Rich Daley a reformer?
“Give me a break,” respond some.
“No, seriously,” say others, “give him a chance.”
And many more are simply confused: Daley’s TV-commercial image–a champion of reform–competes in their minds with blurred memories of someone less saintly.
In announcing his candidacy for mayor in December, Cook County State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley put it this way: “I ask only that I be judged on my record, my experience, and my ideas for our city’s future.”
Unfortunately the press has largely declined his invitation. Except for a critical account in Chicago Lawyer, little analysis of Daley’s 20-year record as a public servant–as a delegate to the 1970 state constitutional convention and as state senator, ward committeeman, and state’s attorney–has appeared in print during the campaign. For insight into his record, the public has had to rely largely on Daley’s million-dollar media campaign, offset by occasionally successful press releases issued by the opposing camps.
Close examination of Daley’s record reveals a politician who is long on popular promises but short on unpopular stands. Daley finds it hard to say no to any major voting bloc, but also hard to say yes on principle when political costs may be high. Somewhat brighter than he sounds in public, he has a number of able advisers, and has often done the “right” thing when it was politically easy. Yet when it counts–on issues ranging from ethics and government reform to relations with minority groups to finding the means to pay for essential government services–Daley’s leadership has been limp.
While his record too frequently suggests lack of commitment on issues of substance, it consistently reflects an unwavering concern for political appearances.
As a convert to reform, Daley says he supports proposals to improve City Council ethics and accountability. In practice, however, he is the only major mayoral candidate who has still not endorsed a key package of ethics ordinances, or even met with its sponsors, and he has apparently done nothing to rally his City Council allies to support the reforms, or even to bring them to a vote before the election.
Daley also promises the strong leadership Chicago needs. But when Council Wars held the city hostage for three years, Daley sat on his hands, while even his own alderman voted in lockstep with Vrdolyak.
Now Daley proclaims education his “top priority”–who could disagree with that?–but fails to call for the fiscally necessary but politically controversial state tax increase that is essential to give Chicago public school pupils a fighting chance.
Daley promises to serve as mayor for all the people, not half the people. As state’s attorney, his efforts to recruit and promote minority and women lawyers (but not non-lawyers) have in fact surpassed those of most law offices (and are better than has been implied in press reports).
But when the political stakes have been higher, Daley’s record toward minority constituencies has been correspondingly less defensible. In 1981, when Jane Byrne drew up a ward map that illegally discriminated against blacks and Hispanics, Daley supported it. In 1986, no sooner did Harold Washington finally triumph in Council Wars than Daley quietly supported an effort to change the rules for mayoral elections, to make it harder for Washington to be reelected.
Not until considerable political organizing by the gay and lesbian community, and even then not until the current mayoral campaign, did Daley discover the need for the Human Rights Ordinance. And now he calls for an end to quotas in the Police Department, even though women and Hispanics are still grossly underrepresented among sergeants, and the city is using a 20 percent ratio for promotion of women to sergeants and a 10 percent ratio for Hispanics.
Daley also promises able and efficient government, contending, “I know how to run a government.” For the most part, he has continued the professionalizing and depoliticizing of the state’s attorney’s office begun under his predecessor, Bernard Carey, while increasing prosecutions. But politics appear to have played a major role in his office’s handling of elections cases, and his prosecutors have too often used peremptory challenges to disproportionately exclude blacks from juries.
Daley has also done much–some of it questionable–to contribute to overcrowding at Cook County jail. And he has done too little to solve the problem, which has resulted in thousands of persons accused of crimes, who otherwise would have been detained pending trial, being released to the streets, where many of them have been rearrested after allegedly committing additional crimes.
In an effort to woo Harold Washington’s progressive constituency, Daley also professes to be a veritable Ralph Nader on consumer issues. His record on consumer issues is in many ways positive. Yet as state’s attorney he supported a Commonwealth Edison rate increase so large and so illegal that it became the first Com Ed rate hike in history to be turned down flat by the Illinois Commerce Commission.
In short, while Daley’s record is not without its bright spots, there is a wide gap between his past performance and his present pretensions as reformer, leader, unifier, manager, and progressive all rolled into one. Reform and progressive positions may be popular with swing voters on the lakefront in this election. But will Daley stick with them if he is elected and faces politically tough decisions?
Will he be tough on the state’s most powerful corporation when the city’s franchise with Com Ed comes up for renewal–or will he merely appear tough? Will he be willing to ruffle feathers in the city’s most self-serving private club–the City Council–with ethics and accountability reforms? Will he lay the demanding legal foundation required to preserve the city’s affirmative action programs in the wake of recent Supreme Court decisions? Or will he use Reagan justice as an excuse to backslide on racial fairness?
Daley kindly agreed to be interviewed for this article. He responded to every question, including many posed after the expiration of our allotted time. His answers are given below as the appropriate topics arise.
When asked what he regards as his most important accomplishments, he answered that he had run the state’s attorney’s office in a very professional, nonpolitical manner, seeking accountability, reaching out to the communities through citizens’ councils, and working with advocacy groups on such issues as drugs, gangs, and violent crime. He also cited his strong leadership in Springfield, where he believes he’s one of the most effective lobbyists–just ask judges and defense counsel, he concluded.
