November 24, 2011. Springfield. For more than a generation, the Richard Daley political machine, along with well-connected family and friends, treated Chicago like their own personal, sovereign country. One New York journalist once referred to it as, ‘the People’s Republic of Chicago’ and suggested the city’s form of government was more in line with Communist China than the Unites State. Now, an Illinois Republican has sponsored a bill that would come close to making Chicago just plain go away.
Actually, Chicago wouldn’t disappear, as it does in some other proposals. One suggestion for cutting the city’s corruption in half comes from this author – combine Chicago and Cook County into one entity, a metropolis. There are plenty of successful examples like New York and Nashville. Wouldn’t it be nice if Rahm Emanuel, the Cullertons, Madigans, Burkes and Daleys were all suddenly unemployed and had their hands removed from the switches of power? It would be the first time since the 1870’s that those families weren’t in complete control of Illinois’ government.
If Illinois State Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Decatur) has his way, the ‘Chicago Machine’ would see its power, and its empire, cut in half. The Illinois Republican proposed a bill that would make Cook County the country’s fifty-first state. Chicago, along with its surrounding suburbs, make up Cook County.
Mitchell explained to his hometown paper, the Decatur Tribune, “These liberal policies are an insult to the traditional values of downstate families. When I talk to constituents, one of the biggest things I hear is ‘Chicago should be its own state…Our voters’ voices were drowned out by Chicago.”
The state legislator’s sentiment isn’t without merit. The Chicago power-players mentioned above control not only Chicago government, but Cook County government, the Illinois State Legislature and now, even the White House. Yes, President Obama and most of this staff are proud products of the notorious Chicago Machine. One need only look at his Chief of Staff for evidence – first Rahm Emanuel, now Bill Daley. One is the former Mayor’s brother, while the other is now the current Mayor.
In another recent example, the August 25 issue of this column documented just how infiltrated the Illinois Republican Party is by the state’s Democratic Party leadership. Read the article, ‘Ill Dem Chair Caught Fundraising for GOP’. As unbelievable as it may sound to readers outside of Illinois, the Chairman of the Illinois Democrat Party (Ill House Speaker Michael Madigan) actually participated in GOP fundraisers headlined by US House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). The cause Madigan donated to – a lawsuit filed by the GOP against Madigan himself and the rest of the state Democrats over their newly redrawn Congressional map.
To see how the Democratic-controlled Illinois Republican Party returns the favor, read the August 29 issue of this column, ‘Ill GOP Funds Democratic Party’.
So far, Mitchell’s bill has only one co-sponsor and isn’t expected to see any success. Progressive, liberal and Democratic organizations in Chicago are already railing against the proposal. ChicagoNow reports, “Mitchell’s dream of a low tax, low gay, low minority, high gun, high execution Shangri la Conservative Illinois utopia, appears to be just that – a far fetched dream.”
To those who support kicking Chicago and Cook County out of Illinois, it’s just that – a dream. And unlike most other new States that are created by annexing land and then declaring their independence, Chicago would be reverse-annexed and literally asked to leave the Land of Lincoln. But while Constitution experts argue over the process by which Cook County would be made the nation’s 51st state, this column wonders something different.
What if Cook County’s charter were simply revoked by the Illinois Legislature? As far as Illinois’ downstate Republican go, they could care less what Chicago does after that or whether it becomes a state of its own or is scooped up by Wisconsin or Indiana like an NFL free agent. As out of step as Chicago is with the rest of the country, and as intertwined as it is with Washington, one might wonder if Cook County would become another Federal territory, just like Washington DC and hundreds of other swaths of land across America.
What would a state of Chicago look like?
The bill calls for the reverse-annexing of Cook County, not just Chicago. That would give the state of Chicago 5.2 million citizens, leaving Illinois with 7.6 million. More likely however, Chicago’s ‘collar counties’ would stay with their powerful neighbor. If the entire ‘Chicago region’ is included in the new state of Chicago, the city and its surrounding six counties would have 8.3 million citizens, leaving central, western and downstate Illinois with only 4.5 million.
The bill isn’t expected to see much success. If the small survey this author performed last night is any indication, the proposal might go further than its critics suspect. The responses that came into this column were unanimously in favor of dividing Illinois into two states and isolating Chicago like a plague victim. The respondents were all residents of Chicago and the sentiment was universal. “I’d love to see Chicago become its own state” one said, “The first thing I would do is move to Illinois.”
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