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The [Thursday] Papers

"The former head of Chicago's red light camera program was arrested Wednesday in a $2 million bribery scandal and charged by federal prosecutors with plotting to steer the contract to Redflex Traffic Systems before the first ticket was ever issued in 2003," the Tribune reports.

"John Bills, the former transportation official who managed the red light contract until 2011, coached Redflex officials in a series of clandestine meetings and helped them grow their program into the largest in the country, authorities alleged. In return, they said, Bills received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash spent on a vacation home, a boat and a Mercedes convertible, along with dozens of trips and a condominium near the company's Arizona headquarters.

"The single bribery charge against Bills puts him at the center of sweeping allegations in a scandal that by size alone ranks among the largest in Chicago's notorious history of corruption."

I wonder who will read John Bills' induction speech into the Chicago Way Hall of Fame.


"The Tribune reported earlier this year that the cooperating source is fired Redflex Executive Vice President Aaron Rosenberg, who acknowledged he was cooperating with authorities in a civil defamation lawsuit against the company. Rosenberg accused Redflex of doling out bribes and gifts at 'dozens of municipalities' in 14 states and said he was made a 'scapegoat' to cover up the long-standing practice after the Tribune began asking questions about the Chicago contract."

That's why this has been an international story; dozens of municipalities in 14 states have been reassessing their own relationships with Redflex as a result of what's happened here. The very existence of the company has been threatened, though for now they're still hiring.


"The federal complaint also alleges that while Redflex was still competing for the contract, Bills called Rosenberg to ask that Redflex pick up the tab for a Los Angeles trip for Bills and his friends, which Rosenberg did with the approval of his supervisor.

"At the time, Rosenberg's supervisor was Karen Finley, the CEO of Redflex Traffic Systems. She and two other Redflex executives - including the general counsel - resigned last year amid the scandal."

So Redflex's corporate culture was a perfect match for Chicago's civic culture.


"The complaint said Bills met with Rosenberg to review red light photographs of both competitors for the contract, choosing photographs that made Redflex appear to be the better candidate. Bills even arranged the seating for the City Hall selection committee in an attempt to influence the vote for Redflex, lining it up so that members supporting Redflex voted first to create momentum, the complaint alleges."

Emphasis mine, because how did that work?

"Where do you want us, John?"


"Bills retired in 2011 after a 30-year city career that saw him rise from a streetlight maintenance worker to the deputy managing commissioner of the Transportation Department under former Mayor Richard M. Daley. He was a longtime top precinct captain in the political operation of House Speaker Michael Madigan."

So he was qualified.

"Madigan spokesman Steve Brown initially said that Bills had not been involved in the speaker's powerful political organization 'for like 10 years,'" the Sun-Times reports, "but he later acknowledged that Bills worked for Madigan's House Democratic candidates in 2010 and 2012."

So, for like two years. Until he got hot.


"The complaint alleged that Redflex worked to support Bills even after he left the city, when Bills 'made it known' to Rosenberg and other Redflex employees 'that he wanted a job with Redflex.

"'It was decided that Redflex could not directly hire Bills due to a city of Chicago ordinance' that prohibits contractors from hiring city employees until one year after they leave the city, the complaint said.

"Instead, Bills landed a job as a consultant with longtime Chicago political adviser Greg Goldner, who owns Resolute Consulting. Goldner was paid by Redflex to establish the Traffic Safety Coalition, which campaigns for automated traffic camera programs around the country."

Wait for it.

"The Tribune reported in 2011 that Goldner, Emanuel's onetime congressional campaign manager, was working with the coalition to legalize speed cameras in Illinois at the same time Emanuel was pushing to start his program in Chicago."

How cozy.

"[Goldner] runs a powerhouse public affairs firm that, during Rahm's reign, has functioned like an appendage of City Hall," Chicago magazine noted last year.

Oh, he also ran Rahm's 2002 congressional campaign; the one that used Donald Tomczak's illegal street soldiers.

And Goldner formed For a Better Chicago while Rahm was running for mayor in 2011, described by Rick Perlstein in Rolling Stone as "an Emanuel-aligned political action committee that raised nearly a million dollars in secret cash to funnel to Rahm-friendly candidates for alderman."

Finally, Goldner was the man behind the CPS rent-a-protestor scandal.

So, naturally, Goldner hired Bills for his fake traffic safety coalition.

"The complaint alleges that Redflex increased its monthly payments to the Traffic Safety Coalition to help cover Bills' salary, an allegation Goldner denies," the Tribune notes.

"It is true that they changed how much we were paid from time to time, but there was no correlation," Goldner said.

Just coincidence. Which in Chicago is causation.


It's true that the Redflex contract was originally awarded under Daley's watch. And the Sun-Times notes that "Redflex was fired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year and banned from bidding for contracts after the Chicago Tribune disclosed Bills' relationship with the firm."

But when Emanuel says, as he did Wednesday, "that the move proves he has 'zero tolerance for corruption and has worked to change the culture at City Hall,'" well, that's a little hard to take. After all, Emanuel participated in erecting that culture and keeping it in place for 22 years as one of Daley's closest allies and advisers.

You can't say with any validity that "For 22 years I told Chicago to vote for this man and his administration and now I want you to vote for me so I can change everything he did."

Of course, Emanuel isn't changing everything Daley did, except to the extent that he's doing it on steroids (including side effects of exploding rage and shrinking testicles). And I do believe Emanuel truly is embarrassed by the kind of corruption that pervaded Daley's City Hall; it's so low-rent. But that doesn't make Emanuel a paragon of virtue; it just makes him a different kind of ugly (and modern) political creature - an elitist whose corruption is built around ever slicker deceits of messaging, public relations and image-making disconnected from the reality of his shadowy governance.


Fantasy Fix: Broken Arms
Jose Fernandez vs. Jason Hammel.


* King County Pays Seattle Times More Than $40,000 For Public Records Violations.


* Glorious Leader! Kim Jong-Un Takes On U.S. Army In New Video Game.

The promo ends with Kim and a tooled-up Dennis Rodman standing side-by-side on a basketball court before descending through the floor.

* Carlos Boozer Gets A Bad-Ass Jeep.

How fast can he drive it out of town?

* CenterPoint Plans 12-Story Data Center Next To Chicago Data Hub.

Chicago officials greenlight massive facility next to 350 East Cermak.










The Beachwood Tip Line: Slayer tips only.


Posted on May 15, 2014

MUSIC - Madonna vs. Moderna.
TV - Sundays With The Military-Industrial Complex.
POLITICS - Private Equity In The ER.
SPORTS - Suspicious Betting Trends In Soccer.

BOOKS - China Holding Swedish Publisher.


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