One unfortunate theme ran through many of his other answers. Name a tough issue requiring political courage–Jane Byrne’s 1981 ward remap, Council Wars, or getting City Council to vote on ethics reforms before the election–and Daley’s stock answer was, “I don’t get into that.” It’s not an appropriate issue for the state’s attorney, or even for him as a mayoral candidate, he would explain. What will he do on the hard questions if he is elected mayor and must grapple with them head on?
One can always hope, of course, for a new, more enlightened Rich Daley. But judging by his record, the harder the questions, the less encouraging the answers.
Sometimes even modest political stakes suffice to make Rich Daley retreat from progressive stands. Recently advocates of affordable housing for Chicago’s poor and homeless, after painstaking review of the city’s budget, came up with enough savings in other areas (such as lopping off executive pay raises of more than 4 percent) to fund a desperately needed $15 million low-income housing program.
After unsuccessfully soliciting support from acting mayor Sawyer, they went to the Daley campaign in December and met with Julie Hamos, one of the well-regarded top aides whose name is often invoked by Daley defenders. Their plan sounded good, she told them. In a follow-up phone call, according to Larry Pusateri of the Statewide Housing Action Coalition, Hamos left the impression that someone had talked to someone, and that prospects for support from Daley allies in City Council were encouraging.
Hamos says she didn’t hold out any promise. If she’d been in town a few more days, maybe she could have persuaded Rich to get involved, even though he doesn’t ordinarily get into lobbying City Council. But she was leaving town on vacation the day after she met with the housing activists. She didn’t even get to talk to Rich. She talked to someone on staff–she can’t remember who–and hoped for the best.
In our interview Daley said he didn’t recall hearing anything about it, although he could check his notes.
Shortly before Christmas the measure, by now watered down to less than $10 million, came up for a Council vote on a motion to table. Since this was the final meeting on the 1989 budget, a vote to table the proposal effectively meant a vote to kill it. Tim Evans and his supporters voted against tabling. Aldermen Patrick Huels of the 11th Ward, Mark Fary of the 12th, Michael Sheahan of the 19th, and William Krystyniak of the 23rd–Daley supporters all–voted to table. Four other Daley supporters–Robert Kellam of the 18th, Terry Gabinski of the 32nd, Patrick O’Connor of the 40th, and Bernard Hansen of the 44th–all “took a walk” from the vote, even though at least Gabinski and Hansen had previously expressed support for the program.
The motion to table passed by a vote of 21-18. If Tim Evans’s supporters were supplying most of the votes in favor of the affordable housing program, that alone was reason enough for Daley partisans to kill it. If homeless people were the victims, well, that’s politics.
Most interesting was the vote–or, more precisely, the votes–of Daley’s own alderman, Patrick Huels of the 11th Ward. Huels is as close to a wholly owned subsidiary of Rich Daley as a political hack can be. A patronage worker for the City Council Committee on Environmental Control under Mayor Daley, Huels was chosen alderman with the blessing of Rich Daley, then the ward committeeman, when the elder Daley died and 11th Ward Alderman Michael Bilandic ascended to the mayoralty. Huels has continued as alderman ever since, first by the grace of Rich Daley, and later under Rich’s brother John Daley, who became committeeman when Rich was elected state’s attorney in 1980.
Understandably Huels has never broken ranks with Daley, who garnered 78 percent of the 11th Ward vote in 1983 against the combined candidacies of Jane Byrne and Harold Washington. In our interview Daley said that his policy for the last eight years has been not to get involved in City Council matters, and that the only time he has spoken to Huels in the current campaign was at the recent ceremonial opening of the Richard J. Daley branch library in Bridgeport. Nonetheless, for Huels to vote out of step with Daley on a highly publicized issue in the midst of a mayoral campaign would be most unlikely.
Initially, when his name was the 11th called (City Council roll-call votes are called in order by ward, from the 1st to the 50th), Huels voted to table the affordable housing program. However, once all the names were called, it became clear that the program was defeated and that Evans would be denied a political victory. Huels then switched his vote. Now that it was too late, he supported housing for the poor.
After all, Huels wouldn’t want to play into the hands of Daley’s progressive political opposition. There would be no recorded vote by Daley’s alderman to support any claim that Rich is uncaring for the homeless.
Rich Daley grew up at 36th and Lowe in Bridgeport. At the time of his birth in 1942, the 11th Ward’s tight-knit Irish community, led by Mayor Ed Kelly and party chief Patrick Nash, had already controlled City Hall and the Cook County Democratic Party for a decade.
When Rich was still in grammar school, his father became chairman of the county party. Two years later, Richard J. Daley began his 21 year reign as mayor.
As young Daley came of age, he graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island, DePaul law school, and on-the-job training as an assistant precinct captain in the 11th Ward organization. After failing the bar exam twice, he made it on the third try, just in time to become an assistant corporation counsel in his father’s company–City Hall.
In 1969, at age 27, he made his first run for public office, campaigning for delegate to the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention. He got the highest vote total of any candidate in the entire state.
Three years after his Con Con race, and after opening a private law practice that thrived on city business and court-awarded trusteeships, Daley won handily in his first race for the state Senate.
