Besides Rahm Emanuel, Tuesday’s most significant election night winner was Ameya Pawar, alderman-elect of the 47th Ward.
Pawar, who will be the city’s first Asian-American alderman, grew up in the suburbs, and got interested in politics while studying in the State Department’s Critical Language Program in Jaipur, India. He defeated a hefty Irish ward heeler named Tom O’Donnell, a former chief of staff to Ald. Eugene Schulter. Schulter filed to run for re-election, then retired abruptly in January, and tried to hand the seat to his protégé. It’s an old Chicago trick that prevents independents from organizing.
That would have worked back when “The Fighting 47th” was controlled by Ed Kelly, the powerful park district chief and confidant of Richard J. Daley. Kelly put Schulter in the alderman’s office in 1975. He needed a kid with a Teutonic name. In those days, the Davis Theater still showed movies in German.
The Davis Theater is still there, but it’s showing The King’s Speech. There are still a few quaint German restaurants and butcher shops, but Lincoln Square has been taken over by independent bookstores, fashion eyewear boutiques, coffeehouses and indie record shops. On sunny afternoons, it has more strollers per square foot of sidewalk than any neighborhood in Chicago. The thirtysomethings who bought there first homes there are far more likely to relate to Pawar’s suburban upbringing and globetrotting career than O’Donnell’s membership at St. Ben’s.
The 47th is Rahm Emanuel’s home ward (or will be, as soon as Rob Halpin’s lease expires.) He got 11,218 votes there, his second-biggest total in the city. The argument that he’s not a real Chicagoan because he went to New Trier, danced ballet and worked in D.C. meant nothing to Lincoln Square, because those people went to Wheaton-Warrenville South, go to yoga class on Saturday mornings and did their internships in New York. Rahm is their kind of Chicagoan. Chicawgo guys like Tom O’Donnell and Gery Chico represent fading local folkways the North Side’s city-hopping young professionals disdain. Chico ran up his best numbers in white ethnic wards on the Northwest and Southwest sides, where people still eat hot dogs, not Hot Doug’s.
I know more than one Chicago native who feels a sense of alienation at living on the Lakefront.
“It seems like hardly anyone in my neighborhood is from Chicago,” I heard from a woman of good Chicago Polish stock, who now lives in Ukrainian Village. “It’s the exception nowadays.”
The Fighting 47th is dead. It’s the capital of Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago now.
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