The [Tuesday] Papers
Here's my first contribution to the latest national conversation about race: I truly believe one mark of progress is that African-Americans in cities like Chicago now have ample opportunity to ascend to the highest levels of government and rip us off, just like white guys have for . . . ever.
In fact, today's news shows that women have also broken through the, um, the . . . corruption ceiling?
And that just expands the pool of targets for people like me. God bless progress!
Sure, some of us idealists hoped that the oppressed wouldn't behave like their oppressors, but translate their experiences into higher planes of public service. But then, it's probably not fair to set a higher standard of behavior for those who have been left out for so long and just want to get a piece of the action for themselves, like the jowly honkies who laid down the template and continue to benefit most from public corruption.
Still, the news today is disheartening.
First we have Donna Dunnings, cousin of Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, defending her $17,048 raise in the wake of a bitter budget battle that resulted in a controversial increase in the county sales tax.
"Dunnings said her critics could have submitted an amendment to Stroger's budget proposal to block the pay raise 'If they were so concerned about the salary of the first African-American female CFO,' the Tribune reports. (That's Chief Financial Officer, not Current Family Obligation.)
I'm not sure either how this budget line eluded Stroger's board opponents, but maybe they were preoccupied with, you know, the budget.
Or maybe they finally discovered that that the county's chief financial officer is a black woman and they don't like it one bit.
But who is Dunnings really hurting more, liberal white reformers or the poor people who are disproportionately black because of this country's shameful history who depend on the county for services?
Or her colleagues forgoing raises - or losing their jobs?
Today's second exhibit is a bigger fish than Dunnings, and she'll have to face the people come election time.
In his "Clerk Perk?" report last night, Fox Chicago's Dane Placko reported that Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown put a former police officer on her payroll as a "systems analyst" who instead appears to be her chauffeur. I say "appears to be" because Brown claims the man is part of her security force.
"That's just a budget title," she says of the "systems analyst" designation.
That sounds like fraud to me, but I'll leave that up to others to decide.
It turns out, though, according to Placko, that Brown's driver is "one of 10 investigators with clerical titles but carrying guns."
Stay away from those accordion files or I'll shoot!
Now, Brown says that she's received death threats because her name is on county documents, and that's no laughing matter. But Sheriff Tom Dart told Placko that he's not aware of either a security request from Brown or any threats against her.
Dart told Placko that, by and large, he drives himself to and from work.
(I got distracted at this point in the broadcast, but I'm pretty sure Placko said that judges don't get security details. And they aren't just like law enforcement people; they do the actual sentencing.)
Brown's driver $63,000 a year, but Brown assured Placko that he has a tough, five-pronged job. "He has to secure me," she said. He has to drive the vehicle, a Ford Expedition XLT, "which is not an easy job." I never got the other three, though I think she said something about investigations at the office.
Brown argued that she's really doing the taxpayers a favor; she couldn't be as efficient if she had to drive herself.
When Placko pointed out that other county employees drive themselves, Brown said in her best Leona Helmsley: "Am I just an employee of the county?"
Brown also complained that "I make only $105,000 a year."
And then the kicker: "I feel harassed, and I feel discriminated against."
You are being discriminated against, Dorothy. But it has nothing do with being an African-American woman. You're a Cook County politician, and that means you don't get the benefit of the doubt.
This will offer greater exposure for the Beachwood through cross-promotion, and bring a small bit of needed revenue into the company. At the same time, I'll get to work with some of the Internet and politics folks over there, which hopefully will produce exciting results.
Please visit, but please be gentle. It's still in the early-going and many improvements are coming. In short order, the blog will find a voice and character of its own.
I'll keep everyone posted on other developments as warranted.
I suppose this means an ethical disclosure is in order: I am under no obligation, nor would I agree to one, to praise Channel 5 or criticize its competitors. I rarely comment about TV in this space, and as you can see today, I gave major props to Fox Chicago's Placko, as I have in the past. Regular readers know that I am a big Carol Marin fan, and she is affiliated with NBC5, though I almost always reference her here in relation to her work at Chicago Tonight and the Sun-Times. But I'm more than happy to field questions or concerns about this.
Geez, kind of anti-climactic.
I love this, though: "The winner of the auction, which lasted more than a week, is the owner of a trivia website who wants to add the corn flake to a travelling museum."
The Beachwood Tip Line: Divisive.
Posted on March 25, 2008
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