of the City Council's 50 members has some
redeeming talent. Matlak's is his ability to
hibernate. He's never seen and never heard, he
never returns phone calls and he always supports
Mayor Rich Daley. Matlak's standard operating
procedure is to snooze through the first 45 months
of his 4-year term, and then awaken and campaign
frantically for the last 90 days.
to Pat Botterman, the campaign manager for Scott
Waguespack, Matlak's foe in the April 17 runoff,
the joke in the 32nd Ward is this: What is the
difference between Alderman Matlak and the Easter
Bunny? Answer: At least you see the Easter Bunny
once a year.
for Matlak, the ward's Democratic committeeman,
Terry Gabinski, is not asleep at the switch.
Gabinski, age 68, is a protege of former U.S.
representative Dan Rostenkowski who served as
alderman from 1969 to 1999. He's been the
committeeman since 1988, and he is a well wired
lobbyist with extensive political connections
among the city's "Old Guard" Democrats.
Matlak was Gabinski's top aide and protege, and
Gabinski picked him as his successor. Gabinski and
Rostenkowski, still active at age 79, are calling
in all of their chits to rescue Matlak.
32nd Ward takes in Bucktown, Wicker Park, South
Lakeview and Ukrainian Village, and it has
undergone enormous demographic change in the past
15 years, from ethnic to yuppie. Upscale housing,
ranging from restored brownstones to $1 million
townhomes to $500,000 condos, has politically,
culturally and economically transformed the ward.
The dinky frame bungalows, long occupied by Polish
and Ukrainian Americans, are being razed at a
torrid pace. The new ward residents are largely
affluent professionals, and they expect their
alderman to be seen, to be heard, and to be
responsive to their demands.
least half the population has moved into the ward
in the past 5 years, and the Gabinski-Rostenkowski
machine can thank itself for sowing the seeds of
its own destruction. Matlak has never met a
developer that he didn't love, and the quid pro
quo is that Matlak spot zones a parcel, without
community knowledge or input, and the developer
makes a hefty contribution to Matlak or Gabinski.
Matlak's campaign committee raised $621,085 in the
past 4 years, and Gabinski raised $555,988.
the not-too-distant past, there were more than
enough controlled ethnic votes to keep the machine
in control. No longer. In the 2006 Democratic
primary for Cook County Board president,
"reformer" Forrest Claypool beat John
Stroger 4,062-1,447 in the ward, and in the 2006
election, Republican Tony Peraica beat Todd
in 1999, when Matlak first ran, he beat Lorna
Brett, a liberal feminist, by 6,725-4,019, getting
54 percent of the vote in a turnout of 10,744. In
2003, against "reformer" Jay Stone,
Matlak won by 5,518-1,959, with 74 percent of the
vote in a turnout of 7,477. On Feb. 27 Matlak got
3,793 votes (47 percent), to 3,185 (39 percent)
for Waguespack and 1,122 (14 percent) for
Catherine Zaryczny in a turnout of 8,100.
Matlak's perspective, the upside is that he was
only 257 votes shy of winning re-election outright
and that Zaryczny has endorsed him; the downside
is that he got 2,932 fewer votes than he did in
1999, that he ran 1,582 votes behind Daley, that
he spent more than $400,000 to get 3,793 votes,
and that 514 more people voted against Matlak than
for him. From Waguespack's perspective, the upside
is that he ran only 608 votes behind Matlak
despite spending only $40,000; the downside is
that turnout will be under 7,000 for the runoff,
and Gabinski is bringing in precinct workers from
the 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 23rd, 40th and 47th
wards who are scouring the ward to find any
possible Matlak voter.
Waguespack will win. Here's why:
Zaryczny's endorsement is counterproductive.
During the campaign, Zaryczny lugged around
transcript blow-ups from the Hired Truck Program
trial of Don Tomczak to candidate forums, quoting
Tomczak as stating that his water department
workers collected petition signatures, passed our
fliers and turned out the vote in 2003 for Matlak.
She has ripped Matlak as "unresponsive and
base was Ukrainian Village," said one
observer. "Plus, she got some gender votes.
