Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Opinion: Emanuel Gets PR Boost For Efforts to De-Clout City Hall

The mayor scores a much-needed victory during a tough election season

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel scored a big political win on Monday when a federal judge removed City Hall from close, court-mandated scrutiny of improper patronage hiring, a time-honored tradition during the Daley dynasty and one Emanuel has tried to kill off despite his own murky track record.

    "To say that the city has completely revamped its hiring process would be an understatement," proclaimed Noelle Brennan, the city's hiring monitor during courtroom testimony. "We totally believe there is no longer a pattern or practice of abusing political patronage when making hiring decisions. None of this could have happened without the complete support of Mayor Emanuel."

    An internal hall -- er, hiring -- monitor was ordered to mayoral headquarters on LaSalle Street nine years ago after the feds caught associates for then-boss Richard M. Daley continuing Chicago's soiled legacy of clout-driven hiring. In spite of a 1972 court decree that aimed to crack down on corruption, Daley loyalists had learned to game the system.

    Attorney-crusader Michael Shakman, whose 1969 lawsuit initiated the legal anti-patronage pact, testified Monday that a key test of Emanuel's leadership "will be whether his commitment to patronage reform while he was subject of this court's oversight remained strong after that oversight ended."

    Taking the stand himself, Emanuel issued a statement to the "people of Chicago": "Today is your day. After living under a cloud of mistrust for decades, you can be confident that your city government operates in a way that keeps your interests, and only your interests, first."

    But, he conceded, Chicagoans “are not naive. They know that attempts to influence city hiring won't magically disappear overnight."

    Emanuel declined comment on allegations by Jay Stone, who ran for mayor in 2010, that he "stole" his former seat in the U.S. House of Representatives thanks to the support of Daley crony Donald Tomczak and was "seeking to end Shakman for his political advantage for the 2015 campaign." Emanuel has said didn't know Tomczak.

    All told, the ruling is a much-needed shot in the arm for attempts to resurrect the mayor's once-golden and now extremely poor public image in this town. Forget Donald Trump. Michael Shakman is the best thing to happen to Emanuel's re-election campaign.

    That is, until the inevitable moment when Emanuel's brother's son's girlfriend's college roommate gets a summer internship on the fifth floor.