The Chicago Syndicate: Rahm Emanuel
Showing posts with label Rahm Emanuel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rahm Emanuel. Show all posts

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Chicago Alderman Ed Burke Charged with Extortion by Federal Prosecutors #Corruption

Federal prosecutors on Thursday filed a corruption case against Edward M. Burke, who has been Chicago’s most powerful alderman for decades, just weeks after FBI agents dramatically raided his offices at City Hall and on the city’s Southwest Side.

As the longtime chairman of the Council’s Finance Committee, Burke built far greater clout than any alderman and a long list of private law clients who do business with City Hall. But his historic tenure now comes to the same place where so many of his colleagues have found themselves: in Chicago’s federal courthouse, with authorities alleging he abused his power to enrich himself. And like so many other aldermen with far less clout, Burke apparently got caught on a wiretap saying something he would not dare utter in public.

Burke’s spokesman did not return calls seeking comment. Nor did Anton Valukas and Charles Sklarsky, the two prominent defense lawyers who have represented Burke since the initial federal raids at his offices on Nov. 29.

On that day, the windows of Burke’s offices were covered in brown butcher paper as investigators spent hours executing search warrants. And the feds raided the Finance Committee offices, on the third floor of City Hall, again on Dec. 13, indicating the urgency of the probe.

The criminal case hits as Burke is seeking to extend his record tenure in the City Council, running for another term in the February election in the 14th Ward, which he has represented for half a century.

The investigation of Burke began at the office of City’s Hall independent inspector general, Joe Ferguson. Burke and many other aldermen long had resisted allowing the I.G. to have oversight of the Council, but Ferguson finally won authority to investigate aldermen in 2016.

Burke, 75, has been an alderman since 1969, when he succeeded his father in the council during the tenure of Mayor Richard J. Daley.

In his time as alderman, Burke has watched as more than 30 fellow aldermen who served alongside him were convicted of corruption. And the charges against Burke come as yet another alderman, Willie Cochran (20th Ward), continues to fight a two-year-old federal corruption case. But Burke is clearly the most powerful alderman the feds have targeted since Thomas Keane -- another Finance Committee chairman -- was convicted in 1974.

With his finely tailored pinstripe suits and emerald-green ties, Burke long has been the personification of the South Side Irish Democratic Machine that ruled City Hall for generations.

While he presided over the Finance Committee, Burke frequently had to recuse himself from voting on hundreds of pieces of legislation that benefited the dozens of corporate clients of his law firm.

An investigation published last month by WBEZ and the Better Government Association found that Burke recused himself from voting on City Council measures 464 times in the last eight years. That’s four times as many “abstentions” for Burke as for the the rest of the aldermen combined. But even in some cases where Burke did not vote, WBEZ and the BGA found that the veteran alderman had exercised his clout to make sure his clients got what they wanted from City Hall.

At times, Burke has guided legislation through the council process, writing letters to city bureaucrats or even chairing meetings on the ordinances and motioning for his colleagues to vote them through -- only to recuse himself at the last moment due to his conflicts of interest.

In the case of a multi-billion-dollar bond deal at O’Hare Airport a year ago, no less than three banks that are Burke clients stand to benefit from the transaction.

The Burke firm’s work focused mostly on winning property tax appeals for its clients from Cook County authorities who determine the valuations of downtown high rises and other real estate.

His most prominent client in recent years was Trump Tower Chicago, for which Burke reportedly won millions of dollars in tax breaks. Earlier this year, Burke stopped representing the building amid criticism for doing the bidding of President Trump who is deeply unpopular in Chicago, especially among Latinos who are often the target of his anti-immigrant rhetoric.

With election challenges looming for the first time in many years, Burke even began criticizing Trump recently.

While his private law practice made his very wealthy, Burke is probably best known for his role in the turbulent “Council Wars” period in the 1980s, when he and fellow South Side Ald. Ed Vrdolyak spread-headed the mostly white block of aldermen that frequently thwarted Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington. Due to his notoriety from that era, Chicago politicos have long believed that Burke could never get elected mayor. But Burke has enjoyed his greatest power since then as a loyal and crucial Council ally of the last two mayors, Rahm Emanuel and Richard M. Daley.

When both Emanuel and Daley took office, they had been at odds with Burke. Still, both mayors decided to make deals with Burke, rather than confront him.

Under Emanuel, Burke has maintained his chairmanship of the Council’s most powerful committee and continues to enjoy the most visible and expensive perk of his clout: a police bodyguard detail that costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

In return, Emanuel appears to have gotten Burke’s loyalty. The alderman voted with Emanuel’s agenda on 100 percent of divided roll-call votes at the Council, according to a recent study by political scientists at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Burke had endorsed Gery Chico, his former aide and ex-president of Chicago’s school board, to succeed the retiring Emanuel in the upcoming Feb. 26 election.

The alderman himself faces four challengers. All of them are Latinos, reflecting the changing demographics of the Southwest Side’s working-class neighborhoods.

On Wednesday, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia threw his backing to 28-year-old Burke challenger Tanya Patino, deriding the incumbent as “a walking conflict of interest for decades.”

As Mexican immigrants and their families have become the largest ethnic group in his ward, Burke has sought to adjust for the changing times, recruiting Latino precinct captains for his powerful ward organization and even speaking a bit of heavily accented Spanish. Talking to one constituent recently, he joked in Spanish that his command of the language was not that bad for “an older gentleman.”

