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In Defense of Daley

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To the editors:

Doug Cassel is a respected lawyer and talented fighter for the public interest. It is a shame his obvious personal dislike for Richard Daley has led him to write piece after inaccurate piece of slanted, inaccurate Evans campaign literature in the pages of the Reader ["Is Rich Daley Ready for Reform?" February 10; "Why Bloom Bowed Out," February 24; "Is Tim Evans for Real?" March 17]. It is even more of a shame that he is given this opportunity. Unfortunately, this is consistent with the Reader publishing an analysis several months ago of all the candidates, written by Don Rose, media advisor to Evans [December 23].

First of all, I write from the perspective of someone who was a longtime supporter of Harold Washington--well before the 1983 "conversion" of Alderman Evans--both individually and as a member and once state chair of the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization. Harold returned that support in 1986 when I ran for the Cook County Board. I am currently supporting Daley as the best of the alternatives this year and as the only candidate who is advancing the progressive concept that it is time to stop race baiting and name-calling and time to work on the common, overriding problems of this city: education, health care, crime, waste and inefficiency in government.

Cassel is simply wrong when he says: "Daley neither built a new coalition nor made significant inroads into the Washington coalition." The following independent Democratic leaders were all part of that coalition and are now with Daley: Alderman Luis Gutierrez of the west side 26th Ward, Senator Dawn Clark Netsch, Representative Ellis Levin, Congressman Sidney Yates, Water Reclamation District Commissioner Joanne Alter, former Justice Seymour Simon, former director of the Mayor's Office of Special Events Lois Weisberg, media advisor David Axelrod, Dr. Marvin Rosner, former Ambassador Philip Klutznick and Bettylu Saltzman. Recently, several respected African-American ward committeemen announced their support for Daley, including City Treasurer Cecil Partee, Board of Tax Appeals member Wilson Frost and County Board Finance Chairman John Stroger.

These individuals and thousands of other Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, gay-lesbian activists and lakefront progressives did not "leave" the Washington coalition. Rather, they simply declined to accept Tim Evans as the self-proclaimed heir apparent. They have chosen to support Rich Daley who, in many ways, is more progressive than Evans and has a record to back up his claims.

For example, Daley has increased the number of female assistant state's attorneys in his office from 89 in 1981 to 239 today; of African-American assistants from 24 to 75; of Hispanic assistants from 3 to 23. His office has more women, African-American and Hispanic attorneys than any prosecuting office or private law firm in the United States. The percentage of each category in his office is also significantly higher than the percentage of attorneys from those groups practicing law in Cook County. In addition to a progressive hiring record, he formed a special unit in his office to prosecute nursing home abuses (developed and headed by Mike Kreloff); he hired the head of the liberal Cook County Democratic Women organization--Julie Hamos--to head his lobbying effort in Springfield; as a state senator, he sponsored and passed mental health reforms, working with John Schmidt, former president of the Chicago Council of Lawyers. He was the first county official to extend the Shakman decree to political hiring, as well as promotions and firing.

During the 20 months from 1981 to 1983 when I headed his Elections Unit as a Special Assistant, the office obtained over 100 election fraud convictions and further professionalized the election-day training programs for assistants and investigators. Following my tenure, respected election law expert Frank Schwerin supervised that area and was praised by watchdog groups for his efforts.

As to the record of Evans himself, on the other hand, Cassel does not mention that the 4th Ward Alderman was rejected in his last two aldermanic races by the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization because of his machine background; his coziness with the El Rukns in his ward; and his opposition to the reform of city council practices. He also neglects to mention Evans's open and close political relationships with attorney Tom Todd, Alderman Dorothy Tillman, Congressman Gus Savage and radical organizer Slim Coleman. Combine this with Evans's refusal to call for Steve Cokely's resignation until Eugene Sawyer had been pressured to the point of making that decision, and you see why Tim Evans (1) is no progressive and (2) will be lucky to do as well as Eugene Sawyer on the lakefront.

Perhaps the most disturbing and misleading examples in the Cassel series of articles are his references to the Steve Cokely affair and his quoting of Evans in praise of former Congressman Ralph Metcalfe. On Cokely, Cassel argues that Evans passed an important test in keeping together Washington's multiracial coalition by quickly declaring that he "abhorred any statements or any comments that are anti-Semitic." Cassel does not point out that Evans refused to call for Cokely's dismissal, however, until Sawyer himself was about to make his decision. Even more troublesome, journalistically, is Cassel's quoting of Evans praising the late Ralph Metcalfe without pointing out that in the crucial and contested primary to fill his seat after Metcalfe's death, Evans supported the machine candidate against Harold Washington. Evans's invocation of Metcalfe's name in his stump speech is disingenuous, and Cassel's repetition of it without clarification is unfortunate.

