Sunday, April 24, 2005

Ald. Flores: Walking the Walk?

Alderman Manual ("Manny")Flores [D-1st Ward, Chicago], 33, was born in El Paso, Texas, where he spent his early boyhood years. His father was born on a farm that was to become O’Hare Airport [his father’s ancestors were from Mexico] and Flores’ mother was born in Mexico. After leaving El Paso, Ald. Flores spent some of his youth in the North Lake Melrose Park area [West Cook County suburb].

Ald. Flores, now living in Wicker Park, did not become a resident of the 1st Ward until late 2001 and it took a court to strike the two-year Chicago ward residency requirement as unconstitutional [the handy work of attorney, candidate and sometime political adviser/consultant Frank Avila, Jr.] for Flores to stay on the ballot in 2003. Running as an independent Democrat against eight-year incumbent Jesse Granato two years ago, Manny Flores won surprisingly easily in the April, 2003, run-off with almost 60% of the vote.

This was despite the fact that Granato had support from Mayor Daley, the Hispanic Democratic Organization [aka the Hispanic Daley Organization], the old Rostenkowski 32nd Ward organization, Gov. Blagojevich, Cong. Gutierrez [for whom Flores had worked after finishing law school at George Washington University and before becoming an Assistant State’s Attorney in Cook County] and such HDO pols as State Senator Iris Martinez.

Notwithstanding his big victory over Granato and the Machine, Flores is not without his critics, including Russ Stewart who predicted last year that Manny will be a one termer instead of a “political comer.” One reason that Stewart concludes that is that he thinks Ald. Flores looks like an ingrate for “allowing his aldermanic Chief of Staff, Xochiti Flores,” to run for the Cook County Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board against his lawyer, Frank Avila, Jr., when Avila attempted last year to join his father on that Board. Further, says Stewart, Ald. Flores’ political organization pushed hard for Xochiti, giving her a two thousand-vote margin over Avila, Jr. in the 1st Ward.

Both Xochiti and Frank, Jr., lost but Frank Avila, Jr. came in fourth out of eleven in a Democratic election that was the equivalent of the General Election—and the election was for three Commissioners. So, some claim that Xochiti was a spoiler put in the race to attract Hispanic votes from Frank, Jr. and keep him off the board.

On the other hand, there are Flores critics who have become Flores boosters and they in turn have their own critics. The Ald. Flores boosters argue that he is independent of the machine, but able to work with regular Democrat organizations to get things done for his constituents. They also argue he walks a fine line between pro-growth and anti-development . In short, his boosters say he knows when and how to compromise for the “better good,” of the community. Further, his supporters argue that Ald. Flores is articulate, smart, personable and just oozes integrity and honesty.

Ald. Flores’ critics accuse him of not being the independent he said he would be—and of “selling out.” They argue that he practices the same kind of patronage for which he has been known to criticize the HDO and others. They also argue he has backed down on Landmark Preservation to gain the support of real estate developers and that he gerrymandered the Landmark Preservation District in his Ward. [See Ben Joravsky's article, "Caving Early," in the April 15, 2005 Chicago Reader, accessible at for a nominal fee--There ain't no such thing as a free online Reader article ("TANSTAAFORA")].

Me, I just ask questions and let my viewers decide what they think of the answers. What can I say—Tough, but fair and balanced.

Why is what people think of a young, junior Chicago alderman of consequence? Well, ask yourself what then State Senator Barack Obama looked and sounded like in 1998, when he was a 37 year old, skinny, African-American man from the South Side of Chicago, with a funny sounding name, who had been a state senator for two years. U. S. Senator, Presidential material? Well, he did have a distinguished academic pedigree, and, of course, he was articulate. But, U. S. Senator, Presidential material? Not everybody thought so, but some did.

So, what do we think of a 33 year old, skinny, Hispanic man from the 1st Ward of Chicago, with a somewhat funny sounding name, who has been an alderman for two years. Chicago Mayor material for 2011? Well, Triton Junior College and Rosary College are good schools, but they are not Occidental College and Columbia University. And George Washington University law school is a very good law school, but it is not Harvard Law.

However, Manny Flores is an articulate guy who seems to know how to make good public policy and political decisions. And, in that sense, not unlike a young Barack Obama. And, here’s another thing, they both came on “Public Affairs,” early on in their political careers.

Keep an eye on Ald. Flores. He is coming to a TV set near you, in the suburbs during the Week of May 2 and throughout the 1st Ward and the remainder of the City of Chicago on Monday night, May 9, 2005 at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21[CANTV], as discussed further directly below this blog entry. ********************************************
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at