Chicago Is Seeing Democracy at Its Finest -- And Worst

11/17/2010 05:45 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Hermene Hartman President, Hartman Publishing Group, Inc.; President, N'DIGO Foundation

Chicago's mayoral race is on!

There are nine candidates: Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico, Danny K. Davis, Wilfredo DeJesus, Miguel del Valle, Rahm Emanuel, Ryan Graves, James Meeks and William (Dock) Walls.

Some people in the race are certainly stalking-horses, that is, they are not in the race for their interest but to pull and divide the vote. Games will be played, and deception will occur -- this is the nature of the political beast. But for sure, this spring, there will be a new Mayor in City Hall.

We are experiencing something in Chicago that we have not experienced in a long time: American democracy. Until now, City Hall politics have become a benevolent, Irish ruled, dictated democracy with selective participation.

There is a wide range of men and one woman running who are all good people with track records fit for the Fifth Floor. A lot of money will be spent, endorsements will be made by the high and mighty, and new leadership will emerge. But, it is the voter's choice.

Television, radio, literature, newspaper ads, billboards, and social networking will create awareness, propaganda of persuasion and present positions, but it will be the voter, We the People, who will close the blue curtain to punch the number for the candidate.

Voters are the deciding factor and voters are the only deciding factor.

Money is important to this political race, but it is not the deciding factor. The challenge for all of the candidates is to present their vision for the city of Chicago and to solve the problems. As far as I'm concerned, the mayoral seat is more important than the presidential seat because all politics are local and this is the biggest historical, local race since the Harold Washington era.

This is not a popularity contest. There are critical issues that must be addressed, so ask these mayoral candidates questions, the hard questions, and the questions that directly affect your life.

Will the next mayor raise taxes? What will the next mayor do about the current budget deficit? What will the next mayor do about the Daley administration's bad deals that resulted in such negative consequences? What will the next mayor do with the Chicago Public Schools system? What about crime? What will be the next mayor's strategy for achieving and maintaining safety in our streets?

And this follows with even more questions: Will the next mayor fill the city's top executive positions of city departments from within the ranks, or will we get brand new bean counters? Will we see mass city layoffs to balance the budget? Will doing business with the city be an open process for minority businesses? Or will we continue the waivers game? Will we use technology to streamline the function of government? How will the city continue to achieve and develop its world-class status?

These are the serious questions of the day and voters will be awaiting the answers. Look at the candidates' track records, look at their experience and see how it compares to your lifestyle, your family, and your neighborhood. Who makes sense for you?

All Chicago citizens should participate in the democratic process.

We are seeing democracy at its finest and at its worst: This race will be an exercise in media brutality. The pundits will vet position, person, personality and process to the point of no return. I hope in doing so, that the election process is fair and not sexist or racist.

However, I realize, that has already begun.

The foregone assumption is that Rahm Emanuel is the next mayor of Chicago. Why? He is smart. He will be well financed and he comes from serving two historic presidents. However, what is not being said is that he is a white male. This is also Emanuel's problem. Can he pull votes from the South Side, from black Chicago, who voted 52 percent strong in the midterm election, sending Pat Quinn to Springfield?

The black community should not underestimate its power in this election. The black community is the elephant in the room. It is ours to win, or to lose, depending on who and how we play the game. This is a time to be smart and leave egos behind.

With three black candidates in the race, there will be no black mayor.

It is a prescription to repeat the 'Tim Evans' and 'Eugene Sawyer' political disaster. The candidates will shake out as the petitions are turned in on November 22nd and as coffers fill and the organizations develop. After November 22nd, it will be about the debate. Where will the candidates stand on the issues and who will be the last man or woman standing?

For sure, this election will be a benchmark for the City of Chicago. The question is, will we move forward into a new Chicago, or will we maintain today's Chicago with old politics?

Voters will participate. Voters will decide. Voters will run it.