Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Illinois Political Green Zone

Today I'd like to introduce you to Illinois' Political Green Zone, the hotbed of democracy in action, where politics really does make strange bedfellows. First, you'll need a scorecard. So here are excerpts from the February 8 article by Scott Fornek of the Chicago Sun-Times about the upcoming Democratic mayoral primary in Berwyn...
"Alex Bojovic might be the first political candidate to claim that he took a bribe -- and then make it the centerpiece of his campaign.
That's because federal prosecutors are praising the Berwyn alderman, saying he went undercover, pretended to be corrupt and accepted a $500 bribe in a sting that resulted in the indictment of a top city official in the western suburb.
"You played a critical role and provided significant assistance," First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro wrote in a letter to Bojovic.
Bojovic is not shy about sharing the letter with voters as he campaigns for mayor.
"I tell them, I am the person that has actually stood up for them and said 'Enough is enough,' " Bojovic said.
Bojovic, 43, is one of four mayoral candidates running in the Democratic primary Feb. 22. The others are City Clerk Michael J. Woodward, lawyer Kevin K. Pechous and former Chicago precinct captain Victor O. Burgos.
The winner will square off April 5 against Republican Anthony Castrogiovanni and two Democrats who chose not to run under the party banner -- Ald. Ray Fron, who is running as an independent, and former Ald. Michael O'Connor, who is leading the newly created Independent Voters of Berwyn slate."

OK, we have seven candidates for mayor! And Chicago is going to have trouble coming up with just one to challenge Mayor Richard Daley! And let us look at the unusual currents swirling around one of these candidates,

"Burgos, 37, works in the facilities management department of the Cook County Juvenile Court. He said he has helped numerous politicians get elected, including Cicero Town President Ramiro Gonzalez, the Loren-Maltese protege who succeeded her two years ago. But he said he is not a shill for Gonzalez -- or anyone else.
"Absolutely not," Burgos said. "I'm on my own in this one. . . . We don't want Berwyn to become Cicero."

How was that again, Victor? You are running in a Democratic primary, you helped elect a Republican mayor in Cicero, yet you are running because you don't want Berwyn to become Cicero! Wow! And looking at your campaign mailer we find some more interesting stuff…

"It is time to fight crime effectively for our children" with a picture of Burgos and eleven children that look to be Hispanic. On the reverse side it reads in part "While these police cars sit… Berwyn spends more tax dollars for head of police than New York or Chicago"

Meanwhile the political pundits of the Sun-Times display their cluelessness as they are old style FDR Democrats. Here is a try by Carol Marin to describe Cicero politics.

" Gonzalez is the hand-picked successor of Betty Loren Maltese, who went off to federal prison a couple of years ago for raiding the coffers of Cicero along with some of her mobbed up pals. DiCrenscenzo didn't think Gonzalez, who has padded the public payroll with 18 of his relatives, was much of an improvement. Nor did he think Gonzalez actually ran Cicero. He believed Ed Vrdolyak, the former Chicago alderman and attorney whose law firm makes nearly a million dollars a year in fees from the town, was the real boss."

In a letter to the editor that appeared the following day, a Cicero elected offical ripped Marin for her obsession with Ed Vrdoyak!

So what is going on here? Well, at its heart, this is competitive democracy. Labels don't mean anything. Both Cicero & Berwyn are undergoing demographic shifts. Both retain the economic status of their respective pasts. Cicero was the home to Eastern European factory workers in the Hawthorne Works plant of Western Electric that made all those millions of black rotary dial telephones of the "Ma Bell" days. Berwyn was home to the foremen. Its neighbor, Riverside, was home to the managers. Riverside is the home of former Illinois Republican chairwoman, Judy Baar Topinka, the only remaining statewide Republican elected official! So this is the "Green Zone", the front lines in the struggle between the Democrats and Republicans for the Hispanic vote! If you want to get a flavor of the campaign it can be summarized by these general themes:

1) Everyone is going to fight gangs (primarily Hispanic gangs) in a campaign that would make Marisol, the American Girl proud!
2) Everyone is going to fight government waste, no more political crony capitalism!
3) Everyone is going to fight for lower taxes.
4) Everyone is going to fight for the voice of Hispanics to be heard.

Sounds like the Republicans are ahead on points! That certainly is not the Howard Dean agenda!

By the way - I recently heard on the radio that Cicero has just landed a huge new economic development project! So I guess, that means we're for Republican-style cozying up to big business too!

What is really going on here is the transformation of Mexican peasant immigrants into Mexican-American, middle class homeowners; just like those Eastern Europeans before them.

Update 2/18/05 5:59 AM - This is too precious! Carol Marin weighs in again on the politics of Cicero! Now it seems she thinks a 23 year old goody two-shoes from Chicago will bring democracy to the Hispanic voters of Cicero!

Update 2/18/05 9:37 AM -

For my out-of-town readers a little bit of commentary on the Vrdolyak and Marin careers is in order. Ed Vrdolyak gained his maximum notoriety first as a supporter of Chicago’s first female mayor, Jane Byrne, who had been elected as an independent. They joined forces with Vrdolyak becoming the leader of the Evil Cabal. Later, he led a council of aldermen opposed to Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington in what became known as Council Wars.

Carol Marin is best known as the local TV news anchor who threatened to quit when the management of her station decided to add commentary by Jerry Springer to the broadcast. Her protest won the day temporarily, but she eventually went on to 60 Minutes Wednesday, before returning to local news in Chicago.


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