Farewell to the King (February 23, 2011)

 

Well, I admit I was hoping for a runoff. I never liked the way Rahm Emanuel’s win in yesterday’s Chicago’s mayoral election was accepted as a foregone conclusion almost from the moment he announced his candidacy. We have spent the last 22 years voting (or not) for a virtually uncontested monarch, Richard M. Daley. To quote myself from the link above, “Mayor Daley may have done great things in terms of beautifying the landscape and attracting new business but anyone who has lived in the city for the last 22 years knows how much damage his interminable term has done: skyrocketing property taxes, unaffordable homes, runway gang crime and terrible fiscal decisions.”

Yesterday’s trip to the polls presented a chance for residents to take their city back, to peacefully foment a revolution, inspired by the examples that are quickly spreading across the Middle East. “Change” has been a political buzzword for several years now, but I am starting to wonder if the citizenry of Chicago is interested in that all. Because now we have Rahmbo. And no matter how young (relative to Daley), good looking and tough he is, is there anyone out there who really believes Rahmbo will make a clean break from The Machine politics of the Daley dynasty? If so, I have an extensive VHS collection I’d like to sell you (valuable vintage!)

I am willing to give Emanuel a chance. In some ways there is much to celebrate in accordance with his trouncing of the competition, earning 55% of the popular vote. We have our first mayor of Jewish descent. And we are spared the indignity of being led by Carol Mosley Braun, whose meager tax returns indicate a woman incapable of running a business (which, make no mistake this city is), and whose mouth suggest a woman incapable of talking sense. I invite Ms. Mosley Braun to crawl back under the pop cultural rock from whence she came.

And if I have mixed feelings about Rahm Emanuel as Chicago’s new mayor (intertwined with my reservations about Bill Daley serving as the President’s new Chief of Staff), I am unequivocally thrilled to be rid of the Daley regime. The AP succinctly contextualizes the long running relationship as follows: “It was the city’s first mayoral race in more than 60 years without an incumbent on the ballot and the first in more than two decades without Daley among the candidates. Daley and his father have led Chicago for more than 43 out of the last 56 years.”

If ever there was an argument for term limits, Daley was it. I was never a fan but I have been forced to stand by idly for two decades as the term “affordable housing” became an oxymoron. Chicago has failing schools, rampant gang activity, and for anyone who raves about all the “beautification” initiatives Daley has undertaken, I invite you to take a trip o the South Side with me. For the most part, the King and his cohorts labored under the misguided impression that the North lakefront was the whole of the city. Coincidently, the North lakefront is where you will find all of Daley’s big and rich contributors. I am sure this is merely coincidence.

No matter who was declared the victor last night, I would be happy because today is 24 hours closer to being able to give Daley and his parking meter lease the boot. And not that this has any impact on his eventual ability to govern, but Rahm is certainly an aesthetic improvement over old Dick, with his trained ballet dancer grace and sexiness.

At least Chicago received some national political attention of the positive kind, rather than the interminable corruption charges, trials and imprisonments of our state governors. I know we have wisely placed a moratorium on the death penalty, but couldn’t we waive it just this once to rid ourselves of Blago? That clown is like the shame gift that keeps on giving (unasked).

Daley? Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out. Rahmbo? You better mean it, unlike your former boss, when you say you’re prepared to ask Chicagoans to make the “touch choices” that will bring the city back to fiscal solvency. I’ll be watching.

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Unemployment Week Three: The Numbers (November 4, 2010)

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I have been out of full-time work for 21 days now, and as I can’t sit here and ruminate over the mid-term elections anymore (no Sharon Angle!), I thought I’d compile and share my vital statistics to date.

Unemployment Insurance Dollars Received: 0

At first, due to my employer’s failure to report third quarter payroll to the State in a timely fashion, my claim was outright denied, the government believing as it did that I hadn’t worked part June 30. Once that little snafu was rectified, and I filed my first certification for benefits, I was again rejected. The reason? I had the nerve to have been laid off mid-week.

Per the Claimant Notice of Possible Ineligibility (sexy verbiage!): “You earned X dollars which is greater than your weekly benefit amount of X.” Ok sure, for that one week don’t send me any funds. But how about the second? This is a bi-weekly filing. I’ll be damned if I am going to that dimly lit, sad IDES office again. I am due to certify again this coming Monday, which means I might finally get my meager slice of government cheddar on Friday, November 12 – a month after my last day of work. Needless to say, without the support of my still employed husband, I’d already be up shit’s creek without well, unemployment wages aren’t really worth the label of “paddle.”

