Today is Sunday. At 8:30 this morning, my mail carrier delivered the mail. It got me thinking about retail politics. Retail politics is the political religion in Chicago. Mayor Richard J. Daley was responsible for creating the Church of Retail Politics, hence the phrase, “Chicago is the city that works.” He and his successors spoiled the citizens. We not only expect city services, we demand them, especially when there are blips.
The worst thing a city employee can tell citizens is there is nothing they can do. They find a way to resolve the issue fast.
Citizens want, demand, and expect 24/7/365:
- Police, fire, and EMS to show up yesterday when called
- The streetlights on at night
- Uninterrupted utilities
- Public health and sanitation
- Safe and efficient public transportation
- Scheduled garbage pick-up
- Clean streets
- Good schools
- Good and safe parks
- Potholes fixed
- Snow plowed in the winter
- Flood control
- Consumer protection
- Safe buildings
- Safe roads
- Tree trimming
- Mail delivery
- Quick removal of debris after major storms
- Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and glitter spewing unicorns
Alderpersons and the mayor will not survive if the basic city and other services are interrupted too long or too often. People in charge of agencies, utilities, and even the Chicago Postmaster General shudder when the phone rings, and it’s an alderperson or the mayor on the other end.
Thanks to improving communications technology, service interruptions are mitigated fast and efficiently. Toward the end of my police career, it was not unusual to see a commissioner, department head, alderperson, or other executive show up for some major issue in the wee morning hours. During major emergencies, the who’s who of politics and utility executives showed up on the scene.
I used to work out with one of former Mayor, Richard M. Daley’s bodyguards. He regularly told me if they were driving through the city and Daley saw something amiss, he got on the phone and made sure the problem was resolved ASAP, sometimes yelling and swearing.
No one cares about the political ideology of the mayor or alderpersons when it comes to services. Rightwing, leftwing, progressive, socialist, whatever. They may get elected spewing weasel words drafted by weasels. If they fail to resolve, implement, or create city services, Chicago’s retail bread, and butter, they will not get re-elected.
Some alderpersons do not get this. It is more critical for them to wax ideologically, attend protests, be in solidarity, and down with whatever cause of the day or hour is. Some of these alderpersons represent distressed wards where things are deteriorating every day. They are blind to the needs of the people in their quest to be right on their petty ideological issues versus serving the public.
The mayor is the CEO of the Chicago Retail Store. The alderpersons are the regional managers. Most do a good to fair job. Others are so far in the weeds they cannot see a two-story building. These are wards suffering from decades of economic and social neglect. Nothing changes except, sometimes, the alderperson.
Chicago is suffering from a long hot summer of rampant violent criminality. The mayor is just about the only one discussing it. We hear crickets from too many alderpersons. The mayor may be the one responsible. In Chicagoese, she wears the hat. But the alderpersons are just as responsible. They are supposed to work with the police commanders in their wards to ensure people are safe. Many would rather spout nonsense instead of common sense. Some would not be caught dead, seen with a member of the police department.
My former alderperson was AWOL for six of his eight terms in office. His successor is hands-on. He is also feet on as he walks through the ward. When he sees something, he says something. He gets on the phone to resolve the issue. I may disagree with his political views, but he is doing what the people of this ward want, ensuring city services are ongoing.
Never listen to the political horse manure alderpersons spout. Look at what they do. Weasel words are meaningless. Action is the only thing that counts. We have a responsibility to hold alderpersons’ feet under the fire. If they get complacent or talk, we need to demand, loudly, more from them. If not, no matter how “beloved” they are, we organize and raise money to vote them out. That is the Chicago Way.