Tag Archives: Richard M. Daley

Mayor’s Emanuel’s Love for JRW’s Team, Not Neighborhoods

Rahm Emanuel has repeatedly expresse his admiration for the Jackie Robinson West Little League team.

Rahm Emanuel has repeatedly expressed his admiration for the Jackie Robinson West Little League team.

Like Chicagoans across the city, Rahm Emanuel loves the plucky and gritty youngsters from the Jackie Robinson West Little League team.

He tweeted repeatedly about them.

The city hosted a watch party on the Far South Side during which he and the hundreds of others there hung on every pitch.

And, on Wednesday, he’s giving them a parade to celebrate their historic that ended with their being America’s champions.

In a statement about the parade, Emanuel said the following:

“The excitement surrounding these remarkable young people has been palpable in every neighborhood of Chicago, and their spirit, positive attitude and success on the field illustrate why they are the pride of the City. Win or lose, these 13 boys are their coaches are the true champions of Chicago and we look forward to welcoming them home with the fanfare they deserve on Wednesday.”

During their run, commentators across the country noted that the team, which is composed entirely of African-American players, hails from the city’s South and Southwest Sides.

The players live in communities like Auburn Gresham, Englewood, Morgan Park, Chatham and Washington Heights.

Many of these neighborhoods have not received the same love from Emanuel as he has heaped on the young players whose heart, skill and tenacity he has rightly praised.

Take Englewood.

I pulled seven years worth of homicide data compiled meticulously by friend and former colleague Tracy Swartz of RedEye to see how it and the city’s other communities had fared during Emanuel’s 39 months as mayor as compared with the amount of time during his predecessor Richard M. Daley’s tenure.

Not so well, as it turned out.

The neighborhood has had 79 murders under Emanuel, as compared with 58 during Daley’s final 39 months.

That’s the second-highest total in the city and a 36 percent increase under our current leader.

In Washington Heights, murders have gone up from 21 under to Daley to 25 under Emanuel, a 16 percent jump.

By contrast, the total number of murders throughout Chicago was nearly identical under Emanuel and Daley.

That means that those neighborhoods have fared worse under the JRW-loving Emanuel than Chicago’s longest-serving mayor.

After the parade, the young players from the team, like young people throughout the city, will need to go back to school.

Of course, there are fewer of them in their communities.

That’s because the mayor closed 49 schools in 2012 in the largest schools closing in American history. Some of the zip codes where the youngsters live were among the hardest hit by both the actual shuttering of the school and the build up to that final decision.

The latter is an important point.

I was working for Hoy Chicago in the spring of 2012, the time when the school board, which serves under Emanuel, was deciding the schools’ fates.

I visited parents from the William Penn Elementary School in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

The strain of the potential closure on the parents, educators and students was evident. In the end, Penn was spared, but the emotional toll it had taken was real.

In a couple of years, when they are old enough, the players from Jackie Robinson West can apply to go to high school at the Barack Obama College Preparatory High School.

The school is likely to be named after our forty-fourth president, who has deep ties to the city’s South Side.

Of course, if they are able to gain admission, something that’s happened less and less for black and Latino students during Emanuel’s tenure, they will have to travel to the North Side.

That’s because Emanuel has proposed that the new school be located near the area left vacant since the Cabrini-Green housing development was closed during Daley’s time as mayor.

It’s actions like these and others have caused many in the very neighborhoods that helped propel Emanuel to victory in 2011 to question how much he cares about them and the their communities.

I asked Emanuel about this last year during a 10-minute interview he granted Hoy Chicago.

As you can see, he responded by laughing and by talking about his actions during the teachers’ strike that shot Chicago Teachers Union head Karen Lewis to national prominence.

“I know what we have to do,” he said.

Others are not so sure.

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass wrote recently about the “anyone but Rahm” vibe that is building in Chicago, and Lewis has all but declared her intention to take on the incumbent.

If it materializes, the contest will be an interesting one.

Lewis and Emanuel’s distaste for each other, at least in the past, has been well-chronicled.

The mayor once swore at Lewis, while she has called him a liar and a bully.

Also interesting to watch will be whether Emanuel treats his potential opponent the same way during his re-election campaign as he has many of the neighborhoods that have produced the young baseball players who stole the nation’s heart and who the mayor so openly admires.

Daley’s decision, Thurgood Marshall biography

The earthy Thurgood Marshall probably would have words about Richard M. Daley's segregated Chicago.

In the three days since Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley rocked the local political establishment by announcing that he will not seek an unprecedented seventh term, there have been no shortage of effusive tributes to the now outgoing mayor.