Yet, the alderman’s once-absolute power had weakened in recent years. In the March primary election, his brother, Dan Burke, lost his seat in the Illinois House to a young Hispanic challenger.

Burke owns a fortress-like, three-story home that looms over his constituents’ bungalows and ranches in the Gage Park neighborhood, next to the elevated tracks of the CTA’s Orange Line. The home is surrounded by wrought-iron fencing.

His influence was so great that city crews strayed far from their normal routes during blizzards to plow the side street in front of the Burke home, even before more heavily trafficked roads got cleared. And Burke’s clout extended far beyond the Southwest Side.

Burke also long has enjoyed the central role in the Democratic Party’s process for placing judges on the Cook County bench. And his wife, Anne Burke, has a spot on the Illinois Supreme Court.

He has more than $12 million in campaign accounts that he controls. That’s a sum that far exceeds the political cash of all of his 49 Council colleagues combined.

In the weeks since the initial FBI raids at Burke’s offices, it was unclear what exactly the feds suspected.

Burke said he did not know what the agents were investigating. But he said he would cooperate fully and was confident that the probe would end as so many other investigations he has faced – with no charges against him.

Thanks to Dan Mihalopoulis.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Rahm Emanuel Undermines Frontline Officers with Rants of @Chicago_Police Code of Silence for Political Gain, Then Pays City Expert to Say It Does Not Exist

Under fire for how his administration handled the Laquan McDonald shooting, Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015 gave an emotional speech before the Chicago City Council acknowledging a “code of silence” allowed police to cover up misconduct.

Since then, however, Emanuel’s Law Department on five separate occasions has fought police misconduct lawsuits with the help of a hired expert witness who has testified a widespread code of silence does not exist, according to an analysis of city records by the Better Government Association and NBC5 Investigates.

The city’s efforts ultimately proved futile, costing taxpayers nearly $70 million in judgments, settlements and legal fees in four of those cases. In addition, the city has paid the expert witness — former Irvine, California, deputy police chief Jeffrey J. Noble — more than $165,000 since Emanuel gave his speech.

Attorney Jeff Neslund successfully litigated one of the lawsuits on behalf of two brothers and a sister who were shot by a Chicago police officer at a party in the early-morning hours on New Year’s Day 2014. A jury awarded them $4.75 million.

“It’s intellectually dishonest to say one thing to the public but then in private litigation, to fight it tooth and nail, to hire experts and pay them an exorbitant amount of money to contest and deny what you’re saying publicly,” said Neslund, who also represented McDonald’s family.

Emanuel made the famous “code of silence” speech on Dec. 9, 2015, just weeks after a Cook County judge forced the mayor’s administration to release dashcam video from the October 2014 showing Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times on the city’s Southwest Side.

“The problem is sometimes referred to as the thin blue line,” Emanuel said in his speech before a crowded council chambers and broadcast live across the city. “The problem is other times referred to as the code of silence. It is this tendency to ignore. It is the tendency to deny. It is the tendency in some cases to cover up the bad actions of a colleague or colleagues. No officer should be allowed to behave as if they are above the law just because they are responsible for upholding the law.”

Noble, who has written extensively about policing and the code of silence, subsequently minimized these remarks in a separate police misconduct case, testifying that Emanuel’s speech represented the mayor’s “personal belief” but was inconsistent with what Noble learned in his review of city police practices. “He spoke as a mayor,” Noble said. “He’s an elected official, so he speaks — he speaks on behalf of the people that he’s an elected official, sure.”

On the same day the dashcam video was released, Cook County prosecutors filed murder charges against Van Dyke, whose trial is ongoing at the criminal courthouse at 26th Street and California Avenue. Before Emanuel’s administration fought the video’s release, the mayor signed off on a $5 million city payment to McDonald’s family even though family members had not filed a lawsuit.

The video’s release sparked government and political upheaval across the city, including waves of protests, a federal investigation into Chicago policing, an overhaul of how the city conducts internal police misconduct probes and Emanuel’s firing of Garry McCarthy as police superintendent.

McCarthy is planning to run for mayor next year. Emanuel, meanwhile, dropped out of running for a third term in a bombshell announcement just days before Van Dyke’s trial started.

Emanuel administration officials said there was no inconsistency between Emanuel's comments and Noble’s testimony.

“The reports and testimony provided by Mr. Noble reflect his conclusions in individual cases and his testimony does not contradict the mayor’s statement regarding a code of silence,” according to a statement from Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey. “Any suggestion that it does is simply posturing by plaintiffs’ attorneys as part of an attempt to litigate through the media instead of the courts.”

McCaffrey pointed to testimony Noble gave in another case where he highlighted that Emanuel never stated in his speech that the code of silence was “widespread or pervasive.”

“It is my opinion that there is no evidence of a widespread pattern, practice or custom of CPD officers engaging in a code of silence to the extent that an officer would believe they could engage in a constitutional violation with impunity,” Noble wrote.

Noble declined to comment for this story.

Nationwide, Noble has either testified, filed written reports or provided sworn depositions in more than 100 police misconduct cases. In many of those cases he has worked on behalf of cities or police departments, but he also has worked for attorneys representing plaintiffs suing police.