Years later in the Senate, Harold Washington, who reportedly disliked Daley not only politically but personally, got angry during a debate on expanding the tax base of the Chicago Park District. Referring to “certain spoon-fed senators,” Washington declared that “those of you who didn’t even have to work to get here, just walked in or looked across a dinner table and said Daddy I want to be a senator, had better think twice before they start criticizing someone who had to fight like hell for everything he got. If the shoe fits wear it, I didn’t mention you or even allude to you.”
Daley’s subsequent political career, as a senator from 1973 to 1980 and as state’s attorney since then, falls roughly into three phases: his four years as a machine muscle man until his father died in December 1976; his decade as a convert to “reform,” beginning in 1977 and lasting until Harold Washington’s death in late 1987; and, most recently, his graduation to “progressive” now that Washington has made the term respectable.
Prince Richard: 1973-76. As long as his father lived, Rich Daley knew enemies from friends and wrong from right. Enemies were the independents and wrong was anything they supported. No matter how meritorious, bills from legislators like Senator Dawn Netsch were destined to serve as wastebasket liners in the Springfield office where the crown prince served as chairman of the Senate judiciary committee.
Senator Netsch, who chaired Daley’s 1983 mayoral campaign but has yet to announce her endorsement in the current race, recalls that there “is a lot of truth to the notion that any bill with my name on it was automatically consigned to oblivion. There was a lot of bitterness. They were pretty brutal.”
Daley was known not only for killing anything that smacked of reform, but also for his manners as political executioner. When his father died in December 1976, Mike Royko wrote, “Young Richard isn’t much of a charmer. He is considered something of a bully and doesn’t make much effort to hide his arrogance.”
Even after the next legislative session, in which Rich had already begun to go soft on reform, he. still made Chicago magazine’s informal list of the state’s ten worst legislators. (Harold Washington and Dawn Netsch were among the ten best.) Daley made the list “for arrogance, for sharklike qualities, for living off his father’s name, and for pulling puppet strings attached to some of the worst members of the Senate.” He was considered “too shrewd to be one of the worst, but he controls so many of the worst senators that he belongs on the list to represent all of them.”
Rich the Reformer: 1977-87. Immediately following his father’s death, Rich Daley was forced to learn a new political concept: compromise with the enemy.
His first major Springfield battle as his own man took place in January and February of 1977. The occasion was a behind-the-scenes tussle among the regular Democrats over who would become the new Senate president–Philip Rock or the man Daley preferred, Thomas Hynes. The regulars nominated Hynes. But for five weeks the Senate was stalemated; a coalition of four blacks and nine independents refused to vote for Hynes. The Senate went through a record 185 ballots without agreeing on a new president.
Finally, on the 186th ballot, Hynes was elected, but only after a number of concessions with the dissidents. Among others, Rich Daley agreed to split his powerful judiciary committee into two, with the chairmanship of the newly created committee going to none other than Dawn Netsch. (Netsch, who had not been consulted, took the post only under protest.)
Daley and Netsch’s first legislative alliance came on Netsch’s bill to allow generic drug substitution. “I went to him and said there’s no reason you can’t support this,” says Netsch. “I won’t embarrass you if you and your troops support it.”
Daley supported it; it passed.
That breakthrough, however, was nothing compared to the news that rocked Chicago in September 1977. Netsch held her annual fund-raiser in the 43rd Ward, a softball game between the “Dawn Patrol” and the “Pols.” The likes of Bill Singer, Dick Simpson, Marty Oberman, and Don Rose were in attendance. No news there. Then softball history was made: Rich Daley showed up.
“It was an easy thing to do, to be nice, so he did it,” explained a Daley “legislative associate” to the Tribune.
Whether the reformers fared as well in the new alliance was debatable: Dr. Quentin Young tripped over first base and hurt a rib, and the Pols won, 10-3.
In his last years in the Senate, 1978 through 1980, the new Rich Daley began to side more and more with the Dawn Patrol, leading or supporting fights for a number of measures for which he is still justly given credit: mental health reforms, nursing home reform, and the repeal of the sales tax on food and medicine.
Still, without denigrating Daley’s legitimate claims of achievements on these bills, two points are worth noting. First, like his trip across town to the 43rd Ward softball game, most of these positions were relatively easy, politically speaking. State bureaucrats who run mental institutions and corrupt nursing home operators do not constitute powerful lobbies, especially weighed against the lakefront votes to be gained by standing up for the aged and infirm. And one could hardly imagine a less popular tax than the sales tax on food and medicine.
Second, by 1979 a new enemy had appeared on the scene, one whose presence stimulated Daley to strengthen his ties to the independents. The 11th Ward’s caretaker mayor, Michael Bilandic, who was supposed to hold the seat until Rich Daley was ready, had blown his assignment. Only weeks before the February 1979 mayoral election, Bilandic had been caught sunning himself in Florida, at the very time Chicago voters found themselves buried by a blizzard. Jane Byrne was now mayor.
Not only had Byrne beaten the Daley machine, in part by posing as a “reformer,” but promptly after assuming office she had allied herself with a political rival–Ed Vrdolyak–whom Daley’s friends say he despises (despite their subsequent marriage of convenience). Beginning that summer, 11th Ward deputy assistant commissioners at City Hall began to find themselves out on the street, thanks to Byrne’s “economy” moves.
Meanwhile a battle over the sales tax on food and medicine was brewing in the state legislature. Governor Thompson wanted to keep a one cent tax; Jane Byrne supported him because she wanted the revenue for the city. A citizens’ coalition lobbied for repeal of the tax.
In this convenient setting, Daley, smarting from the rough treatment the 11th Ward was getting at City Hall, took over political leadership of the fight against the tax. By this single move he could cement his ties to lakefront reformers, cut the new mayor down to size, and also do the right thing.
Which of these considerations was uppermost in his mind one can only speculate. But as Daley’s father used to say, “Good government is good politics.” Daley won; Byrne, Thompson, and the sales tax were defeated.
The problem with Mayor Daley’s maxim is that it is true only sometimes. Based on Rich Daley’s ten-year record as a convert to reform, it is probably safe to expect that when good government is also good politics, Rich will do the right thing, But what will he do when good government is not good politics?
In November 1979 Daley announced his campaign to unseat Republican Bernard Carey as Cook County state’s attorney. Byrne slated 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke to fend off Daley in the primary. But then as now, Daley’s strength lay in his remarkable ability to be perceived differently by opposing constituencies. On the one hand, he soothed many white ethnics and machine pols who longed for a return of the good old days under his father. At the same time, he managed to assure many reformers that he would usher in a new dawn.
On the day he announced his candidacy, Daley had in his pocket endorsements from such machine stalwarts as his good friend (and by then county assessor) Tom Hynes, as well as aldermen Vito Marzullo, Roman Pucinski, Frank Stemberk, and William Lipinski. Soon thereafter he announced endorsements by many of Chicago’s leading independents, including Dawn Netsch, state senator Richard Newhouse, state representative Woods Bowman, two former state chairmen of the IVI-IPO (Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization), and John R. Schmidt, former president of the reformist Chicago Council of Lawyers and publisher of Chicago Lawyer.
Good government was again good politics; Daley crushed Byrne’s man Burke in the primary, and went on to defeat Carey in the November 1980 general election.
Daley’s battle with Byrne not only made it politically essential for him to ally with reformers, it may also have taught him a lesson about abuse of power. For the first time in his life Daley found himself an outsider at City Hall.
As late as April 1979, in an informal talk at the University of Chicago, he had reportedly opined, “One of the real problems of government is the decline of patronage.”
Then came Jane Byrne’s massacre of 11th Ward patronage workers at City Hall. At first Daley refrained from directly attacking Byrne’s political firings. But by January 1980 the carnage became so great that he had no choice. “This ruthless use of coercive power,” he charged, “is simply a program of intimidation designed to discourage my supporters.”
Royko and the editorial writers had a field day. By what rules had the 11th Ward machine always lived? Now that Daley and company were out of power for the first time in half a century, were patronage hiring and firing no longer nice?
The Tribune wondered aloud, “How far will the 11th Ward carry its campaign for civic purity?” Suggesting that Daley embrace the Shakman ruling against political firings, the paper sneered, “Stranger things have happened, though we can’t at the moment think of any.”
But the strange thing did happen. Shortly before leaving office, Bernie Carey had agreed to sign a second Shakman decree. The original decree, signed by Carey in 1973, banned political firing; the new decree would ban political hiring as well. Soon after taking office, Daley became the first county official to sign the new decree. During the campaign–in which he had also come out in favor of merit selection of judges, a machine curse–he had pledged, “This office will be professional. I will not take a letter from any ward committeeman.”
According to John Schmidt, who has served since 1980 on Daley’s professional advisory committee, Daley has kept that pledge. Daley did have to settle a lawsuit brought by five former Carey employees whom he had fired (including Carey’s brother-in-law); they had held policy-making positions exempted from Shakman restraints, but they contended that they had first been demoted to nonexempt positions, and then fired, so that the decree was violated. Daley has also hired some politicians not known for their professional skills, like former alderman and now state representative Miguel Santiago. However, the Shakman decree does not mandate that public officials hire only persons of consummate professional skill; it merely prohibits political hiring and firing of non-policy-making employees. And Daley has apparently never been found in violation of the Shakman decree.
On the other hand, it is one thing for Daley to get reform religion himself, and quite another for him to fight to ensure that the system is reformed, especially when powerful political friends have yet to see the light. A number of Cook County pols have never reconciled themselves to the second Shakman decree banning political hiring. Among them are County Assessor Tom Hynes–perhaps Daley’s closest ally–and Cook County Board President George Dunne, also a Daley friend. Even after signing the decree on behalf of his own office, Daley and his lawyers have continued to represent Hynes, Dunne, County Clerk Stanley Kusper, the county forest preserve district, and the county Democratic Party central committee (and even Ed Vrdolyak, while he remained party chairman) in legal efforts to undo the hiring decree. In 1987 Daley’s lawyers succeeded in persuading the federal court of appeals to overturn the hiring decree with respect to these defendants. A three-judge panel, consisting entirely of Reagan judicial appointees, ruled that the plaintiffs–who included independent candidates, voters, and taxpayers, but not frustrated job applicants–lacked standing to challenge the defendants’ hiring practices.
Since then county treasurer and Daley friend Edward Rosewell, whose office consented to the hiring decree in 1984, has asked to be relieved of his obligation to refrain from political hiring. Daley’s office, through Assistant State’s Attorney Iris Sholder, currently represents Rosewell in this further effort to roll back reform.
In our interview Daley explained, “We have a legal responsibility to represent all county officials through our civil division. I didn’t discuss it with George Dunne. He’s taken his own position.” And the same for Rosewell: “That’s up to him.”
