Chicago’s New Politic

By Hermene D. Hartman

There is a new politic brewing. Whether you like him or not, Donald Trump has changed American politics with his antics.

He sounds like the guy in the bar. He has proven people want and like the non-traditional politician. The American public welcome fresh faces more than proven records.

Trump and Bernie Sanders have this in common. They are on the extreme ends of the spectrum, with new ideas, and the public is responding.

And so it is in Chicago as new leadership emerges. The real winner of the March primary campaign was the Honorable Toni Preckwinkle, though her name never appeared on the ballot.

Preckwinkle is the new boss. She took two obscure, unknown, fresh faces and backed them with funding and machinery and they won. Kim Foxx and Juliana Stratton won their races not by a slight margin, but by landslides.

Kim Foxx

The people have voted for fresh faces. Did the people vote for or against? Maybe it doesn’t matter, because Foxx and Stratton won on their own agendas and on their own accords.

In the meantime, Dorothy Brown slammed the Democratic Party. They didn’t support her and so what. Dorothy became the underdog with a fresh face. She slapped the party as she won.

The President of the Cook County Board has spoken and put her people in place with a broad stroke. She is a force to be reckoned with. The ladies are in charge.

The New Police Chief

And then there is the selection of the new Chicago police superintendent. As Mayor Rahm Emanuel had his police board go on a national search for top cop nominations, the one who did not apply was selected. Another new fresh face.
Officer Eddie Johnson is the new interim superintendent and in the second go round will fill out the application to assume the post permanently.

A new politic is in place. The mayor insulted his very own process and his very own hand picked board, as he said none of the nominations were the entire package. It isn’t what he did; it is how he did it.

The Black Caucus, led by Alderman Rod Sawyer, stood up, spoke up and said we the alderman would like to interview the next police chief. He said we want to weigh in, since the crime is mostly in our communities, we want a voice.

They threatened if the interviews with the candidates were not granted to withhold casting their vote for Rahm’s choice. Leverage politics was in play. They mayor was put in a bind. The mayor was being held accountable.

Chicago’s New Police Chief

He could not afford the challenge of the council not voting his choice. Bold step. The mayor responded by moving forward with Mr. Johnson, who had not applied for the job and bypassed Superintendent John Escalante, the acting police chief, who also didn’t apply and probably won’t in the second go round.

Pressure politics works and is in place. The Hispanic community is becoming tired of the title “interim, “ a term that has come to mean second place and hold on until we search for the permanent. Insulting. Maybe they will begin to issue “interim” votes.

We are watching Chicago politics change. It has mattered that Black Lives Matter marchers and protesters have been consistent with their protest. They stood up for Chicago and spoke truth to power.

The aldermen are not voting because the mayor said this is my pick. Away with autocrats, up with democracy. The editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times said the alderman were wrong, as they wrote, “Picking Top Cop is Mayor’s Job.” The alderman argue, but it is the Black community with the negative impact.

The aldermen are representing the people who voted for them. They are speaking for the communities where the crime is high. Perhaps there is hope that Chicago, the city with big shoulders, is engaging real democracy. We the people win when this happens. Diversity is in place. Common sense works.

In the case of the police chief, we should have been looking within the department all along. Maybe for the second search, it will be an internal search exclusively.

It is significant that Johnson has been on the force for 27 years, and was raised in Cabrini Green and lives on the South Side. It is important that his fellow officers respect him – the rank and file – and it is important that he will return an alderman’s phone call.

It is important that he knows Chicago streets and probably won’t produce a map solution with color-coding. He can drive to the street and will know where he is. It is important that he knows Chicago culture.

To bring in an outsider is a challenge because the outsider has to adapt to the city, it politics and its people. The mayor got to the right place, but he went the wrong way. There is a new politic in place.

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