Now’s the time to pay attention

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By Arlene Jones of the Austin Weekly News

For months now, I have been getting e-mails from potential candidates in the 37th Ward asking me if I was going to again run for alderman. Every time my response was the same: an emphatic “No!” I even told Ald. Emma Mitts that I wasn’t going to run because my current focus is on spending the last half of my life as an author.

So when I heard the announcement that Mayor Daley wouldn’t be seeking reelection, I wasn’t surprised.

As I’ve told anyone who asked me why I didn’t want to run, my response is simple: the city is broke, almost bankrupt. Fixing the problem is gonna be the hardest part. It is going to take a savvy, smart and creative person to fix all that is broken. And it will be a major headache to undo a lot of the negative decisions perpetrated by Daley.

Now, the writing has been on the wall for weeks that something was up. I first noticed it when many of the long-term aldermen began announcing that they wouldn’t seek re-election. As I read their names something smelled fishy. And now the biggest fish of them all has decided to get out of the race, and all the wannabees are coming out of the woodwork.

If you don’t follow politics, I suggest you pay attention now like you’ve never done before. Without Mayor Daley in the race, those who never could find the time to have anything to say are cackling like a chicken. As I write this column, I’m listening to WVON/1690. All the politicians are frothing at the mouth as they try and position themselves as “the only candidate” for mayor.

I am particularly incensed whenever a white candidate comes on WVON and panders to the black community. I’d rather have a candidate that doesn’t know a damn thing about black culture but who wants to create jobs and economic development, versus someone who talks about listening to jazz and drinking Kool-Aid.

As we begin to hear from the mayoral candidates, we need to carefully vet them. Now is the time to find out their plans for the city, asking them hard questions. How will they fix the budget shortfall? What are their plans for the burgeoning crime problems involving guns? How fast will they kick out Ron Huberman from Chicago Public Schools and bring in a real educator? Will they continue with Daley’s plans for the fast-track demolition of public housing or will they save the remaining buildings as safety nets for those who need it?

What about the shortage in manpower at the Chicago Police Department? Will the next mayor work with the city council or will we have “Council Wars 2011?” What can be done to renegotiate the parking lease agreement? Will the TIF (tax increment financing) monies, which had been controlled by Daley, be audited to make sure that it is all there like it’s supposed to be? How will the next mayor work to bring jobs and opportunities back to the city?

Many names are being thrown around as the 2011 mayoral race begins. I have always said that you can’t have a race without runners. As all the runners are now lining up, don’t just watch the race but participate in it.

Ask the runners questions. Make sure they answer them and not give you the run around. When those aldermanic candidates begin to appear, asking you to sign their petitions to run for office, find out who they are willing to publicly support for mayor.

That is always an eye opener.

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