Defending Daley’s representation of other county officials who want out from Shakman, John Schmidt agrees, “What [Daley and his assistants] do on behalf of Dunne they have to do; they’re his lawyer.” Schmidt points out that Daley supports a ban on political hiring “in principle” and has not asked for his own office to be excused from the decree.
Daley and Schmidt have a point, but it is overstated. If Daley wanted to assert a principled disagreement with his clients and friends Dunne, Rosewell, and Hynes, he would be free to do so. He would simply have to arrange for outside counsel to represent them. He could even go so far as to file a friend-of-the-court brief opposing their position.
While these options are legally possible, however, they are not politically plausible. Daley’s record is not one of picking fights with his friends merely because they might be less zealous reformers than he professes to be. To paraphrase the Tribune, stranger things have happened, but I can’t at the moment think of any.
And it so happens that Daley has a lot of friends, many of whom are less enthusiastic than he says he is about reform. If Daley becomes mayor, what will happen to the system?
Defending the public purse and payroll from poachers is no easy task. In recent years it took a popular and politically powerful Harold Washington, a man of long-standing and deep-seated commitment to honest and progressive government, to protect reform from its enemies, and to expand it. No sooner did Washington die than people like 24th Ward Alderman Bill Henry came out of the closet and pounced on a weaker, less committed mayor. Mike Royko’s motto of Chicago politics–Ubi est mea?: Where’s mine?–has been brought back to life.
Daley, unlike Sawyer, will not even have the full advantage of Washington’s momentum if he is elected. On the contrary, the poachers have now had 14 months to whet their appetites. Daley will face even greater pressure than did Sawyer to retreat on reform. Does he have the commitment to fight aggressively and continuously for reform, alienating powerful friends in the process?
Reform, after all, is not softball.
In our interview Daley said that if he is elected he will make no effort to have the city pull out of the Shakman ban on political hiring. That makes sense; Daley has personally seen patronage from both sides, and for him to initiate such a move would deeply offend many of his lakefront supporters.
But what if the attack is launched by someone else? Suppose, for example, that new Daley appointees to the Chicago Park District are sued for violating the Shakman decree by engaging in patronage hiring, and they defend by challenging the decree based on the ruling in the Hynes and Dunne case. Suppose further, as is likely, that these new appointees are sponsored by important Daley allies. How aggressive is Daley likely to be in opposing them? As aggressive as he was in resisting Hynes and Dunne? And as he is right now in representing Rosewell?
In our interview Daley responded that he didn’t want to get into “hypotheticals.” But, he added, “I will appoint high-caliber people who are not involved in political activity, and who will judge employees on their merits.”
Once he took over as state’s attorney in 1980, Daley ran the office in the manner of a reformer. His transition team was headed by John Schmidt, a private attorney highly regarded for integrity, professional ability, and genuine dedication to reform. Daley set up a blue-ribbon professional advisory committee of outside attorneys and law professors, which in the early years met often and advised Daley on his initial appointments, in-house training projects, and hiring practices, including affirmative action.
Daley retained most of Carey’s professional prosecutors, including the first deputy, William Kunkle, who was reportedly surprised to find himself retained, because he had served as Carey’s stand-in for speaking engagements during the campaign. Daley set up a Public Interest Bureau, which consolidated the activities of the office relating to consumer, fraud, elections, public utilities, the environment, criminal housing, nursing homes, mental health, paternity, and child-support enforcement. To head the bureau he recruited Glenn Carr, a black attorney with impressive credentials as former director of a national legal-services internship program, and who taught at predominantly black Howard University law school in Washington, D.C., for seven years. Supervising more than 60 lawyers, Carr was the highest-ranking black in the history of the office.
Spurred by Ron Kennedy, a black Northwestern University law professor and former president of the Chicago Council of Lawyers who served on Daley’s professional advisory committee, and with the assistance of Carr, Daley set about what his office characterizes as an “aggressive” effort to recruit minority and women lawyers. Daley recruited John Marshall law school professor Jane Casey to serve as head of the civil division, thus making her the highest ranking woman in the history of the office.
Indictments and prosecutions were stepped up; the staff was expanded; various specialized units were created. The consumer protection unit, which previously had served largely as a bill collection agency for merchants, actually began to prosecute consumer fraud. Community task forces were set up on law enforcement issues relating to seniors, women, drugs, gangs, juveniles, victims’ rights, real estate, criminal housing, child support, the environment, and community issues generally.
Not that Daley’s office was entirely professional, effective, or fair. Serious issues arose in the handling of criminal jury trials, elections, and utility cases. The office’s practice of clogging the system with large numbers of minor drug cases, many of which were ultimately dismissed, and which contributed to overcrowding of Cook County Jail, has been sharply criticized. (More on all of this later.)
In addition, Daley ran the office in an extremely publicity-conscious manner. Some prosecutors complained that they had to spend too much time compiling statistics on their accomplishments; every good case and every good deed became the occasion for a press release extolling Daley’s record.
Nonetheless Daley could legitimately claim that in his overall conduct of the office, he was making a serious effort to live up to his campaign pledge to run it in a professional manner. He could also lay legitimate claim to a number of good government reforms and to affirmative action efforts to recruit minority and women lawyers.
