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The [Wednesday] Papers

The Tribune offers an excellent primer this morning atop its front page about how the city works - and what we mean by terms like "corruption tax" and "insider deals." And you better believe Mayor Richard M. Daley is right in the middle of it.

"Mayor Richard Daley took an hourlong boat ride on the Chicago River in fall 1997 and came back with a vision of improving the riverfront in the city's neighborhoods," Laurie Cohen and Todd Lighty report.

"Just about that time, Thomas DiPiazza, an ally of Daley's, also took an interest in the riverfront, buying a highly contaminated piece of land that was slated to become a public park under the mayor's plan.

"Nearly 10 years later, the park still has not opened, but DiPiazza's real estate investment has paid off handsomely, according to a Tribune investigation.

"DiPiazza and a partner bought the vacant, odd-shaped property in Daley's native Bridgeport neighborhood for $50,000 in 1998. Six years later, the city paid them $1.2 million for the land.

"The investors benefited from ever-escalating appraisals. The final one tripled the land's estimated value after the city broke from its usual practice of valuing land at its current zoning.

"DiPiazza's good fortune is a familiar tale of how insiders profit from even the most public-minded projects undertaken by the Daley administration, from wrought-iron fencing to blue-bag recycling."

In other words, this is simply how the mayor has run the city for 18 years - essentially as a criminal enterprise. No wonder he's trying to emasculate the inspector general's office that he created just for show.

And what does the city have to say for itself? Nothing, unsurprisingly.

"City officials said they did not tip off DiPiazza about their plans. The Daley administration refused to make city officials available for interviews and insisted that the Tribune submit all questions in writing."

The Daley administration, you see, is not accountable to anyone. And neither are the mayor's pals.

"DiPiazza declined to discuss the park. His lawyer, Michael Kralovec, said DiPiazza profited from rising real estate prices in Bridgeport and that the city paid a fair price for the land. Kralovec said it is 'silliness' to suggest that DiPiazza was helped by his political connections."

The Tribune did not report if Kralovec was laughing his head off when he said that.

And just who is Mr. DiPiazza?

"DiPiazza, 58, is a former city sewer worker who now owns a late-model Bentley and a Ferrari convertible. He has done real estate deals with Daley's friend Fred Barbara, who has made millions hauling garbage for the city. Barbara is a nephew of the late 1st Ward Ald. Fred Roti, long reputed to be organized crime's representative in the City Council. DiPiazza and business partner Richard Ferro are related to the Roti family by marriage.

"DiPiazza and Ferro have been frequent contributors to Daley. In February's municipal elections, they pitched in $25,000 to a political fund created by some of the mayor's closest allies to help pro-Daley aldermen."

And here's how the deal went down.

"City Hall hired four appraisers to determine how much it should pay for the land. The first, in 1999, turned in an estimate of $220,000. In 2002 another appraisal report put the value at $520,000.

"Two other appraisers reviewed and approved the $520,000 estimate, including Francis Lorenz Jr., who told the city in July 2003 that he agreed with the figure. DiPiazza and Ferro said they would sell their land for $520,000 at that time, but the city did not respond to the offer, Kralovec said.

"Eight months later, in March 2004, Lorenz submitted another estimate, tripling the value to $1.6 million.

"Unlike all of the previous appraisals, which had assumed that the property would continue to be zoned for industrial use, Lorenz's report said the land would be more valuable if it were used for homes. In an interview, Lorenz said city officials directed him to take a second look at the property and base his new appraisal on residential zoning.

"Lorenz is a longtime city contractor whose father was a key figure in the Cook County Democratic Organization under the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, the current mayor's father. But Lorenz said he was not pressured to change the appraisal. He said the city's request made sense because of the boom in residential development along the river.

"The city had decided to buy the land for $1.2 million even before it saw Lorenz's appraisal, said Constance Buscemi, a spokeswoman for the city. The new appraisal was required because the original one was more than six months old, she said.

"City Hall decided to use the higher-valued residential zoning for the park appraisal even though it typically tells appraisers to base estimates on current zoning."

Except when it doesn't.


