Friday, April 20, 2007
Host: Joel Weisman of Chicago Tonight
Joel Weisman: Labor carries the day in Chicago's aldermanic runoff elections. Long-time incumbents fall while some barely squeak by. Are you going to miss Dorothy Tillman, Andy Shaw?
Andy Shaw: I'm going to miss Dorothy Tillman, I'm going to miss Burt Natarus. Most of the others were milktoast and will not be missed. I always miss interesting people in the political arena because each year I think we get a few...fewer interesting people and I think that that makes it more difficult for all of us.
Joel Weisman: All right, but the greater question here...
Andy Shaw: I won't miss her as a governmental figure, I'll just miss her as a character.
Lester Munson: She's great TV.
Joel Weisman: Why do you think she lost?
Andy Shaw: I think she lost because she fell out of touch with the modern needs of a ward. The ward has been changed dramatically. Public housing came down and a lot of poor people were replaced by a lot of people who are a little more affluent. She is stuck in a time warp. She was a very effective civil rights individual forty years ago, but she felt that virtually everything she did had to be cast in that civil rights-slash...
Joel Weisman: Do you think she hurt herself by demanding reparations?
Andy Shaw: I think that when you do a lot of things that don't have to do with fixing up your own ward you can pay the price. Joe Moore almost lost. Burt Natarus did lose. And the reason it was different this year is that labor provided enough money for the challengers to actually take it to the incumbents and make the case that they were more worried about foie gras or reparations than they were about fixing the streets and alleys in their own wards and people pay attention to that.
Joel Weisman: Now, Daley said it the day after the elections, he says that Chicago...'I've always been a friend of labor. Chicago 's the greatest labor city in America.'
Andy Shaw: And he has been a friend of labor. The Big Box did...
Joel Weisman: If he's their friend why did they run all these guys against him?
Andy Shaw: Well, because he's their friend in the building trades, because there's been a boom in the building trades, but he's basically taken on the unions in all of these municipal contracts and the Big Box was the dividing line this time. The unions felt very strongly that Wal-Mart's feet need to be held to the fire and when push came to shove Daley was more in tune with the business community because he's fifty-two percent business and forty-eight percent labor.
Lester Munson: He can say whatever he wants about getting along with labor, but the service employees, the teachers, the firefighter's and policeman's union are all going to fight with him and this is going to become a great issue when the labor-backed aldermen, the eight new ones, get together and they try to eliminate his power to appoint aldermen in the vacancies. It's going to be a real battle.
Joel Weisman: This is a huge, huge victory for labor, which is dying everywhere.
Anna Devlantes: Well, I also think that this council has been criticized for being a rubber stamp council for so long and that this creates some potential opposition, and I don't think that's a bad thing despite whatever you think of whomever has been elected, that it's good to have opposition. Accountability, that kind of thing.
Andy Shaw: But a great thing governmentally. Great.
Mary Mitchell: And in some of these races it was the incumbent's own fault. If you look at the race in the 16th Ward where Shirley Coleman had all these scandals looming over her head. It didn't take much and it didn't take any union to beat her. If you look at Dorothy Tillman's ward, the unions helped Pat Dowell by giving her enough money to put up a few billboards and some signs, but the bottom line is the residents, including the public housing residents, were disgusted with Dorothy because things weren't getting done. They still don't have a grocery store, for God's sake. So that was enough to give her the boot. And when it comes to Madeline Haithcock and Bob Fioretti, Madeline just did a lousy job selling herself. She was running around during her campaign talking about Fioretti's past, something happened with him ten years ago with a woman, instead of talking about her own record. So these people just...they helped, not just the union, but they beat themselves.
Joel Weisman: although she was very gracious in conceding her defeat...
Andy Shaw: She said she was tired...
Joel Weisman: And she said 'I'm tired'.
Mary Mitchell: She was tired.
Joel Weisman: If she was tired she shouldn't have run.
Mary Mitchell: That's right
Andy Shaw: And all these folks got away with it for years when the opponents didn't have any money, but the big difference this year is labor provided cash and workers in the wards and they could take it to these lousy aldermen in a way that finally made a difference. Lousy aldermen have been re-elected for decades because the opposition couldn't mount a campaign. This time they did. The mailers were terrific, the foot soldiers were out there, and they took it to people who hadn't done a very good job.
Joel Weisman: But what does this tell you about the quote-unquote old machine workers? Are there any really left?
Andy Shaw: Not enought to...I mean, labor has a better machine right now than the party
Joel Weisman: This year it was business and labor that provided the foot soldiers.
Mary Mitchell: Sorry, Joel, I have to diagree with that. First of all, there were foot soldiers in the 3rd Ward. I was out there most of the day. There were...Dorothy had signs everywhere. The Nation of Islam, and the Nation of Islam does not get involved in local elections. The bow ties guys were standing on the corner handing out palm cards like bean pies.
Andy Shaw: But it's too late, Mary.
Mary Mitchell: But they were working, and they worked for Dorothy starting when they were able to get US Senator Barak Obama to endorse her publicly. That was something that they said. I didn't believe that he would do it. He did it publicly.
Joel Weisman: All right, so the next question is is Daley, as he has been so successful in doing, going to be able to co-op these people?
Andy Shaw: For the most part I think the answer is yes because ultimately power all flows from the fifth floor of City Hall for virtually every city service and every decision about a project through the Planning Department and the Plan Commission so ultimately...
Joel Weisman: Right, so if these new aldermen want to be effective they have to play ball.
Andy Shaw: They all have to play ball with him eighty percent of the time. There'll be a twenty percent margin where they'll fall off on some issues.
Joel Weissman: All right, well, it ought to be a little more lively at City Hall.