Daley's Faux Mea Culpa

Daley's apology: shallow as the city coffers

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Chicago's mayor Richard Daley knows his 2009 budget cuts will be painful for some -- including over 700 city workers who'll be laid off -- but he says these tough economic times require some tough decisions.

    Know this, people of Chicago: Mayor Daley is not really sorry about the parking meter mess.

    He really isn't.

    So when he issues his so-called mea culpa tonight at the first of three nights of budget hearings, listen closely.

    Oh, he's sorry about the rough start by our new parking meter overseers. And he's sorry that no one anticipated that the number of quarters needed to meet the hike in rates would jam up meters not equipped for gouging. And he's sorry that some of the new pay-boxes were broken.

    But he's not sorry about committing the city to a 75-year deal negotiated in secret through the city council in a matter of days with little attention paid to the fine print. And he's not sorry about the evidence that he left money - and the city's control of its streets - on the table while he did it.

    For one thing, he's already apologized; back in May he gave his first fake mea culpa.

    "I'll take the responsibility. I'll take it. ... " Daley said.

    For another thing, he has a habit of apologizing for things that he's clearly not really sorry about, like the patronage scandal of 2006.

    “I should have exercised better oversight,” Daley said after his patronage chief was convicted of scheming.

    If anything, the mayor is sorry that he has to go through this exercise of massaging the public on the parking meter deal. But he's cognizant that his advisers are right: He needs to do some damage control or budget talks could get ugly.

    But if he was truly sorry, he'd apologize for, say, opening the bids in the offices of William Blair - which had a no-bid contract to set-up the deal - with only top administration officials present, as described by newly revealed documents.

    And the mayor is sorry that this episode, twinned with his Olympic shenanigans, have damaged him politically.

    So he'll mention the Olympic bid, too - while continuing to leave us in the dark about its financing and those mysterious insurance policies that are supposed to protect us.

    The mayor will apologize for things like broken meters, but ultimately it's not really the hassle of using the new meter system that makes folks the maddest. It's the feeling that we've been duped. Again.

    And the mayor will never apologize for that.

    Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.