Here's a column that proves to be an ever better analysis of the waning power of Mayor Daley by Rich Miller. I've never thought of what's currently going on in the city in these terms...
Daley is a pro-big business, moderate Democrat. Chicago doesn't have some of the wackier liberal laws on its books that other large cities do mainly because of Daley's influence.
But now, things are starting to change. The once ultratight leash has been loosened.
"They want to put microchips on dogs," Daley complained this week about the council. "We've got [the ban on] foie gras. We've got pay raises. They've got all of these things going."
One alderman previously thought to have been a voice of moderation has turned way-out California liberal.
Ald. Ed Burke (14th) wants to ban drivers from smoking in their cars if any of their passengers are under the age of 8. Burke also introduced a ban on restaurants serving any food containing trans fats.
One restaurant owner told the Sun-Times that Burke is becoming "the next Burt Natarus."
Ah, yes. Ald. Burt Natarus.
Natarus is probably best known for making extremely goofy public comments and introducing ordinances like forcing horses that pull the Loop tourist carriages to wear diapers.
The guy really doesn't like horses.
"The neighing of horses in a city where people are not used to such noises can be more piercing than a car alarm," Natarus once told the council.
These are the people who will be setting the agenda if Daley's power is completely breached. Without a strong leader to contain their zanier impulses, they'll probably go off in a zillion different directions, each one more bizarre than the others. I'm sure it will be quite the show. Reporters and columnists will love the fresh material. Citizens and business leaders might not.
Am I saying that Chicago should keep the Machine in place to prevent a messy democracy from sprouting? Heck no. What I am saying is that it's not enough to change the man at the top or diminish his awesome powers. Voters and reporters have to get more involved as well. The past few months have made it clear that everyone needs to start paying much closer attention to aldermanic elections, or the "City that works" could become a national laughingstock.