Too many cities follow the Chicago way

Published 8:14 pm Thursday, December 11, 2008

The arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has pundits writing hard-boiled prose about “the Chicago way.”

Blagojevich, a former alderman, was the embodiment of politics in the Windy City.

Cronyism, payola, a little friendly extortion and bribery have been a way of life at City Hall in Chicago.

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And Chicago isn’t the only city so afflicted.

Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Detroit – to name a few – all have their share of sleazy politics.

In Los Angeles, for example, the Democrat-controlled City Council is pushing through a ballot initiative that would guarantee city work for union members under a no-bid arrangement.

In Atlanta in 1999, an investment firm run by the campaign manager of Maynard Jackson, former mayor, managed 40 percent or $10 billion of city pension funds.

In Detroit, former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick pleaded guilty this fall to obstruction of justice, was forced to resign and served four months in jail.

These charges stemmed from an earlier investigation of the city’s handling of a whistleblower’s complaint, in which Kilpatrick denied he was having an affair with his chief of staff.

The FBI is also looking into whether illegal payments were made in a city contract award there.

And, of course, who can forget Marion Barry, the former mayor of Washington, D.C.?

He was videotaped doing cocaine in a hotel with a woman, about whom Barry said famously: “The bitch set me up.”

His conviction, however, didn’t mean much to the city, as he was returned to the mayor’s office in 1994.

Claims of financial wrongdoing led to his retirement in 1998. But in 2004, he was back, taking a seat on the city council.

Not so coincidentally, all these scandals took place in cities run by Democrats.

Is this to say that Democrats are more corrupt than Republicans?

Not at all.

But it does reveal that Democratic philosophy is much more prone to scandal.

Consider this. A basic Democratic principle is that the government is there to help each citizen.

As a result, welfare budgets in these cities explode, pork barrel projects are routine and the city contracts for all manner of make-work programs.

When a government, then, has the power to be all things to all people, it has the power to play favorites with some people over others.

These Democratic scandals show then the limits of government and the danger of unchecked power.

To be sure, Republican city halls have had their scandals, as well.

San Diego, Spokane, Wash., and Waterbury, Conn., all had GOP mayors who left office in disgrace.

But corruption seems to afflict more Democratic-run cities as their city halls gain more and more power by controlling more and more services and programs.

It’s not just “the Chicago way.” Too frequently, it’s “the Democrat way.”

Chris Warden is an assistant professor at the Hall School of Journalism and Communication at Troy University. He was the former editorial page editor of Investor’s Business Daily.