CN March 17, 2016


Mary Ann Ahern says she’s surprised that John Escalante didn’t make the final cut when the Police Board announced its three finalists yesterday.

“You’ve got to give him credit for sort of holding the line,” says the veteran NBC5 political reporter, and for “being a completely different personality than Garry McCarthy. He certainly has the support of the rank and file. They like him, but they’ve decided, the police board has gotten to these three and said these are the best that they’ve seen.”

That said, Ahern asserts that the Mayor has another important consideration. “If he does not pick an African American police superintendent I think he’s got a problem.”

So who has the edge, in her view?

“You know the Mayor in this respect does have a bigger world view having been a congressman, having been the Chief of Staff to the President. So I think that he… I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but I think the outsider, Dr. Cedric Alexander, would be the frontrunner,” she tells us.  Alexander, from the Atlanta area, is African American.

“But here’s the real key for him,” she continues. “Very close with Charles Ramsey. Charles Ramsey is now being paid quite handsomely to be the advisor to CPD. And if you’ve got Charles Ramsey saying, “Here’s my guy”… Now I don’t know, perhaps  Deputy Superintendent (CPD Deputy and fellow candidate) Eugene Williams is also close with Ramsey. But as an outsider with a Ramsey link that says a lot.”

Bruce Rauner emerged from Tuesday’s primary a significant loser, according to Ahern. He lost three significant high-stakes, big-money contests, including the closely-watched Ken Dunkin/Julianna Stratton race.

“I think it is time for him to blink,” Ahern claims. “And he also has to look ahead, does he really want to be a one-term governor? One year of the standoff. Here’s your time. The primary is over, let’s make a deal.”

“Are they going to get past the egos and get over this and move on? ” she asks. “I know there’s no one more entrenched in what he thinks is going to happen on his behalf than Rauner – than we’ve ever seen before. But honestly, is he going to get term limits? Is he going to get the Union…a lessening of the Union roles? All of that is not going to happen.”

We talk about Bernie Sanders’ loss to Hillary Clinton in Illinois. The race, she explains, was far closer than it may have appeared. “If he had perhaps just a bit more time, you know what helped Hillary Clinton – early vote. Early voters still went for her, and as it got closer his surge came so late that folks finally over the weekend Monday Tuesday went, “Well maybe he’s got a chance. What the heck, it’s not a wasted vote.” If he had had perhaps another week it might have been a different story.”

And we touch on Mayor Emanuel’s diminished – some say non-existent – role in the election. His severe unpopularity forced him to sit on the sidelines. Ahern got to watch it up-close.

“Bill Clinton in town three-four times, I mean how many times could they bring the guy back even on election day?” she asks. “So the first time he was in I asked one of the Mayor’s staff, “Where is the Mayor? The Mayor loves Bill Clinton. Where is he?” “Oh they met last night.” I said, “Oh,” Included that in my story. I find out later the Clinton folks were not happy to hear that. They basically said, “Stay away. Stay away.”

Ahern says one of the cruelest ironies for Emanuel is that, while his own popularity lags, his old adversary is finding a new voice.  “At the time, she explains, “Chuy Garcia, perhaps there were people that had a lot of reservations, but it is so interesting to me that a year later Chuy has grown, has emerged as this rock star. Mike Madigan wanted Chuy Garcia’s endorsement. That just said it all.”

We talk about he strenuous challenge Kim Foxx now faces after her stunning win over Anita Alvarez. With numbers like these, we agree, it can be difficult to overcome unrealistic expectations.

“Let’s hope that she has some excellent staff,” Ahern opines. “Because I think even within the State’s Attorney’s office there is concern. There are 900 attorneys. They’ve been there a long time. They look at her resume and say, “Ooh, it’s a little thin. Are you going to be able to do this?” And yet she has a very… You know her compelling story, her personal story is just amazing.”

You can read the entire transcript of this show in a Word document here:CN transcript March 17 2016

Or read the full transcript below.

Ken:                Well hi there, and welcome to another edition of Chicago Newsroom right here on CAN TV. I am Ken Davis. You know, in political terms there are these moments that sort of bifurcate everything that went before it and everything that came after it, and we had one of those moments, believe it or not it wasn’t even a week ago as we were taping this. It was about seven days ago over at UIC Pavilion, where it seemed like the political campaigns for President, there was everything that happened before UIC and everything that happened afterward. And I just happened to be watching MSNBC and I see Mary Ann Ahern standing there and saying, “You know, there’s an interesting wrinkle in this. The Chicago Police Department is telling me that they didn’t cancel this rally and neither did the UIC Police. But somehow or other Donald Trump is all over doing these – you know he’s on the line with Fox News on the phone and saying, “Oh no, I consulted for half an hour with the Police Department and we came up with…” Well you get the idea. Mary Ann welcome to the show.

Mary Ann:      Thank you Ken. Nice to see you.

Ken:                It’s great to have you here. I don’t know if you share that view, but I really do think that if I can predict anything five years from now when we look back on this weird election that night at UIC is going to be one of those just kind of watershed moments. Something changed.

