Idealistic or Unrealistic
South Loop Second Warders know what they want
02/14/2011 2:15 PM
I learned something about my fellow South Loopers over the weekend: they’re demanding. And they have unreasonable expectations for their alderman.
At a forum sponsored Saturday by the Greater South Loop Association and South Loop Neighbors, six candidates--including incumbent Bob Fioretti--vied for votes at Columbia College's Ludington Building. Actually, five vied for votes. One candidate, James Bosco, who was particularly candid and honest (you can’t trust any politicians, he maintained), said he is dropping out--but if he wins, he would serve. (His name will be on the ballot--too late to get it off.)
Very hard questions were written on cards and given to a moderator from the League of Women Voters. The candidates answered the questions one at a time, and tried to tell us how they were different from the people sitting next to them.
Second Warders certainly expect a lot from their alderman: they want him or her to be everywhere. And tell them everything. And listen to all they have to say. On any and all subjects. And at all times. I wouldn’t be surprised if they expected a little babysitting on the side, too.
They want the alderman to improve the schools, do something about those pesky TIF funds and eliminate homelessness, to name a few of their wants and needs. In other words, they want their alderman to be a combination of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. With a dash of Dr. Oz and a pinch of Dr. Phil.
Exactly how an alderman is supposed to improve schools, I don’t know. Chicago Public Schools is supposed to do that. The only thing I can think of that an alderman can do--all the candidates are very smart in different ways, from a metallurgical engineer to a cab driver to a stay-at-home dad with a couple of lawyers in between--is to march over to one of our underperforming schools and teach 7th Grade.
What can they do about TIF funds? Since even the most educated TIF watcher and avid local writer regarding TIFs, Reader writer Ben Joravsky, has admitted he doesn’t even understand them, what’s an alderman to do? Turn down the funds for our ward (our hard-earned tax dollars) because TIF baffles the brain? Yeah, right.
As far as smoothing the business licensing process, the attendees seemed to think the alderman could single-handedly set up one-stop shopping, flinging open new retail doors every few minutes from Congress to Cermak while singing “This Land is Your Land.” I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the ward residents think the alderman should make personal loans to those who want to start a 2nd Ward business, as well. Who knows--maybe some would?
Listen up, folks: Business permits, zoning variances, liquor licensing and such is a cottage industry in Chicago. Some would even say it’s a racket. No one alderman is going to buck a system that provides a comfortable living to a bevy of lawyers, cops and politicians. So business owners better just relax--and be prepared to hand over a few bucks to one of the fixers instead of tearing one’s hair out--or expecting an alderman to change the deeply rooted status quo.
Leave plenty of time and treat the process just like any other business investment: like installing a phone, buying fixtures and printing advertising flyers. Then go to the Bahamas for several weeks while you are waiting for the games to begin. And your awning to be installed.
The one thing I wanted to know--but my card was not read at the forum--is which mayoral candidate the aldermanic candidates want to see win. A lot of people in the city are upset about votes cast for Mayor Daley’s pet projects by their aldermen: like selling our parking meters; and granting blessings to the Chicago Children’s Museum to build a new building in Grant Park, thereby defying the legacy of Montgomery Ward. Four years ago, the big issue was whether or not your alderman voted to let Walmart come to our fair city and put all the moms-and-pops out of business.
On Saturday, I thought if the aldermanic candidates were asked to commit to a preferred candidate for mayor, we might be able to detect the look of love and nip the rubber stamping in the bud. But now we will have to wait until the rubber stamping begins to demand that it end.
Oddly, absolutely nothing was mentioned at the forum about keeping the ward clean and tidy. As one alderman once said (I think it was former 42nd Ward alderman Burton Natarus four years ago just before he lost his election), an alderman is a janitor. And he’s right. That’s one thing an alderman is supposed to do and can do and should do. And do it right. Keep a clean and tidy ward.
The only way to tell how well an aldermanic candidate challenging the incumbent would keep the ward more spic-and-span is to go to his or her home and see how their own personal housekeeping fares. I checked the outside of all their homes on Google Maps Street View, and they all seemed fine--but alas I have only been inside the home of one candidate: Genita Robinson. And I am happy to report she keeps a very neat and tidy home.
If any other candidate wants me to report on their housekeeping potential, invite me over. I’d be glad to get a gander and report what I see.