In one high-profile case, Noble served as an expert witness for the family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was fatally shot by a Cleveland police officer in November 2014 while playing with a pellet gun on a playground. But in Chicago, Noble has consistently worked as an expert for the city, which records show has paid him more than $328,000 over the past eight years. In all, he has weighed in on at least 26 police misconduct lawsuits on behalf of the city, including the five that involved code of silence allegations after Emanuel decried the problem in his 2015 speech, city records show.

On behalf of the plaintiffs, Chicago-based law firm Loevy & Loevy litigated several of these lawsuits. Attorney Matt Topic works for the law firm and is the outside general counsel for the BGA. Topic was not involved in any of the police misconduct cases and did not assist the BGA/NBC5 in the reporting of this story.

Before Emanuel’s speech, Noble on at least four separate occasions denied the existence of a code of silence in acting on the city’s behalf. One instance involved a lawsuit filed by Karolina Obrycka, a Northwest Side bartender who in 2007 was severely beaten by an off-duty Chicago police officer. Noble also contributed to the city’s defense of a lawsuit brought by Madison Hobley, a former death row inmate who claimed former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge and others tortured him into confessing.

City records show Noble is generally paid an hourly rate of $245 plus $2,750 for every day he provides expert testimony in depositions or trials. In addition, the city covers the costs of Noble’s airfare and lodging, according to invoices obtained through an open-records request.

One of Noble’s most recent cases was the civil trial of Chicago police Officer Patrick Kelly, who a jury ruled used his service weapon to shoot his friend Michael LaPorta in the back of the head. The shooting occurred at Kelly’s home in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood after the two men had spent the night drinking at area bars.

LaPorta’s attorneys argued the code of silence played a key role behind Kelly’s actions because the officer felt emboldened to act with impunity and wasn’t seriously punished for prior misdeeds by his police bosses.

When the case went to trial in 2017, Noble took the stand on behalf of the city and denied the existence of a widespread code of silence.

He defined the term as a form of “social solidarity” where groups of people “try to protect others by failing to report what is obvious misconduct.” He said the police department discourages code of silence behavior because the city has policies that require officers to be truthful and to report misconduct. As evidence, he noted that more than 70 police officers were disciplined or resigned from 2008 to 2013 for breaking these rules.

In court papers filed by the city responding to LaPorta’s claims, Emanuel qualified the comment he made in his speech about the code of silence. Emanuel said those comments were based on his “own general belief and understanding,” and not “knowledge or information” he gained as mayor.

At the end of the trial, on Oct. 26, 2017, a jury ruled in LaPorta’s favor, awarding him a $44.7 million judgment. While the jury did not reach a unanimous decision on the code of silence issue, it did determine the police department had pervasive problems identifying misconduct, as well as investigating and disciplining some officers. A federal judge recently upheld the judgment and also ordered the city to pay an additional $2.5 million in legal fees.

One of LaPorta's attorneys, Antonio Romanucci, said in an interview with the Better Government Association and NBC-5 that contradictory messaging is an attempt to “pull the wool over the community’s eyes.”

“There is no question that in my opinion the community message that the mayor gives is different than the message that is given in a courtroom and the experts that it hires to testify when its officers commit misdeeds,” he said.

Noble also filed a report in a code of silence lawsuit against the city after a drunken off-duty homicide detective, Joseph Frugoli, in 2009 slammed his SUV into the back of a car pulled over on the Dan Ryan Expressway. Two men inside the car died.

Attorneys representing the families of the victims raised a code of silence argument in the case, alleging Frugoli thought he could drink and drive without legal consequences because his fellow officers had previously protected him. During the trial, the lawyers for the families specifically highlighted Emanuel’s comments about the code of silence being pervasive in his department. But in his report for the city in the case, Noble declared it was not at all pervasive.

’“The code of silence may exist at some level in all police agencies and when it does manifest it contributes immensely to incidents of abuse of citizens by the police,” Noble wrote in March 2016. “However, the fact that a few officers have engaged in a code of silence does not amount to an unwritten policy, practice or custom within the agency itself.”

Frugoli was eventually convicted of aggravated DUI and leaving the scene of a fatal accident and was sentenced to eight years in prison. The city settled the lawsuit and has paid $15 million to the men’s families.

Kevin Conway, an attorney who represented one of the families, said Noble’s report was in keeping with a broader legal strategy Conway has seen many times from the city’s Law Department.

“I think the city had a party line,” Conway said. “It was part of the party line.”

Thanks to Casey Toner.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Chicanery in Chicago?

This week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago sacrificed police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in order to save himself, as anger raged about the killing of Laquan McDonald in what read to many as a politically motivated effort to cover up video of that killing.

As John Kass of the Chicago Tribune put it regarding the firing of McCarthy: “City Hall protects the Queen Bee to keep the honey flowing. It isn’t personal. It’s business.” But that whole hive is ablaze. Emanuel many not be able to save himself. Everything about the killing of McDonald over 400 days ago, including the slithering about of Chicago officials in their efforts to suppress video of his murder, stinks to high heaven. There is the $5 million settlement with the family, the timing of that settlement, the strenuous efforts to keep the tape from public view, the long delay in charging the officer who did the shooting.

It all makes one ask: How much is the life of a teenager worth? To what length would officials go to bury visual evidence that he had been shot down in the street like a dog? Are officials so desperately afraid of losing their jobs that they would conceal details about the loss of a boy’s life?