Now, her voters are disgusted. Half will go to
Scott, and the other half won't vote."
the precinct captain "surge" also is
counterproductive. Matlak's workers are dumping
giveaways everywhere: road maps, magnetic holders,
pens, key chains. They're promising new garbage
carts and instantaneous city services. Matlak is
cranking out slick mailers, with one hitting every
household every other day, but he is not on the
street, and the result has been a resounding thud.
new voters say, 'What is this,'" said the
observer. "They're paying eight to 10 grand
in property taxes, and they expect city services
as a matter of right, not as a favor. The more
Matlak's workers push, the fewer votes they will
for the first time, the Gabinski machine is
perceived as not just vulnerable, but beatable.
The retinue of precinct captains who flourished
during the Rostenkowski years (1958 to 1994) are
either dead or retired. Gabinski had to rely on
troops under the command of Tomczak and Dan
Katalinic to win in 2003. "Our people
are energized," Botterman said. "They
scent that Matlak can be ousted."
Waguespack's campaign sought to register 1,000 new
voters. The ward has 34,907 registered voters, but
only 23 percent turned out in February. If turnout
is over 20 percent in April, Waguespack wins; if
it's under, Matlak wins.
prediction: The runoff is a referendum on 8 years
of Matlak's ineptitude and indifference.
Waguespack will win by 300 votes, getting 53
percent of the votes cast.
the adjacent 43rd Ward, which encompasses Lincoln
Park and Old Town, another relic of the past,
former alderman Marty Oberman, is attempting a
political resurrection. Oberman was an alderman
from 1975 to 1987, and he is backing Michele
Smith, a former assistant U.S. attorney, whose
theme is corruption. "If City Hall won't
prosecute corruption, then put a prosecutor in
City Hall," she trumpets. That's not going to
make her friends among fellow aldermen.
incumbent is Vi Daley, no relation to the mayor,
who was first elected in 1999. As in the 32nd
Ward, development, downzoning and landmarking are
critical issues, but Daley is no Matlak. She is
active and visible in a ward where service, not
rhetoric, is demanded.
the primary Daley finished with 3,616 votes (48
percent of the total), to 2,494 (33 percent) for
Smith, with 922 (12 percent) for Tim Egan, 331 for
Pete Zelchenko and 218 for Rachel Goodstein, in a
turnout of 7,581. Daley missed winning outright by
168 votes. Both Smith and Daley spent about
$200,000, and turnout was just 27 percent. Egan
has endorsed Daley.
was unopposed and got 5,678 votes in 2003; in 1999
she won her first term with 6,776 votes (66
percent of the votes cast), in a turnout of
10,215. Her voter base is shrinking.
a hotbed of liberal and anti-machine sentiment,
the 43rd Ward elected Bill Singer as alderman in
1969. Singer got crushed by the late Mayor Richard
Daley when he ran for mayor in 1975. Evolution has
sapped revolution, as the ward gentrified, property
values (and taxes) soared, and unruly bars,
traffic congestion, a shortage of parking and
unrestricted development became intolerable.
"Quality of my life," not "save the
world," is now the mantra in the ward. The
proposed mall on the site of Grossinger Auto is an
example. It meant more traffic and congestion.
Oberman was the attorney for the opponents, and
Daley held community meetings and came out against
ward is very upper class, almost entirely white,
and more WASPy than Jewish. George Bush got 10,134
votes (34.1 percent of the total) in 2004,
demonstrating a substantial Republican base. Mayor
Daley got 6,321 votes (83.4 percent) in February,
clear proof that, as the 43rd Ward's legendary
former alderman Paddy Bauler (1933 to 1967) once
said, Chicago -- and the 43rd Ward in 2007 --
"ain't ready for reform."
prediction: Newly elected Alderman Brendan
Reilly (42nd) is helping Daley in the Gold Coast
portion of the ward. In a turnout of under 7,000,
Daley will win by 500 votes, with 55 percent of
Ward (Logan Square): They call him "Old
Gringo" in the predominantly Hispanic wards,
and Alderman Dick Mell (33rd) is up to his old
tricks. Mell, the father-in-law of the governor,
has deployed the 300-plus workers from his ward
organization into the 35th Ward on behalf of
former alderman Vilma Colom. With just 35
precincts in the ward, that's almost 10 workers
per precinct. The incumbent is Rey Colon, who beat
Colom 4,444-3,212 in 2003 but topped her by just
3,038-2,218 in February, with 1,291 votes to
workers are canvassing the old-fashioned way,
getting a plus (Colom) or a minus (Colon). Their
goal: Get 3,000 pluses, and then run them on April
17. My prediction: Colom is coming on strong, and
she will win.