Resumes/Applications Submitted: 21
Interviews: 0

I have been a writer in some form or another (corporate, nonprofit, freelance, etc.) for over 10 years. In this particularly jobless recovery, I have discovered that at 32, I sit in that awesome sweet spot where employers feel I am too experienced to pay 25k a year without benefits, yet too young to have had the experience of the major media/ad agency heydey. Which basically means that I have an advanced degree and a solid work history that leaves me unemployable. The really sought after writing positions in Chicago have their pick of candidates with a list of bylines longer and more impressive than mine. The entry level positions in publishing, media and the like want hungry kids with no lives. I have no problem dismissing my vanity and letting HR people I fall into the latter category despite my age. I have no children to raise after all. If only I could get them to talk to me.

Bottles of Red Wine Consumed: 480 (give or take)

See above statistics and ample time on my hands to lament my own failure.

Wrestling Matches: 1

A great friend of mine, a trained military assassin and Jiu Jitsu black belt, offered to to school me in the ways of self-defense. This topic came up innocently enough over a delicious lunch of Subway sandwiches ($5 Footlongs y’all!) and degenerated into a sweaty afternoon of me sitting astride an attack dummy and practicing a variety of chokes. Truthfully, I never knew there were so many.

I am always game for novelty and a chance to better defend myself in these mean Chicago streets, but I became perversely afraid of my dark side when my friend ordered me to choke him to a level of unconsciousness in order to “become familiar with it” and I did. I was following orders. Yikes! Did I just say that?

I left for home that day with a mildly bruised trachea, and a newfound terror that I possessed the ability to disable grown men with one sleeper hold. Maybe I could find work as a body guard?

Exercise Related Injuries: 2

See above windpipe lacerations.

I am using as much of my free time as I can reasonably afford without feeling like a dilettante to get in better physical shape. Right now everything hurts, and I guess I kind of like it that way. Symbolic, tangible pain is easier to cope with than the inner tumult. I have been hitting the Russian kettlebells hardcore with my trainer Rob. In addition to a long running battle with right foot deep tissue tendonitis, and the throat crushing, I am now nursing a right bicep that needs to pop itself in a pretty loud yet satisfying way every couple of days. Does the WWE hire female wrestlers in their 30s?

Petitions Signed to Get Candidates on the Chicago Mayoral Ballot: 2

I know I said I’d leave politics alone, but the midterms are so earlier this week. The Windy City has already moved on. As a frequent rider of Chicago’s public transit system, it is now perfectly usual to be accosted by volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 80, asking me if I am a registered voter of the City. For the first time in over two decades, urban citizens get to be a part of a major regime change as King Richard Daley of the Treasure Looting gracefully makes his overdue exit. The City is atwitter over who will fill those big, Bridgeport steel shitkickers.

In addition to the star power of potential candidates like former Illinois Senator Carol Mosley Braun, it seems like every regular Tom, Dick and Harry wants to throw his or her hat in the ring. And why not? Chicago has a pool of 10% unemployed individuals to select from, and none of them could make worse decisions than Daley. I have received several requests to sign the Rahm Emanuel petition. During the first of these, the outgoing Obama Chief of Staff was actually present. May I say, though I never noticed on television before, Mr. Emanuel is quite sexy? I direly wished I had brushed my hair before venturing to the gym that morning.

But I digress. I have also signed a petition for Mitch Newman, a local builder who wants to focus on Chicago’s failing schools and gang plagued streets. I have seen several very low-budget television ads for a variety of other potential race runners. Beautiful! Democracy at it’s finest. Suck it Tea Party!

Maybe I will run. I’ve got nothing else to do.

Rahm the Inevitable (February 21, 2011)

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Now that the wide variety of political shenanigans that have come to exemplify the 2011 Chicago mayoral race have been exhausted, it seems there’s nothing left to do but wait for Tuesday’s electoral returns. At that point we may stop referring to former U.S. Congressman and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as the “presumed favorite,” move beyond his Goliath campaign and start seeing the new CEO of Chi-town in action.

After all, there’s no way anyone could take him at this point, right? Rahmbo has five times more campaign funds at his disposal than nearest fiscal competitor, Gery Chico. His slick print ads and television spots depict the handsome, well-dressed former ballet dancer as a family man who cares about the middle class, ready to make the “tough choices” that will put Chicago back on the fast track to claiming its status as an affordable, world class city. A few of his TV plugs contain public endorsements from not one but two U.S. Presidents, current POTUS Barack Obama, as well as immediate predecessor William Jefferson Clinton.

