A Mental Health Moment

Daley sits silently

By Steve Rhodes
|  Friday, Aug 28, 2009  |  Updated 1:08 PM CDT
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Chicago's Political Players

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Daley had nothing to say about mental health.

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Lost amid the hoopla of whether Mayor Daley did or didn't apologize for the parking meter mess during his first public budget hearing on Tuesday was a remarkable scene in which a citizen confronted the city's powerful leader and made him look like a weak, weaselly child.

It was a moment that would kill lesser political careers.

Mental health advocate Carol Smith stood up from the audience, stepped to a microphone and addressed the mayor, who was sitting at a long table with his cabinet members.

With passion and anger, Smith sharply questioned Daley about the on-again/off-again closing of city mental health clinics which Daley has blamed on state budget cuts but which appear to stem instead from city billing errors that left the clinics foundering.

"Why should people who have mental health problems suffer because the administration screwed up?" Smith asked. "I want an answer right now."

Daley sat silent, mouth closed with eyes straight ahead. He would not answer.

He just said nothing.

Then, according to the Chicago Tribune's account, the city budget director said that the city health commissioner would answer the question.

When more silence ensued, Smith walked away.

Has there ever been a more insensitive moment in the history of the Daley administration?

On Wednesday, a city spokesman said five of the city's 12 mental health clinics were on the chopping block. Four of those are on the South Side. All of them, activists say, are at capacity.

The city has asked advocates to cancel a planned protest for today while they get a plan together, the Tribune reports.

And, presumably, while it searches for an answer to Smith's question that the mayor was unable to even acknowledge.

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

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