Mary Ann:      Absolutely. I walked into that pavilion and said to myself, “Well we are going to have quite an evening here tonight.” Not usually do you attend a political rally and all the opposition comes too. You know it’s usually your friends are gathered together, and why he picked UIC Pavilion is beyond me. Arrogance, ignorance, a little of both perhaps.

Ken:                Well I see Sneed today saying that he did it to save $50,000 because it was cheaper than going out to Allstate where he would have been safe in the suburbs.

Mary Ann:      Exactly. You know, and there were those ready to rumble, but there were also those just there for civil disobedience, lots of students, professors, folks tied to the University had been meeting all week. You could tell; they all sat in one section together. But he couldn’t have come out on the stage.

Ken:                It’s weird, because you know the Donald owns Twitter, he’s all over it, but he doesn’t seem to understand social media enough that he was able to just read all these posts that have been going on for a week. I mean this organization was going on on Facebook and Twitter. Everybody knew these people were going to be there.

Mary Ann:      My colleague Phil Rogers did a story this week that said the UIC Police now are claiming ‘we didn’t have enough back-up.’ They were in charge of the inside, Chicago Police on the outside. There was the Monterey Event staff guys in red polos who were just kind of, “Hi, how are you?” By about 5:15 I started texting my boss saying, “I need another camera in here. This is not going to go well.”

Ken:                Yeah. Well, it’s fascinating on so many levels because I’ve got to tell you, it was just kind of weird to be sitting there, and I was just watching this on TVs all over the place and thinking in some really strange way I’m just kind of proud of Chicago. It’s like yeah, I’m happy that this is happening in Chicago.

Mary Ann:      You know, the other part of me too was oh my gosh to witness this. The fist fights, you know, not so proud of seeing that.

Ken:                No, of course not.

Mary Ann:      But for folks to speak up and say, “Wait a second, what’s going on here?” And so many insults have been said for so long and folks wonder who is buying all of this?

Ken:                And of course a lot of us were saying, “Well, maybe this is going to be the moment when the Trump phenomenon is going to get slightly derailed and we’re going to see his numbers come down from here, and this is going to be it. In a couple of weeks he’s just going to be a footnote to history.” Well, how wrong that was. It actually fueled the flames. It actually made him stronger.

Mary Ann:      It did. However, I do think at the same time it did embolden the Bernie Sanders’ supporters. You know ten days ago we wouldn’t have thought that Illinois would have been in play. And after what happened Friday night, as well as the national polls released over the weekend that showed that it was this neck and neck race, while still Hillary Clinton held on it was way tighter than what they had thought at this point.

Ken:                I do think that it needs to be said that the real story perhaps not in Florida but certainly in all the other four states on Tuesday night, the real story wasn’t that Clinton won or that Sanders lost, but that Sanders overcame you know 20-30 point deficits to come to within striking distance in every one of these states. That’s a huge story.

Mary Ann:      Unbelievable, and if he had perhaps just a bit more time, you know what helped Hillary Clinton – early vote. Early voters still went for her, and as it got closer his surge came so late that folks finally over the weekend Monday Tuesday went, “Well maybe he’s got a chance. What the heck, it’s not a waste to vote.” If he had had perhaps another week it might have been a different story.

Ken:                Yeah. Not unlike what we saw in Florida where some of the analysts say that a lot of the people in Florida are kind of the low information voters. They are just sort of like we know what we’re doing. We’re not interested in seeing all your fancy stuff about other facts; we’re voting for Hillary and that’s what we’re doing, and some of that was true there. But I was looking at some interesting… Chicago Magazine did some amazing, and I’m sure you’ve seen these – maps.

Mary Ann:      Right.

Ken:                But, one of the things that I found really interesting was that in my little precinct up in Portage Park Bernie Sanders creamed her. It was like 150 to 110 or something. I don’t know what it was, but the numbers are small, but I just can’t believe it. I can’t believe that on what everybody talks about Chicago being such a liberal City, I think that politically the area where I live is pretty much a very conservative area, and yet Bernie Sanders just walked off with it.

Mary Ann:      I think that’s a lot of the anti-Hillary. She has such high negatives, that’s part of the anybody but Hillary vote, do not like her, or just want to upset the applecart, whatever it would be. But I think that’s what’s going to be so tough for her going forward is that her negatives are so high that folks will vote for any…they really would vote for a Donald Trump over her because they don’t like her.

Ken:                And I must say it was just a stroke of political brilliance for whoever made this decision to put Bernie Sanders so strongly in the anti-Rahm category, because some of it is there’s just an inbred dislike of Hillary Clinton, but there a parallel growing dislike of Rahm Emanuel. So when Bernie Sanders is standing up there saying, “If you vote for Hillary you’re voting for Rahm,” you know, again, out in my area that might mean something.

Mary Ann:      And the commercials, Chuy Garcia, the principal Troy LaRaviere that has spoken out against him.

Ken:                Yes, absolutely.

