It’s April, spring is in the air, and hope springs eternal.
Every spring comes two, perennial hopes, hopes Chicago knows best.
One: A wish and a prayer, that this is the year, for my beloved Chicago Cubs. Back to that later.
The other: A hope harbored by the city’s ever-present, ever-political dreamers. Call them reformers, progressives, change makers, discontents. Whatever you call them, they hope for change in City Hall.
They are the people of Barack Obama, Carol Moseley Braun, Harold Washington, two men named Jesse Jackson. Over 30 years, they have inspired, promised, fulfilled, forgotten and revived hope, over and over again.
Now comes hope via a new poll, the first to publicly assess the potential political matchup of the century: Toni Preckwinkle vs. Rahm Emanuel.
The poll, commissioned by The Illinois Observer, queries voters on a race between the Cook County Board president ahead of the first-term Chicago mayor.
If the election were held today, Preckwinkle would best Emanuel 40 to 32 percent, according to the survey of 724 likely voters, taken March 25 and 26.
And 53 percent of voters said that Chicago is headed “in the wrong direction.”
Preckwinkle is running for re-election Nov. 4, but won’t rule out a mayoral bid next year.
It’s an automated poll, and could be squishy. Still, it was enough to hearten a posse of hopefuls, those progressive and reform-minded activists, and just folks on the receiving end of Emanuel’s sharp elbows. Emanuel’s take-no-prisoners ways have got to go, they argue. Chicago is a tale of two cities, the haves and have-nots, and the mayor and his aldermanic minions stand firmly with the haves, opponents charge.
As I reported last month, a consortium of four muscular progressive groups, all household names, are plotting a new, cutting-edge effort to mount candidates in the Feb. 24, 2015, citywide elections.
Some aldermen are already facing challenges. Doris Brooks is a business owner in the far Southwest Side’s 21st Ward. She is taking on Ald. Howard Brookins, Jr., first elected in 2003. Brooks is fed up with the shabby environs in her community, she says. Brooks tells me she is “looking to make a difference.”
Keiana Barrett is targeting 7th Ward Ald. Natashia Holmes, whom Emanuel appointed to the seat in 2013. Holmes replaced Sandi Jackson, who resigned last year and pled guilty to federal tax evasion. Barrett, who had served as the disgraced alderman’s chief of staff, is promising a “fresh start.”
Chicago’s challenges are far more formidable than in April 1983, when Harold Washington and his City Council allies ushered in a historic reform agenda.
This April, the ice and snow are blessedly gone, but they leave behind political potholes deeper than the car-bashing kind. A financial crisis driven by pension dysfunction and a lingering recession. Neighborhoods burdened by violent crime, shuttered schools, chronic unemployment. Chicago they say, is “the next Detroit.”
Those potholes hold fertile ground for the hopeful. Let’s see what trees they plant for 2015.
Meanwhile, about that other springtime hope, the Cubbies will win it all.
Maybe in 2115?