The [Wednesday] Papers
"The City Council Finance Committee [Tuesday] endorsed spending $32.7 million to settle two police misconduct cases, including what may be the single largest payment of its kind in city history," the Tribune reports.
"The larger settlement, now set for a Thursday vote of the full council, is for $22.5 million to the family of Christina Eilman. She was left severely and permanently disabled nearly seven years ago after plummeting from a seventh-floor window of a vacant apartment at a public housing complex."
This was not unexpected. But what committee chair Ed Burke said was.
I happened to be at the meeting and what the Tribune account doesn't tell you is that the reaction from some African-American aldermen to the words of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Frank Easterbrook writing that Eilman "might as well have released her into the lion's den at the Brookfield Zoo" didn't come out of thin air but from Burke approvingly reading that part of Easterbrook's ruling.
In fact, Burke didn't just say it once, but paused for dramatic effect and said it again.
"That's a racist statement!" an elderly black man sitting near me in the gallery exclaimed. He had earlier sat with his head in his hands while listening to the re-telling of the case of Alton Logan, an African-American man imprisoned for 26 years for a crime he didn't commit, another injustice the committee agreed to settle with cold, hard cash instead of fighting at trial.
At first it seemed the Burke statement would go by without notice by anyone but my fellow spectator.
Then Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) spoke up. "Comparing a community to animals is inappropriate," she said. "There could have been another way to say that. I take exception with the language used by the court."
And Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) felt moved to offer that "I just think that kind of commentary is extremely racially insensitive."
Indeed. Burke should know better by now, given his history as the opposition leader of the white faction that opposed Mayor Harold Washington during Council Wars that earned him accusations of bigotry, and his subsequent foster parentage of an African-American child on his road to a public rehabilitation of sorts. I don't know Easterbrook's story.
The Sun-Times also reported the story as if aldermen were merely reacting to Easterbrook's nine-month-old ruling instead of Burke's approving reading of the offensive portion - which, again, he repeated for dramatic effect.
Burke offered no apology or any other sort of response to the aggrieved aldermen, sitting stone-faced during their comments.
Here's what I wrote last April when Easterbrook's ruling first came out:
"'They might as well have released her into the lions' den at the Brookfield Zoo,' Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote in the opinion from the three-judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the only way to sort out whether officers violated Christina Eilman's rights is to have a trial."
As Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) said Tuesday, "Everybody is released from that lockup into that neighborood."
It was the police who left Eilman defenseless, as Easterbrook wrote and Burke also read: "[The police] did not warn Eilman about the neighborhood's dangers, did not walk her to the nearest CTA station, did not drive her back to the airport, where she could have used her ticket to return to California, did not put her in contact with her mother, who had called the station house repeatedly . . . did not even return her cell phone."
And now taxpayers are paying the price - though nowhere near the price being paid by Eilman and her family.
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Posted on January 16, 2013
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