Mary Ann:      I mean those were pretty powerful commercials. Bernie Sanders was in town supporting Chuy a year ago, so it wasn’t you know just hopping on the anti-Rahm bandwagon. He really was with him.

Ken:                And Chuy had been supporting him early on.

Mary Ann:      Exactly, exactly.

Ken:                You know there’s an egotism about us, those of us who cover the news in Chicago, which is to say look, all this national stuff is interesting, but what about us? Let’s talk about us. I am fascinated by what I think happened to Governor Bruce Rauner on Tuesday night. I mean I would have to say if you played that kind of weird game of saying who are the winners and losers you would have to put…not even Rahm Emanuel, but Rauner at the top of the loser list.

Mary Ann:      Top of the loser list, and yet one of his spokesmen at 7:45 yesterday morning had a call, you know, that I haven’t spoken to in probably two weeks because they’ve gone underground worrying about all their races.

Ken:                Yeah.

Mary Ann:      “Oh, did you see? It wasn’t all bad. It wasn’t all bad. You know we have a couple downstate.” No one cares. You know no one in Chicago cares about downstate. But in the Chicago area they were defeated badly.

Ken:                Well, I mean this really was our version of the Spanish Civil War or something, this massive proxy war between the two titans. And you have to say that Madigan won the three that he really cared about, right. Rauner was apparently backing this guy who was running against him in his own district.

Mary Ann:      Jason Gonzalez.

Ken:                Gonzalez creamed him. Of course we have this thing in Springfield with Sam McCann, who this is the opposite. It’s a Republican who went off the reservation and Rauner tried to corral him.

Mary Ann:      Right. It didn’t work.

Ken:                It didn’t work.

Mary Ann:      Right. He did get the gal that used to be the reporter who his wife’s chief of staff, Sarah, Jimenez. He did make sure that she got in, who actually was opposed the Trump person of Illinois that lost his job because of the UIC rally.

Ken:                Oh really? Now there’s an interesting… That’s the stuff that I love, all the little background stuff. But let’s talk a little bit about this Ken and Juliana Stratton.

Mary Ann:      Five-million.

Ken:                That’s incredible.

Mary Ann:      Five-million. It could have helped on the budget couldn’t it?

Ken:                Yeah. Did you see that coming? I guess I kind of thought that Ken Dunkin would be like, there would be so much of the usual sort of voter inertia. It’s like we know the name, we’ll just vote for him, but it didn’t work.

Mary Ann:      No. I think in the neighborhood that folks they knew. They knew that Ken Dunkin wasn’t playing ball with the players, while a lot of people appreciated what he did. Some said, “Hey you know what, time to speak up to Madigan. Why does he have to do everything that Madigan?”

Ken:                Not enough though apparently.

Mary Ann:      Exactly, and the commercials killed him. You know when they said he didn’t pay his child support and that he had had some previous incident with his ex-wife or girlfriend or whoever, that was enough.

Ken:                And I guess they say that our President is sort of slithering down into lame duckery, but he’s got enough juice to play a big role in Chicago. [Laughs]

Mary Ann:      Well you know if he needed a win here in Illinois, heck Alexi Giannoulious didn’t do something for him. Pat Quinn he supported didn’t do much for him, so you know, the Juliana Stratton…all right, I’ll take it.

Ken:                We’ll take the victory how we can get them.

Mary Ann:      I guess.

Ken:                I guess the question that remains on the table this morning is…it’s so simplistic to say that this battle is between Madigan and Rauner, but it really kind of is.

Mary Ann:      Oh it absolutely is.

Ken:                In such an important way. And it would look to me like you would have to say that in the way that they self-selected to put themselves out there and fight with each other Madigan won, right?

Mary Ann:      Madigan won.

Ken:                So does this mean that it’s time for Rauner to blink?

Mary Ann:      I think it is time for him to blink. And he also has to look ahead, does he really want to be a one-term governor? One year of the standoff. Here’s your time. The primary is over, let’s make a deal.

Ken:                Yeah, and the election is irrelevant at this point.

Mary Ann:      That now seems to be are they going to get past the egos and get over this and move on? I know there’s no one more entrenched in what he thinks is going to happen on his behalf than Rauner, than we’ve ever seen before. But honestly, is he going to get term limits? Is he going to get the Union…a lessening of the Union roles. All of that is not going to happen. Maybe you can get one that would be okay. I’m inching forward. He needs a budget. He needs a budget.

Ken:                He needs a couple of them if I recall.

Mary Ann:      A very good source of mine has said to me that when they first sat down Madigan and Rauner that Madigan brought a 3×5 card and said, “There’s the names of all the governors I’ve worked with and I’ve outlasted them.” [Laughs] I’ve got to believe it.

Ken:                While he was peeling his apple.

Mary Ann:      Yeah. You know I’ve got to believe it. Boy, I’ve never seen two more stubborn.

Ken:                Oh.

Mary Ann:      And in the meantime Rome is burning. Folks need help.