Professor Bernard E. Harcourt of Columbia argued this week in a New York Times Op-Ed that many of the city leaders had a motive to cover up the shooting: “Mayor Emanuel was fighting for re-election in a tight race. Superintendent McCarthy wanted to keep his job.” Furthermore, the Cook County prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, “needed the good will of the police union for her coming re-election campaign and probably wished to shield the police officers who bring her cases and testify in court.” But as Harcourt noted: “None of that alters the fact that these actions have impeded the criminal justice system and, in the process, Chicago’s leaders allowed a first-degree murder suspect, now incarcerated pending bail, to remain free for over a year on the city’s payroll.” But more than having people in power lose their jobs, someone has to take a long, hard look at Chicago’s police review process, which I would posit, if it were functioning properly, would have had some bearing on this case and on many before it. It has to be determined whether the system is indeed broken, so that there will be fewer McDonalds in the future.

The N.A.A.C.P. issued a statement this week calling for a “Justice Department Review of all Chicago police oversight agencies,” and tried to detail the scope of the problem:

“A 2008 study by a University of Chicago law professor found more than 10,000 complaints were filed against officers from 2002 to 2004 alone — more than any city in the country. Only 19 of the 10,000 complaints resulted in significant disciplinary action, and complaints were dismissed without interviewing the officer in 85 percent of cases.”

The statement continued:

“The Independent Police Review Authority, (IPRA) was created to be an independent agency that investigates police shootings and misconduct cases. Currently, this process isn’t truly independent because cases are sent back to Chicago Police Department to approve. The process needs to provide IPRA with true independent authority with referral rights to an independent prosecutor.”

To fully understand the depths of the problem on a human level, take the July findings by the Chicago public radio station WBEZ. The station reported at the time:

“A Chicago investigator who determined that several civilian shootings by police officers were unjustified was fired after resisting orders to reverse those findings, according to internal records of his agency obtained by WBEZ.”

The fired investigator was Lorenzo Davis, himself a former police commander who had served in the Chicago Police Department for 23 years and held a law degree. His firing was announced to staff by Scott M. Ando, who had been promoted by Emanuel to chief administrator of the city’s Independent Police Review Authority.

As WBEZ reported:

“Davis’s termination came less than two weeks after top IPRA officials, evaluating Davis’s job performance, accused him of ‘a clear bias against the police’ and called him ‘the only supervisor at IPRA who resists making requested changes as directed by management in order to reflect the correct finding with respect to O.I.S.,’ as officer-involved shootings are known in the agency.”

According to the station:

“Davis says he helped investigate more than a dozen shootings by police at the agency. He says his superiors had no objections when his team recommended exonerating officers. The objections came, he says, after each finding that a shooting was unjustified. He says there were six of those cases.”

Davis told the station, “I did not like the direction the Police Department had taken.” He continued, “It appeared that officers were doing whatever they wanted to do. The discipline was no longer there.”

Something is amiss in the Windy City. Police officers “doing whatever they wanted to do” with no worry about repercussions or accountability? That is the very nature of corruption and abuse of power. The federal government will have no choice but to step in if it cares at all about public confidence in the local officials in America’s third largest city.

Thanks to Charles M. Blow.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Uncle Rahmmy Fires @Chicago_Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy as Fall Guy in #LaquanMcDonald Shooting

Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired the city's police superintendent Tuesday, a week after the release of a dash-cam video that showed a white Chicago officer fatally shooting a black teenager 16 times.

Emanuel called a news conference to announce the dismissal of Garry McCarthy, who only days ago insisted to reporters that the mayor had his "back."

The mayor praised McCarthy's leadership of the force but called it an "undeniable fact" that the public's trust in the police has eroded. "Now is the time for fresh eyes and leadership," Emanuel said.

Protesters have been calling for McCarthy's dismissal in response to the handling of the death of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old who was killed in October 2014.

The city released video of the shooting only after a judge ordered it to be made public. The release set off several days of largely peaceful protests. Officer Jason Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder.

Emanuel introduced McCarthy as his pick to lead the department in May 2011, replacing former FBI agent Jody Weis, who was unpopular with many rank-and-file officers who claimed Weis did not stand behind them.

McCarthy rose through the ranks of New York City's police department and was police director in Newark, New Jersey, when he was hired in Chicago. At the time he promised he would "have the cops' backs."

Emanuel praised him for knowing how to run a large police force and said the city needed "a leader with Garry's depth of experience and a track record for delivering results."

In New York, McCarthy rose from patrolman to an executive position and was involved in rescue and recovery efforts after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks before taking the job in New Jersey. But his time in Newark was not without challenges or complaints.

The NAACP in New Jersey said McCarthy was more concerned about improving the safety of downtown Newark than of its neighborhoods. The American Civil Liberties Union complained that Newark police were plagued with problems from lax internal oversight to issues of excessive force during arrests.

In Chicago, the silent video shows McDonald walking down the middle of a four-lane street. He appears to veer away from two officers as they emerge from a vehicle, drawing their guns. Van Dyke opens fire from close range and continues firing after McDonald crumples to the ground.

Police have said McDonald was carrying a knife, and an autopsy revealed that he had PCP, a hallucinogenic drug, in his system. Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez has said the 3-inch blade recovered from the scene had been folded into the handle.

Defense attorney Dan Herbert says his client feared for his life, acted lawfully and that the video does not tell the whole story.

Van Dyke was released from jail Monday after paying the $150,000 required of his $1.5 million bail.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Can the Chicago Turned into a Cesspool of Debt and Corruption be Saved?

