Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Opinion: Dick Mell Takes "Take Your Daughter To Work Day" Too Far

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Opinion: Mell Takes "Take Your Daughter To Work Day" Too Far

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Update: Ald. Mell tells NBC Chicago he is not retiring.

Ald. Richard Mell is bringing “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” to a new level. He’s not just bringing his daughter, Deb, to City Hall. He’s giving her his seat on the City Council. Mell, who has been an alderman since 1975 -- longer than anyone other than Edward Burke -- is retiring this month, and has persuaded Mayor Rahm Emanuel to hand his 33rd Ward to Deb, who is currently a state representative. (Dad helped her get that job, too.)

With all due respect to Deb, Mell hasn’t shown the best judgment in placing his relatives in political office. In 1992, he decided that every ward boss needs his own state representative. So he called his son-in-law, an attorney in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. Rod Blagojevich answered his cell phone while out jogging. With Mell’s backing, Blagojevich beat a seven-term incumbent in the Democratic Party. Then he went on to Congress and the governorship. All because the political gigolo married Mell’s daughter. After Blagojevich was elected to his highest office, Mell became known as the “governor-in-law.” 

There should be an ordinance prohibiting the mayor from filling aldermanic vacancies with family members. For one thing, it gives the mayor too much influence over the aldermen, by providing him with a reward to induce them to vote his way. In the 49th Ward, Ald. Joe Moore went from anti-Daley independent to pro-Emanuel shoeshine boy, because he wanted the mayor to appoint his wife to the city council in the event he became director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. 
 
Burke is the only sitting alderman to have directly succeeded a family member, having taken over the 14th Ward from his late father, Thomas, in 1969. In those days, though, aldermanic vacancies were filled by special elections, not appointments. The judgment of thousands of voters is preferable to the judgment of one man -- especially when that man is Richard Mell.  

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