Election sends message: Black officials have to deliver - Labor and Jackson Jr. threw a wrench in the Machine, and Afr. Am. showed they want results
BY LAURA WASHINGTON
April 23, 2007
Copyright by The Chicago Sun-Times
There is a puzzling disconnect in Chicago politics. In February, the mayor cruised to re-election. He did not lose one ward to an opponent. Latino, Asian, black and white -- majorities and minorities, all -- answered his call.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that support would extend to his compliant minions in the Chicago City Council and that his coattails would carry the day in the April 17 aldermanic runoffs. Instead, Chicago's political world has been turned on its ear. I hear a genuine cry for new, more effective leadership. Three actors have turned Chicago politics on its ear: Labor, Junior and the New Black Vote.
Incumbency is synonymous with wealthy campaign donors. Big money is out of the reach of political neophytes. Enter Tom Balanoff, president of the Service Employees International Union. He and his labor cohorts plunked down $2.6 million in cold cash and dispatched hundreds of foot soldiers to push insurgent aldermanic hopefuls who supported their agenda -- i.e., the big-box ordinance. They leveled the playing field and opened the door to wins by the likes of Pat Dowell, Bob Fioretti and JoAnn Thompson.
In the February vote, Sandi Jackson swept the 7th Ward floor with Darcel Beavers. The architect of that win, her husband, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., was feeling his oats. Chicago's biggest black boss, former 7th Ward Ald. Bill Beavers, is toast. Jackson knew that victory could ignite his own political blitzkrieg. He dispatched his arsenal of polling, billboards and troops into neighboring wards where political incumbents talk up a pro-black economic and social agenda but, whenever push comes to shove, side with the Machine.
Junior removed a key obstacle to his mayoral aspirations. He also endorsed a white insurgent over a longtime black alderman, a move bound to boost his bona fides with white voters who bitterly complain that black leaders are narrowly sectarian. The Black Nationalist crowd already despises Jackson; they'll never forgive him for backing a dyed-blond aldermanic wannabe over a "sistuh" in the 2nd Ward.
That brings us to the New Black Vote. Is it my imagination, or have black voters been poorly served by their elected officials? Remember, it was black voters who put the Toddster in charge of Cook County government. We voted him in, and now he's laying off nearly 500 doctors and nurses who care for the county's poor. We voted him in, and he's hiring more relatives and public relations flacks while shutting down the county's long-term care at Oak Forest Hospital.
This is the beginning of the end of the age-old argument in black politics that "you don't want to put a brother out of a j-o-b." Our elected officials have to deliver.
People in Madeline Haithcock's ward couldn't get her to respond to the simplest of complaints. People in Dorothy Tillman's ward knew they paid for the edifice she built in honor of Harold Washington, but it is run by Tillman's daughter. They live near 47th Street and the L, where they're afraid to walk in the dark.
The people tired of listening to Shirley Coleman whine that her opponent was an ungrateful ex-alcoholic instead of doing her job.
It is a dangerous time to be a black hack in Chicago.