Curiously but understandably, in view of the demands of political one-upmanship, the senator made no mention in the Brooks meeting of the Southeast Oak Park Community Organization (SEOPCO), the disturbingly grass-roots operation, boasting no office-holders, owing nothing to the ruling party, comprising the essence of being somebody no one sent.
The CTA man McLaughlin, the other featured presence besides SecTrans, got reasonable applause as he took the mike. So did all the speakers, as opposed to how it’s done in town halls of another stripe, in which elected people face the music from constituents and applause if any is not for candidates and office-holders but now and then for points made by people in attendance. They are constituent-centered gatherings in that respect. This wasn’t.
The senator had in effect hijacked the term town hall to give a patina of grass-roots origin to what was a patently political meeting — less community meeting than solemn high gathering of eagles, pulled together by him, for which he had made ample use of robocalling as reminder, with an eye to the coming re-election campaign, when he’d better win big, lest the ongoing pension-reform debacle appear to have diminished Democrat, not to mention his own, luster.
At least one of the eagles, an Oak Park official, did not show. We know that because the senator, while naming those who showed, taking attendance, noticed that he hadn’t.
All in all, it was a kabuki performance, comical in its way. SecTrans Schneider, “Ann” throughout, nodded approval as background to the senator and others, a sort of bobblehead in action. He praised her, she praised him. He had been “in the trenches, fighting” for us. Ditto Senator Lightford. Oak Parkers were “lucky” to have them, said Ann. Gosh.
For her part, she bucked questions repeatedly to “Pete,” Peter Harmet, Schaumburg-based IDOT chief of programming, her engineer-in-presence, explaining that she knew “higher” things, but not engineering ones. What a love. But she repeatedly got her generic, sometimes bromidic comments in , as overlay for details from Pete, leaving it to him to give us the low-down.
At least once he responded to her direction — to pull up a screen and give us a one-off image towards meeting’s end — with a quiet laugh that seemed to say, “Sure, Boss, anything you say,” or “There she goes again, good old Ann.” The slide-screen image itself had no obvious direct reference to anything said that night. It was just Ann being helpful.
In due time, the show lurched to its appointed close, ten minutes or so past its 9 p.m. deadline, many having left the auditorium. It perhaps gave food for thought for the next SEOPCO meeting, to which the senator and various officials would surely be welcome and from which they would surely be absent.