There is a dark cloud over Chicago that is getting increasingly difficult to ignore.

As summer comes to a close, murders are up 21% in the city from last year. The depravity seemed to hit a new low earlier this month when the dismembered body parts of a toddler were discovered in a lagoon in a city park. Police still don’t have any clue about who the child is.

Meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to soon seek a massive property tax hike — the biggest in city history — to help make a $500 million pension payment due to city firefighters and police.

Chicago teachers started the school year last week without a labor contract, and the school system is mired in a monumental budget crisis. There could be 1,500 staff layoffs, and the city estimates a $1.1 billion budget deficit for next school year.

To add insult to injury, demographers concluded this week that the swampy oil town of Houston will displace Chicago as America’s third-largest city within a decade. Houston!

Maybe, I’m being too gloomy about the city I love. But it’s hard to ignore that Chicago is at an inflection point. The heart of the problem may be that it’s long been too easy to ignore the issues that have been facing this city for years.

Chicagoans have long talked about “two Chicagos.”

There’s the bustling downtown known as the Loop, with its world-class architecture, a culinary scene in the city’s patchwork of neighborhoods that proud Chicagoans like to boast is better than New York's and Los Angeles', and the enclaves on the north side and surrounding downtown where $1 million condos are plentiful.

Then there’s the other Chicago on the city’s south and west sides, where a vastly disproportionate number of the city’s 325 homicides this year have occurred. These are also the same neighborhoods, predominantly black and Latino, that have endured the brunt of dozens of school closures and seen the shuttering of mental health clinics in recent years as the city has become weighed down by debt.

For those of us who live in that leafier, more idyllic side of town, the violence and inequity in those neighborhoods that we rarely, if ever, visit can almost seem like it is in a foreign country — one that happens to be just miles away from our homes.

We read about the violence in the Monday papers that give us a macabre body count of those killed and wounded over the weekend. More often than not, the crime scenes are far from where we digest the grim mayhem over our cups of coffee. But occasionally reminders of the violence come to even the postcard version of Chicago, where I live and play.

Last week, I was out to lunch with my wife and daughter in the city’s West Loop, a popular neighborhood where airy lofts and some of the city’s most popular restaurants have replaced what in another era was a rancid-smelling meatpacking district.

As we walked through the neighborhood after lunch, we passed a club, Red Kiva, whose name seemed far too familiar to me — a guy who is rarely out after 8 p.m.

It took a couple of minutes before I remembered that I had read a couple of days earlier in one of those Monday morning violence roundups that a young man, LaVell Caron Southern, was gunned down soon after leaving the Red Kiva.

The story registered, in part, because Southern, 23, was a former standout football player at Mount Carmel High School, a sports powerhouse that produced former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb and former three-time NBA all-star Antoine Walker.

According to news reports, Southern had no enemies and was a good guy. His slaying was sadly just another tragedy in a seemingly endless trail of senseless violence that’s become part of this city’s backdrop.

After the remains of the dismembered toddler were discovered, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy called it a “heinous, senseless crime.” It is one, he said, that “goes beyond human reason.”

The police chief’s outrage is appropriate.

Now, it’s time for my neighbors and me to be just as angry about the dark cloud that hovers over our city.

Thanks to Aamer Mashani.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Diverse Chicagoans Exercise Their Right-to-Carry

A recent report by the Chicago Sun-Times reveals the diversity of the Chicagoans choosing to exercise their Right-to-Carry, offering some rare good news regarding the city’s beleaguered gun owners. According to a Sun-Times analysis of Right-to-Carry permit data obtained from the Illinois State Police, the city zip codes with the most permit-holding residents span from “upper middle-class, safe and predominately white neighborhoods” to “high-crime, minority neighborhoods.” Delving into further detail, the article states “Chicago’s highest concentration of permits is in the 60617 ZIP… According to the census, about 55 percent of the residents in 60617 are black, 34 percent are Hispanic and 7 percent white.”

The piece goes on to note that the Auburn Gresham, Avalon Park and Chatham neighborhoods also rank high in their number of permit holders. These areas are described as “minority neighborhoods that have been plagued by gun violence.”

The abundance of Right-to-Carry permit holders in high-crime and predominantly minority communities helps to break down pernicious stereotypes about the “typical” gun owner and permit holder. The data also proves that the protection offered by exercising the Right-to-Carry is being used by those most vulnerable to violent crime.

Under the rule of anti-gun Clinton and Obama staffer Rahm Emanuel, Chicagoans have been forced to cope with severe, and frequently-debated, levels of violent crime that the authorities often appear helpless to contain. In this climate of rampant crime, even the mayor’s son was the victim of a robbery only a short distance from the family home. Taking a brief respite from his usual spin on public safety, in January, the notoriously combative mayor conceded that city residents don’t feel safe, noting “Too many families, too many parents do not let their kids go outside because they're scared.” This feeling was likely further cemented following the July 4th holiday weekend, during which 55 were wounded by illegal gunfire and 10 killed. In this environment, permit-holding Windy City residents are wise to provide for their own self-defense. Hopefully, the breadth and diversity of permit-holding Chicagoans revealed by the Sun-Times will encourage more residents to follow their lead and get the tools of protection to the communities where they are most needed.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago's 99%

How did a city long dominated by a notorious Democratic Machine become a national battleground in the right-wing war against the public sector? In Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago's 99%, veteran journalist Kari Lydersen takes a close look at Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and his true agenda.

