Mark Kirk, A-: The freshman distinguished himself as one of the Senate’s leading hawks, by passing sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank. However, he maintained his moderate positions on social and economic issues. Kirk was one of a handful of Republicans to vote in favor of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” During the debt ceiling debate, he endorsed the Gang of 5’s bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit.
Toni Preckwinkle, B: The Cook County Board president repealed half of predecessor Todd Stroger’s sales tax increase. She also cut the budget by $219 million, saving money by laying off workers and reducing the jail population with electronic tethers and low bonds for non-violent offenders. Preckwinkle also has progressive ideas about decriminalizing marijuana and reducing unincorporated land in Cook County.
Joe Walsh, Inc.: Walsh’s grade depends on what he’s trying to accomplish during what will probably be his only term in Congress. If he’s trying to pass constructive legislation, he gets an F. President Obama singled him out for blame in the House’s rejection of the payroll tax cut extension. If he’s preparing for a post-political career as a bombastic talk show host, he gets an A+.
Michael Madigan, A: Madigan had two big victories this year. His Congressional re-map looks as though it will eliminate four Republicans, wiping out the gains the GOP made in 2010. Politico was so impressed with the map it declared that Madigan had “punched his ticket to the partisan hall of fame.” Also, Madigan’s nemesis Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison, giving his daughter another argument when she runs for governor as a reformer in 2014.
Rod Blagojevich, F: The longest sentence in Illinois political history. ’Nuff said.
Richard M. Daley, C: Daley left office as the longest-serving mayor in Chicago history, having outlasted his father by one year. It was at least one year too long. Daley left the city broke and saddled with a parking meter deal that’s going to reduce traffic on commercial strips for the next 72 years, hurting small businesses.
Ed Burke, C-: Burke failed to prove Rahm Emanuel was not a resident of Chicago. His protégé, Gery Chico, finished second in the mayor’s race, failing even to advance into a runoff with Emanuel. Burke held on to the chairmanship of the Finance Committee, but Emanuel cut his bodyguard detail from four to two, as the Better Government Association questioned why we were spending $600,000 a year to protect Burke from threats made during Council Wars, 25 years ago.
Pat Quinn, C: Quinn began the year by signing two of the most progressive bills in Illinois history: civil unions, and the death penalty ban. On the other hand, he raised the state income tax. Then, Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago and Quinn had a new rival for most powerful politician in Illinois. Emanuel tried to marginalize Quinn by taking credit for 1,300 new United Airlines jobs in Illinois. Quinn vetoed a gambling expansion bill that Emanuel had lobbied for, killing a Chicago casino.
Rahm Emanuel, C: Emanuel blames Daley for the city’s fiscal mess, but he hasn’t come up with a plan to fix it. Instead, he’s trying to shift the burden of funding Chicago from big business to low-income residents, by cutting the head tax and lobbying for a Merc tax break, while trying to install speed cameras near schools. In his effort to lengthen the school day, he picked a fight with the teachers’ union, while ignoring what really improves school performance: the income and educational background of the parents’. By sending his own children to the Lab School, he did nothing to improve that.
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!