On the other hand, one might also observe that all of these steps were not only good government, but good politics as well. They were not likely to create any political enemies, and were clearly likely to engender goodwill in the public at large, and especially along the lakefront. How would Daley perform when the political stakes were higher?
One early test came during his first year in office. Now that the 1980 census results were in, the time for a new ward map had come. Mayor Byrne entrusted drafting responsibility to her planning commissioner Martin Murphy and Tom Keane, former alderman and floor leader for Mayor Daley. (By virtue of a federal conviction on corruption charges, Keane had left office abruptly in 1974, and had subsequently served a federal prison term.)
Even though blacks had now become the majority in two additional wards under the old map, Martin and Keane managed to devise a new map that held the number of black wards to 18, only one more than in 1970. And by the time the City Council finished marking up the map, black wards were back down to 17.
In addition, the final map fractured the Hispanic communities on the near northwest and southwest sides into pieces of ten wards. Even though Hispanics were now a substantial minority (14 percent according to the 1980 census) of the city’s population, it would be very difficult for them to elect even one alderman under the map.
The remap was thus blatantly racially discriminatory, and was later tossed out for that reason by the federal courts. But five years would pass before elections under a new court-ordered remap would take place.
If Daley was as genuinely committed to racial fairness as his state’s attorney press releases would imply, the remap offered an excellent opportunity to show his stuff. It was simply indefensible.
Of course, the political costs of opposing the map would have been high. It was designed precisely to maximize the political strength of Daley’s white ethnic base, and to protect many of his machine pol friends.
The map came up for a vote in City Council in November 1981. If Daley supported it, 11th Ward Alderman Patrick Huels was sure to vote for it; if not, Huels would vote against. On November 30, by a vote of 29-7, the remap passed. Huels voted for it.
(So did then-alderman Eugene Sawyer; aldermen Tim Evans and Larry Bloom both voted against it.)
In our interview Daley simply said that as state’s attorney he “didn’t get involved” in the remap.
Lawsuits challenging the map on grounds of racial discrimination were then filed by blacks, Latinos, and dissident aldermen. If Daley had somehow failed to notice or appreciate the racially discriminatory nature of the map, he now had a second chance to do the right thing. Not surprisingly, he never lifted a finger in support of the lawsuits.
When a new and lawful map was finally approved by the courts in 1985, creating four Hispanic wards and three new black wards, Daley had yet a third chance. The plaintiffs asked the court to order a special election under the new map to take place in early 1986. Even Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department supported the request; the League of Women Voters and the Better Government Association came in as friends of the court to support it. Daley again sat on his hands. The court then ordered the special election, which led to Harold Washington’s finally gaining control of City Council.
Does all this make Daley a racist? Not necessarily. It may be that he has good intentions on racial issues. But whatever good intentions he might have had, time and again, when they conflicted with powerful political considerations, politics won.
By 1982, about midway through his first term as state’s attorney, Daley felt ready to take back City Hall for the 11th Ward in the 1983 mayoral election. He had maintained both his white ethnic base on the southwest side and his ties to lakefront reformers. Notwithstanding his support of the racist remap, he thought he could run well against Byrne among blacks and Latinos; the map, after all, was her map. He announced his candidacy for mayor.
What he hadn’t counted on–what almost no one in Chicago had foreseen–was that the world of Chicago politics had changed. For the first time in the city’s history, an alliance of nearly all Chicago’s black voters, most of its Latinos, and a minority of white progressives had united behind a single strong candidate and built up enough electoral strength to win a close three-way race for mayor. Neither Daley, Byrne, nor the city’s major media had taken Harold Washington seriously. But by the spring of 1983, Washington was mayor of Chicago.
Immediately the City Council split along racial and political lines–21 aldermen with Washington, mainly blacks and white independents, and 29 mostly white ethnic aldermen in a coalition organized by Ed Vrdolyak. Council Wars had begun.
In this situation, if Daley were deeply committed to reform and racial fairness, he had both an obligation and an opportunity to exercise leadership. In May 1983 the Wall Street journal reported that Daley “may be the one person with enough friends among the city’s 50 aldermen, Chicago politicos say, to mediate the unseemly wrestling match. . . . Daley has much to give and gain in playing mediator. His friendship and influence with aldermen could facilitate a compromise, and there isn’t any love lost between him and Mr. Vrdolyak, who . . . backed former Mayor Jane Byrne in this year’s primary.”
When the Journal asked Daley for comment, the best it could get was the following statement from a Daley aide: “It isn’t the responsibility of the state’s attorney to mediate a city council dispute.”
If the Journal thought it would have been easy for Daley to put the City Council back together again, the Journal should have stuck to reporting on the stock market. Despite his very strong ties to several white aldermen (such as Tom Hynes’s alderman, Michael Sheahan of the 19th Ward; Bill Lipinski’s alderman, William Krystyniak from the 23rd; and his cousin John Daley’s alderman, Robert Kellam from the 18th, in addition to his own alderman, Huels), and his good relations with several others, Daley would have encountered a formidable task in any effort to mediate. Both sides in City Council were well dug in, and many white ethnic voters at that time regarded Daley as a “spoiler” who, by running against Byrne, had made Washington’s election possible. The political risks for both Daley and his allies would have been considerable, and success was far from guaranteed.
