Thursday, April 4, 2019

The gossip mill is churning. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Lightfoot on election night. A mandate for change. 

The confetti from Lori Lightfoot's Hilton ballroom celebration of her historic victory hadn't even been swept from the floor before the Facebook Lightfoot-haters' rumor mill began cranking out the news that Lori had appointed Arne Duncan to her transition team. Rumor central was the CTU's House of Delegates meeting where leaders were telling delegates that they had inside info about the appointment. This was followed by a wave of posts with comments like, "NOOOOOO" and "EWWWW".

I really need to stop spending so much time in the world of FB politics. You do too.

I asked several of the CTU folks who I know and respect for the source of the rumor. I would have thought a story this big would have hit the media before it was leaked to a union official. None of them had an answer. Some claimed the union got it from a leak at City Hall.

Then Mayor-elect Lightfoot posted this on Twitter:

Here's my initial thoughts on the Duncan gossip.

First, as all my readers know, I am no fan of Arne Duncan. If you're not an avid follower (shame on you) just move your eyes over to the right-hand column and down to the TOPICS column. If you scroll down to DUNCAN, you will see 431 posts (this makes 432) I have done on the former Chicago schools chief and Obama ed secretary. They go back a dozen years and are mainly exposures of his poor and corrupt leadership, locally and nationally. I doubt there's anyone who has written more about this misleader.

Second, I have no idea who the mayor-elect will appoint to her transition team and neither do you. But whoever she chooses to help with the difficult transition, they certainly do not represent a line in the sand for me. Transition team members traditionally come from a diverse range of the city's interest groups and power centers; i.e., business and labor, race, gender and political interests. It's important for the new mayor to get input from all of them. I'm sure powerbrokers, including Barack Obama, will have some input -- as they should.

Transition team members are not the policy makers or necessarily future position holders in the administration. The team itself disbands as soon as the transition is made. I'm sure, once the team has been named, I will find appointees whose names evoke my own "EWWS" as well as smiles.

Lightfoot has committed herself to an education platform that I like and that the CTU should like as well. Especially, coming off of 8 years of mayoral control of the schools by an autocratic, union-busting mayor. It's the main reason I voted for her. Her platform includes investments in neighborhood schools, early childhood and special education, opposition to charter expansion and school closings, and support for an elected school board. These are all program points that should fill CTU members, parents, students and community folks with joy and optimism and fill Arne Duncan (who, btw, supported Toni Preckwinkle), with deep anxiety. Remember, Duncan's career has been built on opposition to every one of these points.

As a lifelong union guy, I think CTU leaders are crazy for positioning themselves in such an over-the-top, oppositional way before Lightfoot even takes office. She won this historic election by the largest margins ever over the CTU's endorsed candidate, to become the city's first African-American, woman, lesbian mayor in the city's history. Lightfoot swept every ward and won in every demographic by a wide margin. In other words, she has a clear mandate for change that we all should respect.

Why the union would want to isolate itself from this huge potential base of support, especially with contract negotiations coming up, is beyond me.

Of course, this doesn't mean no criticism. Politics is not a spectator sport and we cannot afford to sit back and hope that Lori Lightfoot does the right things once in office. But struggle should be carried out on just grounds, with reason and restraint. We need to help her become a great mayor. If she fails to do the right thing, we will hold her accountable. But that's not the same as spreading disinformation, gossip and lies in advance.

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