Governor Quinn got some great news this week – he pretty much has the Democratic primary to himself. It isn’t clear that Bill Daley would have beaten Quinn, but the Tribune’s Hal Dardick says things have really fallen Quinn’s way.
“The advantage to Governor Quinn is that he doesn’t have to spend a lot of money on the primary, and say a lot of of things that get him in trouble,” he says.
And Shamus Toomey of DNAInfochicago.com says Quinn’s new environment makes things tough for the Republicans.
“It clears the field for the Governor,” he tells us. “And the money alone that he’s gonna be able to stockpile and use against the Republicans…the Republicans are already starting to turn on each other now.”
So does financier Bruce Rauner, with his deep pockets, now inherit the edge as Quinn’s strongest opponent? Too early to say, says Dardick. “It’s interesting to watch these guys. you see a lot of wealthy people coming into politics and they don’t always succeed. More often than not, they don’t. They don’t know the game, they say the wrong things, and government is not a business.”
Dardick tells us that the most important ongoing story at City Hall right now is the backwash from the hiring of former comptroller Amer Ahmed. He had been under federal investigation for more than five months before Mayor Rahm Emanuel hired him.
“The Mayor says he knew nothing about it,” Dardick explains, “but that’s kind of an odd thing. A guy who prides himself on what he knows, and being master of the political universe, and he didn’t know. So that’s an awkward position for the Mayor. ”
And there’s a big question about how this will affect another key member of the Mayor’s financial team, Lois Scott, who was instrumental in Ahmed’s hiring. Dardick, though, says she could survive the turbulence. “To be fair, she’s a very talented woman, she really knows the business well, and certainly nothing’s been found to indicate that she did anything wrong.”
Bus Rapid Transit has taken on a new dimension this week as the first public hearings have started. The plan would run express buses down the middle lanes of Ashland Avenue, giving them a huge speed advantage. But they’d also eliminate just about every left-turn lane for about five miles. It’s really ticking off some of the locals.
“They’re playing this out in their own mind and they’re thinking, OK, the way I’d do it is I’d take a right into the neighborhood after the big street, take another right and get to the arterial,” says Toomey.
“It’s a pretty good idea – hey, let’s get more people out of cars and into buses. You potentially reduce congestion a little, but I think the people are starting to learn about it and say, whoa, wait a minute, let’s take a longer look,” he says.
“A lot of the business owners in this area aren’t really keen on this idea,” Dardick adds. I think you’re gonna see a lot of orchestrated opposition popping up.”
We talk at some length about the canceled Midway privatization effort. Dardick says there are all sorts of good reasons why Mayor Emanuel decided to walk away from the plan, especially the fact that only one bidder remained at the table. But the plan’s demise robs the City of some much-needed revenue.
“Part of privatizing it would have been paying off those 1.4 billion in debts,” Dardick explains. “That would have been the initial payment…and then what you could do, when you get those profits, is take them and spend them on infrastructure, and you could have taken up to fifty percent of those profits and used it to pump that into pension funds.”
And Chicago has been forced to get into compliance with court-mandated concealed-carry legislation in Illinois. So for the first time in decades, Chicago doesn’t have a handgun registry. Dardick isn’t nostalgic. “I don’t know that the handgun regulations in the city were ever anything more than symbolic,” he says. “Or a tool for politicians to say they were trying to do something about violence. Because guns cross borders.”