Describing those who do the bidding of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as, “an army of zombie pigs who know how to do nothing but feed”, The Nation’s Dave Zirin takes a dim view of Emanuel’s plans to gift DePaul University with $100 million for a new basketball arena, at the same time Chicago is closing scores of public schools and health clinics. All of this, Zirin points out, “for a non-descript basketball team that has gone 47-111 over the last five years” (“These aren’t the actions of a mayor. They’re the actions of a mad king.”) But hey, at least that Lollapalooza radius clause seems pretty solid.
If you want to understand why Mayor Rahm has approval ratings to rival Rush Limbaugh in Harlem, you can point to priorities like these. The school closures are taking place entirely in communities of color while the city’s elite feed with crazed abandon at an increasingly sapped trough. As Karen Lewis, the Chicago Teachers Union chief who led a victorious strike last September fueled by rage at Mayor Rahm, said, “When the mayor claims he is facing unprecedented budget problems, he has a choice to make. He is choosing between putting our communities first or continuing the practice of handing out millions of public dollars to private operators, even in the toughest of times.”
It’s hardly just the labor-left of Chicago pointing out how breathtakingly heartless these priorities are. Rick Telander, the lead sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, penned a piece subtly titled, “With Rahm’s DePaul plan, we’ve entered a new arena of stupidity.” After making clear that DePaul’s team is hardly a magnet for city hoops fans, Telander wrote, “But forget that. Guess who will have to cough up about $100 million to build the thing for the private Catholic university of 25,000, through bonds and the usual sneak attacks of wallet-siphonage—Yes! Taxpayers! Ta-dah!”
The fact that Rick Telander wrote these words matters. The wine is out of the bottle and the horse is out of the barn. In 2013, it’s no longer a few of us cap-wearing Cassandras shouting that the end is nigh if we keep hollowing city budgets to pay for these monuments to corporate welfare. It’s Rick Telander. It’s the Chicago Sun-Times sports page. It’s all of us.