Ken:                Yeah. I mean it’s one thing for us to be sitting here giggling and laughing, but there is actually… There is just a field of tragedy out there of just really horrible things that are happening to people because these guys can’t settle this. And of course the political ramifications of it are just immense because there are these huge issues on the table about what should the role of public service unions be in Illinois and that kind of thing. It’s got to get settled.

Mary Ann:      Right, right. You know we saw what has happened in Wisconsin, what 7-8 years ago, Indiana even before that. Let’s have it. Let’s have the volcano eruption and get it over with and come to some kind of agreement. I think the Unions realize there’s a give and take. I know that even my own newsroom, I mean after the Obama election of ’08 there were lots of changes that were made because of the economy, and now we’re eight years later and the State of Illinois has not accepted that there’s going to be some changes in what goes on in the future for pensions and all of that? Let’s get the final cut. You know they’ve been inching inching inching. Let’s get it over with.

Ken:                It’s interesting that so many people we’ve had on the program here who are in legacy newsrooms have kind of come to that situation where in their own newsrooms they’ve had to deal with this. And it’s just not newsrooms, it’s everybody who works in the auto industry, everybody who works in every industry.

Mary Ann:      Right.

Ken:                These issues they are just hanging over our heads. But it is different in the public service sector because there are contracts that are constitutionally guaranteed.

Mary Ann:      Yes.

Ken:                So it is a little bit different.

Mary Ann:      It is.

Ken:                If the Constitution had said that you didn’t have to take a pay cut in your newsroom I guarantee you…

Mary Ann:      Yeah. And I don’t think that the Union – I mean no one is signing up and going, “Oh gee, hurry up, cut my salary and cut my benefits.” But I don’t think that they’ve all said, “We’re not taking any…” They have said, “Let’s work together. We want a seat at the table.”

Ken:                Yeah. So it’s easy to say that the other big loser is our beloved Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and I’m really kind of curious about where you put him on this scale of people who were victimized by the election, because he just sat it out.

Mary Ann:      Oh my goodness, he was in a phone booth. I mean he was in a phone booth.

Ken:                Under his desk.

Mary Ann:      Calling Rahm, “No thanks, we’ve got this one.” Bill Clinton in town three-four times, I mean how many times could they bring the guy back even on election day? So the first time he was in I asked one of the Mayor’s staff, “Where is the Mayor? The Mayor loves Bill Clinton. Where is he?” “Oh they met last night.” I said, “Oh,” included that in my story. I find out later the Clinton folks were not happy to hear that.

Ken:                Yeah.

Mary Ann:      They basically said, “Stay away. Stay away.”

Ken:                Right. We’ve got enough problems without having you hanging around our neck.

Mary Ann:      I truly believe, how you cannot say that he did not have an impact on that close election? Illinois would have gone the way of Ohio. We would have been…11:30 at night we still don’t know if Hillary Clinton really won in Illinois? Yes, it was the Chicago vote that got her over the top. 50,000 more votes than Bernie Sanders. It would have been even more than that.

Ken:                But it’s shocking that it’s only 50,000 votes more than Bernie Sanders. As we said earlier that is the story.

Mary Ann:      And that they got because Bill Clinton worked it until the very end of the day, going from place to play saying, “Please.”

Ken:                So this is the thing that really kind of want to explore with you about Rahm Emanuel. He has to put some difficult things through the City Council in the next couple of years. He’s got the CTU strike on his hand. He’s got this just massive civil issue of people being shot and killed every day. As John Kass said no matter what happens he’s still got a really wrenchingly difficult job to do. Is there any perverse way in which this actually helps him be a better mayor?

Mary Ann:      Oh.

Ken:                Is it possible that he could just kind of throw things overboard and say, “Okay, you know what, I hear you, I hear you, I hear you. I’m going to throw my playbook away and let’s start from scratch you and I Chicago.” Could he do that?

Mary Ann:      I mean that’s the glass half full. Let’s toast to Rahm that he takes the crisis and he completely changes it and everyone says three years from now, “Ah! He was our savior.”

Ken:                He heard the bell ringing.

Mary Ann:      [Laughs] I am so sorry to tell you. Let’s play this back in three years. I don’t see it happening. I mean gosh, everything can change. His first order of business is picking a new police superintendent. Three finalists – two out of towners, one insider. There we go. And you know, no matter who you pick…

Ken:                Out of town and the guy from Chicago.

Mary Ann:      Right. No matter who you pick there’s going to be complaints.

Ken:                Yes.

Mary Ann:      There’s going to be someone who is going to say, ‘ugh’ and he could toss all three of these out and say, “I want new people.” Now he gets a chance to interview personally and meet these three one on one. If he does not pick an African American police superintendent I think he’s got a problem. The community wants… So we’ve got an insider and an outsider.

Ken:                Yeah, yeah.

Mary Ann:      I mean I love seeing that a woman made the final three, but I don’t think Spokane to Chicago, that’s a giant leap.

