Sunday, February 12, 2023

Paul Vallas, man of mystery

     Almost 30 years ago I wrote a profile on Bill Pinkney, the first Black sailor to circumnavigate the globe alone — I think I'll repost that later this week. In interviewing his wife Ina, the restaurateur, it came out that while married, they lived in separate homes. In my mid-30s but naive as a lamb, I remember looking up and thinking, "Golly, what's that about?"
     Cohabitation is the predominant condition of marriage — I initially wrote "natural" but that is a fraught term nowadays, when even the concept of "normality" can be seen as a weapon in the supremacist's arsenal. Whatever you call it, 97 percent of married couples manage to live under the same roof.
     In Fran Spielman's excellent interview with Paul Vallas in the Sun-Times Saturday, the former Chicago Public Schools head tries to tap dance past by various controversies that have wrapped their arms around his knees. He explains only being registered to vote in Bridgeport for only the past year this way:
     “When I left Philadelphia to go to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, my wife did not want to go with me. She wanted to move back to where she was most comfortable. She bought a home right next to her aged parents in the same house where she grew up. … My kids were still relatively young, and she thought that’s where she could be most easily supported.
     Were I to respond to that by asking, "If your own wife didn't want to go with you, then why should the city of Chicago?" But that could be seen as mean, and personal. Besides, I am not a hard-charging A-list crisis administrator like Paul Vallas, who I suppose must go wherever someone is willing to hire him. The separation can be spun as consideration, I suppose, that his wife is encouraged to live where she is happiest, even if that is in a different part of the country from her husband. That's how the jetset fly. Cohabitation is for the earthbound ordinary.
     “Sometimes, people stay married because they make certain arrangements," Vallas continued, sounding like a character in a Barbara Cartland novel. "I’ve always lived where I’ve worked. This has been our understanding. I wanted my wife to be in her most comfortable setting with her friends and family ... while she allowed me to do what I do: rescues, turnaround projects, crisis management.”
     We are certainly a city in crisis. And sometimes an outsider brings the rigor needed (such as O. W. Wilson coming in to reform the Chicago Police Department in the early 1960s). But when it comes to Chicago, Paul Vallas is not an outsider. From city budget director to CEO of the Chicago Public Schools to consultant for the Fraternal Order of Police, he has had his chance ... whoops, has had a wealth of valuable experience he could bring to the fifth floor of City Hall.
     "Understanding." "Arrangement." These are freighted words. And having endured the tight-lipped mystery wrapped in a cipher befogged by enigma that is Lori Lightfoot, I suppose anyone is an improvement. But notice how he shifted the discussion — if his residence wasn't Palos Heights, where was it? The apartment in Bridgeport he got a year ago? Louisiana? Connecticut? At least Rahm was elected to Congress, and had a semi-legitimate reason not to live here. Vallas is just a hired gun who sees a potential opportunity for a fresh gig back in his hometown and is hurrying back, pretending he never left. If he thought he could be elected mayor of Phoenix, he'd have been living in Phoenix for the past year. Or claim to.


  1. Also posted on your FB page; hope the double post is OK and please delete if not. Thanks! Well told as always. When I was a kid I thought the Heart '❤️' Chicago Motel was where my folks had their honeymoon. We lived on Ridge and drove past it often, and I made that story up in my head the way kids do. Or in the way I did. Turns out their honeymoon was at a much nicer hotel, on LSD. Regarding Mr. Vallas and his "arrangement," it's much more common than folks realize. I am not saying that I know the content of his character, but the living separately thing does not ring bells for me. There are many, many divorces in the US because of the conflict and lack of effective communication in marriages, or perhaps deception when the truth would be more mature, and wiser. Countless couples are in non-traditional marriages that work very well for them, or they are not married but have very close friendships and financial arrangements with a partner who cannot/does not meet their needs in other ways. Dan Savage puts out a podcast that sheds light on the many ways people express themselves intimately in relationships, and Neil Sattin's Relationship Alive is for couples who want to learn how to discuss difficult topics and keep a marriage healthy for those who do not have the skills or maturity. Again, it seems Mr. Vallas might be "complicated" and I don't know what that means, but I do know that Chicago needs help and I hope someone can steer the ship effectively to avoid another Edmund Fitzgerald situation. It's not Chicago's fault that we are crime ridden (thanks NRA, institutionalized racism, intersectionality, corruption, lack of schooling, etc), but a good captain is what we need.

  2. Paul Vallas? Seriously? He's still alive and kicking? He was the municipal budget director when I still lived in Chicago, and I've been gone for thirty years.

    Paul Vallas has held "crisis administrator" jobs (and lived) in three other states (CT, LA, PA) and he's run for seemingly every elected office in Illinois except dog catcher. Now this perennial candidate has moved back to Bridgeport, no less...the cradle of Chicago once again run for its highest office?

    This guy isn't only a hired gun, he's a carpetbagger. Worse still, his past ties to the Chicago PD and to Republican causes, especially his anti-choice views, cast serious doubts on his claims of being a "lifelong Democrat." More like an opportunist who blows with the prevailing wind.

    Four years ago, in the mayoral primary, Vallas placed ninth out of fourteen candidates, receiving 30,236 votes (5.43% of the votes cast). I know zilch about the other seven challengers for Mayor Lightfoot's job, so I have no dog in this fight. But I believe Chicagoans can do better than Paul Vallas...and that they will.

  3. Remember the scene in "Mean Girls" where one of the characters keeps trying to introduce the word "fetch" as some sort of slang, until Rachel McAdams, the queen bee mean girl, snaps at her, "Stop trying to make 'fetch' happen! It's not going to happen!""

    To me, Paul Vallas is the "fetch" of Chicago politics. Certain journalists, pundits and others keep inexplicably trying to make him happen. He's not going to happen.

  4. My husband and I lived separately for some time. He wanted to retire early and we bought a place in the state I’m from, IL. He settled there and I continued teaching in CA until I was ready to retire. This worked out in many practical ways. I can see how, and why it would work within the framework of some marriages.

  5. Whatever works for you, or for any couple...married or otherwise. My cousin and his wife of forty years now live forty miles apart. She spent 35 years in a tiny, isolated, backwater town in the Carolinas, a place she never really liked, and where she made few friends. This big-city girl (Detroit) just couldn't hack it anymore.

    So now he has the big house in the boonies all to himself and his dog, far away from any city. He doesn't care for cities. Meanwhile, she's enjoying the cultural amenities (and their son and their grandchild) in an urban area. They'll probably share their summer place up North, though. He claims it wasn't anything that he did...she just got fed up with the "hix in the stix.". And with becoming one.

    When you're 70 and your health is in decline and time grows short, you've got to do what your heart tells you to do. If that includes separate beds, bedrooms, houses, or be it. As Billie Holiday sang: "Ain't nobody's business..."

  6. I have been married most of my adult life. Starting at 21 when I married a singer.
    For the last 17 years I've been married to a woman who has lived in California, Ohio and Door county WI. When not living with me in Chicago. We've raised three boys together along with her ex and mine , my middle wife and mother to my sons and her new partner
    Not to mention gramas from both sides.
    While it may not have been a village it was at least a traveling road show.

    It was very common for immigrants to have one member of the family come first settle in and bring the wife and kids later.

    Traditional marriage is only that way for some folks. The rest of us won't hold it against y'all


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