With deep Wall Street ties from his investment banking years and a combative political style honed in Congress and the Clinton and Obama administrations, Emanuel is among a rising class of rock-star mayors promising to remake American cities. But his private-sector approach has sidelined and alienated many who feel they are not part of Emanuel’s vision for a new Chicago—and it has inspired a powerful group of activists and community members to unite in defense of their beloved city.

KARI LYDERSEN is a Chicago-based journalist who has worked in the Midwest bureau of the Washington Post and is the author of four books. She has been a journalism instructor at several Chicago colleges and currently serves as community fellowship director of the Social Justice News Nexus at Northwestern University.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Super PAC Raises $1.3 Million Plus for Reelection of Rahm Emanuel

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has stockpiled more than $8 million in campaign money for his re-election.

That hasn't stopped a super PAC backed by the Democrat's allies from gathering six-figure checks from some of Chicago's best-known business leaders before February's election. In four weeks, Chicago Forward raised more than $1.3 million from donors, such as hedge-fund billionaire Kenneth Griffin and Groupon Chairman Eric Lefkofsky.

The big-dollar support for Emanuel's agenda is the latest sign that super PAC-scale spending is hitting local contests. Super PACs, allowed by a pair of federal court rulings in 2010, can accept unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals to influence elections, but they cannot coordinate their activity with candidates.

"It's the new, shiny object," said Edwin Bender, executive director of the non-partisan National Institute on Money in State Politics. "A lot of money can flow easily through super PACs."

Super PACs focused on individual contests are a big factor in this year's races for Congress. In all, 61 candidate-specific super PACs have spent more than $21 million to influence races, data compiled by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics show. They account for more than 25% of all super PAC activity in federal races.

There's no central database of super PACs that operate at the municipal level, but a review of city-level campaign-finance records shows a new wave of unlimited outside money swamping mayoral races coast-to-coast.

In Illinois, Emanuel awaits a big-name rival. This month, one of his strongest potential challengers, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, announced she would not run for mayor. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis is weighing a challenge.

The city's business elite already is voting with its wallet.

Griffin, the founder of Citadel, Groupon's Lefkofsky and Michael Sacks, the CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management, each gave $150,000 to Chicago Forward on a single day last month, Illinois campaign-finance records show. Sacks serves as Emanuel's vice chairman on the city's privately financed business-development group.

None of the three contributors returned phone calls.

Rebecca Carroll, a former spokeswoman for Chicago schools and for Emanuel's 2002 congressional campaign, runs Chicago Forward. She did not respond to messages. On its website, the group pledges to support candidates in the 2015 municipal elections "who demonstrate a shared commitment to policies and priorities that will continue to move our city forward."

Chicago Forward touts issues that mirror Emanuel's priorities, including an overhaul of the pension benefits for many city workers.

Emanuel cannot coordinate with the group and cannot take checks larger than $5,300 from an individual for his own campaign. But it's clear that his aides do not object to a super PAC telling positive stories about his first term in office.

"The mayor is focused on helping local neighborhoods, local communities, local schools improve — taking their ideas and working with the city to make them work for every neighborhood in Chicago," said campaign spokesman Peter Giangreco. "To the extent that there are other groups out there that talk about those success stories, then it helps everybody in Chicago."

In addition to talking up successes, the super PAC could train its fire on the mayor's eventual challengers and help elect Emanuel allies to the City Council.

The super PAC's leaders "are guaranteeing that the City Council isn't going to block him," said Dick Simpson, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois-Chicago and a former city alderman.

Thanks to Fredreka Schouten.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

ATF to Increase Total Agents in Chicago to 52 with Focus on Reducing Illegal Gun Trafficking and Gun Crime

Following his recent visit to Chicago where he participated in a roundtable discussion with Mayor Emanuel on recent reductions in youth violence, Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to send seven additional Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), agents to the field division office in Chicago.

The new ATF agents will coordinate efforts with U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon, as well as federal, state and local law enforcement and community partnerships to advance proven strategies to reduce illegal gun trafficking and gun crime. There are currently 45 ATF agents assigned to Chicago.

"The Department of Justice will continue to do everything in its power to help the city of Chicago combat gun violence,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. "These new agents are a sign of the federal government's ongoing commitment to helping local leaders ensure Chicago's streets are safe.”

The deployment of new ATF agents represents the latest step in strengthening the partnerships with the Chicago Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies. In early June, ATF opened the Chicago Crime Gun Intelligence Center. The Center combines the gun enforcement efforts of the Chicago Police Department, Illinois State Police and ATF to provide additional leads that otherwise might go unnoticed and further addresses the illegal sales and possession of firearms in the State of Illinois.

In addition, U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon announced a restructuring of the Criminal Division in his office and in doing so named a team of prosecutors who will work specifically to reduce violent crime in the city. The FBI currently has over 100 agents in Chicago assigned to curb gang and violent crimes. During the summer months, the city temporarily assigned an additional 20 agents to supplement crime reduction efforts. Under the 12 current grants administered by our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention alone, the City of Chicago and Cook County has access to more than $6.6 million to further these efforts to address youth violence.

