Friday, November 8, 2019

Hard choices for mayor over new police boss

     Last April, when she still a candidate for mayor, I asked Lori Lightfoot why she would want to leave her cushy berth at a big law firm to play urban problem whack-a-mole, a game impossible to win.
     What I meant was, why condemn yourself to a series of bad choices? The recently-settled strike of the Chicago Teachers Union being a perfect example: She could give the teachers what they want and drive Chicago deeper into its pit of bottomless insolvency. Or hold firm and let the teachers walk, meaning 300,000 kids would start rattling around the city, each a wrong step away from blundering in front of a bus or a bullet and becoming a tiny body set at Lightfoot’s doorstep. She tried to split the difference and the teachers struck.
     I spent the strike manfully suppressing the urge to write a column that began with me marching into my boss’s office and demanding my own 16 percent raise. I would then share with a delighted reading public the eye-rolling rejection and bum’s rush I’d certainly be given. But frankly, the man has enough worries without his employees cooking up stunts then dragooning him as an unwitting participant.
     Now Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson is retiring, which has nothing, nothing, nothing to do with his being found slumped behind the wheel of his car after a festive dinner. And another jump-out-the-window-or-drink-poison decision is dangled in front of our still sorta-new mayor. Promote from within the department? The Matt Rodriguez Method. Or seek someone from the outside the force. Let’s call that the O.W. Wilson Gambit.
     Promote from within and you get men like Johnson, whose qualities I dare not characterize without being accused of slandering the guy as he grabs his cardboard box and hurries out the door with all the dignity he can muster. Perhaps the tactful route to recall what Johnson said last year when asked about the Code of Silence in the Robert Rialmo trial:
     ”I’ve never heard an officer talk about code of silence. I don’t know of anyone being trained on a code of silence.”

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  1. Just so it's clear , teachers are getting a 16% pay raise over the lifetime of a 5 year contract. Seems fair and many of them are deserving .

    As far as Eddie retiring after 31 years of service. while drunk driving is a very serious matter , sleeping it off in your car at the curb is not the worst decision a regular person could make. And there's no definitive proof he was drunk .

    He did a decent job in a tough circumstance as commissioner.

    Hopefully Lori can too over the next few years.

  2. And McCarthy was considered an outsider as well.

  3. One problem that Mayor LIghtfoot has to face that Daley and Emmanuel did not is that she has as as near a zero mandate as possible. I'm guessing that at least 75% of Chicagoans can truthfully say, "I didn't vote for her." I did vote for her...twice. Thus, I'm hoping more than most that she will be able to turn some of these lose/lose issues to a win, however meager it might be. It's pretty clear she lost to the teachers. Picking a Police Superintendent is not just lose/lose, but lose/lose/lose -- besides the well described insider/outsider issue, there's race as usual. Why in the world would anyone in his (generic masculine) or her right mind want to be Mayor of Chicago!


    1. I wonder what a win against the teachers would look like? No additional nurses and social workers? A smaller raise in pay? Larger class sizes?

      My kids graduated from CPS over the last couple years. One from lane tech one from Lakeview. Teachers left for better opportunities in the suburbs read better pay and conditions. These were some of the best teachers in the school.

      If we can't support our kids the social circumstance in our city won't improve.

      The loss as I see it was the length of the strike.

      The kids win with this new contract. Thanks teachers for staying strong .

  4. Why she would want to leave her cushy berth in a law firm to play a game impossible to win? As Julius Caesar put it about the rewards of generalship, "It's not the bigger tent, but the privilege of command."

    It's hard for those of us not on the ground to evaluate what he has accomplished, but Johnson has been a reassuring presence, which is probably what was needed. I think Rahm deserves a lot of credit for plucking him out of the ranks.


  5. Great shot of Cleveland officers in Public Square during the GOP circus in 2016. That little boy, along with all the other children his age, is America's future.

    My eye was immediately drawn to the yellow-clad figures in the background, whom I believe to be members of a group of medical professionals I hung out with and marched with during the final days of the convention, even though I was never a medicine man. They called themselves STAT (Stand Together Against Trump).

    STAT was a very appropriate acronym--as they most of them were employed at the Cleveland Clinic and other hospitals in the city. A majority of them were immigrants who were here on visas, and they were extremely concerned about falling victim to the xenophobia of Agent Orange and getting booted out of the country. Three years later, I can't help but wonder how many of these brilliant and talented people are still here, and how many are gone...either by choice or by decree.

    I haven't heard about any STAT activity since the summer of 2016--perhaps they disbanded...or have gone incognito. So I went to the T-Rump Circus and all I got was this lousy yellow T-shirt. It reads "We value diversity." But I still have it, and can wear it with pride. Thanks for the memories, Mr. S.

  6. on the teachers, i might also add that the main reason they went on strike was to ensure that staffing level concerns were actually written into the contract. lightfoot had already agreed to the 16% figure in a misguided attempt to keep those issues off the table. i say misguided because she thought she could paint the teachers as greedy when they wanted those staffing issues from the very beginning. it was also misguided and a bad bargaining tactic because she gave away too much in salary too soon. by the way, a bit further back in the news hole, a rating agency said it had no problems with the economics of the deal, so all the fiscal handwringing might be a bit premature

  7. Call me a romantic optimist, but I think there has to be someone in the upper echelons of the Chicago Police Department who is capable of running it and isn't hopelessly compromised by this Blue Wall stuff. Saying "anyone who thrived in the CPD has to be corrupt" strikes me as the sort of reflexive cynicism that never does anyone any good and is, in it way, as useless and corrosive as the code of silence.


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