Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic (Renaissance 2010)
It's early retirement for Chicago Board President and school-closer supreme, Rufus Williams, whose term doesn't actually run out until 2011. It seems that Williams ruffled some aldermanic feathers. But he's getting out just in time. Next year the real numbers will roll in on Renaissance 2010. With Duncan and Williams gone (shades of the old Vallas/Chico team) who will do damage control? Who will do crowd control?
It looks like another Daley crony, west-side real estate developer Michael Scott, the former board president who had actually recommended his pal Williams to Mayor Daley, as his replacement. Scott is currently trying to make a buck gentrifying the neighborhood surrounding the recently closed Austin High School. When Scott left the school board two years ago, Daley rewarded him with a paid, but "less time consuming" patronage seat on the RTA board. Some of us still remember how that board seat was used as a way to bribe the corrupt former teacher union chief, Tom Reece back in 1999.
And they say patronage is dead in the Windy City.
If you want to know how Daley's version of Chicago school reform really works, follow the trains. Now that Ron Huberman has been brought over from the CTA to run the schools, maybe Williams can leave and become a train conductor (or an RTA board member).
Huberman also served a Daley's chief-of-staff. His predecessors in that office include John Harris, who was busted by the feds along with Gov. Blago and who may roll over and start naming names; and Paul Vallas who, like Huberman, went on to become schools CEO.
After Vallas, the master of media manipulation, began to overshadow the mayor, Daley ran him out as schools chief, (he crashed on his failed high school reform) he went to Philly to oversee the largest school privatization push in the nation. It also flopped when his 60-odd privately-run charter schools couldn't even outperform the city's most run-down neighborhood schools. Vallas left Philly with a mountain of debt and raced over to try the shock-and-awe strategy in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. There he busted the teachers union and turned the schools over to private management companies.
Guess what? He's on his way back here. This time as a Republican, running as the next great white hope, for Cook County Board president.
You've got to watch those ex-chiefs of staff.