Emanuel to the rescue in wards on South Side
by RUSS STEWART
For incumbent aldermen from Chicago’s South Side black-majority wards who are facing voters in the upcoming election, the good news is that big-spending mayoral contender Willie Wilson is no Harold Washington. Wilson is neither charismatic nor inspirational, and he will not engender a Washington-like turnout.
The better news is that Mayor Rahm Emanuel, to whom most in the City Council kowtow, voting as instructed, is no Jane Byrne. Emanuel is not as reviled or as unpopular as Byrne was in the black community in 1983.
The great news is that 2015 bears no resemblance to 1983. Voter discontent hovers at the level of simple disgust and has not elevated itself to the threshold of anger, as it did when Washington beat Byrne. Emanuel’s strategy is summed up in two words: voter suppression.
Wait a minute. Don’t Republicans do that, make voting by minorities difficult? However, boredom and lassitude is intrinsic to Emanuel’s South Side re-election strategy: Don’t get angry. Don’t diss on your alderman. Don’t bother to vote.
Eleven of the 14 aldermen from South Side wards — the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 20th, 21st and 34th — are under the mayor’s thumb. Roderick Sawyer (6th), the son of the late Mayor Gene Sawyer, Leslie Hairston (5th) and Toni Foulkes (15th) have shown some independence, and white Alderman Bob Fioretti (2nd), who represents the mostly black Near South Side 2nd Ward, is running for mayor — and getting little traction. Fioretti’s ward was dismembered in the remap following the 2011 election, and Foulkes was mapped into pro-Emanuel Joann Thompson’s 16th Ward, where she is a distinct underdog for the Feb. 24 election. Sawyer will survive, while Hairston might not. Emanuel will spend millions of dollars to retain his black aldermen.
The reason is obvious. In his 2015-19 term, Emanuel will have to substantially raise property taxes every year to cover the city’s $55 billion pension shortfall. He will need 30 reliable votes to pass his budget every December, and the black South Side aldermen, along with their five West Side counterparts, will be the least at risk. They can vote for tax hikes for two reasons: Half or more of their constituencies don’t own real estate, and they can claim that it will be the "rich" non-minorities and commercial businesses that will bear the brunt of the taxes.
Emanuel’s philosophy of governance is existentially Chicagoan: He’s the boss. He tolerates no pushback. No dissent. Not now. Not ever. His pushback is to eradicate the dissenters, which is what he is doing. The council’s "Progressive Caucus" is in Emanuel’s crosshairs.
Here’s the ward-by-ward outlook:
2nd Ward: Fioretti, who was elected in 2007, was the first white candidate to ever beat a black Chicago alderman, but the ward, centered in Chinatown and meandering through a bunch of gentrifying, upscale areas, got ever less black.
Now for something completely different — a new alderman (Brian Hopkins) who is the chief of staff to county Commissioner John Daley, the former mayor’s brother. What a novelty. Daley nephew Patrick Daley Thompson will be the next 11th Ward/Bridgeport alderman. We certainly need some Daley kin and staffers in the council.
The 2011 remap ensured that a white candidate will win the new ward. It extends from Lake Shore Drive in the east, to north of Superior, snakes along Division to State, sandwiches in 17 mega-wealthy precincts between North and Huron east of Wells, runs west along North Avenue to Clybourn and north to Fullerton (taking in Ukrainian Village), but meanders west, zipping out to Milwaukee-Ashland-Division and further west to Oakley, dipping south to Division.
The ward may be convoluted and devoid of compactness, but the outcome is predictable. Emanuel and the remaining Daleyites are supporting Hopkins, while onetime state representative Rich Bradley is the consultant for Bita Buenrostro. Also on the ballot are Cornell Wilson, Steve Niketopoulous, Alyx Pattison and Stacy Pfingsten. The latter two women drain votes from Buenrostro. Niketopoulos is getting some Greek money, and Wilson, as the only black candidate, has a base in the west end of the ward.
An April 7 runoff is certain, probably between Hopkins and Buenrostro, but Wilson could surge. The next alderman will be Hopkins.
3rd Ward: King Drive is symbolically the eastern boundary of this ward, which runs from Roosevelt Road to Garfield Boulevard/55th Street east of the Ryan Expressway. The area was once the lair of U.S. Representative Bill Dawson, the 30-year South Side boss who delivered 9-1 tallies for his ally, Richard J. Daley. After Dawson died in 1970, Alderman Ralph Metcalfe went to Washington and promptly got "liberated" from the Daley Machine. Metcalfe died in 1978, before he could run against Daley for mayor. Dorothy Tillman won the seat in 1985 after the pro-Washington alderman went to jail, and she embarked on a crusade for slavery reparations. Pat Dowell, the current pro-Emanuel incumbent, ran against Tillman in 2003, beat her in 2007, and beat her daughter in 2011. In February Dowell faces Pat Horton, the anti-Emanuel ally of Rickey Hendon, and Clarence Clemons. Dowell will win.
4th Ward (Kenwood-Hyde Park): Will Burns is a protege of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, took her aldermanic seat in 2010, won it in 2011, and is positioning himself to run for Congress in Bobby Rush’s South Side 1st District, for Preckwinkle’s job, or for mayor. The ward extends from Jackson-Balbo in the south Loop, and runs along the Lakefront to 51st Street in Hyde Park. Burns faces three desultory foes; he will win easily.
