O MAYOR DALEY, are you up there? It's me, Cohen. You're probably up over Chicago, looking down at Jane Byrne and her crowd. But it's here in Washington that you should be looking. There are things going here that would warm the cockles of your former heart. I'm telling you Mister Mayor, the song's outdated. It's Washington that's a toddling town.

Take, for instance, the mayor. He had a wife who along with two others allegedly stole something like $600,000 from a nonprofit corporation and the mayor said he knew nothing about it. Sounds terrific, huh? Remember when you used to say things like that? He said it with a straight face, too. You would have been proud. Barry's his mane -- Marion Barry.

Now there's something new. They used to have a welfare chief here named Yeldell. Almost everything he touched either lost its accreditation or its public confidence. He was convicted once of bribery, exonerated at another trial and was just the sort of person the current mayor campaigned against when he ran for office. Are you ready for this?

The mayor has taken him back into government.

He gave him a $50,112 a year job. The law says he had to take him back into the government and the law says he has to come in at his salary grade, but the law did not say the mayor had to do this without a fight -- without so much as a peep of protest. This is the same mayor who got rid of other cabinet level holdovers by putting them in jobs they did not like. For Yeldell, he found a job he liked.

Mayor Daley, I got to tell you something. I always envied the reporters who covered you. You were something. You were mean and venal and certainly no reformer. Working in Washington, I longed for someone like you. For a time, all I had was Walter Washington. He was honest and he was dull. This, for a columnist, is inexcusable. Now I am thrilled to death. This Marion Barry is terrific.

Let me tell you what else is going on. In Washington now, you have to take on black partners when you want to build a major project. Sometimes the black partners put up a little money but sometimes they put up nothing. Either way, they get a hunk of the action.

All this is explained by saying that blacks have to have a chance to participate in things. Who would argue with that? The mayor takes this line. He says, for instance, that thousands of blacks were pushed out to make way for the Southwest Urban Renewal area and no blacks made any money off the project. He said it with a straight face. You would have been impressed.

No one asked him how life would have been easier for the displaced blacks if one or two blacks had helped displace them. No one asked if the blacks who are now about to share in the boom of downtown construction will share their profits with other blacks.

No one asked because this is not perceived as politics but as a question of racial equity. I need not tell you, Mister Mayor, that minority rights is not the whole story here. The partners are politically well connected and what they are doing is trading their clout with city hall for a piece of the pie. This is something whites have been known to do, too. Am I right, Mister Mayor?

They remember you here. They actually use your name. One of the lawyers who is getting a piece of a construction project said that this is what the Daley Organization used to do in Chicago. I mean, this was a real testament to you, your Honor. You would have been proud. Even before that, one of the people involved in the rip-off of the nonprofit corporation said that this is what white people have been doing for years. Your name was not mentioned, but you were there in spirit.

So all this time, you might have thought you were in disgrace or something. I mean, the organization in Chicago is in the hands of a woman and a judge has ruled that patronage is a bad thing and the reformers seem to be taking over the world. Everyone is talking merit and ability and worth, but in Washington the old ways live on. They are cherished because, in a sense, they are now here.

So come here. It's a wonderful town where the mayor knows nothing about a major scandal, where a former flop of an adminstrator gets back on the payroll for partly political reasons and where the people with the right connections get first dibs on the good deals. Only one thing you got to learn, Mister Mayor. In practicing the old politics, they use the term "minorities" here. Don't let it bother you.

It's just the old gang at city hall.