Patronage hirees? Not necessarily hacks, independent pol says

Written By tfrisbie Posted: 04/25/2014, 03:31pm

Michael Shakman — known for the Shakman Decree that banned on political hiring in Chicago and Cook County — asked a federal judge on Tuesday to order an investigation into improper hiring and reclassification of employees in the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Coincidentally, former Chicago Ald. Marty Oberman — best known for his anti-Machine politics — just a couple of weeks earlier had mused that the results of political hiring aren’t necessarily as bad as people think.

Oberman, recently named Metra chairman, wasn’t defending it — his remarks to the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board came in the context of his explaining his determination to root political hiring out of the rail agency he now heads.

But he did try to put the issue of patronage in perspective.

Back when he was elected to the City Council as an idealistic 29-year-old, Oberman said, he learned that “people, even if they got hired through patronage, most people want to come to work and do their jobs. They would much rather be rewarded for doing their jobs than having to turn in the votes on Election Day. … Now, some didn’t mind doing both.”

“What I learned in the City Council is that a lot of the people [who were called] patronage hacks, they were good people,”  Oberman said. “Their way to get a job was to get a letter from their committeeman. …. I went in and I railed against all these awful people that are working for the city. [But] one of the things that happens when you are alderman is you get to know these people individually. The guy who is on the garbage truck, you’ve got to talk to him. Most of these people, they were really decent people.

“[But]… they didn’t get rewarded for doing their jobs. They got rewarded for bringing the votes in on Election Day.”

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