Thursday, March 14, 2019

Some unsolicited advice to both mayoral candidates

Despite protests, plans for the $95 million West Side police academy sailed through the City Council on Wednesday
As readers know, I've pretty much committed to voting for Lori Lightfoot in next month's mayoral election. I won't rehash all the reasons why right now. Suffice to say that while I have big issues with both (all) candidates, I find Lightfoot, basically a good-government candidate, (no radical or @AOC by any means) to be the most unchained to the old, corrupt machinery. In a race with no true hard-core progressives or lefties in it, that's good enough for me.

On key policy issues of police and neighborhood violence, as well as on education issues, both Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle appear about the same. At yesterday's mayoral forum hosted by the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, both stressed more community investment as a response to street violence.

According to Chalkbeat's report on the forum:
Both candidates pledged to devote more staff and resources to public safety, and honed in on underlying issues that contribute to violence, like poverty, housing and disinvestment, while emphasizing the need to provide mental health resources in communities wrestling with trauma. 
On police reform, both oppose the Rahm Emanuel's $95M Cop Academy. But they both see more police training as at least part of the solution, in step with with the DoJ report and the negotiated consent decree. Lightfoot said yesterday, that she would even consider using some of the city's shuttered schools for decentralized, community-based training, rather than the new cop academy, just approved by the city council.

While I'm OK with more and better cop training, I can think of at least 10 better re-uses for those buildings. I'd like to push the discussion beyond training. Racist police murders, like the killing of Laquan McDonald are not mainly "training" issues. They are systemic issues emanating from a system of white supremacy and class power, where cops are the enforcers. I wish we had some candidates who would talk about systemic change. But we don't. That's left to us.

On school policy, each candidate opposes charter school expansion and further school closings. Each call for an elected school board. Neither appear to be over-influenced by the school privatization, vouchers lobbyists -- so far at least.

It's true that Preckwinkle won the early endorsement of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), an endorsement I respect, if not agree with. I think it was a mistake, on par with the AFT's early endorsement of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in 2016. Feeling confident back then, that Hillary would have the best chance of defeating Trump, union leaders thought they were putting a lock on a seat at the table under the new administration. They were wrong on all counts. All they succeeded in doing was splitting the rank-and-file.

The CTU endorsement of Preckwinkle was understandable in the first round of the campaign when it looked pretty certain that Bill Daley, the man from JP Morgan, would be in the runoff and the hope was that Preckwinkle would have the best chance of defeating him. They and many of us were wrong about Daley who turned out to be a paper tiger despite his massive campaign war chest. He folded like a cheap suit, paving the way for a late Lightfoot surge into first place and a significant lead in the runoff polls. It now appears Lightfoot leads Preckwinkle in every demographic with three weeks to go.

But as we all know, anything can happen


Now we have two African-American women, one openly gay, running for mayor. How great is that! But it's a situation fraught with danger. The campaigns have split the progressives into two pretty hard camps. In my mind, the progressive movement in Chicago, at its peak after the Bernie Sanders campaign, might have unified around it's own candidate for mayor and IL governor two years ago. But it didn't. Instead of building on the Sanders insurgency within the party, which produced successful electoral revolts in N.Y., Detroit, and other cities, we are fighting pitched battles over which mainstream candidate will take us to the promised land.

Now attacks are flying back and forth on FB and on Twitter, including sharp personal attacks which won't easily be forgotten.

Soon after the election, the camps will hopefully be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again and unite to roll back Mayor Emanuel's boondoggles like the Cop Academy and Lincoln Yards, and to support the teachers union in their upcoming contract negotiations, and possible teachers strike.

Here's some unsolicited advice to both candidates. Whoever wins will unfortunately, at least for a while, have autocratic control over CPS -- control that neither claims to want. But the contract negotiations won't wait for the passage of stalled elected school board legislation to be passed or for the elections to follow.

Both candidates should make it clear now that their election won't mean a continuation of Rahm-ism without Rahm. First it means having a democratic (not autocratic) style of work. Second, it means clean house, if not immediately, soon after the election. Bring in your own team and tell us now who they will be. Next, it may already be too late, but playing the stall game on Lincoln Yards and the Cop Academy and call for an immediate stop to both.

In other words, show leadership now and not wait until you are elected.

Also, please stop the anti-teacher rhetoric about "supporting teachers" but supporting students "even more". The CTU has been in the lead when it comes to negotiating smaller class size, more nurses and social workers in schools and special ed resources. Teachers, students and parents have the same interests in the upcoming negotiations.

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