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Kass: Chicago has royal babies too

Here, politics is a lot like watching HBO's "Game of Thrones"

John Kass

July 25, 2013

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England has a new royal baby, Prince George.

But in Chicago, where English kings are frowned upon, we have plenty of royal babies of our own.

And they aren't mere figureheads. They're Democrats with real power, from great houses that grab public office for their descendants and collect the treasure such offices afford.

Here, politics is a lot like watching HBO's "Game of Thrones," except with more hard vowels and precinct captains smelling of Paco Rabanne.

We have Prince William Daley of Shortshanksia, running for governor of Illinois, and Princess Lisa Madigan of Madiganistan, the attorney general. There are also former state Comptroller Duke Dan Hynes of Hyneslandia, High Sheriff (state Senate President) John Cullerton of DeLeotopia, the many Berriosistas of his Cook County assessor's office, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski of Lipinskitania and the Zalewskis of Zalewskiville.

We would be remiss if we did not mention the Jacksonians, with those stuffed elk heads on their coat of arms; the Joneses of Upper Jonesistan; the Sawyeristas of the 6th; the Strogerons of the 8th Stronghold; the Joyces of the Southwest Lands; the Laurinos of Laurinotania; and so on and so forth.

To read all the names you'd need several scrolls.

On Tuesday, it was time for another noble child to be handed a public office in the name of democracy in Chicago. The mayor of Chicago called forth the people and made her alderman of the 33rd Ward.

And who is this lady of wealth and power?

The Debonheiress of Mellatonia. She's on top now. As her brother-in-law rots in a dungeon for real, pending the outcome of his federal appeal.

Or you can just call her Ald. Deborah Mell, daughter of retiring 33rd Ward Ald. Richard Mell, the old man being lord of Mellatonia on the Northwest Side.

"State Rep. Deb Mell is not guaranteed the job because her last name is Mell," said Emanuel the other day, pretending his decision involved merit, "and state Rep. Deb Mell is not excluded from the job because her last name is Mell."

Really, Mayor Rahmfather?

Let us imagine if her name were something other than Deb Mell. Say, Hulga Kraputnik.

Would the mayor have handed Hulga Kraputnik a six-figure salary, generous pension, expense account and real power over businesses and people in the 33rd Ward?

"I'm not sure why Chicagoans hate royalty," wrote Paul P., a reader, after my column vilifying the royal baby haters who criticize all the media attention lavished upon Little Prince George.

"With Daley I and Daley II, the Rahmfather and of, course, the Khan of Madiganistan and other assorted related princes and princesses, Chicago should be quite used to it, no?" Paul continued. "Or perhaps that's where the hatred (of the royals) starts."

In England there are many who don't like the royals. But in Chicago, if you don't like our local royalty, you might have trouble getting a liquor license.

Bill Cameron, the dean of the City Hall press room, put together a list of Chicago political nepotistas — public officials who've followed either parents or spouses into elected office since 1970 — and his total reached 31.

One who knows the ways of the Chicago nepotistas is former North Side Ald. Dick Simpson, now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"Nepotism is always a problem," Simpson said in an interview Tuesday. "It goes with Machine politics, like patronage and corruption."

He said the issue isn't whether Deb Mell is qualified, but rather that other citizens knew not to try.

"You can find examples where children, uncles, aunts, nephews are qualified, but it's always better not to make that appointment," Simpson said. "It convinces everybody whose name isn't Daley or Mell or Rostenkowski or Stroger that there's no point of being part of government because they're not going to get the good jobs."

Former state Senate President Emil Jones, the savvy political godfather of President Barack Obama, explained it all years ago.

Jones, who is African-American, noted that when black politicians install their children, they're met with indignation. But when the pink guys do it, the news media generally applaud while raising their journalistic shillelaghs in honor.

"I recall John F. Kennedy, president of the United States, when he became president, he recommended his brother (Robert), right?" Jones said. "And his brother (Ted) was elected (to the Senate).

"Mayor Richard M. Daley begot Mayor Richard J. Daley," Jones continued. "(Comptroller) Dan Hynes — by former state Sen. (and Cook County Assessor) Tom Hynes. Mike Madigan, Lisa Madigan. So that's nothing new."

On Tuesday on the floor of the council, Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, son of an alderman, listed all the nepotistas he could find.

"It's true that over the years there have been generational legacies in this chamber, like me," Burke said. "And I frankly can't think of anything that would make someone more proud than to succeed their parent in an office that that parent had held.

"But over the years ... there have been two Burkes, four Cullertons ... two Ogdens, two Hoellens, two Knickerbockers, two Baulers, two Clarks, two Brandts, three Keanes, two Sheridans, two Vrdolyaks, two Austins, two Beavers, two Sawyers, two Laurinos and now two Mells. Congratulations, Deb."

He meant, of course, the Debonheiress of Mellatonia, daughter of Dick of Mellatonia.

And the people cry under heavy taxes, and the jobs flee to other states, and our refugees follow them across the borders. Happily, at least one industry in Illinois never suffers.

Politics.

Here it's a family business, and it thrives.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass