Now that Mayor Richard M. Daley will not be on next year’s election ballot, the next question for the city, and Austin, is who will be our next mayor.
For some in Austin, there’s another pressing question beyond who will run: How will voters hold that person accountable?
Daley announced on Tuesday that he will not seek re-election, and the names of potential candidates were soon bandied about in the media. But whoever that candidate is, he or she will have to cultivate the entire community of voters, and not just special interests, says a prominent West Side pastor.
Speaking to Austin Weekly News late Tuesday a few hours after Daley’s announcement, Rev. Marshall Hatch, of New Pilgrim Church in West Garfield Park, said the city needs someone with a fresh vision. He stopped short of saying whether he was that person. Hatch is looking at running for 29th Ward alderman against incumbent Deborah Graham, but added that he is keeping all options open.
Hatch, who ran unsuccessfully for 29th Ward alderman in 2003, said he had been approached by people in the community to run for alderman, as well as mayor prior to Daley’s announcement. But the West Side pastor urged voters to focus more on how the next mayor will be responsive to their needs, rather than that person’s eventual identity.
“We have an excellent opportunity to look at someone who will be an independent voice, and who will truly represent the interests of the community instead of the faces downtown,” Hatch said, noting the power structure of City Hall.
Hatch described Daley’s announcement as “stunning.” The mayor, he noted, was facing an uphill campaign to begin with, if he’d chosen to run for a seventh term. The mayor will eclipse his father, Richard J. Daley, as the city’s longest serving mayor when his term ends in 2011.
Another Harold in the wings?
Daley succeeded former Mayor Eugene Sawyer, Chicago’s second black mayor. Sawyer, a former Chicago alderman, was selected by the city council in 1987 to fill out the term of Mayor Harold Washington, who died in November of that year. It was a divisive city council that deliberated on Washington’s successor, a culmination of the “Council Wars” that began in Washington’s first term (1983-87).
But the black political and leadership structure, which helped propel Washington to the mayor’s office, fractured in the years after his death, Hatch noted. The next mayor, and those candidates looking to win the job, will need to have broad-based support, the pastor said.
As for Daley’s legacy, Hatch said much of what the mayor did during his tenure has not benefited voters. He specifically cited the lack of transparency from the mayor’s office, and a lack of vision on Daley’s part. Another Daley legacy, the pastor noted, was the deteriorating relationship between police and the community, and the need to seriously address alleged police brutality. Because of that, the community, Hatch insists, is looking for someone who’s a complete opposite of the current mayor.
“No matter what side of town or what racial group that person comes from, the people should demand that that person be held accountable for their actions,” he said, adding that much of the city’s current “disillusionment and disorientation” is because of Daley’s leadership, or lack there of.