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The [Wednesday] Papers

The latest scheme to emerge from the John Stroger fiasco is so rich you almost have to admire it. Let's take it one scoundrel at a time.

* Ald. Bill Beavers would leave the city council to take over Stroger's seat as Cook County commissioner from the fourth district - but not the board's presidency. "Beavers, 71, has long made known his desire to retire," the Sun-Times reports. And the Cook County board is apparently a good place to retire to.

* Mayor Richard M. Daley would then appoint Beavers's daughter, Darcel, to Beavers's 7th Ward aldermanic seat.

* Ald. Todd Stroger, John's son, would then become the Democratic nominee and frontrunner to replace his father as Cook County Board president. Apparently the law doesn't require that the board president actually be a sitting board member. Without a board seat, however, Todd Stroger would not have a vote. So he'd kind of be in retirement too.

* Mayor Richard M. Daley would then appoint - is there another Stroger? - a replacement for Todd Stroger on the city council. Which could come pretty close to Daley achieving his goal of appointing the entire city council. By statute, all wards would then merge into one and martial law would be declared.

* John Daley, the mayor's brother, would see his influence grow as chairman of the county board's finance committee, given the vacuum created by a Todd Stroger figurehead presidency.

One ward boss told the Sun-Times that "Everyone knows Todd is weak, but out of deference to John they'll go along with it." Another source who is one of the Democratic committeeman who will vote on the plan said that "People are willing to let [Todd] come on the job and learn because of John."

So presiding over the $3 billion budget of the 19th largest government in the United States is both a retirement and training center. You might call it cradle-to-grave service.

Family Guy
"Madigan anointed his daughter. Tom Hynes anointed his son. Bill Lipinski anointed his son. So why can't John Stroger anoint his son?" asks Ald. Anthony Beale.

I'm just gonna come out and say it: It's unfair, but some earnest people hoped that as victims of the white man's injustice, minority politicians would lead the way as reformers guided by the principles of fairness instead of using the same tools that oppressed them to further pervert democracy. But I suppose it's a milestone of achievement that minorities are now in a position to be as corrupt as whitey and get their share. The larger lesson, though, is how cynicism, patronage, and corruption form self-perpetuating, self-justifying systems that turn government bodies and offices into personal playpens ill-equipped to use our hard-earned tax dollars to actually solve problems.

Have You Had Enough?
That's what Tony Peraica wants to know.

Afterschool Specials
So wait a minute, I could get state funding for this site by pretending it's an after-school program?

That would be a lot easier than waiting for you freeloaders to pony up some dough.

Did I just type that or just think it?

Target-Rich Environment
"What's more, the prosecutor suggested that the feds were far from done with prosecuting top officials in the Daley administration, acknowledging that other former city officials, not on trial, were responsible for setting up the hiring scheme," the Sun-Times reported in today's account of closing arguments in the City Hall hiring trial.

"For those responsible out there for this scheme, there is another day," prosecutor Philip Guentert said.

Later, John Kass reports, Guentert added that "City Hall is chock full of the schemers."

Carol Marin, on the other hand, finally gets one wrong.

"In this case, the orders, whether spoken or unspoken, are in direct violation of a decades-old federal court decree, expressly forbidding political hiring. But does this rise to the level of a federal crime worthy of prison time?"

She thinks not, but I think she answered her question in the set-up. Perhaps most egregious in this case isn't just the alleged fraud - which among other things endangers people's lives by employing teenage building inspectors - and the business-as-usual political practices which are nonetheless illegal if all too familiar, but the flouting of that federal decree Marin mentions, a federal decree overseen by a federal judge. That may not be the exact basis of the charges in this case, but it's the context in which this prosecution is taking place.

In addition, this case is but one on an upwardly moving chain that could very well knit together a legally defined "criminal enterprise" (as George Ryan's secretary of state's office was declared) known up to now simply as "the mayor's office."

So yeah, I think it's a worthy investigation.

But even if the investigation ended here, with "garden variety fraud," as Michael Shakman has put it, how is that not deserving of prosecution and, if convictions are returned, prison time for those involved, given the massive extent of the allegations? Is the argument that this should have been handled by local prosecutors, such as the mayor's pal, Dick Devine? If only.

This case is not as different from the Ryan case as Marin thinks. Both are about the use of government workers for political ends. In the Ryan case, prosecutors joined hiring patronage with the pinstripe patronage of contracting scandals to present a portrait of a state for sale. In the City Hall investigation, we've only begun to see the hiring patronage part of mayor's machine. A bigger picture may yet emerge.

Ghosts In The Machine
"Mayoral aides insisted no Olympic Village proposal was presented at Friday's meeting with U.S. Olympic officials," the Tribune reports. "Dr. Enrique Beckmann, CEO of Michael Reese [Hospital] said it was news to him to read a published report Tuesday that his hospital's property had been selected.

"No city officials have contacted him, and he has not been privy to any discussions, he said."

See how it works? Mayoral aides, city officials and "City Hall sources" are like a holy trinity - one and three at the same time. In the ghostly form of "City Hall sources," they seek out willing acolytes with megaphones who will spread the good news about the mayor. Which is never to be confused with the truth.

Tubular Trib
Tribune Company's stock buyback fell short of the company's goal, but the ramifications of that aren't yet clear. The dissident Chandler family, acquired as part of TribCo's ill-fated $8.3 billion Times-Mirror acquisition, will apparently come out of the whole thing as the company's largest shareholder. Woe is Dennis FitzSimons.

Meanwhile, Tribune, aside from further gutting its newsrooms, appears to be banking on its stake in the new CW network, a combination of the old WB and UPN networks.

"The Chandlers have complained that management has been dragging its heels on a [broadcast unit] spin-off out of a 'desire to see how the new CW network performs' when it launches this fall. But despite those objections, several analysts and other investors said waiting probably makes sense at this point, given that it's unclear how the CW will do," the Tribune reports.

"'Everyone is imagining the CW as being a glamorous brand new network, and quite frankly, I think it will be more like UPN and the WB put together,' said Tucson-based radio and TV broker Fred Kalil of Kalil & Co.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Anointed and appointed.



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Posted on June 28, 2006


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - Corporate Spies Like Us.
SPORTS - Why Was This Game Even Scheduled?

BOOKS - Postdictatorship Argentina.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Public Lands Matter.


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