The Deal Daley Wanted | Letters | Chicago Reader

The Deal Daley Wanted 

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To the editors:

Two remarkable features of what in the local media had been known as Commonwealth Edison's franchise "negotiations" with the Daley administration were (1) how totally committed the administration was to serving Com Ed's interests (within a context of interests of the larger business class and to the exclusion of the popular classes, which will pay dearly for it), and (2) how easy it was for the Com Ed-Daley administration partnership to get away with this charade, without anybody catching on, particularly the utility's watchdogs, which should have known better.

In "A Dumb Deal" [November 15], Harold Henderson explained that in its negotiations with Com Ed, "the city had two strong cards to play: its right under the 1948 franchise to acquire Edison's facilities, and a public that understood the issues well enough to support that option if it became necessary." But, Henderson added, "There is reason to believe that the Daley administration did not want to play either card."

Indeed. For one essential reason that almost everybody overlooked.

For it should go without saying that the Daley administration is thoroughly reflective of the class structure of American society. Who has great wealth can purchase great political power; and who doesn't, counts for shit. Given this elementary fact of the local polity, it was predictable as far back as the spring of 1989 that the administration would defend Chicago's business class (especially Com Ed) against the city's popular classes. Almost by definition, then, acquisition of Edison's facilities was never an option--despite much rhetoric to the contrary. That so many people could express "shock" and "surprise" after the October 22 announcement of the new franchise was a testimony to the success of a propaganda campaign pretending otherwise. While it kept Com Ed's watchdogs barking up the wrong tree, the Com Ed-Daley partnership reached that agreement each member of it was duty bound to reach.

Moreover, and for the same essential reason, it had always been predictable that any resolution of the franchise process would have to stick it to the popular classes. That's why on March 8 of this year, the administration entered into its so-called "confidentiality" agreement with Com Ed. Of course the purpose of the agreement was to keep the public in the dark--not to protect valuable Com Ed records from falling into the hands of "terrorists," as was often alleged. Since the popular classes were to be made to pay the price for the administration's commitment to serving Com Ed, they had to be barred from playing any substantive role in the franchise process. Again, the campaign was a smashing success. Unless the people take to the streets outside City Hall and the mayor's residence between now and the date on which the City Council votes on the new franchise, Com Ed will get everything it wanted. Everything the Daley administration was duty bound to give it.

Finally, it should be noted that even Harold Henderson's "A Dumb Deal" reiterated much of the menu of agitprop through which the Com Ed-Daley partnership was able to stage its coup, without any popular encroachment on the privileges of the business class. We need turn no further than page one of his article, where Henderson wrote that "Commonwealth Edison clobbered the city . . . ," and then compared Daley's demeanor at the October 22 press conference to that of a "whipped dog."

But these seeming criticisms are in reality propaganda: they absolve the administration of responsibility for actions that it willfully undertook on behalf of the utility and against the city's popular classes.

Never forget: the Daley administration was committed to serving Com Ed's agenda, because it is committed to serving a business-class agenda generally. It is only from the standpoint of propaganda, then, not fact, that Daley's "critics" could accuse his administration of failing to achieve a goal (namely, a good franchise deal for the people of Chicago) that his administration never intended to achieve in the first place. And it was in this way that even Com Ed's staunchest "critics" wound up defending the apparent integrity of the "negotiations" process, despite the fact that no negotiations ever took place (in a meaningful sense of the word, that is), and that the administration marched step-for-step alongside of Com Ed to help the utility carry out its agenda as a leading member of the local business class.

But Henderson shouldn't feel too bad about goofing on this issue--he is far from being alone. Roughly 99 percent of the rest of Com Ed's "critics" were just as successfully duped as he was. Recall, once again, Com Ed's watchdogs who expressed "shock" or "surprise" on October 22. The only way they or anybody else could have been surprised by the new franchise was if they spent the previous 30 months or so sitting on their brains. I'll bet the Com Ed-Daley administration partnership wasn't surprised.

Thus, rather than chastising the Daley administration and its chief negotiator, Robert Helman, for having "wimped out" in a nonexistent struggle with Com Ed, everyone should recognize that the administration produced the franchise it intended to produce, and start over from there. To do otherwise, and to wonder why the administration didn't make a tougher stand against Com Ed than it did, is to fall into the trap of believing that the administration is something that it isn't. Believe me: it isn't.

David Peterson

Evergreen Park

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