Gun crime is the primary driver of homicide in Chicago, and sixty percent of the guns recovered in violent crimes in Chicago were originally sold in other states and trafficked into the city. Given the interstate nature of these crimes, it is critical that federal and local law enforcement work together to identify traffickers and enforce federal gun laws. ATF will continue to concentrate its criminal enforcement on firearms trafficking throughout the region while curbing the supply of illegal guns that end up in the hands of gang members and other violent criminals.
 
“ATF’s commitment to targeting traffickers and trigger pullers in Chicago is bolstered by these additional resources,” said ATF Director B. Todd Jones.  “These resources, combined with ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Center, will strengthen and build on our outstanding partnership with the Chicago Police Department and other local, state and regional law enforcement to bring safety and justice back to the community."

“We have enjoyed an ever-improving and increasingly productive relationship with our federal partners,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. “We look forward to continuing that relationship and welcoming additional personnel in our ongoing efforts to ensure everyone in Chicago enjoys the same sense of safety.”

The Justice Department will continue to build on this work in the months ahead through initiatives like Project Safe Neighborhoods; the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention; and innovative community oriented policing tools in the neighborhoods across Chicago.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Gun Store Ordinance Far Stricter Than What Public Wants

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to keep gun stores out of most of Chicago is far more restrictive than what the public supports, a gun industry lobbyist said Monday.

Whitney O’Daniel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation pointed to an April survey — which the foundation commissioned — of registered Chicago voters that showed 69 percent supported regulating gun stores under the same zoning laws that cover other age-regulated businesses like liquor stores.

The McKeon & Associates Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Gun Store Ordinance Far Stricter Than What Public Wants with Tractor Supply Company Hunting Gearpoll had an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

“Let the market decide how many gun stores people will support in the city,” said O’Daniel, who is also the executive director of the Illinois Association of Firearm Retailers.

Emanuel’s proposed ordinance would keep gun stores at least 500 feet away from parks and schools, barring them from 99.5 percent of the city, according to city officials.

In January, U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang overturned Chicago’s ban on gun stores in a lawsuit brought by the Illinois Association of Firearms Retailers and three Chicago gun owners. Chang gave the city until mid-July to impose regulations on gun stores.

Last week, the Emanuel administration proposed a far-reaching ordinance that would require gun stores to videotape purchases to deter customers from buying guns for crooks. Stores would have to maintain a log of gun sales in which a firearm was later recovered in a crime. That would help employees identify potential gun traffickers, according to city officials.

O’Daniel said the groups he represents aren’t opposed to stores introducing “best practices” like videotaping sales.

He said the National Shooting Sports Foundation spent $800,000 this year on Chicago billboards with the message, “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy,” referring to “straw purchasers” who legally buy guns they give to criminals. “We don’t want anyone to have illegal firearms or participate in the sale of illegal firearms,” O’Daniel said. But safeguards like videotaping gun sales should be voluntary, not mandatory, he said.

O’Daniel also said some parts of the proposed ordinance appear unworkable. For example, the government can’t provide stores with the names of people who buy guns later used in crimes, he said. “It’s a little premature to say we will go back and challenge this in court,” O’Daniel said of the proposed ordinance. “But we will certainly look at this closely. We are willing to work with the aldermen on this.”

South Side Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) has already warned that the ordinance invites another potentially costly court battle.

The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city include gun owners Michael Hall, Kathryn Tyler and her husband Kenneth Pacholski. None has expressed an interest in selling guns, but they have said the Chicago ban on gun stores was unreasonable.

In 2010, Hall was a telecommunications consultant and part-time high school basketball referee who owned a shotgun, a rifle and a 9mm pistol he bought for protection after his Morgan Park home was burglarized, according to a deposition he gave to the city.

Pacholski owned 18 guns, including 13 rifles, three shotguns, a revolver and a semiautomatic pistol, according to his deposition. He said he carried a gun from his bedroom to his basement for protection in their West Rogers Park home.

Tyler, a veterinarian, owned a 9mm handgun, according to her deposition. A city attorney asked her whether the ban on gun stores prevented her from buying firearms, and she answered no. But “if guns are legal, then we should be able to buy guns wherever we want to buy guns and people should be able to sell them wherever they want to sell them,” Tyler said.

Emanuel administration officials say tough regulations are needed to help stores identify straw purchasers and prevent thieves from stealing guns from stores.

Chicago’s proposed ordinance would require the stores to submit a safety plan outlining exterior lighting, surveillance cameras and alarm systems, as well as storage of guns and ammunition. Employees would have to undergo fingerprinting, background checks and training on identifying potential gun traffickers.

Emanuel is also proposing that Chicago gun stores could sell only one handgun a month to a buyer. If the city revoked a store’s business license for violating the ordinance, it could not reopen at the same location for three years.

Thanks to Frank Main.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Chicago Public Library @chipublib Observed the 50th Anniversary of Kennedy's Assassination Today

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon, schoolchildren, and special guests today at the Harold Washington Library Center to observe the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The event celebrated the life and legacy of President Kennedy, as well as his and the Kennedy family’s long standing connection to Chicago.

“President Kennedy challenged all Americans to answer the call of public service, inspiring generations of Americans to serve others and work for the greater good of their fellow humans," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "Today, as we observe the fiftieth anniversary of his tragic death, we remember his life and legacy and the profound impact he had on our nation and our city."

