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No Games Chicago Update
47 Days To Decision
Daily News

 
August 15, 2009
The People Speak

The games are just another opportunity for the politicians to steal from the public. Let
Pat Ryan spend his money on this nonsense,
Not the taxpayers.

Michael Underwood
Chicago

Signer of No Games online petition


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Open letter to the IOC:
"Why you don't want to give the Olympics to Chicago"


Dear Member of the International Olympic Committee:  

John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. He has been critical of Mayor Daley and Chicago politics for many years. Like other journalists covering Chicago, the mayor, the 2016 bid and the general state of corruption and incompetence here, Mr. Kass is connecting the dots and placing the bid inside the circle of corrupt practices our leaders are so well known for.

Chicago's politicians have got ethics covered

John Kass
- August 14, 2009

With irritating frequency, national news anchors and members of Congress are using a cool new phrase they must have just invented themselves: "The Chicago Way."

They talk like this even though President Barack Obama of Chicago continues to demand that citizens stand up and fight political corruption, just as long as they're citizens of Africa.

He did so during his campaign, complaining that Africans felt numbed and powerless by corruption. Visiting Africa a few weeks ago and without a hint of irony, Obama struck again, saying that Africans hoping to open a business or get a job surely must feel as if they "still have to pay a bribe."

Bribes? Can you imagine?

Someday, our president might visit Illinois and say the same thing, and that will really make news. Until that day, we're left with Washington media types snickering about this "Chicago Way" business as if there aren't any good ethics around here.

When it comes to ethics, we have so many ethics boards, ethics panels, ordinances, laws and writs, all crafted with snazzy loopholes by machine politicians, that Illinois must be the veritable bastion of ethics in America.

Consider the case of Gary M. O'Neill, lured from Louisiana to become director of the Chicago Board of Ethics. It's a collection of experts who decide what's ethical, and is controlled by Mayor Richard M. Daley.

In 1990, a year after Daley was elected, O'Neill was named ethics boss, and many surely dreamed Chicago would transcend the tired politics of the past. Sadly, a few days after he took the job, it was revealed O'Neill had been sued by the Louisiana Ethics Board for financial irregularities. And he'd been subpoenaed as part of a criminal investigation in a Louisiana insurance company scam.

Oh, and he also had an outstanding warrant for battery, stemming from a bar fight in Baton Rouge. So O'Neill resigned, hopped in a rental car and took off for Louisiana, but he was arrested in Missouri driving 102 m.p.h. That's the last we heard of the poor guy.

Clearly, our politicians endeavor to persevere in the ethics department. Just this week, Chicago solved several ethical dilemmas.

There were those snaky land maneuvers near a Chicago 2016 Olympic site that involved Michael Scott, the president of the Chicago Board of Education. Scott is also a member of a watchdog panel responsible for keeping political insiders from capitalizing on Chicago's Olympic dreams.

The mayor said there was nothing to it, everything was completely ethical, the Tribune owed him a personal apology for stories (columns?) that said he was angry even though he really wasn't angry, just passionate. Basically (pronounced Basick-eee), he decreed we should just shut up about the "phony story."

A few hours later, the mayor's Olympics ethics officer decided that, well, the story wasn't really phony and Scott probably should have disclosed that he was orchestrating land deals (featuring a cool Nike store) near a proposed Olympics venue. But what the heck?

We also had another ethical snafu. No, not the Chicago reform alderman clouting his close family member into a top magnet school though the relative didn't have the grades. And no, not those wholesale changes in the city's contract department that has a great track record of giving affirmative action deals to white guys who know the mayor.

I'm talking about the retirement party for the grand poobah of Chicago zoning, Ald. William J.P. Banks (36th), the chairman of the zoning committee. His nephew, James Banks, has made a fortune as a zoning lawyer.

The Banks retirement party was to be held (where else?) in Rosemont. Invitations ordered revelers to fork over $200 apiece: "Make checks payable to William J. P. Banks (memo: retirement party)."

The Tribune's savvy City Hall writer Dan Mihalopoulos broke the story. He was also part of a Tribune investigative team that worked on a series called "Neighborhoods for Sale" involving the Banks family zoning empire. Now the feds are looking into the 36th Ward group and there's been a plethora of retirements.

After the story ran, Banks' guys said the money was really going to unspecified "children's charities" in the ward, though the invitation never mentioned charities. Unhappily, Steve Berlin, executive director of the Chicago Ethics Board, did not return phone calls.

But then Banks had his retirement party canceled, just because.

Cash and politicians are like hot dogs and buns. Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, who now wants to serve Daley as his County Board president, had a habit of regularly accepting cash gifts from employees on her birthday. But she finally stopped, so don't worry.

See how things work around here?

Obama probably won't be forced to say anything about Chicago corruption.

That's because we've got ethics out the wazoo, the Chicago Way.

jskass@tribune.com