Say It Ain’t So, Joe!


In 1919, the Chicago White Sox earned the lasting epithet “Black Sox” when several of its players – including star “Shoeless Joe” Jackson – allegedly threw the World Series.

Monday night the First Ward’s one and only alderman, Joe Sweeney, undeniably threw his Council vote.

It occurred in connection with the Council’s vote to sustain or over-ride Mayor Dave Schmidt’s veto of a new 3-year collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the Illinois Council of Police and Sheriffs (“ICOPS”), which provided yet more employee raises which Schmidt believes are not justified, given the current state of the City’s finances.

Sweeney, who inexplicably fancies himself a “conservative,” previously voted to approve the new ICOPS contract and its raises, just as he had voted for all the previous contracts and raises for union and non-union City employees, especially police and firemen.  In supporting those raises, Sweeney – like his colleagues Alds. Rich DiPietro (2nd), Jim Smith (3rd), Sal Raspanti (4th) and Marty Maloney (7th) – never once inquired about performance-based factors that might justify those raises; e.g., improved or additional services those employees were providing, or efficiencies they achieved to increase productivity. 

Nor did Sweeney and his keep-those-raises-comin’ colleagues join in Ald. Dan Knight’s (5th) call for a comprehensive plan and/or policy for dealing with all raises and related employment issues, rather than the ridiculous one-off way they’ve been handled to date.  Sweeney et al. apparently just enjoy the feeling of doling out arbitrary amounts of somebody else’s money (in this case, Park Ridge taxpayers’) to make certain special-interest groups happy. 

So when the meeting started Monday night, Sweeney was considered a sure vote to over-ride Schmidt’s vetoes of both the ICOPS contract and the raises for the non-union City employees.  True to form, Sweeney voted for the successful over-ride of Schmidt’s veto of the non-union, salaried employee raises.

But when the ICOPS veto over-ride came up for a vote, Sweeney got jiggy.

He started out by saying he would be voting “present” rather than for over-ride, apparently to put political pressure on Knight and Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) – both of whom had voted against the ICOPS contract and were expected to vote to sustain Schmidt’s veto – to switch their votes or risk being blamed for the veto’s being sustained.  For reasons not entirely clear, Sweeney was under the impression that by voting “present” his vote would not actually count one way or the other.

In other words, Sweeney was voluntarily gelding himself.  And in so doing, he was depriving all his 1st Ward constituents of representation on this issue.

Say it ain’t so, clueless Joe.

Before that bizarre scenario could play itself out, however, Schmidt and pinch-hitting City Attorney Kathy Henn advised Sweeney that, under the applicable rules, a “present” vote would be counted as part of the prevailing majority, thereby making Sweeney one of what likely would be the over-ride majority – where Sweeney was expected to be in the first place.  Sweeney resisted that advice, however, and the vote was temporarily tabled while Henn did some hasty additional research and checked with principal City Attorney Everett “Buzz” Hill. 

While she was doing that, the City entertained yet another version of Commonwealth Edison representatives demonstrating yet again ComEd’s continuing indifference to improving the reliability of Park Ridge’s electric power delivery system.  But that’s a post for another day.

Upon the conclusion of ComEd’s electric interlude, Henn advised the assembled multitude that she was sticking to her original position and that, if Sweeney voted “present,” his vote would be counted with the majority.

Sweeney then issued dire warnings and predictions of what would happen if Schmidt’s veto was sustained: unfair labor practice charges filed by ICOPS, thousands of dollars of legal fees incurred by the City, ICOPS picket lines being honored by the City’s other employees, and an actual shut-down of the City.  He might as well have added fire and brimstone coming down from the sky, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, and all that other Old Testament stuff.

But then, directly addressing Schmidt, Sweeney went from clueless Joe to witless Joe. 

He grandly announced: “I will vote to sustain your veto… although I don’t like it but I’m forced by law to do it” – the “law” apparently being the rule that would regard his intended “present” vote as a vote with the majority.  And if that weren’t nutty enough, witless Joe immediately became shameless Joe when he promptly proclaimed that he would “absolve [himself of] blame for all the costs that are involved when we go to litigation” over anything related to the veto being sustained.

Frankly, we’re glad Schmidt’s veto was sustained.  As we repeatedly have written, one of the several keys to rehabilitating the City’s finances is to stop the arbitrary, non-performance based wage and benefit increases that keep the cost of labor spiraling upwards.  But the right result for the wrong reasons is not a recipe for successful long–term management, which is why students often are required to show their work in addition to providing the right answer.

As for all of Sweeney’s dire warnings, they sound more like methane than MENSA to us.  But even if he turns out to be right, the alternative he seems to be suggesting is for the City to hold a gun to its own head and basically give in to whatever demands its unionized employees make so that they don’t strike or demand arbitration.   That’s just more government by the spineless rolling over for the shameless – which pretty much explains how the State of Illinois got into its current wage and benefit mess that shows no signs of abating. 

And despite Sweeney’s ICOPS contract wackiness, at the end of the evening the Council foolishly voted to run and hide in yet another closed session to discuss their…wait for it… “strategy” for the City’s upcoming negotiations with the police sergeants’ union.

Hey, gang, why not do yourselves and everybody else a favor and conduct those discussions in open sessions so that everybody – especially the taxpayers and the union – know, right out of the gate, exactly what kind of deal you’re trying to achieve and why.  Let the public have its input at the front end of the process rather than at the back end, when everything is already a done deal except for Schmidt’s vetoes.  It’s time to try something different, because your collective bargaining “strategies” so far have been a series of foul balls and strike outs.

For clueless Joe, however, that’s the only way to play ball.

To read or post comment, click on title.

4 comments so far

Your post was so strange that I decided to watch the meeting video to see it for myself. I am not sure how Ald. Sweeney thinks through these issues, or whether he does so at all, but to do what he did and say what he did is crackers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Crackers” is as good a description as any.

Gotta hand it to Joe. If there was ever any question of him being the least intelligent of the 7 Alderdunces he has removed all doubt…he’s da man.

Crackers is certainly too nice. Joe served up a nice selection of crackers with a giant dollop of crap on the side.

What a dope.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We consider voting against one’s belief knowing that vote will harm one’s constituents as calling into question one’s integrity. But “a giant dollop of crap” also works.

It’s in cases like this where the citizens of the first ward should be able to vote him out (now) but had there chance two years ago. Now we have two more years of this baboon. [saddness]. Will someone from the first ward please step up and CHALLENGE this guy!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Unfortunately, Sweeney had only one challenger in 2011, and neither he nor his challegner – nor the First Ward residents, for that matter – appeared to take the election as seriously as they should have.

None of them are a patch on the Anderson Nine.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The “Anderson Nine” (we usually call them the “Gang of Nine”) left a legacy of disappointing under-performance, long-term TIF debt, and the 7-man City Council. That only two of them (Rex Parker and Frank Wsol) even stood for re-election demonstrates their commitment to City government.

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