From the moment on October 1, 2010 when Rahm Emanuel formally announced the resignation of his big-time White House post to throw his hat in the ring for the Chicago mayoral race, his candidacy had an almost pre-ordained quality. His name would certainly be the biggest in the contest, and all too often in U.S. politics, bigger means more viable. Rahmbo is a bulldog by reputation, which fits very well with the Windy City’s blue collar, tough guy image, yet he knows how to construct a sentence. The current mayor, Richard M. Daley, speaks with the eloquence of a barely housebroken pitbull, and his constituents (and machine conspirators) love him for it. Emanuel seems positively refined by comparison, no matter how many “f” bombs he drops.

In terms of name recognition, Rahm Emanuel’s only real competition comes in the shape of political hasbeen, former U.S. Senator Carol Mosley Braun. Although ignorance is bliss where Braun’s legislative past is concerned, most Chicagoans over the age of 35 well recall her terrifically tone deaf response to Newsweek contributing editor George Will’s 1998 examination of the various corruption charges against her: “I think because he couldn’t say nigger, he said corrupt.” She went on to compare Will to a Ku Klux Klansman, stating “I mean this very sincerely from the bottom of my heart: He can take his hood and put it back on again, as far as I’m concerned.”

One might labor under the mistaken belief that Mosley Braun has since learned to police the crazy, having undone her career once already. But no, that’s incorrect. Open your web browser and log onto to Google. From there, enter the search term “carol moseley braun crackhead.” What do you see? All the links you can handle reporting a January 30, 2011 incident at a live debate where Senator Braun addressed opposing candidate Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins as follows: “Patricia, the reason you didn’t know where I was for the last 20 years is because you were strung out on crack…Now, you have admitted to that.”

Van Pelt-Watkins had of course, admitted to no such thing, but move over Whitney Houston. The legendary singer’s 2006 utterance to journalist Diane Sawyer that “crack is whack” was heretofore the most infamous commentary regarding the illegal substance.

So yeah, with opposition of this ilk, Rahm Emanuel’s path to the mayor’s office has been relatively smooth sailing. I do not mean to suggest, with this review of Carol Mosley’s Braun’s uninterrupted political gaffes, that Emanuel faces no serious challengers. He certainly does. It’s just that former Richard M. Daley Chief of Staff Gery Chico and City Clerk Miguel del Valle, both respected public servants, cannot complete with the sexy, baby kissing, cash flush spectacle of Emanuel.

The thing is though, I think many residents of Chicago have grown tired of being told who their leaders will be before having the chance to evaluate. Though the town has never done much to dispel it’s reputation as a one-party, corrupt patronage operation, much like the recent liberation of Egypt by its own democracy-staved citizens, I smell a similar passion for change in the Midwest air. Three ex-governors in the last 35 years have been sent to the clink, and a fourth, Rod Blagojevich, is surely on his way. Mayor Daley may have done great things in terms of beautifying the landscape and attracting new business but anyone who has lived in the city for the last 22 years knows how much damage his interminable term has done: skyrocketing property taxes, unaffordable homes, runway gang crime and terrible fiscal decisions.

Though change is in the air in one form or another, is there anyone naive enough to believe that Rahmbo will represent a clean break from The Machine? I am still having a hard time digesting the coincidental swap of Rahm Emanuel for Bill Daley, the outgoing mayor’s younger brother, as the President’s Chief of Staff. No, there’s nothing suspect about that at all.

With Rahm demonstrating a commanding lead in the polls, 49 percent of the popular vote to Chico’s 19, it seems pointless to consider an outcome other than his total domination at the polls this week. But wait! For those of us perversely hoping for a dark horse spoiler (and no, Carol Mosley Braun, before you even start, that is not racist), we do have the prospect of a runoff. In order to prevent a general election showdown between Rahmbo and the number two finisher, the foul mouthed one needs at least 51 percent of the vote. 49 just won’t do. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that some hard last minute campaigning by Chico and del Valle (who has my vote) will prevent Emanuel from sailing into City Hall on Wednesday. Run-offs are generally not the friend of front-runners because they allow time and opportunity for a once splintered opposition to develop a united front.

However unlikely, as a lover of democracy residing in a city that doesn’t see a lot of balanced elections, that’s what I’d like to see happen. I want Rahmbo, if he is indeed our mayor-to-be, to have to sweat it out at a bit more than he has. Those lame residency challenges, which Emanuel continued to swat away like pesky mosquitoes, do not satisfy the appetite for electoral combat. After 22 years of Daley hostage-taking, Chicago deserves a real fight for its future.