EDITORIAL: Heir today, lawmaker tomorrow? No thanks
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Six years ago, we made up the Mell Rule, which goes like this:
No elected official should be allowed to pass their job along to a relative.
We called it the Mell Rule in honor of the powerful Chicago Ald. Dick Mell (33rd), who arranged to have his daughter take his seat in the City Council — without the bother of an election.
Now it’s time to haul out the rule again.
This time, we smell the fix coming in suburban Skokie, home to state Rep. Lou Lang, who announced shortly after his re-election on Nov. 6 that he’s quitting the Legislature. To nobody’s surprise, as reported by Tina Sfondeles of the Sun-Times on Tuesday, he won’t rule out helping his own daughter, Becky Lang, get appointed to the seat.
Sorry, Lou. Absolutely not. And spare us the sales pitch. We don’t care how qualified, hard-working and brilliant your daughter might be.
The simple, indisputable, fact is that it would be wrong for your daughter to be appointed to your seat. You should appoint somebody else. The ordinary people of Illinois — the ones who don’t have moms and dads with clout — are fed up with the game.
The Democratic committeemen in the district — Lang, former state Sen. Ira Silverstein and Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th) — are empowered to make the appointment, and it is no small decision. The newly appointed representative will enjoy the powerful advantage of incumbency in the next election in two years.
Under the weighted vote system, Lang could fill the position on his own. But that also means he can make sure, all by himself, that his daughter is not appointed. And that is what he should do.
It would be a refreshing break from a cynical tradition.
In 2013, when Dick Mell resigned from the City Council, Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Mell’s daughter Deb to the empty seat. Deb has held the job ever since.
Nine years earlier, when former U.S. Rep. William Lipinski resigned after winning the Democratic primary in a heavily Democratic district, his son, Dan, was appointed to replace him. Dan remains in Congress to this day.
In 2006, the power brokers of the Cook County Democratic Party pulled a particularly creepy bait-and-switch. They kept it secret, until after he had won the Democratic primary, that County Board President John Stroger had been seriously debilitated by a stroke. Then, instantly, they replaced Stroger’s name on the ballot with that of his son, Todd Stroger, clearing the way for Todd to win easily in the general election.
As part of the scam, then-Ald. William Beavers was moved over to the Cook County Board and Beavers’ daughter was appointed to his City Council seat.
In 2008, former Ald. Mike Zalewski was among the committeemen who placed his son, Michael J. Zalewski, on the ballot for the Legislature after then-state Rep. Robert Molaro dropped out after winning the primary. Michael J. Zalewski, D-Riverside, remains a state representative.
We’re not saying that everybody who gets a job in this way is a bum. Michael J. Zalewski, for one, has been an effective legislator, and Deb Mell has not been an embarrassment.
It doesn’t matter. Any hint of nepotism is wrong. Don’t do it, Lou. Show a little integrity.
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