Ald. Rod Sawyer Running for Mayor: The Chicago Way

By John Kass

August 18, 2022

One reason why writers make such unattractive friends? We remember things.

But Chicago’s 6th Ward Ald. Rod Sawyer—a practical man now running for mayor of Chicago– doesn’t mind my remembrances of things past.

Perhaps that’s why he keeps a $20 bill in his desk drawer—signed by me—so he won’t forget. But even if there wasn’t a dead president with my autograph, I don’t think Rod Sawyer could ever forget.

All will be explained as you listen to this edition of The Chicago Way podcast. Ald. Sawyer is our guest. Jeff Carlin and I are the co-hosts. And Chicago politics, and memory is our guide.

Some 34 years ago, after the death of the late Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago’s hard political left tore Black Politics apart in Chicago.  And cancel culture began.

 I was there. And Rod Sawyer, then in law school, was there with his father, then Ald. Eugene Sawyer, the future mayor.   And Rich Daley was smiling, because as Chicago’s political left tore Sawyer apart, calling him all kinds of race traitor, it was Daley who was the beneficiary.

You know who else was there, as the hard left tore the city apart and paved the road to power for Rich Daley for 20 years? It was Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans, who served Boss Daley and was elevated to Chief Judge by Daley and now serves Boss Toni Preckwinkle.

That’s the Chicago Way, too.

Gene Sawyer was an Alderman. Tim Evans was an Alderman. Evans had been the obsequious coat holder for machine alderman Claude W. Holman. But it was Gene Sawyer—who was a bodyguard for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while in college in the South—who was portrayed by Evans and his bunch (and their allies in the media)–as a race traitor, an Uncle Tom.

It was despicable what they did to Gene Sawyer. It was so ugly that Sun Times columnist Vernon Jarrett was forced to apologize to the people of Chicago for the things he said. It ripped Black politics in Chicago apart. Gene Sawyer succeeded Washington, but Black politics was broken. The Daleys took full advantage. It was vile.

Rod Sawyer saw it all. So did Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who told me she was a young law student at the University of Illinois Pavilion that night. And now he’s running for mayor.

“My goal is to reset what’s going on in Chicago,” Ald. Sawyer says on The Chicago Way. “The way we do business makes no sense. It’s archaic. We’re based on a system—basically, let’s be honest—we’re based on the patronage system with no patronage. It’s a connected system that does not have the tools necessary to get things done.”

Chicago is one of the few great American cities without a charter, Sawyer said.

“We need to reset how the government operates.  We need to talk about why it takes a year to get a tree trimmed….When we talk about all the issues ailing us, public safety, police, education, with business corridors not living up to their full potential, it all starts with structure,” Sawyer said.

“And right now, we have no structure. We really don’t have a direction. Ask anybody what an alderman’s job really is and you’ll get 100 different answers. There’s no form and structure to our jobs. Right now, that’s the core of what’s going on and what’s wrong with Chicago.”

Sawyer and all other announced candidates for mayor are welcome to submit a guest column to to explain their positions on the issues.

But Sawyer is correct here.

Why is the city in chaos?

There is no structure. There is no management. There’s a lot of rhetoric. Some of it ugly. But there are no managers at the upper reaches of City Hall.

Hope you listen to The Chicago Way podcast.

The race for mayor is the main event. It is a fight for heavyweights.

(Copyright 2022 John Kass)


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