When I arrived on campus this fall I was pleased to see that once again students were happily heading to class, the grass was lush and green along the midway, and that 57th Street was being resurfaced. Although the last of these items may not bring as much joy to some hearts as it does to mine, it is one of the many subtle reminders that the City of Chicago continues to be the "City that Works."
The fact that our city is still functioning may come as a surprise to individuals outside of the City of Chicago, for if someone had picked up a copy of one of our local papers during the summer, it would seem as through the city was burning while Nero was fiddling away. Fortunately for all of us this could not be further from the truth. Despite the attacks that have polluted our news and courts for the past months, it is clear that Chicagoans are lucky to be living in this city, under the current administration.
As the federal government continues to attack the administration of Mayor Richard M. Daley, the charges are becoming more and more ludicrous. The scandal that currently exists started with a federal investigation of bribery and kickbacks in the Hired Truck Program (the city does not own enough trucks to do all of its construction, and therefore it needs to hire extra private trucks). These investigations lead to indictments of government officials and private truck operators. While the city continues in its quest to reform its internal structure, the investigation has been expanded into hiring practices at City Hall.
While initial bribery charges against a handful of individuals seemed to have been justified, the more recent investigations have gone too far. Within the past few months criminal charges have been brought against men who have not financially benefited at all from their supposed wrongdoing. If anything, they have assisted in continuing our city's reputation as arguably the best run city in America.
Most of the recent cases have been based onthe Shakman decree, prohibiting politically motivated government employment shifts. As a result of some court rulings, it is unlawful to take any political factor into account in hiring public employees. Using these grounds, federal prosecutors are going after certain city employees (keep in mind that the city employs close to 40,000 individuals) whom they believe violated the decree. But then one must ask, is anything devoid of politics? Was our acceptance into this university not dependent upon our background? Does this mean that, following the Shakman decrees, the city should do away with all set-aside programs that currently assist minority firms throughout the city? Should there be no actions that can be construed as "political?"
The decrees in their own right are debatable, but to attack individuals as criminals on such ambiguous grounds is simply wrong. Also, keep in mind who is doing the prosecuting. Chicago has not had a Republican Mayor since 1929, Illinois is the home to two Democratic Senators, Illinois overwhelmingly voted for Kerry in 2004, and we have a Democratic Governor. With federal prosecutors being appointed by the President, it makes strong federal attacks on the most powerful Democratic Mayor in the country seem even more suspicious.
Additionally, Chicagoans have forgotten what the city was like before Mayor Richard M. Daley sat in City Hall. Our university offers a class on the famous "Council Wars" of the 1980ís when racist tensions flared through city hall pitting the forces of Mayor Harold Washington (a Hyde Parker) against those of the Aldermen Verdolyak and Mel (Mel still holds a seat on the City Council). It was during this time that no work could be done, simply because one side would blockade the others' plans. Even if we go back one administration further, to that of Mayor Jane Byre, Chicagoans are left with images of protestors calling "Chicago-fest" (the antecedent to the Taste of Chicago) Mayor Byrne's Honky-Festî due to the lack of minority businesses that were included in the festivities. Must I bring up how the roads were crumbling? How crime was skyrocketing? How businesses were leaving the city in droves?
One cannot help but notice that we, in the City of Chicago, are privileged to be living under this administration. While we slave away at our books and our papers, the individuals at City Hall, despite being under unwarranted pressure from the press and now federal investigators, are doing everything from bringing new businesses to Chicago to maintaining the high level of city services that we have come to expect. The truth of the matter is that Chicagoans have been spoiled by the excellent city services they receive and the forward progress that the city has made over the past 20 years. Despite what we hear and read, it is this success that our city owes to Mayor Daley, and it is for this reason that he deserves our support.