Nonetheless the Journal was probably correct that if there was one politician in town who stood a chance of succeeding, it was Daley. Had he been deeply committed to bridging the racial gap and enabling the city’s government to move forward, he might have been able to pull it off. George Dunne had already lined up with Washington. Daley did not necessarily have to go that far. All he needed was a bloc of four aldermen willing to constitute themselves as a swing vote, not always lining up with one side or the other, and the Council Wars impasse might have been broken.
For starters, he could have prevailed upon his own Huels (who in fact voted unfailingly with Vrdolyak). Two lakefront aldermen facing stiff challenges from independents–Bernie Hansen in the 44th and Jerome Orbach in the 46th–probably had more to gain than to lose by distancing themselves from Vrdolyak. All Daley needed was one more from among his close Council allies.
But Daley maintained a hands-off posture. In our interview he would say only that when Washington was first elected, they had a discussion in which Daley explained that he wouldn’t use his office as county prosecutor to get involved in matters before the Council. Daley contends that Washington “appreciated my position.”
Washington, the man who had once disparaged Daley as “spoon-fed,” and who had beaten him in the election, did reach out to Daley. In the summer of 1983, Washington stated publicly that he would be willing to cochair a Daley fund-raiser.
By November, however, the event had not yet taken place, and by then it was too late. On a radio talk show Washington stated, “I must confess that I am somewhat disturbed . . . that I have received no assistance whatsoever from Richard Daley, who I had assumed was not totally enchanted with Mr. Vrdolyak.” A few days later Washington complained that Daley “hasn’t said a word but ‘You all make peace.’ We don’t need that.”
Even so, Washington held off before finally endorsing Daley’s opponent in the primary race for state’s attorney, Fifth Ward Alderman Larry Bloom. And when Daley won the primary, Washington supported him in the fall 1984 general election.
Still, Daley sat out Council Wars, while his alderman Huels continued to vote with Vrdolyak on every dispute between the two factions. Racial polarization continued, reform was delayed, and appointments to important boards and commissions continued to be held hostage. Not until the court-ordered special election under the new ward map, in the spring of 1986, would the city’s mayor be able to muster a City Council majority on many critical issues facing the city.
Throughout this three-year period, Daley had the opportunity to demonstrate that he is the strong leader he says the city needs. He also had a chance to enable City Hall to represent all the people, not half the people, as he now says it should. Opportunity knocked, but Daley did not answer.
Daley the Progressive: 1988-? In the last year or so a new word has crept into Rich Daley’s political lexicon. Amid the contest to win support from various strands of the progressive movement that Harold Washington led, Daley has discovered that he, too, is a “progressive.”
What political content Daley ascribes to the word is unclear. What is clear is that he knows that many Washington supporters believe it applies to them, and that he is competing with Sawyer, Bloom, and Evans for their votes.
It is a tribute to the success of the Washington movement that Daley recognizes that aligning himself with “reformers” and “independents” is no longer enough to capture the swing vote on the lakefront. In fact, many of the “independents,” including Dawn Netsch, sided with Daley against Washington in 1983, and Daley still lost.
Washington won with the support of a progressive coalition that included the minority of self-described white progressives along the lakefront. While there exists no single or precise definition of their views, in general they stand not only for more open government, but also for full participation by minorities previously shut out or put down. Among others, these minorities include African Americans, Latinos, women, gays and lesbians, and the disabled. Progressives also stand for economic justice for the homeless, the unemployed, the underpaid, and the hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans living in poverty.
Like the other candidates, Daley has identified progressives as one of the potential swing constituencies that must be courted in a close election. If he can’t win many of them over, maybe he can at least lower their intensity. If enough of them shrug their shoulders and say, “Oh well, Daley probably won’t be that bad,” they will be less likely to go out and work hard for Bloom in the primary or Evans in the general election. (Few white progressives profess enthusiasm for either Daley or Sawyer.)
Daley’s newfound affinity for progressives is consistent with the guiding philosophy of his politics ever since his father’s death. Chicago has become a diverse and complicated city; the blacks have abandoned the machine, and overwhelming votes from white ethnic wards are not enough to win. Daley has repeatedly reached out–first to reformers and more recently to Latinos, progressives, and gays and lesbians. His rule of thumb has been simple: if it’s easy, do it.
On many important issues, however, it’s not that easy. We turn now to a closer look at Daley’s reform record on ethics and vote fraud; his leadership record on schools and jails; and his record on consumer protection, gay and lesbian rights, racial discrimination, and affirmative action.
Ethics and Open Government
The Greylord investigation of corruption among Cook County judges was begun by the U.S. attorney’s office while Bernard Carey was still Cook County state’s attorney. The feds had confided in Carey. When Daley was elected state’s attorney, according to former federal prosecutor Scott Lassar, the feds were worried. Daley had close ties to many Cook County judges. Could they trust him not to tip off the targets?
They decided they had little choice but to inform Daley. According to Lassar, Daley told no one–not even the one judge he had selected to swear him in as state’s attorney, Judge Richard F. LeFevour, who kept a photo of Rich on the wall in his chambers. (The day after LeFevour was indicted, the photo came down.)
Daley is not bashful about his discretion in Greylord; former U.S. attorney Tom Sullivan has appeared in TV commercials attesting to Daley’s integrity in that context.
