As the US Conference of Mayors convenes in Chicago this weekend, the city has never looked better. The sun is glistening off the new Millennium Park amphitheater, flowers are blooming in Grant Park, the city's streets look spit-shined, and banners announcing the mayors convention are hanging from lamposts all over town. At the convention sessions so far, mayors have been tripping over themselves thanking Mayor Richard Daley and complimenting him on the sparkling city.

But greeting the mayors this morning was a lead story in the Chicago Tribune outlining how this weekend's convention comes at the end of a very tough week for Daley.  In the past week, City Hall has been dogged by contracting scandals and the firing of a city official over permitting irregularities. And the past few months have been marked by fraud in the city's minority contracting program, an investigation into patronage hiring, and a timesheet scandal in the Department of Water Management.

As the Tribune story says, the mayors visiting Chicago don't seem to know or care about the scandals, but the scandals seem to me a little like the elephant in the room.