Chicago's 'flypaper' alderman and the crackdown on corruption the new mayor promises
Chicago's new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, is an outsider to the vast boys' club whose network of favors and bribes defines the way politics there operates. A black lesbian, I doubt she was very welcome. Now she promises to do something about it.
Dare anyone hope that the corruption that defines Chicago politics will ever end? Or how about diminish? Right now, four of the 50 members of the city council are out on bail, and a fifth has been wearing a wire for the feds as part of a plea deal.
Mayor Lightfoot (YouTube screen grab).
Mayor Lightfoot sat down with Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, the city's most influential columnist and a realist about "the Chicago way," to recall her introduction to the city's corruption and lay out what lies ahead. Most notably, she referred to Alderman Danny Solis, who wore a wire for the feds as part of a deal, as "flypaper."
She talked of Solis and his fondness for massage parlors, which the feds used to compel him to wear a wire on aldermen and developers.
"What did he tell his daughters? What did he tell his wife?" She likened Solis to City Hall flypaper.
"This guy is hanging out there and any fly, insect, mosquito that comes near gets stuck."
Among the flies who got stuck to the flypaper is Alderman Ed Burke, who was indicted last week for a second round of crimes:
"Somebody asked me at the press conference (where she demanded Burke resign as alderman), 'What gives you the right?'
"I'm the mayor of this city ... And it's absolutely untenable to have someone who has weaponized the instruments of government for his own behalf against public and private interests to remain as alderman," she said.
When she first got wind of a federal investigation of Burke, she thought, "No way. He's been in this game too long. He's too smart," she said. "But what we saw (in the superseding indictment handed down the other day) is that he was sloppy."
Sloppy on the phone. Talking like a tough guy. Burke maintains he is innocent and is scheduled to enter a plea in his case on Tuesday.
Why should Burke resign?
"The way in which he manipulated the tools of government," she said. "And people at all levels (of government) to try to bend them to his will, hopefully unwittingly, to help him facilitate a criminal enterprise focused on enriching himself at the expense of the public."
Other aldermen are expected to be caught up in this.
"Multiple criminal activity, over multiple years, using city government to facilitate this," Lightfoot said. "This wasn't some dude in a diner taking a bag of money."
She laughed about some of the self-incriminating comments that Burke allegedly made to former Ald. Danny "Nice Endings" Solis — comments that ended up on the federal wire.
The classic "So, did we land, uh, the tuna?" about allegedly using government to get a piece of the legal business from an $800 million project to develop the Old Post Office.
"Landing the tuna is something right out of Tony Soprano," the mayor said.
The Chicago way may or may not change. But at least we are in for some amusement as the trials play out and the wire recordings get played.
Hat tip: Peter von Buol