It’s funny the things that enrage Mayor Daley.
Aides and city employees indicted or carted off to jail on corruption charges? Hey, stuff happens.
The CTA’s breaking down physically and financially? Hey, man, don’t bother me, I got to catch a plane to Paris. My buddy Frank did his best.
But one alderman dares to tell the mayor he can’t do what he wants? Look out, mama — Katie bar the door.
Witness how Daley reacted to rookie alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd), who after weeks of community meetings decided to go with the majority of his constituents and oppose the mayor’s plans to move the Chicago Children’s Museum to Grant Park. Daley laced into Reilly, albeit screwing up his name. He was so riled he misquoted Reilly in his efforts to tarnish him. Reilly and his constituents, he insisted, were child-hating bigots whose opposition imperiled the future of the entire city. His face got red. His hair fell across his forehead. He snarled. He sneered. He threatened.
It was a vintage Daley temper tantrum. People at City Hall tell me he throws them all the time. It seems to be an effective tactic: most aldermen fall in line. To cite just one example, the council voted 35-5 for Daley’s grand scheme to bring the 2016 Olympics to town, despite knowing full well we can’t afford them. They figured the city wasn’t going to get the games anyway, so why piss off the mayor with a “no” vote? And if the International Olympic Committee were to award the games to Chicago? Well, that’s a risk the aldermen were willing to take. Better to risk public bankruptcy than the mayor’s wrath.
In his tirade against Reilly, Daley said he was standing up for Chicago’s children. “I hope you understand what this fight is all about,” he said.
Who’s he trying to kid? This fight is not about children — it’s about patronage, and it’s about power. The mayor has both in spades, and he wants to keep them, particularly with his Olympic dreams on the line. As story after story points out, one of the biggest things Chicago has going for it in the eyes of the IOC is the notion that Daley’s an all-powerful mayor (a benign tyrant, if you will) who can get whatever he wants. Want to shut down Washington, Jackson and Douglas parks for months, maybe years? Want to divert millions, if not billions, of property taxes from the cash-starved schools? Want to soak the taxpayers for billions in order to throw a three-week party? Mayor Daley can get it done. No one dares cross him.
Except, it turns out, Reilly. I didn’t think he had this kind of guts when he was running for office in February, but he’s shown signs of it before. I can only hope his council colleagues aren’t afraid to emulate him.