Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chairman Joe Berrios—reformer!

Posted By on 03.15.12 at 06:00 PM

Joe Berrios: at least he always returns phone calls
  • Joe Berrios: at least he always returns phone calls
I'm at the local journalistic event of the year—watching my man Mick Dumke accept a much-deserved Studs Terkel award—when the call comes in.

It's Scott Cisek—political director for the Cook County Democratic Party. As in Chairman Joe Berrios's Cook County Democratic Party.

Scott says Mick and I'd made an egregious error in our story about the upcoming election.

"Quick," I yell. "Take away Mick's award!"

Just kidding . . .

By the way, you’d think that someone at the Terkel party might have told me I was wearing a woman’s belt!

Back to my conversation with Scott.

It goes a little like this . . .

Me: What mistake?

Scott: You said Mayor Emanuel didn't endorse state rep Toni Berrios in her race against Will Guzzardi.

Me: So . . .

Scott: Well, he did.

Me: Well, he must have done so after we ran our story or Tom Bowen's out of the loop.

Tom Bowen being Mayor Emanuel's chief political operative and the fellow who told us the mayor's staying out of the race.

Scott gets a little nervous, not wanting to say anything bad about Tom Bowen, and, by extension, Mayor Emanuel.

So I give him an out, blaming everything on Toni Berrios. On account of the fact that she didn't return our phone calls. Unlike her father, who always returns phone calls.

In fact, accessibility is one of Joe Berrios's most endearing qualities and probably why so many writers—myself included—generally feel a twinge of guilt after we rip him.

Like voters in general, political writers ask for so little and get even less.

Back to my phone call with Scott . . .

I get to the meat of the matter: Why would Toni Berrios want Mayor Emanuel's endorsement in the first place?

Because—Scott explains—it's all part of the new age of reform in Cook County. The Emanuel/Preckwinkle/Berrios dream-team ticket of reformers.

Toni Preckwinkle being the president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

At which point I have to laugh. I mean, Joe Berrios is a lot of things—but a reformer?

He’s about as old-school Democrat as you can get—as in punish-your-enemies, reward-your-friends, put-the-family-on-the-payroll old-school Democrats.

Come to think of it, Mayor Emanuel’s not much of a reformer either. In fact, I think he hates reformers almost as much as he hates libraries.

I said almost.

As a matter of fact, if I were running the Guzzardi campaign, I'd send out a mailer saying: If you like mayors who raise your property taxes and cut your libraries, vote for Toni.

But I doubt Guzzardi will do that. When it comes to Mayor Emanuel, the Guzzardi people are very cautious.
Apparently, they’ve decided that most north-siders—even the liberals—like the mayor.

For my part, I can't understand why any self-respecting north-side reformer would like Mayor Emanuel—what with his higher property taxes, TIFs and crony capitalism.

But as I've told you before—there’s really no rhyme or reason when it comes to Chicago voters, especially north-side reformers, who only love the things they hate.

Here's the funny thing. About a year ago, Mick and I were getting calls from the aforementioned Tom Bowen, pleading with us to write articles about Forrest Claypool, who was running a third-party race against Joe Berrios for Cook County assessor.

Bowen was Claypool’s press guy. And to hear him talk then, Joe Berrios was the root of all that’s evil in local Democratic politics.

“I know—Tom and I were on opposite sides of that one,” says Cisek. “In fact, we made a beer bet over who would win. Tom still owes me that beer.”

My suspicion is that Tom Bowen didn’t want Reader readers knowing that Mayor Emanuel had made a pact with Joe Berrios.

So Scott Cisek called me to send a message to Tommy B, his new best friend: Oh, no—you’re not going to weasel out of this one.

I’m sure it’s something they can talk about over a beer or two—when Tom gets around to making good on that bet.

Anyway, it’s good to know that Joe Berrios is a reformer. Though I think Scott better tell Joe. Probably the first he’s heard of it.

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