Politics in my great and glorious hometown of Chicago is easy to understand. The chief rule of politics in the city is as follows: The people will put up with simple–and occasionally, not-so-simple–graft, so long as city services proceed without disruption, and are carried out in efficient fashion.
For years under the Daley machine, the voters have indeed seen city government carry out its responsibilities withe little to no let-up. Snow gets shoveled almost as quickly as it falls on the ground. Roads get paved. Trash gets picked up. Sure, the Daley administration sometimes gets caught in the ethical thicket, but that’s usually not a big deal so long as essential city services are delivered.
If you planned to check out a library book, visit a city clinic or have your garbage picked up on Monday, you’re out of luck.
The City of Chicago will basically be closed for business on Aug. 17, a reduced-service day in which most city employees are off without pay, according to a release from the Office of Budget and Management. City Hall, public libraries, health clinics and most city offices will be closed.
Emergency service providers including police, firefighters and paramedics will be working at full strength, but most services not directly related to public safety, including street sweeping, will not be provided, the release said.
That also includes garbage pickup. Residents who receive regular collection on Mondays should expect trash to be picked up the following day, the release said. Some other customers may experience a one-day delay as collectors catch up.
Taxes in Chicago have reached exceedingly high levels. They are at least supposed to pay for basic municipal services that Chicagoans have grown accustomed to, services that make it somewhat easier to put up with potential ethical abuses at the highest levels of power in city government. Nowadays, however, they do not even appear to be doing that.
Yes, we are still suffering from the aftereffects of the economic crisis. Yes, that means stress on city and state governments. But that doesn’t reduce the political problems that might result as a consequence of more such “reduced-service days.” The cumulative effect of more such days may be to cause Chicagoans to start thinking–at long last–about the need to have a new mayor.
On the upside, of course, perhaps the Daley administration will feel the need to adhere to a stricter sense of ethics, now that it doesn’t appear to have the wherewithal anymore to deliver city services in reliable fashion. It may have to get more ethical, if only to ensure that it doesn’t anger voters on all fronts.