While Daley has run a campaign devoid of racial appeals and name-calling, Evans--perhaps in desperation--has his allies fan the racial flames, while he personally attacks Daley based on the fact that the State's Attorney does not actually try cases and that he failed the bar exam twice before passing it. On the first point, the previous State's Attorney--now a judge--Bernard Carey, did not try cases either. The office, with 1,100 employees, is the largest prosecuting office in the nation. It requires a leader to administer it; set policy; coordinate with the police departments and other prosecutorial offices; lobby the state and federal legislature, supervise the hiring, training, promotion and evaluation of the employees; deal with the county board on funding; and perform a myriad of other tasks--all of which Daley has done very well, according to objective observers. As to the bar exam, one is reminded of the quote of James Michener, to the effect that "character is what we do on the third or fourth try." Rich Daley is a hard worker, a skilled administrator, a savvy and honest politician, who has a record and reputation of surrounding himself with excellent staff and inspiring them to perform well.

Try as Doug Cassel and Tim Evans do, they cannot succeed in making the case that this election pits a black reformer against a white "traditionalist" (whatever that means). Evans does not fit the label he seeks for himself and Daley's commendable record in office and impressively broad-based campaign do not give his enemies the ammunition they need. A candidate whose most prominent political enemies are Ed Vrdolyak, Jane Byrne, Gus Savage and Slim Coleman must be doing something right.

Charles R. Bernardini

Cook County Commissioner

Doug Cassel replies:

Commissioner Bernardini is not persuasive. Taking his points in order:

1. The unsupported assertion that I have a "personal dislike" for Rich Daley is simply wrong. Daley has always been pleasant enough to me. My criticisms are political, not personal.

2. The Daley supporters named by Bernardini do not constitute a new coalition. While most are good people (and I count several as friends), nearly all supported Daley against Harold Washington in 1983. Dawn Clark Netsch, for example, a fine person and excellent state senator, chaired Daley's 1983 campaign. As for the three "respected" (by whom?) black committeemen--Partee, Frost, and Stroger--not one supported Washington against Daley and Byrne in 1983.

3. The fact that "thousands" of African Americans and others who voted for Washington may now support Daley is entirely consistent with my point: namely, that there appear to be only a few thousand such persons among the 484,000 votes for Daley in the primary. So small a shift hardly represents a significant inroad into the Washington coalition.

4. Daley's record does contain progressive achievements. I noted most of those listed by Bernardini. But there is also another side to Daley's record that Bernardini wholly ignores. Indeed, my central point was that Daley can usually be counted on to do the "right" thing when it's politically easy. But when it's not, he usually ducks or takes the wrong side. Where was Daley from 1981 through 1986 on the fight against Jane Byrne's illegal and discriminatory ward remap? Where was he from 1983 through 1987 on Council Wars? Where was he this January on bringing City Council reforms to a vote before the election?

5. Acknowledging Bernardini's praise for his own performance as Daley's Elections Unit chief, and crediting Frank Schwerin's efforts as well, one can only regret that they did not stay. If they had, Daley's office presumably would not have sat for more than two years on the investigation of election-law violations by Daley supporters in the 1986 nonpartisan mayoral election referendum. No indictments were produced--until the matter was finally turned over by court order to a special prosecutor.

6. Bernardini's attacks on Evans are not convincing. He notes that Evans was opposed in the 1983 and 1987 aldermanic elections by IVI-IPO--without mentioning that IVI-IPO endorses Evans in this election. He throws around accusations--like Evans's supposed opposition to City Council reform--that are not only unfounded, but are contradicted by a mountain of evidence (discussed in my articles, but ignored by Bernardini). And his attempted use of guilt by association and red-baiting is unfortunate. He castigates Evans for associating with the likes of Dorothy Tillman, saying--with no evidence whatsoever--that Evans "has his allies fan the racial flames." In fact, there is considerable evidence that Evans has discouraged any such statements. And if Evans were to be held accountable for all the statements and actions of his supporters, would Bernardini hold Daley to the same standard? Or are we to believe that the machine hacks pounding the pavements for Daley have been converted to reform?

7. Evans can hardly be lumped together with Sawyer on the Cokely affair. Sawyer knew of Cokely's offensive statements months before firing him; Evans knew for only a few days before calling for his firing. Evans had immediately denounced Cokely's statements. He then left town for two days to attend a national conference on municipal finance. As soon as he returned, he taped a radio show in which he called for Cokely to be fired. From the very beginning, Evans was the most out-front black public official saying the right things on Cokely--at a time when Sawyer and even Danny Davis were saying the wrong things.

8. On Ralph Metcalfe, I agree that the article would have been improved by including Evans's position in the succession election. That position is consistent with my overall assessment that during those years, even though Evans voiced increasing dissatisfaction, he still voted mostly with the machine.

9. I also agree that Daley's lack of trial experience and his failing the bar exam twice are not important in this mayoral election. My concerns about Daley rest on other grounds.

10. Finally, it is ironic that Bernardini concludes by praising Daley for having Vrdolyak as an enemy. When Vrdolyak held power--and used it to delay and thwart reform for three long years--why didn't Daley oppose him then?

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