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Rebecca Sive

Rebecca Sive

Posted: October 14, 2010 02:50 PM

Mayor Daley Is Right: Being Mayor of Chicago Is the Best Job in the World


I wasn't born here, but I did grow into adulthood here, growing up in neighborhood and women's politics and organizing from the very start. Consequently, it came clear to me early on that being Mayor would be the best.

Why?

Well, you could see it every day: Chicago is just so juicy in so many ways.

Chicago is big-city big and diverse; small-town in feel, yet important on the American and world stages; strife-ridden, but eternally optimistic in a peculiarly American way; and the American homeplace among our big cities in a way that New York and Los Angeles aren't. Besides, Chicago embodies the homegrown glory of American culture, and the triumph of its spirit, in its very streets: Think the blues, the jazz, the food, the sports.

So, what aspiring young and ambitious politician wouldn't one want to be Mayor of all this, say, as opposed to being governor of yet another middling Midwestern state veering into bankruptcy?

But, back in that day, when I started out, in the day of the first Mayor Daley, the thought that a woman, much less a pro-choice, pro-women woman could be mayor -- well, I daresay it never crossed anyone's mind, at least anyone who experienced the politics of these streets at that time.

Heck, we were left to begging for a "women's advocate" back then, begging just for some lowly staffer to talk to.

And, a few years later, if, for some reason, you thought this could happen because a woman, Jane Byrne, had become mayor; well, it still would have been completely unrealistic. Why, well because Jane Byrne's mayoral victory wasn't a victory for a pro-choice, pro-women politician. Indeed, when some of us asked Mayor Byrne to make serving the city's women a focal point of her campaign, and then her administration, she said "no."

This morning it was reported that the state's most influential woman elected official, a pro-choice and pro-women woman, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, might be considering a run for Mayor. However, later this morning, in a direct answer to a question from Alison Cuddy, on WBEZ's 848, the Attorney General said "no," she's not running.

I don't have any inside information about this, but I do know that officials sometimes, so to speak, change their minds. Think, for starters, about our President. He wasn't running for President, and then he was.

In any event, here is how I see the Lisa Madigan running for Mayor scenario.

This Chicago born and bred woman grew up experiencing, in her parents' home every day, the day-to-day (positive, as well as negative) wonder of Chicago politics. For instance, she saw what her father got to do in each municipal election; got to do each day -- in order to run his ward; got to affect in other parts of the city because of his power and influence as a legislative leader. And, she got to see -- and hear about -- the day-to-day exercise of mayoral power by three strong Chicago mayors: Daley, Washington and Daley.

Truth be told, running for Governor was always a problem: The Attorney General knew that with no evidence that her father wanted to step down from his position as Speaker, too many voters (and donors) envisioned a situation -- were she Governor -- that made them uncomfortable. This sentiment would have been expensive to try to overcome and the feel of it destructive to her image.

As to being a U.S. Senator: Well, what's the draw of Washington, really? Living away from home and family; commuting home every week, but having to press the flesh most of that time; being one of the most junior members of a stuffy, hide-bound and hierarchical body; trying to make laws in a vicious and fractious era; and, perhaps most unappealing of all, sitting in, not to say stuck in, a place from which very few ascend to executive office, the Attorney General's favored type of elective office.

Yup, Mayor is the deal. And, if it ever gets boring, one can still run for governor. But take a look at the history on this one: Even though he's leaving, there is no evidence Mayor Daley is bored. Mayor Washington gave up Washington readily and bragged frequently about planning to be mayor for decades. And the first Mayor Daley died in office. I'm guessing he wouldn't have had it any other way.

In fact, today the Attorney General is just a few years younger than Mayor Daley when he first became mayor. If she runs and wins, if she keeps running and keeps winning, she too could remake this city as Daley's father and Mayor Washington did.

Of course, she'd have to focus on very different things: The city's finances are terrifying, as are the dearth of jobs, the problem with our schools, the violence in our neighborhoods. It wouldn't be glamorous, but then again the Attorney General isn't the glamorous sort, one Victor Skrebneski photo aside.

Today, I'm thinking it's the morning after the tonic of Michelle Obama, a girl from the South Side, grown up brilliant and beautiful, taking care of the man's business for him, and we've got the tonic of another Chicago girl, Lisa Madigan, a girl from the Southwest Side, also all grown up brilliant and beautiful, maybe thinking about running for Mayor (and, if she does, could well win).

Chicago, life is good. You thought you had it good when we got Millenium Park and your kids could frolic in the Crown sculpture pool? Well, I've got an alternate take: We've got it (really) good when, in the space of an evening, we see two Chicago girls take charge.

 
 
 

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