Richard M. Daley: The World's Greatest Mayor.

Oracle at Bubbly
"The park property is a 1.8-acre triangular plot located at the mouth of one of the river's most notoriously polluted sections. Bubbly Creek still bubbles because of decaying livestock waste dumped by the long-gone Union Stockyards."

That's because the city still stinks.

Casino Royale
"You'll end up having to pay a tax for all the corruption that will be brought into play, with the contracts, with the sweetheart deals, with the ghost employees and, history has shown, with the corruption of government and law enforcement."

The 2016 Olympics?

Yes, that too. But Jim Wagner, president of the Chicago Crime Commission, was talking to John Kass about a proposed Chicago casino.

Checking It Twice
Today's stories about the mayor ripping aldermen who want to see the list of police officers with the most complaints against them fail to remind readers that the Daley administration already promised a federal judge it would hand over the list - and that the mayor has previously said it was a legal matter he was not involved in.

Now the mayor ratchets up his disingenuousness. "Where are they when it comes to violence in their own communities?" he railed at the aldermen demanding to see the list promised to them in federal court by the mayor's top lawyer. "How 'bout a petition to the courts about putting people in jail who commit violent crimes?"

How about growing up?

This obvious misdirection is insulting. Aldermen may be many horrible things, but I don't think a single one of them is unconcerned about violence in their communities, or somehow preventing violent criminals from going to jail.

Is there a recall mechanism in the city?

The baddest apple in town is sitting in the mayor's chair.

Lie Detector
The mayor and interim police Supt. Dana Starks are trying to make fools of you.

Paging Change
Barack Obama could end this with one phone call to Emil Jones, dontcha think?

Work for Hire
Maybe these CHA tenants could be organized into a work crew that could get one of those juicy O'Hare contracts.

Minor League Logic
Memo to Tribune editorial page: If Major League Baseball reverted back to awarding home-field in the World Series - as it should - to the team with the best record, this year's World Series would still start in Boston.

COMMENT 12:13 P.M.: Joel Kaplan writes: They never awarded the World Series based on record during the regular season - that's what the NBA does. It used to be that they just alternated between the National League and American League every year. Best record is preferable to that, but still unfair given that it would reward the team from the worst division/league.

RESPONSE: I stand corrected. Best record still determines home field in the divisional and league championship series, but never did for the World Series. Indeed, it alternated between the American and National Leagues until the current arrangement. D'oh! I knew that! Totally my bad.

Doll House
"Nine-year-old Abby Ann Telan of Orlando on Tuesday mourned the loss of her beloved American Girl doll that suffered the misfortune of being sucked out of the partly open door of a jetliner flying over Chicago," the Tribune reports.

"The collectible doll, a Hispanic girl named Marisol Luna, was stored inside a light-blue duffel bag that tumbled out of the plane shortly after taking off from Midway Airport on Sunday.

"'It makes me feel sad and scared,' said Abby Ann, a 4th grader who traveled to Chicago with her family for the weekend and had her doll's hair styled at the American Girl Place store downtown. "I don't know where she landed or if she is OK."

I've got news for you, Abby: Your doll is dead. I didn't want to be the one to break this to you, but apparently there are no other adults around to do so. Also, there's no Santa Claus. And a metropolitan newspaper just exploited you because they thought it would be funny, cute, heartwarming and good business to put you on its front page where you don't belong.

COMMENT 9:47 A.M.: A Beachwood reader writes: This opens up the possibility of other heartwarming stories: the girl being reunited with her doll after someone else finds it; American Doll replacing it for free; the Trib offering a reward to the person who finds the doll and returns it; the doll hospital that reattaches the doll's limbs gratis . . .

What I Watched Last Night
I rarely watch network TV; I'm a cable-boy. But Cavemen and Carpoolers - new on ABC this season - are both really good shows.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Inside wiring.


Posted on October 24, 2007

MUSIC - Holiday Hullabaloo.
POLITICS - Bank Profits Soaring.
SPORTS - Chicago vs. Michigan, 1903.

BOOKS - Dia De Los Muertos Stories.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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