Paul Val­las tees off on Bill Da­ley, Gery Chico

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - NEWS - John Kass jskass@chicagotri­bune.com Twit­ter @John_Kass

Paul Val­las fi­nally re­al­ized he’s not run­ning for pres­i­dent of a think tank. He’s run­ning for mayor of Chicago.

And so, Val­las has dropped the cere­bral ap­proach and is com­ing out punch­ing.

In an in­ter­view, he dis­missed newly an­nounced can­di­dates Bill Da­ley and Gery Chico, a for­mer ally, as op­por­tunists who’ve made for­tunes as lob­by­ists, lever­ag­ing their con­nec­tions to Chicago pol­i­tics.

Val­las blamed the city’s po­lit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture for the bleak fu­ture fac­ing Chicago. The money’s run­ning out. The mid­dle class flees. Some neigh­bor­hoods are caught in nev­erend­ing vi­o­lence and eco­nomic hope­less­ness while gen­tri­fy­ing wards face in­creas­ing prop­erty tax pres­sure.

“Look, Chicago is in a bona fide death spi­ral, per­pet­u­ated by a po­lit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture in which the po­lit­i­cal class ben­e­fits at the ex­pense of the busi­ness class and the com­mu­ni­ties,” Val­las told me on “The Chicago Way” podcast.

“These are guys who’ve made a for­tune on their po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions,” Val­las said. “You’ve played the name game too. If (Bill) Da­ley’s is Krump­kin or what­ever.” Krap­nick, I said.

Bill Da­ley is the for­mer com­merce sec­re­tary, a for­mer White House chief of staff, and son and brother of pow­er­ful Chicago may­ors. Re­cently, I joked that if his name weren’t Da­ley, his ca­reer path might not have been so smooth.

“Well, you re­ally think he would have got­ten all these ap­point­ments, or he would have got­ten the CEO job at SBC, or been on all those well-paid boards? And Gery (Chico) didn’t want to run things, he wanted to go make money, so he did. He made a lot of money,” Val­las said, laugh­ing.

Chico was pres­i­dent of the Chicago Board of Ed­u­ca­tion un­der Mayor Richard M. Da­ley while Val­las was schools CEO. Once cor­dial, they are now ri­vals.

Chico “stayed con­nected to the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment, be­cause you know what hap­pens, then you be­come a ‘made guy’ in this town. ‘Oh, this guy’s con­nected.’ Why? Be­cause he’s on the board. He’s on the board he must be con­nected,” Val­las told me. “And the busi­ness com­mu­nity and the neigh­bor­hoods get screwed.”

I’m sure that with so many can­di­dates now in the race, they, their aides and their so­cial me­dia trolls prob­a­bly want to re­spond. So, here’s my fair of­fer: Can­di­dates for mayor may sit down and talk at length on the record. All are wel­come. A snippy quote may be fine for some, but Chicago de­serves more than a pithy Twit­ter coun­ter­at­tack. We can drink cof­fee and talk, so that I may keep my wits. Call me. You’ve got my num­ber.

In his “Chicago Way” in­ter­view, Val­las was less crit­i­cal of Cook County Demo­cratic Party Chair Toni Preck­win­kle, who is also pres­i­dent of the Cook County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers. He said he re­spects Preck­win­kle, not­ing that she’s had to make tough govern­ment choices. And though a ca­reer politi­cian, she “hasn’t en­riched her­self.” Oth­ers have made for­tunes while hold­ing pub­lic of­fice, “and then you have these lob­by­ists who drift in

“Chicago is in a bona fide death spi­ral, per­pet­u­ated by a po­lit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture in which the po­lit­i­cal class ben­e­fits at the ex­pense of the busi­ness class and the com­mu­ni­ties.” — May­oral can­di­date Paul Val­las

and out of the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem that profit,” Val­las said.

Val­las did say that Preck­win­kle should prob­a­bly step down from her post as Demo­cratic Party boss.

“Look, Toni’s the party chair­man,” Val­las said. “If she wants to run for mayor she should with­draw. She’s chair­man of the cen­tral com­mit­tee. (The late) Richard J. Da­ley was chair­man of the cen­tral com­mit­tee and mayor. Lit­er­ally, she’s tak­ing a page from the old man.”

Val­las’ de­ci­sion to go on the of­fen­sive against Da­ley and Chico is clearly a re­ac­tion to the new re­al­ity of the may­oral cam­paign: the post-Rah­mu­lan phase.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re­cent de­ci­sion not to seek re-elec­tion had two pro­found ef­fects on the race. The pre-Rah­mu­lan can­di­dates who had al­ready an­nounced months ago, like Lori Light­foot, for­mer po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent Garry McCarthy, Val­las and oth­ers, had shaped their cam­paigns to run against an un­pop­u­lar mayor.

But once Emanuel pulled out, they lost their voices for a time, just as the post-Rah­mu­lans like Da­ley and Chico and Preck­win­kle el­bowed in, count­ing on their po­lit­i­cal lever­age and me­dia po­si­tion­ing to run the oth­ers off. And still more may en­ter.

When Emanuel dropped out, Light­foot warned that me­dia cam­paign cov­er­age would de­volve into fo­cus on per­son­al­i­ties and in­trigue. “To see the me­dia fo­cused solely on the horse race and the pow­ers that be anoint­ing a win­ner with­out re­gard for cit­i­zens should be dis­turb­ing to ev­ery­one. This no­tion that city govern­ment and the mayor’s of­fice is pi­rate booty ripe for the pick­ing is of­fen­sive.”

With Preck­win­kle in, Light­foot must de­cide whether to fight or yield the African-Amer­i­can votes she’d counted on to make the may­oral runoff.

Val­las says the me­dia are cov­er­ing the race as if it were my fa­vorite TV show, “Game of Thrones” on HBO, full of back­stab­bing and dragons. “More about per­son­al­ity, in­trigue, the be­hind the scenes ma­neu­ver­ing. We al­most re­ward the clev­er­ness,” he said, re­fer­ring to state Comptrolle­r Su­sana Men­doza and con­gres­sional can­di­date Je­sus “Chuy” Gar­cia, both ready to jump into the may­oral race once their other cam­paigns are se­cure.

This is all part of Chicago’s cal­ci­fied po­lit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture that was built many decades ago but seems to have run out of ideas.

“The only way to break the cy­cle is for the press and the var­i­ous con­stituents to force can­di­dates to open their ki­monos and show their true plans for the city and be cross-ex­am­ined on how their lives are con­sis­tent or in­con­sis­tent with their sta­tus ob­jec­tives,” Val­las said.

Those sound like fight­ing words. We’ll see.

Lis­ten to “The Chicago Way” podcast with John Kass and Jeff Car­lin — at www.wgn­ra­dio.com/cat­e­gory/wgn­plus/thechicago­way.

TER­RENCE AN­TO­NIO JAMES/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

Paul Val­las, a for­mer Chicago Pub­lic Schools CEO who is run­ning for mayor, has dropped the cere­bral ap­proach and has come out swing­ing.

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