CHICAGO, December 1, 2012— Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has come under withering criticism by public employee unions over various cuts in the city budget, especially for layoffs and the elimination of positions. The unions are making their unhappiness known publicly.
Liberals, progressives, or whatever they call themselves these days are heaping more criticism on Emanuel’s fiscal methodology. They are referring to Emanuel as Rahmney because he outsourced a call service center to Japan and is trying to privatize other city services to contain costs.
Rahm Emanuel inherited a situation that started with the creation of the Democratic Machine in Chicago in the 1930s. Anton Cermak realized that consolidating political power was not enough. You actually had to perform. He devised a system of providing municipal services through the Machine. This evolved into the retail service oriented city Chicago eventually became. The retail service model was greatly expanded during the Richard J. Daley administration.
Give the people what they want and solve their problems. Under Richard J. Daley Chicago became “The City that Works”. When people need or want service from the city they get it. Dial 911 for any reason and police or fire personnel will show up. Street lights are out? Problem fixed fast. Problem with garbage pick up? Just call, problem solved. Pot holes? Patched the same day. The list can go on, but you get the picture. Even the utility companies were forced to provide fast service when outages, gas leaks, or phone problems occurred.
The Chicago Machine was not just a political entity. It was an actual functioning industry that provided services on demand.
The worst thing city employees could tell a complaining citizen is there is nothing they can do. This type of retail governance demands a massive bureaucracy. It is employee intensive. Employees are the most expensive cost to any entity. At a bare minimum they cost 40% of revenues. Government employees cost more.
Constituents were treated like customers. All that was expected in return was their vote. And vote they did in droves. Richard J. Daley realized that the key to running a political dynasty was giving people what they need and want.
To his credit, Richard M. Daley tried with mixed results to tame the beast his father let loose. Rahm Emanuel is more ruthless and efficient than Daley. He does not quibble or sit on the fence. He makes decisions, implements and executes. He also takes the heat. Rahm Emanuel knows one thing. The voters really do not care who provides services, as long as they are satisfied. Constituent satisfaction is the key.
Citizens do not care who picks up their garbage as long as it’s picked up. They do not care who takes their calls for service or problems as long as the issue is solved. They do not care if it is a city worker or a private contractor. They also do not care how many city workers get laid off or eliminated. Rahm Emanuel knows this.
Emanuel knows one other thing. Since the old patronage system is on its last legs, he no longer controls the loyalty and votes of city workers. They cannot be forced to work the streets during elections. They cannot be forced to vote one way or the other. They owe the politicians nothing. He owes them nothing.
Chicago has one of the highest and most prolific tax policies in the nation. Just about everything is taxed except the air people breath. Utility, cell phone, sales, and gasoline taxes are among the highest in the nation. There are other taxes and special taxes or fees that increase the cost of living for rich and poor alike. Then there are property taxes, which are high. People in Chicago are taxed to the limit of their tolerance.
Unlike Illinois governor Pat Quinn, who is reckless, irresponsible, and feckless, Rahm Emanuel sees the big picture. He can’t raise taxes any higher and cannot implement new taxes or other revenues. There is only one thing to do. Cut spending, reduce costs, and reduce bureaucracy, privatize, or out-source services.
It is the responsible thing to do in an era where revenues are down due to a disastrous economy. If Mayor Emanuel, or any other big city mayor, cannot control costs and taxation people move out of cities. Detroit will be the standard instead of the exception to poorly run urban governments.
Some of the mayor’s moves are controversial, especially the out-sourcing and privatization of services. His predecessor faced the same criticism. Most of it is coming from the public employee unions and their fellow travelers in union financed reform and social justice organizations- whatever those are.
One egregious example is Chicago Local SEIU 1. The union president, Tom Balanoff, sent out an email accusing one of the private contractors Emanuel is utilizing of having ties to organized crime.
A little bit of history is in order. SEIU was the creation of Murray “the Camel” Humphreys. Murray Humphreys was part of the brain trust for the Al Capone gang. The syndicate knew prohibition would not last, as it was virtually unenforceable. They were in search of the “new booze”. They came up with various methods to infiltrate and start legitimate businesses. The mob also dominated labor racketeering.
Humphreys was a master at taking over unions. He took over a small building service union. Then he created SEIU and merged it with the union he took over. The heirs of Al Capone ran SEIU for decades. For all anyone knows they still may be covertly running it, as the mob does not readily let go of geese that lay golden eggs.
SEIU was a creation of organized crime. Something the union never discloses to its members or the public. If it weren’t for organized crime, leaders of SEIU like Tom Balanoff would be shoveling real manure instead of taking down executive salaries and perks while fooling the public and union members with bovine excrement.
Kettles who call pots black should not live in glass houses and throw bricks.
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association, Online News Association, Chicago Headline Club, and the Society for Professional Journalists.
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