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The Statues Of Kankakee

Some readers might remember a column I wrote back in October of 2010 about how the citizens of Kankakee dedicated at park bench to the native son and convicted felon George Ryan, one of Illinois's most corrupt governors.

Now a woman's organization known as the General Federation of Women's Club of Kankakee wants a life-size bronze statue of Ryan erected in a Kankakee park. It is not enough that Ryan is an ex-con with a litany of ethical and criminal violations hanging around his neck. These ladies also want a statue of Len Small, another native son and Illinois governor. It would be an awe-inspiring panel discussion in a political ethics forum to debate who was Illinois' most corrupt governor, Ryan, Small or the impeached and imprisoned Rod Blagojevich.

Small began his political career as mayor of Kankakee and eventually became state treasurer and governor. If the story stopped here, you might say "Of course his hometown is proud and should dedicate a bronze statue in his honor."

Like Ryan, though, Small has an infamous legacy. He was indicted for embezzling over a half a million dollars and running a money laundering scheme while treasurer. Small was acquitted, but he later repaid the jurors with state jobs. He also pardoned at least a thousand convicted felons including Chicago members of the mob and bootlegging gangs. Could this possibly be the political heritage and training that George Ryan learned as he rose to power in Kankakee?

I need to mention here that there is a third statue the women's organization wants. It's for Illinois 34th governor, Samuel Shapiro. He served for a short time from 1968 to 1969 after Otto Kerner resigned to accept a position as a federal judge. Sorry folks, I can't find any history of corruption for Shapiro. Most sources say he had a reputation of being honest. I know this is unusual in Illinois - his predecessor was convicted of accepting bribes, mail fraud and perjury in 1973 related to his time as governor. Thankfully, the Kankakee ladies want a statue of Shapiro to go along with Len Small and George Ryan and not Ottto Kerner, otherwise we'd have a hat trick of corruption the local pigeons could defecate on.

Now I know the local GFWC is a sincere community service organization, but I have a unyielding impetus to remind them how awful and far-reaching George Ryan's corruption was.

In November 1994, six children lost their lives in a traffic accident. The truck driver causing the accident obtained his driver's license in Illinois by paying a bribe that ultimately landed in the Citizens for Ryan campaign fund. When investigators tried to uncover that bribe along with several others, Ryan, with the help of his crony inspector general Dean Bauer, covered up those investigations. They both were convicted. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimated that at least 16 national traffic fatalities are linked to the George Ryan licenses-for-bribes scandal.

The GFWC of Kankakee is holding a fundraising dinner on March 19th called "A Saint Patrick's Day Salute to 3 Governors." They are charging $50 per person for dinner, entertainment, and a silent auction. Proceeds will go toward their planned life-size bronze statues of Small, Ryan and Shapiro.

Come on, ladies. Kankakee already has a dark cloud lingering over a park bench honoring Ryan near the county courthouse. Can't you raise money for a more worthy cause like maybe the Ethical Treatment of Crabgrass? Okay, I am being cynical, but there has to be better things to have a fundraiser for in Kankakee. After all, the mission statement of your parent organization, the General Federation of Women's Clubs, says it is "dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service."

If this project goes through, may I suggest Governor Shapiro should be holding an open umbrella in each hand fixed over the heads of Small and Ryan to protect them from the pigeon droppings?

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Ed Hammer is a retired police captain and author of the book One Hundred Percent Guilty. He can be reached through his website.

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Previously by Ed Hammer:
* George Ryan's Park Bench
* George Ryan's Dogs and Ponies
* George Ryan's Other Jailhouse Interview
* Bugging The Chicago School Board
* Cop vs. Teacher
* Signs of Change
* Pols vs. Teachers
* The Terre Haute Redemption
* Rahm's War On Teachers
* About Those Indicted Nurses
* Body Language Bingo: A Guide To Watching The Presidential Debates
* George Ryan's Day Of Independence
* The Ironic George Ryan.
* George Ryan Is Unrepentant.
* Must Like Puppies.
* ILGov2014: The George Ryan Connection.
* Exclusive: Trump Puts Lion Killer On VP Short List.

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See also: Honoring A True Illinois Hero.

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Tonie Kuchar:

I received a letter from the GFWC woman's club of Kankakee, asking me for a donation for these statues. I was so mad that two out of three were not someone to honor that I called the Kankakee Journal. What bothers me the most is that the Kankakee Valley Park District is in partnership with them. There are too many organizations that need donations to help stay afloat. I personally do not like to see my tax dollars go toward these statues. Funny thing is that they're asking for donations up to $10,000! Really.



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Posted on January 26, 2016


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