Even the most brain-dead Chicagoan knows the only reason the last three public school CEO’s survived in the job is because the Peasant King protected them from the routine evaluations and assessments superintendents routinely endure. The teflon-coated three amigos, Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan, and Ron Huberman were City Hall favorites hand-picked by Mayor Richard Daley to run our massive and miserable 400,000-student school system. The common thread between them was that neither singularly nor in aggregate did any of the amigos ever teach a solitary student or run as much as a nursery school in their lives. Yet, the first two in the series, Vallas and Duncan, have enjoyed a meteorite ride to the heights of the education profession despite knowing virtually nothing about it.
Their personal successes in the total absence of substance is a true testament to the old saying that you can fool gullible people all of the time, and just frighten the rest into complicit silence. Furthermore, Daley’s fifteen-year war on the schools testifies to the universal ineptness of professionally credentialed education administrators who could so easily be replaced by bald-headed bean counters and doofus basketball players. Even though a close analysis of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) reveals that there has been no academic improvement since Mayor Daley took direct charge in 1995, the world beyond the Chicago Loop has been fooled into believing there has been.
However, the ‘third guy on the match,’ or for those of you unfamiliar with World War II references, the last in the series of pretenders and Duncan’s successor, Ron Huberman, won’t be able to follow in the watery tracks of his two phony predecessors. Daley, whose passion for the Fifth Floor diminished when Chicago lost its bid for the 2016 Olympics, probably realizes another uncomfortable truth. When Barack Obama finishes the one term the Clintons have permitted him and returns to Chicago in 2012, Daley will for the first time be relegated to number two status in local politics. Obama will be the big dog in town. Daley has chosen to retire rather than waddle in Barack’s emaciated shadow. But I gotta admit, Rich doesn’t look as silly as our President when he rides a bicycle.
Huberman’s tenure as artificial educator has already been complicated by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) election of the tough and dedicated Karen Lewis. She and the resistance movement that put her in office will not tolerate too much more of the the shock-and-awe treatment from the third amigo. The last formidable CTU leader, Jacqueline Vaughn, died of cancer in 1994, just before Daley took charge of the school system and put Vallas at its helm. It was easy for Daley to pave the way for Batman and Robin after Vaughn passed, no one was about to stand up to a schools chief backed by the chubby politician-of-mass-destruction.
Not only will Lewis have her way with Ron, now that Little Richard is leaving, but black folk in Chicago are going to be a universal problem for Huberman. Since the largest block of children in CPS are black, it is likely that the poverty pimps and pulpit snipers will reassert their territorial demand for a black schools chief. The Negro electorate, here and elsewhere, has never been concerned with really effective leadership that actually gets things done; they are happy enough with symbolic appointments. They are also petulant adversaries when they do not get one.
Indeed, Chicago blacks have been simmering in their juices since the 1987 death of Harold Washington, the city’s only African-American mayor. There is a entitlement aspect to black politics that insists that any political office a black wins is supposed to stay black. Richard M. Daley, son to Richard J. Daley, was probably the only white executive capable of sealing the lid on that simmering pan on the south and west sides. With his abdication of the throne, CEO Huberman is more than just vulnerable, he is susceptible. The schools are going to be a huge political issue in the open mayoral race. (1) there was never any reform in the first place (2) scores of children have been murdered as an indirect result of a stupid school closings policy (3) hundreds of veteran teachers have been ill-treated or cast aside in the Duncan ‘Turn-a-round initiatives, many of them black (4) the three amigos were all white males, a modern-day indiscretion in itself (5) Hispanic-Americans, a large and well-organized CPS constituency, will likely assert their demands in conflict with their black brethren.
The mayoral primary in February is going to be almost as tumultuous as the Blago fiasco, but with much more serious consequences. In an Associated Press article written by Tammy Webber, she listed the first wave of possible mayoral candidates. Among them are U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez, whose Bolshevik politics I find despicable yet the man is open and honest. She listed Congressman Jesse Jackson of the famous clan of opportunists that has never been known for any virtue other than over exposure. And if the cast of charming characters needs a little spice, the only Chicagoan who has previously indicated hard interest in succeeding Daley is Obama’s White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel. Not only is the controversial Emanuel a former Congressman from the same district that gave us felons Dan Rostenkowski and Rob Blagojevich, but Rahm is Jewish. That matters in this town. (ask Larry Bloom)
The only time Chicago has embraced a Jewish candidate for Mayor was when the hapless Bernie Epton ran against Harold in 1983. That was ugly. And it was racially charged. How significant is a Rahm run for the Fifth Floor? The Obama factor is in play. Will the almost Negro Obama show loyalty to his Chief-of-Staff, or will he succumb to everyday racial politics? We all know that he isn’t wise enough to stay out of the mix. If he was he would not have jumped needlessly into the porridge during the Cambridge, Massachusetts arrest of his goofy little buddy Henry Gates, or more even more foolishly, his senseless FLIP FLOP FLIP on the New York Mosque. He could have kept his mouth shut in both instances, and sustained the myth of his intellectual acuity instead of bumbling into them and raising doubt about his common sense.
As a native-born Chicagoan I have long resisted the limited political charms of the erudite Daley family and been personally insulted by the knuckle-dragging level of discourse in both City Hall and the Cook County Building. Nevertheless, the Peasant King did provide a sense of stability in a volatile municipality that defies the criminal code and thrives on ethnic and racial emotion. Daley II’s restoration regime ended the horror of ‘Council Wars’ during Harold’s tenure as mayor and quieted the Negro storm that followed his sudden death. It was awful; no, not his demise, I mean the third-world like reaction to it. It looked for a moment as if angry black folk would seize City Hall by force.
Since the city and its three million inmates are no more astute today than they were when Washington literally died in office, I fear that the clouds gathering in the distant sky are not the fluffy kind. Fasten your seatbelts Chicago.