5th Ward (South Hyde Park): Hairston voted against the parking meter scheme and was flirting with running for mayor in 2011. She’s not in Rahm’s pocket. The mayor’s strategy is to run a bunch of candidates, force Hairston in to a runoff, and bury her with bucks on April 7. Emanuel is funding Robin Boyd-Clark, a black woman, Anne Marie Miles, a white woman, and Jeddiah Brown, a black pastor. Also on the ballot are Loretta Lomax and Tiffany Brooks, for a total of five women. The ward runs from 53rd Street to 74th Street, east of Cottage Grove Avenue. Expect a Hairston-Brown runoff.
6th Ward (Chatham, Park Manor): This is the Jefferson Park of the South Side, filled with lots of middle class homes and home owners. Sawyer ousted pro-Daley Fredrenna Lyle (now a judge) in 2011 by 104 votes, and he faces four male opponents in 2015. Emanuel will fund Richard Wooten, but Sawyer will win.
7th Ward (South Chicago, from 71st Street to 104th Street, east of Cottage Grove): After decades of Bill Beavers and kin, and then the "Jesse and Sandi Show," the ward has returned to its usual chaos. When Jesse Jackson went to prison, Emanuel appointed Natasha Holmes to replace Sandi Jackson. Natasha who? A total of 17 candidates filed for the race, guaranteeing a runoff. Emanuel will lavishly fund Holmes. Jacquie Lewis, a local pastor, has credibility, but the frontrunner is Keiana Barrett, Sandi Jackson’s former chief of staff. One insider said that Barrett "ran the ward" while the Jacksons were off vacationing, testifying, shopping or otherwise indisposed. Barrett will win the runoff.
8th Ward (Avalon Park, Woodlawn): Never let it be said that Todd Stroger didn’t have any impact. The ward machine that his father John Stroger built from 1970 to 2006, the "Toddler" destroyed in just 4 years. Once upon a time, virtually every county nurse, jail guard and juvenile caseworker worked an 8th Ward precinct. No longer. Pro-Emanuel incumbent Michele Harris, a lifetime payroller and John Stroger’s top aide, got Todd Stroger’s aldermanic job in 2006. She faces four foes, and if she gets into a runoff with Faheem Shabazz, she will need a bundle of Rahm’s money.
9th Ward (Far South Side): After losing a 2013 bid for Jesse Jackson’s congressional seat, incumbent Anthony Beale’s stature nosedived. He faces seven opponents, the most credible being Michael LaFargue. It will be Rahm to the rescue in a Beale-LaFargue runoff.
16th Ward (Englewood): Thompson is the mayor’s 2015 poster girl. Emanuel’s "Chicago Forward" political action committee has already begun bombarding the ward with puffy pro-Thompson pieces. "Great services," as opposed to great obedience, is their early theme. With seven candidates on the ballot, a Thompson-Foulkes runoff is certain. This is a race that Emanuel cannot afford to lose.
17th Ward: This is ground zero. Pro-Emanuel incumbent Latasha Thomas is quitting, and her top aide, Glenda Franklin, is running. Anti-Emanuel blacks, as well as white liberals, are coalescing around David Moore, who works for Commissioner Larry Rogers at the Board of Review. The candidacy of pastor James Dukes ensures a runoff. This is another race that Emanuel cannot afford to lose.
18th Ward: Remember that old movie? "White Men Can’t Jump." In Chicago, white guys can’t let go, especially in this Southwest Side ward. Years after the ward became predominantly black, white Alderman Tom Murphy hung on. His organization is still alive and well, in the guise of black Committeeman Derrick Curtis, who ousted Alderman Lona Lane from the job in 2012. Curtis, along with five other candidates, the most formidable being Chuks Onyezia, will force a runoff. If it’s Lane-Curtis, Emanuel is in a win-win situation.
20th Ward (Washington Park): This has been a revolving-door seat for decades, and the current alderman is pro-Emanuel Willie Cochran. He faces six foes, the most credible being Andre Smith, a pastor associated with Cory Brooks, who backed Bruce Rauner for governor. Cochran is safe.
21st Ward (Washington Heights): Three-termer Howard Brookins is chairman of the council’s Black Caucus, and he is generally supportive of the mayor. He faces seven opponents, so a runoff is certain. The ward runs from the Ryan west to the Penn Central tracks, between 79th Street and 99th Street. Brookins was embarrassed in 2008 when he lost the primary for state’s attorney, and again in 2012 when his chief of staff got caught in an FBI sting. The aide took a bribe to facilitate a liquor license, and pleaded guilty in December. Brookins was not implicated. A onetime Brookins ally, insurance agent Joe Ziegler, formerly of the 18th Ward, likely will meet Brookins in the runoff. Brookins will need Emanuel’s money to prevail.
34th Ward (West Pullman, Roseland, East Beverly): Carrie Austin, who succeeded her husband in 1995, is now the most senior black alderman. She is a solid pro-Emanuel vote, and she is unbeatable.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.