Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Tale of Two Chicago Party Headquarters

A few years back I had the experience of travelling down to Chicago's 11th Ward. That's essentially Bridgeport and the Back of the Yards and is the home base of the Daley clan, Michael Bilandic and legions of prominent Democrat City jobholders, contractors and Federal indictees (the subsets of which have often overlapped.)

While there, I was amazed to get an eyeful of the 11th Ward Democratic Organization headquarters. Having spent much of my wayward youth wandering in and out of various suburban and city Township and Ward political HQs, this was truly stunning to me. I had never seen anything like it.

It is a 2 story concrete free-standing, edifice with "Democrat Organization of the 11th Ward," prominently etched right into the crown of the building. It evoked an image of solidity and confidence and permanence--kind of like a bank building in the era before banks decided to operate out of checkout lines at the local Jewel Supermarket (The bank? Take a left at the Deli Counter, a right at produce and it's there at the end next to the cumquats.)

This was a truly stunning building. If not for the identification etched into the stone, it could easily have passed for the main post office in Appleton, WI.

And mind you, this was only a Ward party headquarters. The Cook County Democratic headquarters occupies a suite of offices at a respectable building in the loop.

Fast forward to the new shared headquarters of the Cook County Republican Organization/Republican Party of Chicago.

It recently moved to a hole-in-the-wall storefront at 1549 W. Blackhawk.


You need a mapquest search to find that it is a 3 block long side street that juts off of Ashland Ave. in the congested, hipster-doofus, Wicker Park neighborhood.

The office itself is a single room in a storefront beneath a 1910 vintage apartment building, complete with iron fire-escape ladders. I speculate that it must have once been home to the local cobbler or perhaps seamstress.

It contains 2 1/2 desks, a conference table, a 1-seater powder room and (for some inexplicable reason) a big screen TV. There are 6 parking meters out front to accomdate the half-dozens of party activists who may choose to visit.

There is no sign -- the makeshift one they had out front, I am told, was ripped down by the local hipster-doofuses and never replaced.

This pathetic little hovel represents the Republican party's retreat from decades of operating out of one or another respectable loop address, last one having been on West Washington -- as might befit the local outpost of a major national political party.

This eccentric choice of locale, was apparently dictated by the fact that the building is owned by Eloise Gerson, 42nd GOP Ward Committeeman and Chairman of the Chicago Republican Party, the latter being a largely ceremonial title. Presumably she takes a tax writeoff in return for donating the essentially unrentable space.

What is actually a little outrageous about this absurd location, aside from the fact that there is no actual parking for visitors, is that it is literally miles from any actual Republican voters and activists (if there still are any.)

Those few stalwarts left in the city are congregated in the far-Northwest side 41st Ward (which has the lone Republican Alderman) or on the far Southwest side in Cong. Dan Lipinski's district.

Of course to locate their headquarters in either of those realms, after retreating from the respectability of the Loop, would imply some shred of common sense on the part of Cook County and Chicago Republicans.

No wonder the denizens of the formidable stone edifice in Bridgeport smugly deride Republicans as "the stupid party."

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