From Clarence Page to the Sun-Times editorial board have flowed panegyrics about Daley’s devotion to his city and his effectiveness as “Da Mayor.”

Far less has been written about an aspect of Chicago life that remains largely unchanged 21 years after he first assumed the much-coveted position:

The racial segregation.

Chicago remains among one of top five most segregated cities in America, despite the infusion of hundreds of thousands of Latino migrants during the past two decades.

Large swaths of Chicago-enter the South and West Side-are predominantly, if not almost exclusively, African American, while large parts of the Northwest Side are nearly lily-white.

This of course has implications for the city’s schools, which at this point have about one in seven white students.  Long time educational critic Jonathan Kozol writes about the trend toward continued and even intensified segregation in Shame of the Nation.

At one point in the book, Kozol quotes legendary activist and Congressman John Lewis about saying that the celebration of the landmark Brown v. Board decision anniversaries have become just that-a commemoration of an historic event that has little, if anything, to do with lived reality for much of the nation’s residents.

The late, great Thurgood Marshall was one of the masterminds and driving forces behind the 25-year assault on legalized segregation that culminated in the five cases that eventually were called Brown v. Board of Education.

The driven, ruthless, earthy and iconoclastic Marshall is the subject of Michael Davis and Hunter Clark’s Thurgood Marshall: Warrior at the Bar, Rebel on the Bench.

Continue reading

Leon Despres Tribute.

Leon Despres, long known as the liberal conscience of Chicago's City Council, died last week at 101.

Leon Despres, long known as the liberal conscience of Chicago's City Council, died last week at 101.

Today’s post is in honor of Leon Despres.

The late, great 5th Ward alderman and ardent opponent of the Richard J. Daley-era machine died last week at his home in Hyde Park, where he had lived since he was just a baby.

He was 101.

Despres’ term in the City Council coincided nearly exactly with Daley; both men arrived to their respective positions in 1955 and stayed there for the next two decades.  Both loved their city.  And both were dedicated to serving it in the way they thought was right and worked best.

There the similarities ended.

Many, many times Despres was on the losing end of 49-1 votes. 

His persistent advocacy of civil rights and open housing during a time when Chicago was even more segregated than it is now earned him the moniker, “the sole Negro on the City Council.”  This title came even when there actually were black councilmen who were part of what many called “plantation politics.” 

Despres’ persistence was even more impressive, given the constant badgering, hectoring, yelling and outright abuse he endured at the hands of Daley’s minions. 

 When the old man did not like what Despres had to say, he would simply have his microphone shut off.  Any effort to launch a proposal would be instantly countered by a Daley supporter making a parliamentary counter move that Daley invariably approved. 

Still, Despres persisted.

I had the privilege of meeting Despres in 2006, when I was working on a four-part series for The Chicago Reporter about Dr. King’s 1966 campaign in Chicago and where the city stood on the same issues King and members of the Chicago Freedom Movement worked to address.

Then 98, Despres was no longer able to do his customary swim and his beloved wife Marian’s health was failing. 

His mind was still razor-sharp, though.

We spent a pleasant couple of hours in his apartment on the 5800 block of Stony Island Avenue, sharing tea and cookies as we overlooked the Museum of Science and Industry standing against the magestic blue of Lake Michigan he had first seen nearly a century earlier.

Despres told me that he learned to make his proposals-90 seconds was best, he said, two minutes was the outer limits-before Daley’s supporters could turn off his microphone. 

I asked him if he ever got discouraged by encountering such stiff opposition.

He did, he said.  But then he thought about how he had felt after the times when he should have spoken up and instead was silent.

That memory kept him going. 

And, eventually, in many ways, he won.

While Richard M. Daley soon will have been in power for longer than his father, and while reports of city council independence, are, like reports of Mark Twain’s death, greatly exaggerated, many of the proposals for which Despres fought so long and so valiantly have come to pass in Chicago.

And, of course, the nation last November elected its first black president, who lived in the very same Hyde Park neighborhood in which Despres was raised, lived, loved so dearly and died. 

For those who want to learn more about this often lonely hero, I recommend reading  Challenging the Daley Machine: A Chicago Alderman’s Memoir, Despres’ account of his procedural adventures and public service.   An accessible and inspiring work, this slender book takes the reader through Despres’ early years, recollections of his struggles with the machine and thoughts about the city and the nation’s future.

He will be missed.

Do you have any Leon Despres stories?

Who inspires you through their persistence in the face of adversity?

How much has Chicago changed since the days of the Democratic machine?

