Give Us Our Daley Scandal
In a one-party city steeped in tradition of patronage graft, a city worker's indictment for breach of the public trust no longer gets front page attention. The only crime was getting caught. Those who got caught would fall on their own sword. The rusty blemish would be sandblasted off the Party Machine and the power gears would keep the incumbents and other precinct workers humming along with their own versions of public service. The standard press conference from the mayor's office would be to decry the disloyalty of the indictee, pledge law and order, promise to clean up city government, then do nothing to the status quo. In a patronage army, the status quo has been the equivalent of a Hun conquest; one gets his power position through politics, then leverage the position into kickbacks, ghost payrolling, fee skimming and dollar nesting family and relatives on boards or other under-the-radar no-bid contracts. If you had connections, you could become a millionaire with government contracts; if you had big connections, you could become a multi-millionaire. All at taxpayer's expense, of course.
The first Mayor Daley was the King of Clout. If you treated him well, as in loyalty, votes, campaign dollars, he would treat you well when large public works projects were announced. This is the cornerstone of the machine politics. There is always at least one large public project on the drawing table to provide jobs for union labor and major contractors and the ancillary service providers like accountants, financiers and lawyers. McCormick Place Convention Center is under continual expansion even though the convention business is declining on an annual basis. The mayor's push to condemn several major portions of the suburbs to expand the city's O'Hare Airport even though the airlines are in free fall or in bankruptcy with no money to contribute to such a project. Major expressways are annually torn up and rebuilt. The Mayor is on a mission to become the nation's biggest gardener with all his park beautification projects. However, the current Mayor Daley is now finding that his father's topcoat of machine management uncomfortable.
Politics is the redistribution of wealth. The payment of taxes and fees was to support public projects for the public good. But public service has turned into private gain. The government agencies have collected more money in the history of the nation, but have only massive bond debt and a crumbling infrastructure to show for it. Where did all the money go?
The U.S. Attorney in Chicago has been following the money. And he is finding that a large chunk of taxpayer dollars is being funneled into the bank accounts of politicians, families and friends. It does not matter what political party is involved; the corruption and indictments appear to be standard operating procedure in Illinois. Former governor George Ryan goes on trial in September, 2005. He is another in a long line of indicted state governors. The use of the do-little state boards, multiple state pension stuffing, fees and kickback consulting deals for public bond financing or pension money management contracts are only a few of the methods to rip off the public. The city hall scandals included hiring dump trucks to do city business but never show up to provide any services, city asphalt trucks being rerouted to private parking lot work, hiring connected but unqualified kids to building inspector jobs at a high starting salary, taking personal gifts, vacations and money in exchange for sweetheart deals with the city departments. Now, both local Democrats and Republicans do not want Patrick Fitzgerald, the modern day Elliot Ness, reappointed to his position as chief federal prosecutor.
Mayor Daley was recently interviewed by the federal investigators. Daley had his city's corporate counsel and a clout-heavy Washington D.C. attorney at his side during the interview. He claims he is not a target of any federal investigation, but common sense infers that with so many indictments, with so many pleas of guilty by city workers, he was to think that he is on the grill. Daley, a former state prosecutor, knows how the justice system works. A prosecutor nails the lower fish in the chain and works he way up the ladder to the big fish. The harsh spotlight on Illinois is not flattering; a U.K. publication last year called Illinois the most corrupt state in the country. It is hard to argue with that assessment.
Opinion, Commentary, Editorial Cartoons by Ski.
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