Rahm Emanuel’s cabinet could star in a remake of The Out of Towners. In this weekend’s Sun-Times, we met Newark police chief Garry McCarthy, who will be Chicago’s next police superintendent. McCarthy’s selection disappointed officers who hoped for an insider after three low-morale years with former FBI agent Jody Weis.
The story made McCarthy sound like an hot-tempered jerk, which, frankly, is what you want in a police chief. At least, it’s what Chicago wants, since we hired a hot-tempered jerk for mayor. The Sun-Times used all the journalistic code words that describe a jerk: plays hard, gruff, doesn’t suffer fools gladly. I don’t know if being a cop makes you hostile and intolerant or if police work attracts hostile, intolerant people, but the attitude is essential to the job. The story includes an anecdote that makes it clear McCarthy doesn’t even take crap off his colleagues:
Another issue involves a 2005 altercation between McCarthy and two New Jersey police officers. McCarthy said he came to the aid of his daughter, who called crying after she was approached by the officers over her parking in a handicapped spot. McCarthy was handcuffed as he argued with the cops.
“What kind of father would I be if I didn’t do anything?” he said.
McCarthy will fit right in here.
McCarthy joins new Chicago Public Schools superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard and Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein as the most prominent outsiders on Emanuel’s team.
Klein was president of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation, where he was known for encouraging biking and public transportation, and before than, an executive with ZipCar. But can he name all the diagonal streets in Chicago? Does he know which six-corner intersection is the real Six Corners?
His ascension to the top transportation spot in the nation’s third-largest city is unusual — DOT chiefs rarely leap from one city to another. Emanuel’s decision to hire a well-known DOT leader from another city speaks to the newfound emphasis on transportation policy in urban politics, and the star quality that some innovators in the field have attained.
Emanuel himself is a national figure, and bringing the biggest stars in municipal government to Chicago reinforces our image as a world-class city. And, needless to say, it ensures that their first loyalty will be to the mayor, not to the department they run.
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