The voters spoke, but were aldermen listening?
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Well, Chicago aldermen, did you get the message?
While, yes, the mayor won re-election, a meaningful number of Emanuel-backed candidates went down in flames.
Chicagoans said it loud and clear from wards all across the city by forcing a third of the Council into a runoff in the first place. Their votes spoke of how they were sick and tired of a fat, lazy, rubber-stamp Council majority with six-figure salaries for what too often is a part-time job. Who listen too closely to the guy they fear on the 5th floor and who listen too little to the people in the wards.
So farewell, Emanuel appointee and 7th Ward Ald. Natashia Holmes.
Goodbye, Ald. Lona Lane in 18, great loyalist of the mayor.
So long, Ald. Mary O’Connor in 41, shouted down in part by O’Hare Airport noise that citizens didn’t think the administration was willing to hear.
One Chicago alderman, the 33rd Ward’s Deborah Mell, who escaped a runoff in February by the skin of her teeth, took time over Election Day coffee to talk candidly about the message being sent by voters.
As she went door to door campaigning, voters told her, “Right out, ‘I don’t like that you voted with the mayor 100 percent.’”
Failing to show enough independence was not the only thing on their minds.
“Sometimes I heard, ‘Anyone but a Mell,’ ” she told me.
Appointed in 2013 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel after being anointed by her suddenly retired-alderman-father Dick Mell, Deborah Mell minced no words. “People didn’t like that,” she said.
There was a time in this city when an incumbent mayor wouldn’t think twice about racking up easy majorities in powerhouse wards run by clans named Madigan (13), Burke (14), Lipinski (23), Mell (33), and Banks (36). But in all of those formerly dynastic wards in February, Chuy Garcia got more votes than Rahm Emanuel, fueling this runoff.
And while the mayor defeated Garcia on this Election Day — and while some of his loyalist aldermen made it out victorious — there is plenty of food for thought for the new City Council sworn in on May 18.
Like the fact that 45th Ward Ald. John Arena, one of precious few so-called progressives, won his race despite having an administration target on his back.
Like the fact that the deputy mayor, 31st ward Ald. Ray Suarez, is losing as I write this despite the endorsements of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Emanuel, and most important, the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, Joe Berrios, who is committeeman of that ward.
While Rahm Emanuel had all the money in the world to pound home his message, Garcia had believers willing to battle Goliath in Chicago’s neighborhoods and City Council.
And maybe, just maybe, that fact will give brand new aldermen, including Patrick Daley Thompson in the legendary 11th Ward, some reason for reflection. Maybe the incoming class of aldermen will show us how thoughtful independence can trump clout and legacy and lockstep loyalty.
Even in Chicago.