As part of the program, author Ilene Cooper spoke about the Kennedys’ decades-long ties to Chicago, beginning in 1945 when the Kennedy patriarch and President’s father Joseph Sr. purchased the Merchandise Mart, which soon became a trade show mecca known across the country. From that time on, the Kennedy family has played a prominent role in Chicago. Several Kennedy family members have made the Chicago area their home and still play a major role in the operation of the Merchandise Mart.

Jazz musician Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band paid homage to President Kennedy’s love for cultural arts and jazz music. In 1962, the President and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy hosted the first White House jazz concert, starting a tradition that still exists today. The concert featured music selected from that first jazz concert in 1962, along with selections from subsequent White House concerts.

The Chicago Public Library encourages lifelong learning by welcoming all people and offering equal access to information, entertainment and knowledge through materials, programs and cutting-edge technology. Through its 80 locations, the Library provides free access to a rich collection of materials, both physical and digital, and presents the highest quality author discussions, exhibits and programs for children, teens and adults.  For more information, visit chicagopubliclibrary.org or call the Chicago Public Library at (312) 747-4050.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

3rd Annual #ThinkChicago Program Kicks Off

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, University of Illinois, Chicago Ideas Week, and World Business Chicago officially kicked off the 3rd annual ThinkChicago program this week, October 17-19, 2013. The program connects the brightest tech students from Midwestern universities with Chicago innovators by introducing 150 elite students to the leaders of Chicago’s most innovative companies. The program also allows  students to explore Chicago’s flourishing tech scene, and gives them the opportunity to attend select programming at Chicago Ideas Week, where some of the world’s brightest thinkers and leaders inspire and enlighten.

“ThinkChicago is integral in introducing the best and the brightest students from across the country to the top innovators and entrepreneurs in Chicago and establishing a highly talented and highly educated workforce right here in the city,” said Mayor Emanuel. “I am excited to continue this partnership with the University of Illinois and Chicago Ideas Week to attract top talent to Chicago and build on our already thriving technology economy.”

ThinkChicago sought students with outstanding academic track records who demonstrated a commitment to innovation and technology. This year, the 150 students attending the program represent 7 states (including Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Missouri) and 18 different universities. Students will also bring a wide array of majors including Economics, Computer Science, MBA, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Business, Finance, Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Material Science and Engineering, and Entrepreneurship.

This year’s attendees of ThinkChicago Ideas Week program will meet 25 tech companies including GrubHub, Catamaran, Microsoft, AON Center, Ifbyphone, kCura, and Orbitz and hear from business leaders including Max Levchin , co-founder of Paypal and Chairman of Yelp,  Adrian Holovaty, co-creator of Django web framework, and Mike McGee, co-founder of the Starter League. The attendees will also have an opportunity to attend the Chicago Ideas Week “Tech Summit,” attend two Idea Week talks, and visit 1871, Chicago’s premier digital co-working space.

"We’re once again proud to partner with the City of Chicago and the University of Illinois to host the 3rd annual ThinkChicago program,” said Brad Keywell, founder and co-chairman of Chicago Ideas Week.  “By highlighting the thriving tech and innovation landscape of Chicago, we hope to showcase Chicago to exceptional graduates as a city to not only kick off their post-graduate life, but also to build new and exciting ventures.”

"By demonstrating why Chicago is a leading destination for the country’s top tech talent, ThinkChicago is delivering on the city’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs," said World Business Chicago President & CEO Jeff Malehorn. "We aim to leverage Chicago's assets such as access to transportation, business climate, and cultural amenities to attract entrepreneurs and talent within emerging industries, and Ideas Week provides a perfect opportunity for us to do this."

The inflow of a highly talented and educated workforce is invaluable to Chicago’s business community and the city’s overall economic health.  Chicago is already home to a rapidly growing start-up community. Last year alone, 197 new startups received an unprecedented $391 million in funding.  Fueled by the flourishing start-up industry, Chicago has climbed from 15th to 10th place in the rankings of the world’s best cities for startups.  ThinkChicago is a testament to the commitment by the city to continue and expand that pattern of growth by attracting and retaining a deep talent pool of highly educated and innovative workers, and subsequently drawing more business, jobs, and innovation to the Chicago.

“The University of Illinois is proud to once again partner with Mayor Emanuel, Chicago Ideas Week, and World Business Chicago on this exciting opportunity to showcase the great talent and activity happening here in Chicago,” said Robert A. Easter, President of the University of Illinois. “We look forward to this bigger and more robust program this year.”

The 3rd annual ThinkChicago program also represents Mayor Emanuel’s continued effort to showcase Chicago as a hub for tech innovation and creative entrepreneurship. Mayor Emanuel and Chicago Ideas Week first launched the program within the Mayor’s first 100 days in office, bringing 50 students from 13 Midwestern universities to Chicago.  The program has expanded since then, bringing 100 students in 2012 and 150 this year.

In line with efforts to recruit the best minds to Chicago, Mayor Emanuel launched a Lollapalooza edition of the ThinkChicago program this past August, which brought 100 students from across the country to Chicago for two days to explore the city’s vibrant innovation ecosystem. Each admitted student also attended all three days of the Lollapalooza 2013 music festival, which included a walk-through of the artist compound and production areas and a Q&A session with the Lollapalooza producers and founders. In addition to the Ideas Week edition of the program, which focuses on retaining talent from top Midwestern universities, ThinkChicago seeks to strengthen Chicago’s workforce by attracting exceptional talent from top universities across the country through its Lollapalooza program.


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