Friday, January 27, 2012

The Chicago way vs Albany Democracy

I wonder whether the Chicago way has any resemblance to Albany Democracy. In Albany, and in Albany County generally, the Democrats controlled everything. Albany voters voted the straight Democratic ticket every time. I think they are the only county in the US to go overwhelmingly to George McGovern. A sinister Irishman whose name I have forgotten ran the machine. When a house in Albany changed hands, the evaluation--and the taxes--went up. The whole thing was choreographed like a classical ballet. First you got the letter concerning your new evaluation, then you called a lawyer who agreed to "represent" you in appealing the rise. Our fixer, another Irishman, was always off somewhere attending a wake, funeral, wedding, first communion, or barbecue, so you had to keep calling him. When you finally reached him, he said he would fix--I should properly call it "fix"--the assessment for you. This was supposed to make you grateful and turn you into a lifelong Democrat. Every election, a little old man who wheezed and smelled of cigarette smoke came to your door and told you who to vote for. He was completely sincere and meant it but we voted for whomever we pleased. It didn't matter who we voted for. Everyone else voted the straight Democratic ticket. The good thing about the machine was low taxes. The bad things were rotten schools to which no member of the school board would send their kids, potholes, little or late snow removal, no street cleaning, and a host of other deplorable conditions. The good thing was low taxes. Loyal Democrats were given low-paying jobs around the city and were appropriately grateful for them. The elevators at City Hall had actual elevators run by city hacks, years after all the other elevators in the world were automated. Free turkeys and baskets of food were delivered in poor neighborhoods at Christmas. Our mayor was supposed to be very smart and came from a distinguished family. The story went that he could have risen to the House or the Senate, so distinguished was he, but he Had a Mistress, which disqualified him. He came to politics poor and left rich, albeit in a pine box, despite earning about $5,000 a year. I guess he was lucky in his investments. I thought he was an egregious ass. My daughter, a fifth grader, wrote him a letter requesting pay raises for firemen. He sent her a pompous reply as if she were a grownup, but not too bright at that. This all happened a long time ago and I'm sure everyone in Albany County is completely honest and trustworthy at present. Like Chicago. But with lower taxes.

4 comments:

Akaky said...

His name was Dan O'Connell, Miriam, and he ran the Albany machine until he died in 1977

miriam said...

Yes, indeed, Akaky. My memory, like many other things of value, is fading. So glad to hear from you.

I also just remembered the name of Erastus Corning III, the longest serving mayor in the universe.

I knew you lived somewhere within shouting distance of Albany.

miriam said...

Blogger eliminated my paragraph breaks. I put them in. Twice. But they do not appear on the post. I don't know why, as I am a grammatical fusspot and particularly fond of short, snappy paragraphs.

Dick Stanley said...

Austin, Texas, politics is similarly Democrat. Just about the only reliably Democrat city and county in Texas. The Occupy folks, for instance, had staked out a portion of the entry to city hall for months, until Friday when they were finally evicted by the police. Unfortunately the taxes are not low.