Ken:                My reaction was the same when I saw it. It’s like well wait a minute. Is this kind of like the Supreme Court thing? Are they setting these two up as sacrificial so that Williams can get the job? An insider who is African American, I mean is that where we’re headed with this?

Mary Ann:      Well, and the difficulty for Williams will be way too many people know him in the City, so there’s going to be a lot of pro and con, where the outsider Cedric Alexander we all don’t know him as well, and yet I think the outsider image of someone who is not beholden to all his buddies inside is appealing to a lot of people.

Ken:                Yeah. I mean Chicago has always had this issue with even down to the level of department heads and stuff, that when streets of sanitation is in trouble do you promote the deputy superintendent or commissioner to put that in? Because in one sense he knows where all the bodies are. He knows who all the people are who don’t work. But on the other hand, you know, he’s the inside guy and it doesn’t work as well, so you need to bring somebody else in to look at it and say, “This whole thing is screwed up.” But this is a very sensitive issue and he’s got to handle this correctly. He’s got to win on this one. He can’t have another McCarthy situation.

Mary Ann:      No, he can’t. I’m somewhat surprised that Escalante, the interim superintendent did not make the final three. You’ve got to give him credit for sort of holding the line being a completely different personality than McCarthy, certainly has the support of the rank and file. They like him, but they’ve decided, the police board has gotten to these three and said these are the best that they’ve seen.

You know the Mayor in this respect does have a bigger world view having been a congressman, having been the Chief of Staff to the President. So I think that he… I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but I think the outsider, Dr. Alexander would be the frontrunner.

Ken:                You think so?

Mary Ann:      I do.

Ken:                He’s from where again?

Mary Ann:      He’s had a couple of jobs, started out as a Miami police officer. Currently he’s in the suburbs of Atlanta, but PhD, is a clinical psychologist, done family counseling or something like that is kind of his expertise. Goes around the country speaking, but here’s the real key for him – very close with Charles Ramsey. Charles Ramsey is now being paid quite handsomely to be the advisor to CPD. And if you’ve got Charles Ramsey saying, “Here’s my guy.” Now I don’t know, perhaps the Deputy Superintendent Williams is also close with Ramsey. But as an outsider with a Ramsey link that says a lot.

Ken:                Interesting. That will be fascinating to watch. I’ve said numerous times here on the show that the clock is running out on this, but there is this little window for Rahm Emanuel to sort of reboot, and to say, “Look, everything I thought was wrong.”

Mary Ann:      He already did that. How many times can he put the fuzzy sweater on?

Ken:                I guess I’m not talking about the…beyond the fuzzy sweater moment, but the thing is that it really does not appear… I’m not seeing evidence that he is either capable of, or willing to really make radical changes.

Mary Ann:      When you are your own counsel that is a problem. You know when you think you’re the smartest person in the room. And you know, at the time, Chuy Garcia, perhaps there were people that had a lot of reservations, but it is so interesting to me that a year later Chuy has grown, has emerged as this rock star. Mike Madigan wanted Chuy Garcia’s endorsement. That just said it all.

Ken:                Yeah.

Mary Ann:      And all these other candidates, he spoke at the Sanders rally the night before the election. You would have thought that oh my goodness, that they had brought Cesar Chavez, not Chuy Garcia. You know. And he has grown with this in the past year. A year ago when everyone was hammering him about what’s your plan? What’s your plan? Okay, so tell me, what’s Rahm’s plan? Okay, can we hear what Rahm’s plan is, because I haven’t seen the Rahm plan either.

Ken:                Well, if I were sitting down with Rahm Emanuel today and advising him I would say, “Here’s what you do, you just go on live TV and you say, ‘I am announcing now that I will not run for re-election, and that gives me three years to upset the applecart, and by God you aren’t going to recognize this place when I’m finished with it. And then I will turn it over to somebody else and the big problems will have been solved.’”

Mary Ann:      But you know, that lame duck. I agree. I would love to hear… I mean I think in terms of that would be so exciting to cover, but as a lame duck, who lines up with him, you know?

Ken:                Right. Even the City Council.

Mary Ann:      The City Council would be like, “Okay, we don’t have to speak up for you anymore.”

Ken:                Well I mean we’re seeing that aren’t we? I mean we’re seeing like actual…real groups within the City Council that are…

Mary Ann:      Yeah, the progressives and the real progressives.

Ken:                Right, and the ultra-progressives and the progressive progressives. And just while we’re on this topic I’m wondering how you feel about in general the Chicago Police Department. I have a sense today that the Chicago Police Department has become kind of a loser in all of this also. Because when I see numbers like I saw for Kim Foxx in the predominantly white wards of Chicago, Kim Foxx got 11 of 15.

Mary Ann:      Isn’t that amazing?

Ken:                I mean I cannot believe it. I can’t believe… I mean Kim Foxx won all 18 black wards. That’s not terribly surprising but it’s amazing, and she won 5 of the 13 Latino wards when she’s up against Alvarez who is a Latino.

Mary Ann:      Right.

Ken:                So I’m wondering the degree to which that is kind of a referendum on the Police Department.

Mary Ann:      Oh very much so, yes. The reporters that I was with on election night, when we saw the numbers come in we were all kind of like ‘whoa!’ We did not see that coming and Toni Preckwinkle has been interviewed and said she thought she would win, but she didn’t think Kim Foxx was going to win that big.

Ken:                I think Kim Foxx has said that too, right?

Mary Ann:      Yeah. They were surprised. You know, and so the shake-up begins. And I say ‘oh man be careful what you wish for Kim Foxx. You’ve got a tough job.’ And I know she still has to run in November.

Ken:                This was one of my questions, be careful what you wish for Kim Foxx.

Mary Ann:      Yeah, yeah.

Ken:                Exactly. I mean I wouldn’t want to be Kim Foxx today. You probably remember as I do, I covered the Barack Obama victory thing in Grant Park and it was one of the most amazing and electric moments I’ve ever experienced in Chicago. Michigan Avenue was closed from one end to the other, and I remember walking out of Grant Park and walking along Michigan Avenue. It was almost equally populated with black and white people, they were spontaneously singing, there was just a general sense that everything had been changed now. And people were saying things like, “This means we’re going to get jobs. You know, the world is going to be a lot different.” I’m afraid that she’s kind of in that…today is that day for her.

Mary Ann:      Right.

Ken:                And she has to somehow or other tell people, “Look, I’m hoping to make some changes here. I’m hoping to make things a lot better, but I’m the Messiah. I can’t just wave my magic wand.”

Mary Ann:      Right, right. Let’s hope that she has some excellent staff, because I think even within the State’s Attorney’s office there is concern. There is 900 attorneys. They’ve been there a long time. They look at her resume and say, “Ooh, it’s a little thin. Are you going to be able to do this?” And yet she has very… You know her compelling story is her personal story is just amazing.

Ken:                It sure is.

Mary Ann:      From Cabrini Green…oh.

Ken:                A picture in the Tribune…yeah.

Mary Ann:      I loved it. That’s amazing. She spoke about it. We spoke to her yesterday; he eyes welled… I mean how could you not? You know, her mother holding her at 2. Oh!

Ken:                There is no greater Chicago Horatio Alger story than that.

Mary Ann:      But, whoa – this is a very tough serious job.

Ken:                It is, complex.

Mary Ann:      Very complex, and she’s going to have to rely on not just Toni Preckwinkle, but those who are in that office day to day to make the right decisions and fair decisions. Wow.

Ken:                And she’s not going to be able to operate her office in opposition to the Chicago Police Department. I mean there were criticisms of course that Alvarez was too close, but she can’t get too distant from them either. It’s such a fine line that she has to walk.

Mary Ann:      It is. You know I thought more people would say, “Wait a second, it wasn’t all Alvarez’s fault.” Clearly she wasn’t the only one making this decision. It reminds me so much of covering the priest abuse of 20 years ago when I covered that, and everyone did one of these of you know, not my fault, from the bishop to the pastor to the parishioners who all knew too that this was going on and no one said anything. And it took forever for people to finally go, “Wait a minute, we’re not going to live with this anymore.” And of course Alvarez could have charged him sooner, but you know, there was this order of business of hey wait a minute, we gave it to the feds, we’re waiting. 400 days was way too long.

Ken:                The other aspect of this I think is the movement, the youth movement. BYP 100, Black Lives Matter. These folks really did have an impact. I think we can now say for sure they had an impact on this election. But I also believe that they may be a little too full of themselves when they’re running around yelling, “Two down one to go,” all that kind of stuff.

Mary Ann:      Right.

Ken:                And somehow or other, and I don’t know how this happens, but somehow or other they have to have a kind of coming to the light of day moment too, realizing that just electing Kim Foxx did not solve their problems.

Mary Ann:      Right. And not all of their folks got to the ballot box obviously.

Ken:                Exactly, right.

Mary Ann:      I thought it was so interesting that it turns out that Kim Foxx perhaps had the coat… It wasn’t Bernie Sanders’ coattails; it was Kim Foxx’s coattails. You would have thought it was the other way around.

Ken:                Yeah, who knew?

Mary Ann:      But, they got to get their people to the ballot box you know, and these kids aren’t as, “Oh really? Where is my polling place? I’ve got to get there when?” You know they’ve got to get there and vote as well. They’ve got to sign them up and they’ve got to get there, and that didn’t turn out as well. The people heard about Kim Foxx for now the last four or five months, but as far as the Sanders piece of that they weren’t ready to go.

Ken:                I was actually looking for some data, I didn’t see any, but do you know, where there was an elevation in the under 30 vote?

Mary Ann:      No, I don’t believe there was. I could be wrong. I’ve read so much in the last couple of days.

Ken:                It’s just too early. We’re taping this on Thursday morning and we may not know.

Mary Ann:      I’ve read some that said the young millennials just weren’t there in the numbers they needed.

