Monday, September 10, 2007

The mayor's choosing

Posted By on 09.10.07 at 11:48 AM

Neither won the Cook County Democratic Party's official blessing over the weekend, but aldermen Howard Brookins Jr. (21st) and Ed Smith (28th) are both running for new offices--Brookins for Cook County state's attorney and Smith for recorder of deeds. 

"I'm running so hard I'm nearly out of breath," Smith said last week.

Smith said the recorder's office needs to be more "open to the public" than it has been under its current leader, Gene Moore. Though Moore's kept a pretty low profile and hasn't been in any big trouble, Smith said he'd make sure the office's accounting practices were clearer. "We ought to have good government," he said.

Brookins, meanwhile, is promising to crack down on bad cops and corrupt politicians--not exactly the platform advanced by recent state's attorneys who are forces in the Democratic Party. "The problem with prosecuting or not prosecuting corrupt cops is that when they're out there, they corrupt the whole system," he said. "I have people come to me in the office after they go to CAPS meetings that they didn't want to give the police this information because they believe they're telling the dope dealers they got this information from Miss Smith and Mrs. Jones. Witnesses are reluctant to come forward, victims are reluctant to come forward, and we've got to send a strong signal out there that the system is out there to protect you.

"It's almost like the Benny Hill joke where the woman is tied up on the thing and she says, 'Sheriff, sheriff, I was raped by the Indians,' and he says, 'Well, it's not your lucky day.'"

Brookins has hired Mike Noonan to run his campaign. Noonan recently ran the successful campaigns of Cook County Board president Todd Stroger and 50th Ward alderman Berny Stone

Aside from the impacts Brookins and Smith might make in new offices, their departures from the City Council would make life easier for Mayor Daley--not that it's so hard for him right now anyway.

Both aldermen have been mavericks over the last few years. While Brookins sided with the mayor on the big-box minimum-wage ordinance--he wanted to bring a Wal-Mart to his ward--he's right in claiming that he's pushed the administration to start doing something, anything, about rogue cops. Daley chose the "anything" option, moving to put the Office of Professional Standards under the direct control of someone he appoints, and Brookins and the rest of the council signed off.

Smith irked the mayor when he shepherded the indoor smoking ban through the council, and again during the big-box debate. During budget discussions last fall he ripped corruption in the Daley administration but voted for the mayor's spending plan anyway, moving the mayor to say he'd make sure Smith could take his concerns straight to the inspector general the next day.

If either leaves, Daley gets to appoint the successor. By council tradition, the outgoing alderman makes a recommendation to the mayor. But if Daley doesn't like it, the alderman's got to come up with someone else. In short, Daley's only going to appoint someone he likes. Last fall, the occasionally unpredictable 18th Ward alderman, Tom Murphy, was elected to a judgeship. After weeks of back-and-forth, Daley tapped one of his aides, Lona Lane, to replace him in the council. She hasn't said a word on the floor since, though before two different roll calls this summer I overheard her quietly asking colleagues to explain what it was they were being asked to vote on. She's been a reliable Daley supporter, as have most of the other 15 aldermen originally appointed by the mayor.

Smith said he's not worried. "One of my colleagues brought that up this morning, but we have people who know what good government is all about," he said. "And I think we have set the kind of record that these people believe is the right kind of record and they will emulate in the future. I have no trepidation whatsoever about leaving the council as far as that's concerned."

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