Kennedy keeps firing at bosses

Kennedy keeps firing at bosses

Widely perceived as a weaker-than-expected candidate, Democrat Chris Kennedy is trying to spice up his campaign for the Democratic Party's gubernatorial nomination.

Republican state Rep. Jeanne Ives makes a regular habit of picking fights — or at least trying to do so — with Gov. Bruce Rauner, her opponent in the March 20 GOP primary election.

But Rauner, for the most part, ignores her, expecting that his high profile and hefty campaign account will put him over the top when primary voters cast their ballots.

That's why much of the most interesting rhetoric, and consequent media attention, is focused on the race for the Democratic Party's gubernatorial nomination that features a bevy of candidates, including the party bosses' favorite, billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker.

With Pritzker's unlimited funds and establishment support, he appears, at least for now, to be the man to beat, even if it's hard to believe Democratic voters are smitten with a hugely inexperienced candidate who has no real track record in government or past relationship with the voters.

Sensing Pritzker's vulnerability, Democratic challengers are unleashing critical rhetoric that will be followed by combative campaign commercials they hope will be Pritzker's undoing, especially Chicago businessman Christopher Kennedy.

The former chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and scion of the nation's most famous political family, Kennedy has been launching substantive attacks, some on Pritzker but mostly on Democratic Party leaders.

He's gone after Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan for Madigan's financial ties to the property tax appeal process in Cook County. He's gone after Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, whose office presides over the sleazy property assessment business that has enriched his campaign coffers while generating millions of dollars in income for property tax appeals lawyers like Madigan.

This week, Kennedy took his rhetoric even further, charging that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is presiding over what amounts to a conspiracy to drive black residents out of Chicago, the goal being to make the Windy City both more affluent and more white.

That's powerful stuff, a statement that is hard to prove but nonetheless incendiary given the political and racial rivalries of the city.

"I believe that black people are being pushed out of Chicago intentionally by a strategy that involves disinvestment in communities being implemented by the city administration," Kennedy said. "And I believe Rahm Emanuel is the head of the city administration and therefore needs to be held responsible for those outcomes."

Mayor Emanuel is a despicable figure who's always taken a perverse sense of pride in his reputation as a whatever-it-takes-to-win political sociopath. Further, Chicago is losing its black population, which now stands at less than 30 percent after being around 35 percent just a few years ago.

But the city's rotten schools, ones that particularly fail the black community, have been around for decades. The violence that has sent the murder rate in black neighborhoods skyrocketing also is nothing new.

Chicago has always been two cities, a good place to live for the affluent and not a good place to live for those who lack the means to fend for themselves. If black people are choosing to leave in large numbers, the reasons for doing so predate Emanuel.

So what is Kennedy up to?

His criticism of Emanuel certainly has merit. But it comes in a campaign season, and that's no accident.

Political observers in Chicago suggest Kennedy seeks to boost black voter support in the upcoming primary, and that he's trying to reignite the kind of support the minority community always has provided candidates whose last name is Kennedy.

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown suggested Kennedy's assertion is "an effort to take advantage of the mayor's weak support among black voters — and possibly to garner support from the Chicago Teachers Union."

Brown probably is closer to being right than wrong. But so what.

Kennedy's criticism of city and county power brokers is on target, even if not for the reasons he suggests.

The property tax assessment system is, for all practical purposes, a continuing criminal enterprise that represents a bonanza for political insiders. The city, for all its fine qualities, fails in many respects to serve its citizens well.

Pointing out these problems may not get Kennedy the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. But it raises subjects that the city's scandal-weary taxpayers need to hear.

Of course, when Kennedy is talking about exclusively Cook County and Chicago issues, he's not talking about the serious problems that plague Illinois. But Cook County is where the votes are, particularly in the primary.

So look for Kennedy and his fellow candidates to keep leveling fire at the bosses in the hope they will diminish Pritzker, the bosses' favored candidate in the race for governor.

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read the DI wrote on January 05, 2018 at 11:01 am

"Chicago is losing its black population, which now stands at less than 30 percent after being around 35 percent just a few years ago."

Losing? Not so clear. Chicago's overall population is increasing, so the percentage of blacks could go down even while the raw number rises. Moreover, the Census data are tabulated every 10 years. We are two years away from the next one. All other data, including the ACS data which appear to be the source of this specious editorial, are just estimates and often highly suspect.