Joe Biden administration should pursue these Chicago priorities now

Like a Rorschach test of sorts, all of us tend see in a new president what they want to see, good and bad. Joe Biden is no exception, as mayors and governors like Lori Lightfoot and J.B. Pritzker lick their lips at what’s to come even as Fox TV commentators rip up not only Biden and his family and friends but his choice of inaugural entertainers.

Still, after a president whose idea of helping the industrial Midwest and cities like Chicago was to preach about how no one would want to live in such a dangerous place, Biden can make amends. Big time. And lest my Republican friends think it’s all about shoring up Democratic fiefdoms, it’s not.

Let’s start with the top item on my wish list and everyone else’s. That’s civility, bringing a new tone to Washington so lawmakers actually can get things done for a change.

That doesn’t mean abolishing freedom of speech. People on both sides of the aisle are still free to say what they want and otherwise make idiots of themselves. It does mean lowering the volume on the rhetoric in the name of doing more than playing to your base. It’s hard to cut a deal with a lawmaker of the other party if you’re spitting in their face. As U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Neil Bradley put it in a conference call with reporters, “We’ve set a bad pattern in Washington, that people only want to be defined by what they’re against.” Amen.

Job 2: Tame the pandemic. Get the vaccines out of the refrigerators and factories and storage compartments and into people’s arms. And in the meantime, make it the law that, in public settings, if you insist on going maskless, I and the cop next to me can insist you leave.

Right now, it’s truly the wild west out there as COVID-19 vaccines begin to become available to those of us north of age 65. The city says one thing, the state another. City Hall says physicians have been instructed on who to immunize, but my physician says he’s received absolutely no guidance. Meanwhile the folks in DuPage County say the number of doses they received weekly this month has gyrated from 10,000 to 24,000 to back to 10,000, all without explanation.

All of those problems at least will improve with a consistent, focused federal response and supply. Biden has promised just that and his initial proposal seems solid. But for this voter, the proof will be in the product. Biden has to deliver.

Next is infrastructure: money to rebuild crumbling roads and bridges, expand public transit, beef up the electric grid to handle clear energy technologies and more. If there’s a subject I hear from almost every lawmaker in both parties, it’s this one, because they all know it means jobs and more efficient production. Yes, there’s a question of how to pay for it. But if there ever was a time for smart investment, investment that will pay off tomorrow, this is it. Chicago exists because it’s a transportation and trade center. Those assets are diminished if they’re old and outmoded.

This also is the time to finally move on comprehensive immigration reform, truly an issue that has haunted America for decades. I don’t have the space to discuss at length everyone’s view. But what we’ve done to the Dreamer kids, hundreds of thousands of young adults who have proven their worth but yet are being treated as human flies, is truly disgusting. Give them a permanent home, now, then come up with a rational plan for others that doesn’t make the Statue of Liberty weep.

One last item on my short list: National voting-rules reforms, standards, something that helps us avoid a repeat of this year’s chaos. Maybe some states went too far in allowing remote voting, but all but outlawing absentee voting amid a pandemic went too far the other way. Good heavens, if we can’t agree on how to conduct an election, what can we agree on?

There’s my list. Get busy, Washington!

via Crain’s Chicago Business

January 24, 2021 at 02:03PM

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