Richard M. Daley

Rahm Emanuel handily won the Chicago mayoral election today, getting more than the “50 percent plus one vote” needed to avoid an April 5 runoff election.

With 98 percent of Chicago precincts reporting at 10 p.m., Emanuel leads with 55.1 percent, followed by Gery Chico with 24.1 percent, Miguel del Valle with 9.3 percent, Carol Moseley Braun with 8.9 percent, Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins with 1.6 percent, and William “Dock” Walls with 0.9 percent.

Personally, I’m glad Emanuel won as big as he did. Before any votes were even cast, it was obvious that Emanuel was destined to succeed Richard M. Daley as mayor of Chicago. Therefore, I hoped Emanuel would just get his election over with and avoid a runoff so the rest of us would be spared two more months of the candidates taking shots at each other through attack ads and the media.

Emanuel’s big win also means Rahm has an additional two months to concentrate on solving Chicago’s problems instead of worrying about campaigning. Emanuel has some tough decisions ahead of him, as Chicago is in bad financial shape (no surprise at a time when that’s the norm in states and cities across the country). He also may be in a no-win situation. If he doesn’t make headway into fixing the city’s problems, he probably won’t be re-elected four years from now. The way I see it, he likely will have to make some unpopular decisions in order to start the repair work, so even if he does his job as well as he can, he still may not get re-elected.

Good luck, Rahm– you’re going to need it.


My last Ottawa Delivered column of 2010:

It’s been a great year to be a political reporter. Whether it was the Capitol Hill wars, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial or any of many interesting election battles, 2010 was notable in the political realm.

By contrast, it was a relatively quiet year on the La Salle County Board front, though the county certainly had its share of notability in 2010. For example, there was the swift rise and fall of the forest preserve; more administrative changes at the nursing home; controversial pay raises; and the dispute centering on the county’s now-former software vendor, Sikich.

Illinois politics created quite a range of news, from our state’s Blagojevich baggage to the close, contentious race between his successor, Gov. Pat Quinn and state Sen. Bill Brady, to the free-for-all to replace Richard M. Daley as Chicago mayor. State politics provided a couple memorable moments locally, namely Sue Rezin’s victory over state Rep. Careen Gordon and the surprise resignation of state Sen. Gary Dahl, which resulted in Rezin being named to Dahl’s seat.

The political story of 2010 that is most memorable to me is the 11th Congressional District race that saw challenger Adam Kinzinger defeat incumbent U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson by a runaway margin. Covering the race extensively made it memorable, to be sure, but so did the ramifications of the race. The GOP is clearly grooming Kinzinger for bigger things, giving him some plum assignments for a freshman legislator. It will be interesting to watch what happens to his political career.

Kinzinger will be only one of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, but he’ll be weighing in on matters of national importance – and when it comes to national politics, these are interesting times. The year began with President Obama riding high and pushing his agenda forward, only to be slapped back at the polls in November, and ending with Obama’s apparent comeback via compromise with Republican leaders.

Still, it’s too early to tell if Obama’s supposed comeback is indeed that. I suspect it’s more complicated than it seems, but if the president continues his path down the political middle, then he likely is doing himself a favor looking ahead to 2012. Either way, you can safely bet that 2011 will be another year when it’s worth paying attention to politics.

Lost somewhat in the shuffle of Illinois political news Wednesday was former Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris’s guilty plea that included a promise to be a government witness in the federal corruption case against the former governor.

Judging from what the Chicago Tribune reported about the 26-page plea agreement, Rod Blagojevich should be quaking in his boots.

John Harris, who was arrested with the former governor in December, is expected to detail for prosecutors perhaps the most stunning charge in the case: how Blagojevich allegedly used his power to appoint a successor to President Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate to barter to enrich himself.

In exchange for Harris’ testimony, prosecutors agreed to recommend he serve less than 3 years in prison. He pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud and is expected to be one of a series of former aides and confidants — fellow chiefs of staff Alonzo “Lon” Monk and John Wyma as well as fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko among them — to testify against Blagojevich.

The plea agreement alleges that the former governor viewed the Senate appointment as a unique opportunity to try to bargain with the new Obama administration, perhaps leading to a Cabinet or ambassador’s post.

But Blagojevich isn’t the only person who should be worried. As I suggested on this blog in early April, and Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass noted in his column today, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley might be quaking in his boots, too. If Harris has knowledge pertaining to any other federal corruption cases, he will be a government witness in those cases, too. And before he was Blagojevich’s chief of staff, Harris was Daley’s chief of staff and served in other high-ranking positions in Daley’s administration. If U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is investigating anything related to the Daley administration, Harris is a go-to guy for inside information.

To drive home my point, read this quote from Harris’s attorney, Terry Ekl:

“I’ll tell you this: When John Harris began to cooperate with the government, he did not pick and choose the subject matters. He’s been questioned about a variety of subjects. He’s been truthful and honest about all of those, and I’m not going to have anything further to say about what he has talked about in terms of other investigations.”

Hopefully Ekl doesn’t need to say anything more in order for fear to be struck into the hearts of corrupt Chicago politicians. However, it is more likely they expect to beat the rap, as has often been the case when the Chicago political machine is involved.

But maybe this time will be different. At least we can hope so.

Second City announced Friday it extended the run of its hit musical spoof “Rod Blagojevich Superstar” through Sunday, June 14, at Navy Pier’s Chicago Shakespeare Theater “due to tremendous demand and irresistible new source material provided daily by the former governor.”

I saw “Rod Blagojevich Superstar” last weekend and loved it. Writer Ed Furman and music lyricist T.J. Shanoff worked in numerous references from throughout the Blagogate saga, including the allegations that Blagojevich tried to sell a U.S. Senate seat and get members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board fired, Blagojevich’s media blitz (including his infamous comparison of himself to Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King and Gandhi), Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s description of Blagojevich as “cuckoo,” and Blagojevich’s desire to be dropped into the heart of the Costa Rican jungle for a reality TV show. There also is a wonderful reference to his hairbrush, dubbed “the football” by the ex-governor, who breaks down during the show and proclaims, “Must brush hair for power!”

The breakdown leads into a gloriously profane song sung by Lori McClain as Patti Blagojevich, who in real life is heard swearing in the background of wiretapped phone conversations between her husband and his co-conspirators. Pottymouth Patti gets a laugh every time she swears, and sometimes she curses in shockingly funny ways. She also is portrayed as the brains behind Rod’s charmingly naive “scrapper,” who gets seduced into the Chicago political machine by his wife and her father, Chicago Alderman Richard Mell.

Of course, no Blagojevich spoof would be complete without somebody playing Roland Burris, who Blagojevich appointed to fill President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat after being accused of trying to sell it to the highest bidder. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan also are characters in the play, which, as you might expect, pretty much wrote itself as it unfolded in real life.

And it continues to. While “Rod Blagojevich Superstar” lasts only 55 minutes (one of my few complaints about the play), it is followed by a brief intermission and an improv session that fills out the rest of your 90-minute date with the Second City troupe. Beginning May 7, the improv segment will include a game called “Rod Island,” which Second City describes as “portraying a never-before-seen bootleg copy of the pilot for Rod Blagojevich’s new reality television show.” Too bad I missed that.

Here’s the Bread Line bottom line: If you find humor in the ongoing Blagojevich scandal — even if it’s a sad kind of gallows humor — you’ll enjoy “Rod Blagojevich Superstar.” Click here for more details.

Lon Monk, a former chief of staff to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, pleaded not guilty in the Blagojevich corruption case today. He is charged with one count of wire fraud.

However, federal prosecutors said Monk is cooperating with authorities and will take the stand as a government witness if the case goes to trial. Another former Blagojevich chief of staff, John Harris, is also known to be cooperating with the government.

I think Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass’s nickname for Blagojevich — “Dead Meat” — is pretty accurate if two of the former governor’s chiefs of staff are willing to testify against their former boss. The question is, will Harris be just as forthcoming with information from his days as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s chief of staff? It seems logical for the feds to try getting it out of him as part of a plea deal.

