An End to Political Patronage in Chicago?

Chicagoans on Daley Plaza react to Mayor Daley's pledge to rid city government of patronage.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Among the nicknames for Chicago: the Windy City, the Second City and this one, the City That Works. And the way to work for the city is, in a word, clout. Well, no more, supposedly. Three weeks after federal investigators raided City Hall as part of a corruption probe, Mayor Richard M. Daley says clout will no longer play a role in who gets jobs. NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER reporting:

The city of Chicago's top lawyer, Mara Georges, told incredulous City Hall reporters yesterday that the hiring system would now be completely fair, objective and free of political influence.

Ms. MARA GEORGES (Top Chicago Lawyer): City hiring will be on the square, yes.

Unidentified Reporter #1: You're not going...

Unidentified Reporter #2: What about--what...

Unidentified Reporter #1: You're taking clout out of City Hall?

Ms. GEORGES: We are putting in place a process where clout cannot enter into it.

SCHAPER: And those comments were backed up by Mayor Daley's new chief of staff, Ron Huberman, who was appointed just last week to lead a City Hall clean-up.

Mr. RON HUBERMAN (Chief of Staff, Chicago City Hall): It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter who you know. We are operating as a meritocracy, period.

Mr. BARRY ANGELO(ph) (Chicagoan): That's crap, really.

SCHAPER: On Chicago's Daley Plaza today, a lot of Chicagoans weren't buying it, including Barry Angelo, who's unemployed, and mental health worker Yolanda Adams(ph).

Ms. YOLANDA ADAMS (Chicagoan): It's the way it's always been. You got to know somebody to get there.

Mr. ANGELO: Right.

Ms. ADAMS: It's as simple as that.

SCHAPER: But for some reason, most people enjoying their lunch hour in the sunny, cool plaza across the street from City Hall weren't in a mood to discuss clout and patronage.

Unidentified Woman #1: I'd rather not talk about that topic.

Unidentified Woman #2: I don't have nothing to say. I don't know anything about anything.

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, wait a minute. I work for the city, so I'd probably rather not say anything.

Unidentified Man #2: If I answer anything, I'll be in trouble.

SCHAPER: Finally, one woman did agree to talk. She works for the county government.

Unidentified Woman #3: First, Daley has clout. They'll never get rid of clout, never.

SCHAPER: Why not?

Unidentified Woman #3: He has clout. How do you think he won, huh? How do you really think he won this election? Because of clout.

SCHAPER: Do mind if I ask your name?

Unidentified Woman #3: Yes, I do.

SCHAPER: That could be because the county is controlled politically by a close ally and a brother of Mayor Daley. By the way, Mayor Daley is headed to Toronto. And that city's mayor, according to the Toronto Star, wants to learn from him how to leverage power--in other words, clout. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

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