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