When elected officials and community leaders don’t talk to the media, you get shortchanged and democracy suffers
July 9, 2017

Just what do you expect after you have made your way into the voting booth and cast your ballot for those you hope are the best candidates in whatever races are most important to you at the moment? What is your expected reward for, sigh, being among the minority in this country who actually see the importance of exercising your constitutional right to vote?

Before you answer, it might come as a surprise that we aren’t referring to the aftermath of the November 8 election that ushered in a Presidency like no other we have seen before in this country. What, no reflection or criticism of President Trump and his oddball and mean-spirited administration? Nope. But, stay with us, anyway.

Our question of what you expect from your elected officials is much more local in its focus. And, in many ways it is even more troubling and worrisome than the spectacle playing out in Washington, DC.

We hope that whether or not you generally agree with the opinions of the editors of Gazette Chicago, you know that we have the best interest of this community—your community—at heart. Moreover, we hope that you have noticed over the years that we have striven to be transparent in our beliefs and honest to a fault—even when it strains our relationships with some politicians, community leaders, and business people. So be it. We accept this responsibility as the foremost duty of the Fourth Estate and the
price we pay for remaining staunchly independent and passionate in our
defense of “the little guy.”

So, just what is our concern? And, why should it matter to you?

Over the past decade-plus, we have seen a very troublesome trend of a lack of responsiveness among City, County, and State elected officials. The unwillingness of many elected officials and employees of local and State government to return calls from Gazette Chicago reporters, and other media, is downright disappointing and dare we say, abhorrent in its nature.

Why? Because when elected officials and government employees don’t return our calls and answer our questions so that we can provide you with fair and balanced news stories, they are shortchanging you. Yes, you. And, that should make you very upset—especially when you take the time to dutifully go into that voting booth time after time, and cast your vote for someone you expect to represent you well and be responsible for his or her actions. And, just so you know, the worst among this non-responsive bunch call Chicago home.

The trend of placing masking tape over the mouths of elected officials and government employees started with former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

It’s no secret that Daley didn’t like speaking to the media in general and in the latter stages of his administration, he and his underlings talked less and less frequently to the press. Maybe it had something to do with the escalating criticism they received for the sell-off of City assets such as the parking meters, the Skyway, and our downtown parking garages. Or, for having kicked the pension plan payments for City workers down the road like a rusty old tin can.

Then along came Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the effort to muzzle politicians and City employees took off like a jet-fueled rocket on steroids. This, ironically, from a newly elected Mayor who had promised transparency during his initial campaign. Emanuel’s quickly became an administration that put the clamps on just about every aspect of City government sharing key information with its constituents: from the Chicago Police and Fire Departments to Chicago Public Schools, just to name a few. Of course, the majority of the City Council who follow in lock step with the Mayor on just about every vote and budget has emulated their “fear-filled leader” when it comes to dealing with the media.

Just what the heck is everybody so afraid of? Perhaps it might be the fallout of their follies to sidle up to the rich and powerful and leave you and many others far behind. Escalating and oppressive taxes; rampant gun violence and other crimes in our communities; the inability to address the budget crises for CPS and the City at-large; the flight of many middle class and lower-income families from the City; and the lack of affordable housing and rental apartments in the inner city. We could go on and on. But instead of facing the music and addressing these critical issues, City officials and employees have shirked their responsibilities. And by ignoring the media, they have ignored you. How sad.

Some of you will really enjoy what’s coming next and some of you (i.e., elected officials and City employees) will be seething. For those who might be annoyed or angry over the list that follows you cannot come close to the outright frustration that we are experiencing in trying to pry your collective muzzles free.

In just the July 7 issue of Gazette Chicago alone, here are some of the politicians, civic leaders, and community groups that didn’t return our calls.

In some cases, we were able to gather enough sources to run our stories; in other cases, we had to table them until our next issue. Either way, when elected officials, civic leaders and community groups don’t get back to us,
you get shortchanged.

For what it’s worth, here is the list of the unresponsive this month:

• Chicago Office of the Mayor
• Chicago Police Department
• Chicago Public Library
• Chicago Office of Planning and Development
• Chicago Department of Transportation*
• Alderman Daniel Solis
• Alderman Walter Burnett*
• Alderman Sophia King*
• State Representative Arthur Turner*
• State Senator Patricia Van Pelt*
• Archdiocese of Chicago
• Campus Green officials
• Bronzeville Area Residents and Commerce Council
• Near South Planning Board*
• Neighbors of the West Loop*
• West Central Association*
• West Loop Community Organization*
• West Loop Families

*Note: In all fairness, those with an asterisk generally are responsive to Gazette Chicago inquiries.

So, what can you do about this? We hope you get angry enough to fire off some email missives or make some calls and demand that the people you vote into office and the people that they hire in various City agencies, talk to Gazette Chicago reporters so that we can tell you what they are doing regarding issues in your community.

We know that community groups are trying hard—often with limited staff and resources. And, we appreciate their efforts—so we don’t mean to throw them under the bus. We just want to paint a picture for you as to how “glorious” journalism is in today’s day and age.

Today, the fate of our Democracy is being threatened in many ways. We
are constantly on alert to those threats at the national level. However, please pay attention to the erosion of Democracy right before your eyes—right here in Chicago—right here in your own community.

We urge you to take action. Speak up. Resist. And, remember those who have failed to represent you fairly the next time you enter the voting booth.