Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chicago Election: What Rahm Didn't Win, Despite Enormous Spending

John Arena wins in 45th Ward despite Rahm PACs, DFER attacks.

All politics is local. While it looks like a big loss for the uinon, they did have a few eggs in local ward races. Looking for silver linings, George Schmidt has found a few.
While Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel won re-election by a decisive margin in the citywide elections, Emanuel's City Council opponents are still in power and promise to be even more active in the years ahead. In the city's 45th Ward, on the far northwest side (near O'Hare Airport), incumbent alderman John Arena won re-election by a comfortable margin, despite serious spending by Rahm Emanuel's organizations on behalf of Arena's opponent, Chicago Police Lieutenant John Garrido. By nine o'clock Garrido had called Arena to concede defeat. Arena won with 53 percent of the vote.
Arena has been one of the most consistent leaders of the City Council "Progressive Caucus" since his 2011 election by the narrow margin of 30 votes over Garrido. Arena was targeted by numerous mailings attacking both him and his record, and by on-line slanders as well, during the campaign.

I've just begun analyzing the election results from April 7 in Chicago. What becomes clear is that Rahm Emanuel won the mayor's race, but that most of the aldermen (or candidates like John Garrido in the 45th Ward where our family lives) Rahm supported for the remaining 18 ward races lost. We will be sharing some of these analyses over the next couple of days. There will be more real "progressives" in the Chicago City Council after May 2015 than there were before. 


LESSONS OF CHICAGO'S 2015 ELECTION: First lesson. Negative nonsense at a huge cost failed. The lesson of the 45th Ward...




By the time the votes were counted and the election results were in in the Chicago ward in which I live, my neighbor John Arena had won a decisive victory in his campaign for re-election as alderman of Chicago's 45th Ward. But Arena, like other candidates who had opposed Rahm Emanuel's policies, was forced to wage an expensive campaign against a host of expensive attacks, most of them lies, that were mailed to voters across the ward by various "Political Acton Committees". The PACs must have spent between a quarter million and a half million dollars on the 45th Ward alone, given the more than three dozens mailings we received from them prior to the primary election and during the six weeks leading up to the general election of April 7, 2015.
As a result, I'm going to try and publicize a little information about how this year's election worked, clearly the most expensive election in Chicago history. Over the next week, especially following the Saturday Substance staff meeting, Substance will be trying to analyze and share "Lessons Learned" from the 2014 - 2015 election cycle in Chicago and Illinois. As editor, I want us to take these "lessons learned" all the way back to the dismal failure of "progressives" to re-elect Governor Pat Quinn. 


-- Rahm Emanuel's "Chicago Forward PAC" contributed a lurid mailing showing two senior citizens nearly in tears looking at what were supposed to be their bills. "Alderman John Arena wants to raise income taxes, property taxes, and create a new commuter income tax..." the Rahm Emanuel PAC proclaimed. "Chicago Forward" was headed by Becky Carroll, an Emanuel operative who had been chief propagandist for the Chicago Board of Education until mid-2014. During that time, Carroll oversaw the first time in the history of Chicago's public schools when the schools did not host regular press conference so reporters could ask questions in an open forum. (Carroll's "CPS Communications Department" also blacklisted Substance from its mailing, so that for the first time in history Substance never received any regular mailings from the city's public school system, despite the fact that Carroll's salary as "Chief Communications Officer" was $40,000 per year higher than that of her predecessor and her "Communications" staff was much larger and more expensive than its predecessors -- at a time when CPS was proclaiming austerity for teachers and other school workers!). 


First out of the box and going negative against Arena in late January or early February (I didn't mark all of the mailings we received) was "Democrats for Education Reform" (DFER). DFER the national grouping paid for by hedge fund millionaires and billionaires, staffed by the usual "rainbow" of people proclaiming "choice", and pushing the corporate "school reform" agenda. They specialize in the code words of the privatization attacks on public education -- "choice," "charters," and "special interests" (which means the unions). 

'JOHN ARENA IS NOT A TRUE PROGRESSIVE" proclaimed (in all caps) a mailing we received from DFER in late January or early February. The mailing stated: "Too often John Arena has put his personal agenda in front of Chicago's children and Chicago's schools..." The bad things that Arena had done, according to the early DFER mailing? Arena had voted No on Rahm Emanuel's Longer School Day and Arena had voted no on charter expansion ("choice"). The mailing also claimed that "John Arena could have voted to bring more magnet schools, I-B honors schools, and schools focused on science, technology and math to Chicago..." Each of the NO boxes on that mailing read "John Arena and his supporters say NO..."

-- DFER continued its various attacks on Arena in the weeks before the general election. According to one lurid DFER mailing, DFER proclaimed "John Arena callas himself a progressive, but he'll change his stripes anytime. He supported a plan to leave children children stuck in failing schools that were underperforming, unsafe, and in need of repair..." That mailing, which would have won a prize for lurid, featured a horse painted with red, black and blue stripes, ostensibly, we must have assumed, representing the stripe-changing Alderman John Arena.


Between the primary and general election, the negative mailings against John Arena came from three separate groups, all of which were supporting Rahm Emanuel's candidacy for mayor. The majority of the anti-Arena mailings we received came from DFER ("Democrats for Education Reform", 53 W. Jackson, Suite 726, Chicago 60604). Others came from Rahm Emanuel's "Chicago Forward" PAC (201 W. Lake St., #231, Chicago 60606) and from a group calling itself the "Liberty Principles PAC' (505 N. Lake Shore Drive, Suite 516, Chicago 60611).
-- A group calling itself "Liberty Principles PAC" (505 N. Lake Shore Drive, #516) send out a mailing claiming that John Arena was going to give us a Big Tax Increase. The Liberty Principles PAC mailing also decided to feature photos of John Arena during the brief time he wore a beard during his four years in office. Other anti-Arena portraits utilized the beard period photos, but added darkened features to it (some suggesting that the mailings were trying to picture Arena as not a white guy in a ward that is mostly "white").
-- Rahm Emanuel's "Chicago Forward PAC" contributed a lurid mailing showing two senior citizens nearly in tears looking at what were supposed to be their bills. "Alderman John Arena wants to raise income taxes, property taxes, and create a new commuter income tax..." the Rahm Emanuel PAC proclaimed. "Chicago Forward" was headed by Becky Carroll, an Emanuel operative who had been chief propagandist for the Chicago Board of Education until mid-2014. During that time, Carroll oversaw the first time in the history of Chicago's public schools when the schools did not host regular press conference so reporters could ask questions in an open forum. (Carroll's "CPS Communications Department" also blacklisted Substance from its mailing, so that for the first time in history Substance never received any regular mailings from the city's public school system, despite the fact that Carroll's salary as "Chief Communications Officer" was $40,000 per year higher than that of her predecessor and her "Communications" staff was much larger and more expensive than its predecessors -- at a time when CPS was proclaiming austerity for teachers and other school workers!).
-- DFER continued its various attacks on Arena in the weeks before the general election. According to one lurid DFER mailing, DFER proclaimed "John Arena callas himself a progressive, but he'll change his stripes anytime. He supported a plan to leave children children stuck in failing schools that were underperforming, unsafe, and in need of repair..." That mailing, which would have won a prize for lurid, featured a horse painted with red, black and blue stripes, ostensibly, we must have assumed, representing the stripe-changing Alderman John Arena.
-- DFER added to the voices that proclaimed, against the facts, that "John Arena stood in the way of small business growth in our ward..." That mailing, which cited as a footnote the website "www.thetruthaboutjohnarena.com..." really had no facts to back it up, and the Arena campaign was able to counter the "small business" attacks with several facts.
-- DFER's most outrageous claim, however, was probably the mailing that charged the alderman with closing the city's mental health clinics -- which was in fact a signature policy of Rahm Emanuel! In March, DFER sent out a mailing to voters which said: "Thanks to John Arena, Patients now have longer wait times, unfamiliar doctors, and are at risk of slipping through the cracks, ending up on the street or worse -- all this while Arena took a pay raise for 2014!"

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