Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Joe Moreno: A Fighter for Chicago's 1%

Joe Moreno is the Alderman of Chicago's 1st Ward. Now, anyone who knows anything about Chicago knows that the City government isn't exactly a bastion of grassroots democracy. Typically Chicago city government calls to mind corruption, collusion with the rich and powerful, strong-arm tactics, and police violence. We think of the "Chicago Machine". Still, despite all of this, Moreno wants you to think that he's different. If you take his word for it, he is something of a progressive who stands up for justice, freedom of expression, and the interests of the 99%.

But Moreno is no progressive. He's a dogged fighter for the privileged and powerful.

Moreno, like the vast majority of his obedient colleagues on the Chicago City Council, recently voted for an ordinance that cracks down on the rights of protesters in Chicago. The intent of the ordinance is obvious: it is designed to criminalize and discourage legitimate protest. Rahm doesn't want there to be any dissent or protest this May when he is planning to host two of the foremost representatives of the global 1%: NATO and the G8. To make sure that there's no protest, Rahm is using a combination of fines, brute intimidation, and red tape to severely curtail Chicagoans ability to organize demonstrations. Like the recent austerity budget Rahm proposed which made punishing cuts to the living standards of ordinary Chicagoans, Moreno enthusiastically voted "yes".

Moreno recently penned a self-serving article in the Huffington Post offering a defense of his vote for the crackdown. It is a litany of half-truths and irrelevant fist pounding from start to finish. No matter what he says, his actions make it clear whose team he's playing on. Moreno is a staunch fighter for the 1%.

According to Moreno, it's OK that he voted to crackdown on protesters because "almost everyone agrees that having these two summits in our city is a great opportunity to solidify our rightful place as a world city."

That's just false on two fronts.

First, neither Moreno nor Rahm ever asked Chicagoans whether they wanted to treat the global 1% to a $65 million dollar party. I don't recall ever being given the opportunity to have a voice in whether or not the City would spend those resources on NATO/G8. In classic Chicago Machine form, Rahm and his lackeys on the Council just did it, just like they did with the infamous parking-meter privatization deal. They could care less what the rest of us actually want or need—the NATO/G8 summit isn't about us. Of course, Rahm and Co. have self-serving reasons to pretend as if the decision to host the summit was sparked by some grassroots initiative. But we know better.

Second, it's far from obvious that the NATO/G8 summit is going to do anything good for ordinary Chicagoans. As I say, it isn't intended to help out the 99% in Chicago—it's little more than a get-together for the 1%. Even some bourgeois economists are claiming that it will be a financial disaster. And it's absolutely criminal that Moreno thinks its better to spend $70 million (and counting) on a big party for the 1% when the city is laying off librarians, closing health clinics, cutting transit, closing schools, and cutting back on a number of different basic city services. If Moreno and Rahm actually cared about making Chicago a "world class city", they'd fully fund our public schools, fully modernize and expand our aging transit system, open new health clinics, and so on. But instead they are letting all of those basic social goods wither on the vine. And more cuts on are on the way. So it's ludicrous to think that a big party for NATO and G8 is what Chicago needs. Powerful groups like NATO and G8--which stand for the interests of the 1%--are the source of the misery of ordinary Chicagoans. They are stalwart defenders of the system that is forcing austerity down our throats.

If Moreno were, in fact, a "progressive", he could easily have put his foot down and fought for the basic interests of ordinary Chicagoans. Yet, rather than standing up against Mayor 1%, Moreno has decided to regurgitate Rahm's talking points about how the summit is such a "blessing" for all of us here in Chicago. Maybe it's a blessing for Rahm's resume. But it's a nightmare for the rest of us.

A progressive would have stood up against Rahm and his plan to spend millions entertaining organizations responsible for war, occupation, and economic exploitation. Moreno, however, did what the vast majority of his other obedient, conservative Council Members did: he did Mayor 1%'s bidding and betrayed the rest of us.

Rather than actually explain, in plain words, why he is so fond of the crackdown ordinance, in his article Moreno patronizes the vast numbers of people who opposed the bill (2,000 of whom, by his own admission, sent him emails urging him to vote no). According to Moreno, the thousands upon thousands of Chicagoans who criticized the bill just don't know what they're talking about. As Moreno puts it, there seems to be a big gap between "perception and reality." Translation: "C'mon guys... there's really nothing to worry about! The city government and the Chicago Police have a great track-record. They're trustworthy and I can assure that they how to "handle things". Or maybe you're just too dumb to understand the facts because you have some "special agenda"."

Wait, so you're not convinced by Moreno's suggestion that you're just too ignorant to see the facts for what they are? Well, don't worry. Moreno's still got more up his sleeve. He wants you to know that he's actually a big fan of protesting. That's right! He loves protests. Freedom of speech is something he absolutely treasures. So don't worry. His vote for the crackdown doesn't mean you can't still be pals. He loves the idea of protesting injustice!

It's just that he, like Rahm, doesn't want you to actually do it. Especially not this May when NATO and G8 are in town.

OK, so you're still not convinced by Moreno's apologetics? Well, not to fear: he's got one more piece of shit to sling against the wall in the hopes that something sticks:
It would have been easy for me to vote no on this ordinance. I know that I disappointed many of my supporters today. But, I don't want to be someone who refuses to compromise and doesn't give any ground. I'm not interested in beating my chest and becoming someone who can't get anything of substance done for my constituents.
Yes, it would have been easy. But Moreno didn't want to "beat his chest" and stand up for what's right. Instead he gave in to Rahm and the Machine because he wanted to continue to be someone who can, as he puts it, "get things of substance done for his constituents". Translation: "Look, if you didn't buy any of my other bullshit, then at least blame the Machine and not me. Because if I had opposed Rahm, then Rahm would have punished me. I'm weak: don't blame me, blame the Boss."

Still not convinced? Well, just fill out hundreds of pages of paper work a week in advance, pay a hefty fee for a permit, send in details on your proposed placards, prepare a detailed list of which contingents will be marching with you, and Moreno and the City will consider whether they feel like granting you the right to protest. In the event that they don't give you the permit, you can, well, shove it. Oh, yes, and don't forget to fund and publicly support your local Democratic Party in 2012 because without it we wouldn't have progressives like Moreno to stand up for the people!


Richard said...

There are faux Democratic Party progressives like this in every US city. Here in Sacramento, ours are Darrell Steinberg and Roger Dickinson.

Anonymous said...

I voted for Moreno, but I definitely wouldn't do so again. This guy doesn't have one independent bone in his body. He will do whatever Rahm and the Machine ask of him. I say impeach him (and Rahm too while we're at it).

Anonymous said...

My favorite line of that HuffPo post was this: "I still have concerns with the ordinance; specifically the ability to deputize officers from other states, which the administration has agreed to better clarify."

How is that a smart way to vote on an ordinance? Wouldn't you want that information up front? It's like giving someone a blank check and expecting them not to write in too much.

Jon said...

Along the same lines Glenn Greenwald has a piece today on Chris Dodd. Another one that talks a good game, then screws us over on behalf of the owners the first chance he gets. Apparently even Greenwald fell for the rhetoric at the time.

Anonymous said...

rahm retaliating against dissenters:,0,3596063.story

Anonymous said...

I live in (wickerpark, chicago) Joe's ward and he's sooooo corrupt!! He is as dirty as they get and has done NOTHING for our community. I say this as someone who is part of the 1 percent and I gladly pay my share of taxes. He only does something when a person/ store or company makes a campaign donation. The new pay to play- if you want to get anything done in Joe moreno's ward you've got ot pay to play!