Ken:                But nevertheless, there is a real challenge for Kim Foxx here, because these folks kind of believe that they own her in a way. They put her in office. It is doubtful that they actually did put her in office. There was a much bigger change in the zeitgeist that resulted in this. But I’m afraid that she will be in office for three weeks and she will make a decision that she has to make that’s controversial, that doesn’t go the way they want, and then it’s going to be okay, now we’ve got to organize against her. There’s a little too much simplistic thinking going on.

Mary Ann:      We’re in a very heightened time here in Chicago. The Chicago Police, after what has happened in Ferguson and Laquan McDonald, and we’ve seen the number of shootings have escalated the number of homicides, they appear to be saying, “You don’t like me. You don’t want us. You know what? Go at it. Go shoot each other.”

Ken:                Yeah.

Mary Ann:      That’s way simplistic. People aren’t going to like me saying that. All right, whatever. So now we have Kim Foxx who may come in and quickly show her muscle or all we need is one indictment of another police officer, and whoa, when are we going to see that?

Ken:                Yeah, I totally agree. I mean the Police Union is…I can’t even imagine reading Second City Cop when that happens.

Mary Ann:      I know.

Ken:                It’s going to be explosive, and if at the same time we have a Mayor who is kind of cut off at the legs and can’t really exercise political power, that’s always been the backstop, as long as we’ve been alive, right? When all hell breaks loose well the Mayor just stomps in and stops it or does whatever.

Mary Ann:      Right.

Ken:                But this Mayor may not be able to do that.

Mary Ann:      Right. And we know that really, no matter what department, whether it’s CPD, whether it’s the fire, whether it’s whatever, they all have to check in on the fifth floor before they issue one little statement. And will they continue to do…? Will some of them go and say, “You know what, we’ve got this Rahm. We don’t need you.”

Ken:                Right. The Mayor’s press office has been running the City of Chicago for the last five years or so and yes, there’s some real… I don’t know, I’m just kind of fascinated by… I think this election has really kind of reset the clock in so many different ways.

Mary Ann:      They often say, even though Chuy Garcia lost last year that it takes a couple of cycles, and so he did not win, but the movement started.

Ken:                It definitely triggered that, yeah.

Mary Ann:      That ignited with Laquan McDonald’s…the debacle over that case.

Ken:                I know we’re really pressed for time here, but I just want to cycle back to this one more time with the police. I don’t pretend that I have my ear to the ground and I know what the community is thinking, any community is thinking, but just among the people that I know and the conversations that I’ve been having, there have been a number of these conversations that begin with this thing about you know how you always have to say, “Well of course now we all know that 98% of the police are great and they do their jobs.” There’s people saying, “Well you know maybe it isn’t 98%. Maybe it’s only 78% or 68%.”

Mary Ann:      So Ken in full disclosure I’ve got to tell you, which I should have told you, I have a son who guess what, is a new Chicago policeman.

Ken:                Oh congratulations. I didn’t know that.

Mary Ann:      I know. He…no more does he want this broadcast, but for me to comment it would only be fair because people know, so he’s brand new, has barely touched his feet out on the street.

Ken:                And may I say thank God there are people willing to do that awfully difficult job.

Mary Ann:      And I am so proud of him. I think it’s very honorable, but it puts me in a tough… It’s been an interesting time. He just finished at the academy and all of this has erupted, and at newsroom meetings at times I’ve been, “Could I not do that story?”

Ken:                [Laughs]

Mary Ann:      Could someone else? And yet you know it’s the City and it’s how it’s operating, and so I just don’t want anyone to misconceive or say, “Oh yeah, of course she’s saying that.” You know what, there’s good and bad reporters. There’s good and bad everything.

Ken:                Yeah.

Mary Ann:      I think you know the core, the folks who decided to sign up and take the oath and wear the star they want to make a difference. Some of them have gone in the wrong path and were hitting the reset button and perhaps that’s the best of all, that we’re going to see a change.

Ken:                I brought this up not to say that I think that necessarily we’ve been wrong all this time and most of the cops are bad, I’m saying that I think that things have gotten so bad that the core people who believe in the Police Department are starting to say, “I don’t know, maybe there are deeper problems with the department than we thought.”

Mary Ann:      And they’ve done such for this next exam of recruiting trying to make sure that the officers look like the community, and I think that is very very important.

Ken:                It is. It is really critical, and for that we have to congratulate the Mayor. That was a good accomplishment.

Mary Ann:      Very smart. We’re going to see what happens with that.

Ken:                That’s another thing that I find so annoying about doing this job, is that so often there have been things that Rahm Emanuel has done that have been really good for the City of Chicago, and we just don’t get a chance to say those things very often because of all of the craziness that’s going on.

Mary Ann:      Right, right. I do think he has a good world view.

Ken:                Yeah.

Mary Ann:      He now needs to bring it back and tap into that he’s not the only guy that knows everything.

Ken:                We had Bruce Dumont on the show last week and I said my conclusion has been that he is one of the great political operatives of all times, but he might not be such a hot politician.

Mary Ann:      I think you’re right.

