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The Mell Rule

Ald Dick Mell talks with Howard Brookins during meeting Wednesday June 8 2011 City Hall. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

Ald, Dick Mell talks with Howard Brookins during the meeting, Wednesday, June 8, 2011, at City Hall. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 8, 2013 6:53AM



Call it the Mell Rule: No politician should be permitted to bestow his or her elected office upon a relative.

Even before Ald. Dick Mell (33rd) submitted his resignation Wednesday, Chicagoans with a good feel for how such things go down were suggesting a deal is in place to usher in his daughter, state Rep. Deb Mell, to replace him. Under that scenario, Mayor Rahm Emanuel will appoint her to the City Council quickly, and by the time she has to face the voters in an election she will be nicely settled in, enjoying all the powers of incumbency.

Need another reason to feel cynical about Chicago politics? Well, there you go.

We don’t doubt that Deb Mell would make an above-average alderman. Past City Councils have set the bar low enough for a Chihuahua to jump. But her appointment would have all the hallmarks of a backroom deal. Especially since it involves Dick Mell, who in nearly 40 years on the Council acquired a reputation as a master dealmaker.

We already have a sorry record of elected officials who saw their jobs as birthrights to be handed down to the next generation.

In 2004, former U.S. Rep. William Lipinski resigned after winning the Democratic primary. His son, Dan, was appointed to replace him in the heavily Democratic district without having to best other Democrats in a primary. Dan has been in Congress ever since.

In 2006, John Stroger’s serious illness was hidden from voters until he won the Democratic nomination for Cook County Board president. Then John was replaced on the ballot by his son, Todd Stroger, who coasted to victory in the fall.

As part of the 2006 deal, Ald. William Beavers switched to Cook County Board commisioner. Who was appointed to fill his aldermanic vacancy? His daughter, Darcel Beavers.

The same political names keep cropping up on the national level, too — a Bush or a Clinton ran in seven of the eight presidential elections from 1980 to 2008 and one of each might run in 2016.

When Emanuel, after what he vows will be an “open process,” chooses an alderman for the 33rd Ward, he should honor the Mell Rule — no immediate kin.

Leave that House of Lords stuff to the Brits.



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