Chicago’s Mayoral Race: Escaping Ald. Burke’s stench of corruption

The Burke ties that bind:

With six weeks left to Chicago’s mayoral election, it appears that the federal shakedown charges against 75 year old Alderman and Finance Committee Chair Ed Burke was just what the race needed for some clarity to define the major issues.

After all, we can’t begin to deal with the City’s violence, education and pension issues without first determining which of the candidates, if any, are not DIRTY  and also able to MANAGE e a very large organization like the City of Chicago– an 18 billion dollar budget [City and CPS], with 2.8 million customers.

So, for the last 19 days, or so, the buzz has been to determine which of the BURKE FOUR: Preckwinkle, Mendoza, Daley and Chico, can continue as a serious mayoral candidate? Can paid media offset the stench of the Burke associations.

What are those Burke associations? Putting them in a nutshell:

(1)  Cook County Board President Preckwinkle received a bundle of contributions from Burke, along with 10K as part of Burke’s extortion shakedown.

(2) State Comptroller Mendoza was married at the Burkes’ home and thanked Burke for making her the politician she became.

(3)Mr. City Insider Gery Chico was a mentee of Burke from the Get go, when Chico started with Burke as a staffer on the Burke Finance Committee and now is essentially endorsed by Burke in this mayoral election.

and (4) there is Mayoral son and brother Bill Daley. The Daleys fought and loved Burke, depending on the year, but have been connected to each other  for decades, going back to the alleged deal that made Richard M. Daley a “Made guy,” as Mayor in 1989 and gave Burke the Finance Committee chairmanship.

The money:

Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but the top four funded candidates are those with the Burke ties that bind the most. the BURKE FOUR: Daley, $4.1 million; Preckwinkle, 2.8 million; Chico, 1.8 million and Mendoza 1.3 million. So, they are all well positioned to buy a new, clean image. Who needs earned media when you can reinvent your image and buy your own votes?

And, with the cooperation of the mainstream media and the downtown boys who run and pick the topics for the key forums, the issue of corruption could become declasse.

McCarthy raises the corruption issue:

In an effort to combat this, former Police chief Garry McCarthy proposed yesterday a City Council Review Board that would oversee some of the most corruption prone issues: TIFs, police misconduct settlements and ward redistricting. The proposal was clumsy and missing a legal framework [You can’t have a consent decree between the City Council and the citizens without a bona fide lawsuit], but clearly McCarthy’s heart is in the right place.

Garry McCarthy, City Hall Press Conference, 2nd Floor, January 14, 2019

Garry McCarthy, City Hall Press Conference, 2nd Floor, January 14, 2019

Moreover, from the discussion, below, that concluded the presser, and the other statements, below, one thing is clear: The city has a continuing “Leadership deficit,” which means that shakedowns are just the tip of the iceberg, but an important tip.

Perhaps we need to start with a Mayor who gives his cell phone to the City and says to the residents: “If somebody in the city tries to shake you down, call me and I will walk you over to the U. S. Attorney and we will both get outfitted with a wire.”


McCarthy’s antidote to corruption:

Garry McCarthy: Fran [Spielman], rampant corruption in city government should call for some sort of radical change… We need some sort of oversight of Chicago’s city government because what they’re doing is leading to the conditions that are existing and unacceptable.

Fran Spielman [Sun-Times]: But, in fact, the way to do that is to keep indicting people.

Garry McCarthy: So, since 1972, there’s been something like 100 sitting aldermen in the City Council, at least 35 of which have been indicted, arrested or gone to jail. So, is that working? It’s not working, Fran. We’ve got to do something different. We need different policies and practices here and I’m calling for some sort of oversight of City Government.

Jeff Berkowitz: The recent problem people are talking about, of course, is Ald. Burke and the alleged shakedown. And, the alleged shakedown was enabled by (1) his power as Chairman of the Finance Committee [meaning everybody knew Burke could whack them in numerous lethal ways] and (2) his power to stop anything in his ward-the so called aldermanic privilege. So, wouldn’t you want to attack that. You would have to find a group of city council members to abolish that privilege and diminish the power of the Finance Chair. Wouldn’t that be a more direct way to go?

McCarthy: That would probably be something that would have to be examined anyway. But, it wasn’t his position as Finance Chairman that gave him that influence.  As a matter of fact, if you actually read the complaint, there is a comment in there. It is actually in the notes. It is not in the narrative and says something to the effect “If you hire my tax[appeal law] firm [for your 100, or so, restaurants] I will give you this permit.” But, [Burke] actually didn’t have the authority to issue the permit. So, it wasn’t about actual power that he had. It is about the articulation of something that he could do for a quid pro quo. So, the bottom line is that this is about corruption. So, if we are satisfied with the corruption that we have, then let’s just keep doing what we’re doing. If we’re not, let’s change the way we do business.

Partial transcript, Garry McCarthy press conference, January 14, 2019, City Hall, 2nd Floor


Burke’s alleged shakedown:

Ald. Burke said to individual B: We were going to talk about the real estate tax [legal] representation and you were going to have somebody get in touch with me so we can expedite your permits.

Individual B advised law enforcement that s/he felt that it was inappropriate for Burke to link obtaining tax work with Burke’s official assistance concerning the driveway permits. Paragraphs 25 and 26 of criminal complaints filed by
USA v. Edward M. Burke, Jan. 2, 2019


Ald. Sposato: Burke as a Goodfella:      

Carol Marin: So, Ald. Sposato, how do you feel about what’s going on with Ald. Burke, right now?

Ald. Sposato [38th Ward]: I’m feeling for him. Ald. Burke is an awesome individual. A great guy. He helped a lot of people. I called him and told him I wish him well and I am praying for him and I am confident everything is going to come out all right for him…

Carol Marin: When you look at the history- 3 dozen aldermen have gone to prison, 2 more besides Ald. Burke are in trouble now– Willie Cochran going up on corruption charges in not too long, Rick Munoz for domestic battery. Must aldermen do more than they have done before to clean up their own house?

Ald. Sposato: I don’t know. I think you have an awesome group of aldermen and everyone does really good out there. I mean, I don’t follow people around and see exactly what they are doing but I do believe in the presumption of innocence, so let’s see what happens and these are just allegations against the three individuals. [Kind of expected Sposato to say these are “Goodfellas.”], Chicago Tonight, January 14, 2019

McCarthy, Vallas, Lightfoot, Eynia and Wilson the answer?     

So, in short, can Preckwinkle, Mendoza, Chico and Daley, despite their Burke ties defend themselves as clean, honest candidates who can deliver on violence prevention, education, pension-fiscal issues and jobs/economic growth?

If not, do McCarthy, Vallas, Lightfoot, Enyia and Wilson have the money, name recognition, organization and gravitas to contend for the top spot?

The mayor’s race comes down to those two questions. We’ll have some answers on February 26 and April 2 (run-off of top two), 2019

Leave a comment