in 1973, but each borough has a Democratic chairman, who run Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Staten Island remains Republican. Since each borough has a district attorney, there’s intense prosecutorial competition to put errant politicians, Mafioso, financiers and drug lords in the slammer. Nobody doubts that Emanuel and predecessor Rich Daley were part of the fading Chicago machine.
In Cook County, there’s only one state’s attorney, and in Chicago, the clerk and treasurer are inconsequential. As such, other than the county sheriff and board president, there’s no credible bench of mayoral wannabes.
Fifth, the New York media has piranha mentality, ever eager to expose malfeasance and stupidity. Every politician is in a fishbowl, as Anthony Weiner can attest. The conservative New York Post’s sensationalism tempers the liberal New York Times’ haughtiness. Chicago’s media is bland by comparison.
Sixth, New York’s unions – sanitation, transit, teachers – make Chicago’s look like Girl Scouts. They shut down the city whenever they please, until they get what they want. At least Chicago mayors have some backbone.
Seventh, smut, porn, and nudity on stage, TV and in bars is the Big Apple norm. Secularism reigns. In Chicago, the Catholic Church keeps the city culturally conservative.
So what does this portend for 2015, when Emanuel’s term ends? The mayor has enraged the police, teachers’, and public sector unions. He’s reduced the city deficit by half. Though sometimes erratic, he’s generally competent. And, most importantly, there’s no Bill deBlasio around to beat him.
Russ Stewart is a political analyst for the Chicago Daily Observer