CN February 28, 2013

The National Rifle Association was not cowering in fear in its underground bunker complex because Robin Kelly won the second Congressional District primary on Tuesday.  That’s the general sentiment of our panelists this week, Carol Felsenthal (Chicago Magazine and The Hill blog) and Mark Konkol (DNAInfo Chicago).

“You know, Robin Kelly gets up in her victory speech and she thanks Cheryl Whittaker, says something about Obama and something about Rahm Emanuel, and she forgets to thank Mayor Bloomberg.” Felsenthal observes. Both panelists agree that Bloomber’s Super PAC was the deciding factor in Kelly’s victory.

But Felsenthal says for Bloomberg there was more to the victory than just Kelly’s seat. “If the two million-plus was worth it for Bloomberg, it was worth it because he was able to go to Washington on Wednesday, the day after the election, and meet with Biden and meet with Harry Reid and proclaim this big victory. So PR-wise it’s a victory.”

But it wasn’t just Bloomberg’s money that won the seat, she adds. “Also Toi Hutchinson dropping out, I saw the hand of Rahm in that. There was a lot of choreography.”

Garry McCarthy got some attention from today’s panel. The City Council’s Black Caucus said the “clock is ticking” on McCarthy if he doesn’t quell youth violence. The Mayor offered his vote of confidence. Mark Konkol’s take is matter-of-fact. “It’s all up to Rahm'” he says. “The Black Caucus, a group of fine aldermen, they virtually have no power if Rahm doesn’t give it to them. So that was bluster. Windy City business. When Rahm says – I have your back a hundred percent – he said that about J.C. Brizard, then seven weeks later Brizard is collecting his golden parachute.”

But Konkol says “Garry McCarthy is different.” He goes on to explain the many ways in which McCarthy is attempting to introduce new thinking and tactics to the Police Department, and points out the many factors beyond McCarthy’s control. “..there’s this hopelessness that’s plaguing neighborhoods that are dying on the inside. In Englewood alone there are 4,000 vacant homes,” Konkol says, and he advocated getting rid of them. “We should just buy a bunch of bulldozers. Knock on doors. Are you home? Look up the records. ‘Do you want your house, because we’re gonna knock it down. Bam. Clear out the rubble.” That’s the best path to economic development, he tells us.

On the topic of gang violence, Konkol says he concurs with assertions made on recent editions of public radio’s This American Life that high-school kids don’t necessarily want to be in gangs. “Most kids will tell you that the reason they’re in gangs is that they’ve got to walk to school, they’ve gotta cross twelve gang boundaries. And it’s not like you join a gang, it’s not like you get a piece of paper you hang on the wall and now I’m a gang member. It’s, all of a sudden you’re hanging out with these guys and they ask you to do something. And when you say no, then they bully you into doing it…so it’s tough for kids growing up.”

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About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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