It is also worth remembering that Roland Burris, who is a U.S. senator thanks to Blagojevich’s tainted appointment power, testified before the Illinois House impeachment committee that he approached Monk (who at that point was a lobbyist with close ties to Blagojevich) about getting more state business for his law firm and, oh yeah, he is interested in President Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat, too.

The bottom line is there are multiple people who ought to be squirming after hearing Monk and Harris are cooperating with the government. I can’t wait for all the dirty laundry to be aired. The day of reckoning approaches for at least some of the corrupt politicians in Illinois.

To blog or not to blog in Shakespearean dialect, that is the question which preoccupies my mind at this early hour of Talk Like Shakespeare Day, as proclaimed by King Daley II to commemorate the Bard’s 445th birthday throughout Chicagoland.

‘Tis a simple answer, really: Of course I shall!

‘Tis my greatest desire not to embarrass the noble professor who instilled a semester’s worth of Shakespeare into my collegiate mind during a year now long past. Surely a thrill went up his leg when he heard the king’s proclamation! Thus I shall doeth my best to channel my inner bard with the words that draweth from my pen, er, computer keyboard, as I enter this brave new world of Shakespearean speak. Indeed, the game is afoot!

Methinks it is a foregone conclusion that an old collegiate acquaintance, whom I shall refer to as K.C., will not be participating in this wondrous celebration. K.C. felt a semester’s worth of Shakespeare lasted forever and a day, and thus played the Bad Examples song “Every Poet Wants to Murder Shakespeare” often during his campus radio broadcasts. He believed revenge was a dish best served cold over the airwaves.

For those who shall participate in Talk Like Shakespeare Day, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater provideth the following tips:

  1. Instead of you, say thou. Instead of y’all, say thee.
  2. Rhymed couplets are all the rage.
  3. Men are Sirrah, ladies are Mistress, and your friends are all called Cousin.
  4. Instead of cursing, try calling your tormenters jackanapes or canker-blossoms or poisonous bunch-back’d toads.
  5. Don’t waste time saying “it,” just use the letter “t” (’tis, t’will, I’ll do’t).
  6. Verse for lovers, prose for ruffians, songs for clowns.
  7. When in doubt, add the letters “eth” to the end of verbs (he runneth, he trippeth, he falleth).
  8. To add weight to your opinions, try starting them with methinks, mayhaps, in sooth or wherefore.
  9. When wooing ladies: try comparing her to a summer’s day. If that fails, say “Get thee to a nunnery!”
  10. When wooing lads: try dressing up like a man. If that fails, throw him in the tower, banish his friends and claim the throne.

Have fun talking like Shakespeare! And let us hope to see King Daley II dressed in proper Shakespearean attire during a City Hall news conference. Surely His Majesty wishes to look the part as he cries havoc and lets slip the dogs of war against the media and those opposed to the 2016 Olympics being held in Chicago.

That is all, for now. For all’s well that ends well — even concerning this blog post.

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley made a puzzling comment Friday about the 19-count federal indictment of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and five associates.

“Well, really, it’s really unfortunate for him,” Daley said. “He’s a young man, 52 years old. He has two children, a wife. Look at them, all young. These are young — basically young people involved in politics. It’s a very sad comment.”

What’s really sad is Daley didn’t condemn what the Blagojevich group is accused of doing. Instead, he made a comment that makes me think he feels bad for Blagojevich and company simply because their younger generation of politicians aren’t getting away with corruption the way the old-school pro pols did back in the day.

Daley surely feels pity for Blagojevich because he knows U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald may be breathing down the mayor’s neck next. It is worth noting that one of the men charged in the Blagojevich indictment, John Harris, was Daley’s chief of staff before taking the same job with Blagojevich in 2005. Harris reportedly is cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He might have some interesting things to say about Chicago corruption that have nothing to do with Blagojevich.

Fitzgerald says his probe into political corruption is ongoing, and as an Illinois taxpayer, I am thankful for the U.S. attorney’s tireless effort. The six-year investigation, dubbed Operation Board Games, has led to charges against 17 people so far. He may not kill the whole weed, but yanking out a few main roots hopefully will give pause to those who seek to spread the seeds of political corruption.

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