Public Indecency | Year In Review | Chicago Reader

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Public Indecency

Our Annual Review of Political Atrocities



Savor this, atrocity buffs: It was the year they shut down the government and no one noticed. All because Newtie had to sit in back of the airplane. He quickly pulled himself out of that pile of doo-doo by telling us that the monstrous murder of a pregnant woman in the west suburbs was the result of liberalism and the welfare system. Sort of like when Richie Daley told us that the Cook County medical examiner was to blame for the 500-plus heat-related deaths this past summer.

Atrocious as the Washington scene may have been, our local folks did not let us down.

A Piece of Our Lady

"Did I win the Lotto?" exulted former congressman Mel Reynolds when his underage paramour Beverly Heard told him she had a 15-year-old schoolgirl waiting to do nasty things with him. When told the mythical schoolgirl attended the mythical Our Lady of Peace school, Mel was barely able to contain himself. "Jesus," he ejaculated. "A Catholic!"

Son of Somebody

"They didn't want to lose me in Springfield," insisted state senator Emil Jones after Daley's vaunted black submachine was totaled by Jesse Jackson Jr. in the special election to replace Mel Reynolds. Junior's dad asked people to pray for Reynolds but vote for his son, which they did in large numbers. In making excuses Jones recalled Roland Burris, who claimed he did so poorly in last year's governor's race because people wanted him to be mayor, not governor. So he ran for mayor this year and embarrassed himself even more.

The Con Game

We set a world record for candidates with criminal records during the aldermanic elections this year. No fewer than four ex-cons were on the ballot in as many wards--two of them backed by gangs. Wallace "Gator" Bradley ran against Dorothy Tillman in the Third Ward and told reporters, "I'm a Gangster Disciple, OK?" Later he claimed he was being sarcastic. The threat of Bradley strengthened the remarkable though undeclared alliance between Daley and Tillman, who prevailed. One ex-con did win--Alderman Walter Burnett in the 27th Ward. Burnett was backed by a different gang: the Democratic regulars.

Thank You, Candidate Freud

One of the gangbanger aldermanic candidates, Hal Baskin in the 16th Ward, introduced us to a new psychosexual slant on violent crime. Incumbent Shirley Coleman was once married to killer-rapist Hernando Williams, who was executed this year. Why did Williams turn to crime? "[Coleman] may not have been giving the man what he needed at home," suggested Baskin, "and that is maybe the reason he went out there on one of those rape sprees." For his insights the voters rewarded him with about one-third of the vote.

The Crack-Up

The federal "motor voter" act got sideswiped by Illinois Republicans. According to the new law, voter-registration facilities must be provided at driver-licensing bureaus as a means of increasing registration and participation in the democratic process. But state GOP leaders feared it might also increase Democrats, so they fought the bill in court. After losing that battle they came up with a brilliant ploy: they would adhere to the law, but narrowly. New voters registering at secretary of state facilities would qualify only for federal elections--not state or local contests. Thus the budget-minded, antibureaucratic politicians--state senate president Pate Philip, speaker of the house Lee Daniels, and Secretary of State George Ryan--created a fiscal and bureaucratic nightmare. Ironically, states that have enforced the motor-voter law show no significant differences between Democratic and Republican registrations.

Scary Larry

Larry Horist, who once managed Ed Vrdolyak's mayoral campaign and headed conservative blowhard Tom Roeser's Republican Forum, was all set to enjoy the dubious distinction of becoming the Republican nominee for mayor of Chicago. After all, he had the endorsement of the Republican organization and his main opponent was Ray Wardingley, better known by his professional name, Spanky the Clown. Horist even offered a "Contract With Chicago," emulating his hero. You guess which clown won the primary.

Scary Gary

Nothing succeeds like failure. Gary LaPaille retained his post as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party despite serious discontent among the committeemen and an unblemished record of defeat. "All I want to do is elect Democrats," said LaPaille. But under his extinguished leadership the Dems lost both the state house and senate as well as every state constitutional office--for the first time in recorded history. In addition the party organization was slapped with bills totaling $510,000 by the U.S. Postal Service for misusing its nonprofit bulk-mailing privileges--$175,000 for the '92 elections and $335,000 for '94-'95. Individual candidates for the legislature, it seems, were using the lower rates accorded only to the party itself. But take heart, Republicans. Your party did the same thing during the '92 elections, and paid $101,000 in fines.

Dropout Dave

The failed former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, David Wilhelm, declared he wanted nothing more than to replace Paul Simon as our senator. About six weeks later he dropped out of the race with the Jurassic excuse that he needed to spend more time with his family. The media, stifling snickers and yawns, accepted the excuse. What Wilhelm knew on dropout day (and the media did not) was that a Boston Globe story would come out a few days later showing profligate spending by the Democratic National Committee during Wilhelm's reign. Such as hundreds of thousands of dollars to favored consultants for little or no benefit. And some $400,000 to Wilhelm's associates at his former firm, the Strategy Group.

Rosty Is Her Role Model

Carol Moseley-Braun, celebrating another year without an indictment, continues to prove she's the best junior senator money can buy. First she finagled a multimillion-dollar tax break for the Tribune Company and a needy minority entrepreneur named Quincy Jones. Coincidentally, Moseley Braun was later featured in a cozy cover story in the Tribune magazine (endorsement soon to follow) and treated to a beaucoup-bucks fund-raiser in Hollywood sponsored by Jones. Then she became the only Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee to side with the multinational drug company Glaxo Wellcome in a patent dispute with a local drug firm. If the Illinois firm had won, it would have put a generic ulcer medication on the market at half the cost of Glaxo's--helping local business and giving financial relief to the poor and the elderly Moseley-Braun claims as her constituency. The head of Glaxo let her use its corporate jet plane, donated $10,000 to her various campaigns, and paid her $15,000 for a speech--which would have been illegal had it not been paid during the period after her election but just before she was sworn into office. This was the first year Moseley-Braun raised more than she spent, and she still has a 1992 campaign debt exceeding a half million bucks. The federal investigation into her campaign fund continues.

The Rich Watch

It was such an atrocious year for Hizzoner that the Tribune's John Kass wrote an entire article on how moody the mayor had become. "Why? What do you mean moody?" Kass quoted Daley. "I don't know. What am I supposed to do? Act like you? Ha Ha Ha Ha."

Some Daley low points: He finally scrapped one of his pet projects, the megabucks, contract-rich downtown trolley, after wasting $59 million raised from sources such as a special taxing district. He was reminded by reporters that he'd supported Mel Reynolds's congressional bids with troops and fund-raising: "Did I? I don't know if I did, really. Publicly? Did I?" He saw the feds take over his Chicago Housing Authority, watched the cost of his new 911 Center more than double, and got slapped in editorials for taking a freebie junket to England worth several hundred thousand bucks from American Airlines. Then there were those 500-plus heat deaths this summer. After it was demonstrated that the medical examiner did not cause them Daley backed off a bit: "I'm not questioning anybody dying. I'm not insensitive." He later had this homily: "What do you do when you fall on your face, stay down? No, you pick up your face and go on." Now Daley is locked in the quadrennial Kabuki dance with Mike McCaskey over whether the Bears will stay in Chicago. Among his helpful suggestions: "Well, they can go to Alaska!" The Kodiak Bears?

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustrations/Tony Griff.

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