Carl Smith on The Plan of Chicago

Carl Smith gives an effective introduction to The Plan of Chicago, which celebrates its centennial this year.

Carl Smith gives an effective introduction to The Plan of Chicago, which celebrates its centennial this year.

It’s been a century since Daniel Burnham and other members of Chicago’s civic elite unveiled the Plan of Chicago that remade the city, and the plan is receiving renewed scrutiny and attention.

Burnham’s oft-quoted dictum to “make no small plans “has been repeated regularly in the press, and the Chicago Matters public interest collaboration between WTTW, WBEZ,  the Chicago Public Library and my employer, The Chicago Reporter is titled Beyond Burnham.

Northwestern University History Professor Carl Smith has written a concise illustrated history of the Plan’s precedents, members, substance and impact called The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City.

An expansion of a project he did for the electronic version of the Encyclopedia of Chicago, The Plan of Chicago starts with a convincing description of Chicago’s sprawling and unurly physical, social and political character at the beginning of last century.  Smith then moves into a discussion and analysis of the plan’s antecdents in other cities like Paris-he is quick to note that the plan had its own distinct flavor-Burnham and the other Commercial Club members, their adherence to the concept of the City Beautiful, and their collective efforts to conceive, promote and implement the plan.

The Plan itself was a remarkably forward-looking document, and Smith notes toward the end of the book how its progressive ethos has been echoed in subsequent decades by the late Richard J. Daley, and, to a lesser degree, the creation of Millennium Park by his son, Richard M. Daley.

Smith includes and acknowledges Lewis Mumford and Jane Jacobs’ criticism of the plan as being excessively committed to monuments rather than shared civic space, and, generally, the work is a sympathetic appraisal of the plan and the men behind it.   As the title suggests, the project’s influence extended beyond Chicago into the nation as a whole. 

The Plan of Chicago has plenty of pictures, some of which are more useful than others.  Overall, the combination of words, images and a bibliographical essay is an effective introduction to a seminal effort to reshape Chicago that still has direct and indirect influence on how we live today and how we think of what the region should be like in the next 100 years.

Ron Huberman’s Reading List

CTA President Ron Huberman is slated to become schools chief today; here are some reading suggestions for him.

CTA President Ron Huberman is slated to become schools chief today; here are some reading suggestions for him.

In a surprising move, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley apparently is going to appoint Chicago Transit Authority President Ron Huberman to head the Chicago Public Schools today.

The 37-year-old Huberman, who has no education experience, will replace U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Huberman clearly will not be lacking for things to do in the upcoming days, weeks and months. 

Still, in order to familiarize himself with the field in general, and with inner-city education in Chicago in particular, he might consider reading the following:

1. Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families, by J. Anthony Lukas.  Set in Boston, this absolutely classic work traces the lives of three families-one Yankee, one Irish-American, and one black-during the decade that starts in 1968 with Dr. King’s assassination.  In addition to reading like a novel and emphasizing the importance of class, Common Ground has extensive sections on children’s education, the intersection of internal and external social forces, and the factors that promote or hinder achievement.

2. So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools, by Charles Payne.  This recently released book by acclaimed historian Payne provides a ‘guardedly optimistic’ if sobering look at urban school reform during the past 30 years. 

Payne’s central contention is that school reform efforts often do not address the lived realities of students in the hardest to impact schools, and thus have little chance of truly helping those students reach their potential. Heavy in references to the work of the Consortium on Chicago School Research and Chicago Reporter sister publication Catalyst-Chicago, the book is stronger on diagnosing than solving the problem, but is a useful orientation to school reform efforts in Chicago as they relate to the national landscape. 

3.Maggie’s American Dream: The Life and Times of  A Black Family, by James Comer.  Yale psychiatrist Comer has developed a highly successful method of collective adult involvement in students’ lives to boost achievement and build community.  In this book, he tells the story of his mother Maggie, who helped inspire and form his vision.

4. The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, by Jonathan Kozol.  This 2005 book returns to the subject of education, which Kozol first tackled 40 years ago in his National Book Award-winning Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools, and offers a bleak assessment of the state of education nationally 50 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.

5. Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing People’s Minds, by Howard Gardner.  The MacArthur Award-winning Gardner pioneered and developed the concept of multiple intelligences.  In this book he writes about how business leaders, politicians and advocates can go about changing public consensus. 

Gardner discusses seven levers to change and six realms in which they occur (Two are classrooms and diverse groups like a city or nation).   Although a bit vague on specifics, the book could be useful for Huberman to consider both in terms of his work within the schools and the public perception of him as having dubious qualifications for his job.