Ken:                But he hasn’t had experience as a politician. He’s told politicians what to do all his life instead. We really have to kind of wrap this up, but I wonder if I could hit you up about the April 1 strike. Do you think it’s going to happen?

Mary Ann:      Yeah, I do. I do. You can’t back off now.

Ken:                It’s a one day…

Mary Ann:      A walk off the job. They are either going to have to…unless, I mean maybe at the last minute there are some – okay, we’ve met. We figured this out. Hold off here. But once you say you’re walking out and if you don’t do it what position does that…? Although I don’t think they’ve got the public sentiment on their side as much as they did.

Ken:                That’s what I was going to ask you, you don’t think so?

Mary Ann:      No I don’t.

Ken:                You think it’s shifting a little?

Mary Ann:      It has shifted. You know what, there’s always folks that will support no matter what the teachers as they should, as a former teacher many many years ago.

Ken:                Yes, that’s another point, right. Were you in CPS?

Mary Ann:      No. I taught… I was here, I taught at Gordon Tech High School.

Ken:                Oh did you?

Mary Ann:      Yeah, when it was 3600 boys and I was 22 years old.

Ken:                Yes, yeah.

Mary Ann:      And then I taught at New Trier. So – and, get this, New Trier had a strike, its one and only strike and I was there.

Ken:                It wasn’t because of you.

Mary Ann:      [Laughs] I was there. It was very interesting.

Ken:                You didn’t cause it or anything.

Mary Ann:      Oh no, thank you.

Ken:                But you know this is what’s so fascinating about this, is that the Union and I think CPS under Forest Claypool have become very savvy about each other I think, and I’m just fascinating to watch how they pull these things in public. I mean I could go on about this for hours, but the day after the negotiations fell apart Forest Claypool announced that he was going to cut $50-million or whatever it was and I’m going to take away all your pension pick-ups and blah blah blah blah blah. And of course it didn’t happen, and they have learned how to play this theater with each other in a way I don’t think we’ve seen before. So I am so fascinated about this April 1st thing because I think there’s more to it. I think that they both know that there’s something going to happen right around that time, and that’s why CPS is like putting its flag in the ground first. Maybe we’re going to see something happen that maybe it’s a settlement of some kind, I don’t know.

Mary Ann:      Well, and I do think, even within the Union there is obviously conflict. I mean if they were able to first say, “Ooh I think we’ve got a deal,” and then they didn’t have a deal, you know, because when the House of Delegates took a look at what they thought was the deal they said, “No way, we’re not signing that.” And so there is conflict…and the City noticed that. I mean it’s no secret if I figured it out, and so they are playing that up as well, because they know if there’s a conflict within the Union and the public sentiment isn’t all with them right now the City sees perhaps they’ve got some wiggle room.

Ken:                Okay. Well I guess we could just finish by saying Donald Trump got 47%…40.7% of Cook County. [Laughs]

Mary Ann:      Oh my goodness.

Ken:                I’m amazed by that.

Mary Ann:      Wow.

Ken:                I mean look how well he did in the suburbs. Nobody expected that, so what are you going to do?

Mary Ann:      The bandwagon is alive and well.

Ken:                I printed it all, I wasted all this printer ink and I haven’t shown this. This is again Chicago Magazine’s maps of something we were talking about a long time before, these are the wards in Chicago that are predominantly African American. These are the wards that voted for Hillary Clinton.

Mary Ann:      Wow.

Ken:                Look at that. And then if you superimpose it on Hillary Clinton versus Bernie, Bernie Sanders won in virtually all of the white and Hispanic wards and Hillary Clinton won in the black wards, with the sole exception of this little piece of the lakefront. It’s just another one of those two Chicago things.

Mary Ann:      Now will those Bernie folks go to her is I think… Who knows? I think they could maybe think about voting Republican, because there is this anti-trust going on with Hillary. But boy, there is where the machines work. You know they worked those folks.

Ken:                Isn’t that the truth. And you know there’s that whole thing about the political spectrum that sometimes you can get so far right and so far left that you meet at the top you know.

Mary Ann:      Yeah.

Ken:                And it could be that the Bernie Sanders people like Trump better than they like Clinton. Who knows?

Mary Ann:      Right. And the Clinton democrat, Bill Clinton, I wonder how well he would do. His positions of 15-20 years ago today are not where the democratic party necessarily is.

Ken:                Right. Do you think Barack Obama could win a third term?

Mary Ann:      Yes I do.

Ken:                [Laughs] So do I. Hands down.

Mary Ann:      Yeah.

Ken:                All right. Well we have to break this off because you’ve got to go over to the City Club. So by the time you see this Mary Ann will have already spoken at the City Club.

Mary Ann:      Maybe I can take your maps with me. [Laughs]

Ken:                Here. They’re all yours. Are you going to say anything really important there that we need to know?

Mary Ann:      I think I’ve already said it here, so you’ve gotten it all.

Ken:                Thank you so much for being here. It was a pleasure having you here today.

Mary Ann:      Thank you very much Ken.

00:40:47          End






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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