Daley deserves credit for rectitude in that important matter (though if he had blown the investigation, he might well have faced questioning for possible obstruction of justice). And, according to Daley, his conduct in Greylord was no aberration. In a recent speech on ethics, he asserted, “I have maintained the highest standards throughout my public career.”
That depends on what one means by “highest standards.” During Daley’s eight years as a state senator, for example, he maintained his private law practice, and over that period his law firm was paid $50,000 per year plus expenses, or a total of more than $400,000 in fees, by the operator of the Arlington Park and Washington Park racetracks. According to a Sun-Times investigation, while Daley’s firm was receiving those fees, ten racing-related bills reached the Senate floor from 1975 through 1979, and Daley “consistently sided with racing interests or sidestepped any recorded vote.”
Daley’s response to that investigation denied any conflict of interest or wrongdoing. He contended that the legal work had been handled not by him personally, but by one of his law partners. However, he did not challenge the facts reported by the Sun-Times, and admitted that he had shared in the fees.
At a minimum, Daley’s acceptance of fees from a client with an interest in legislation on which he was voting in the client’s favor suggests insensitivity to ethical considerations. Whether more such insensitivities might have occurred, we have no way of knowing. During the 1980 campaign, Bernard Carey told the Sun-Times, “For the last two months, I’ve been trying to get Daley to disclose his law firm’s clients. I call on him, once again: Let’s come clean, Mr. Daley. Tell us the names of all your clients, and let’s find out if there are any other possible conflicts of interest.”
Daley never accepted the invitation.
In his recent speech on ethics, Daley claimed, “I believe strongly in holding public officials to high ethical standards. . . . We need stronger ethics in city government, and the example should come from the top.”
But the example of stronger ethics in city government has yet to come from Daley.
In March of 1984, Mayor Washington appointed a 14-member Committee on Ethics to develop city ethics laws. It included five aldermen: Washington supporters Tim Evans of the 4th Ward, Martin Oberman of the 43rd, and David Orr of the 49th; rookie alderman Joseph Kotlarz of the 35th; and close Daley ally William Krystyniak of the 23rd. (Krystyniak had been aldermanic secretary to former 23rd Ward alderman William Lipinski, until Lipinski ran for Congress in 1982 and, backed by Daley, beat an opponent supported by Mayor Byrne.)
Krystyniak showed his enthusiasm for ethics by attending not one meeting of the mayor’s committee. The Reverend Don Benedict, who served as chair of the committee, reports, “I called Krystyniak several times. I couldn’t get him to return even a single call.”
There is, of course, no reason to believe that Daley is responsible for Krystyniak’s lack of interest in the ethics committee. But Krystyniak’s appointment to the committee and his nonparticipation were publicly known at the time. If Daley were as committed to ethics in city government then as he says he is now, he would have had an easier time than Don Benedict in getting Krystyniak to return phone calls.
In January 1985, the mayor’s committee proposals were introduced as ordinances in City Council. There they languished for two years, with no public statements or other help from Daley.
Not until the eve of the 1987 mayoral and aldermanic elections was Washington finally able to persuade the City Council to enact a strong ethics ordinance–by a suddenly enlightened vote of 49-0.
Once the election was safely past, several efforts were made by aldermen to defer compliance. “What they really wanted to do,” according to Alderman David Orr, one of the Council’s leading advocates of tough ethics laws, “was to kill it, but most of them didn’t want to say that publicly.” Alderman Huels and other Daley allies favored deferral, but when the motion to defer came before the Council, Orr demanded a roll-call vote that would force each alderman to go on record. The motion fell three votes short of the required three-fourths majority. (As punishment for Orr, the Council then proceeded to stall his building security ordinance, which had been passed in committee and would otherwise have passed the Council that day.)
Last year Orr proposed a further measure that would require aldermen to disclose how they spend their $18,000 expense accounts. Orr wrote soon-to-be mayoral candidate Rich Daley asking for support. Daley did nothing. On November 30, 1988, the disclosure ordinance came up for a vote in City Council. Alderman Huels and a phalanx of other Daley backers–Fary, Kellam, Krystyniak, Gabinski, Kotlarz, and O’Connor among them–all voted against disclosure. Instead they supported a watered-down proposal that would merely require themselves to spend the money properly–but privately.
“For real reformers,” comments Orr, still disappointed by Daley’s lack of support, “deeds count. It shows what kind of leaders they are when they only pay lip service to ethics.
“When Daley decided to help on the Human Rights Ordinance,” Orr continues, “he showed he can line up votes. If he’s afraid to move on ethics now, while he’s in a superior political position, what’s he going to do later, if he wins the election?”
By early February 1989–once again on election eve–some Daley supporters showed signs of getting religion again. Disclosure ordinances have been reintroduced in City Council by both pro-Daley and pro-Sawyer aldermen, and Daley supporter Richard Mell, alderman of the 33rd Ward, predicts they will be brought to the Council floor shortly before the primary.
(In addition to the impending election, there is reason to believe that some aldermen supporting these measures are concerned about possible lawsuits. Nine randomly selected aldermen, including Mell, have received Freedom of Information Act requests for their books from the Chicago Metro Ethics Coalition. If they fail to respond, they could be sued. Mell claims that one of his new ordinances will clarify “ambiguities” in current law–in other words, by requiring only future disclosure, the new ordinance might help aldermen defend in lawsuits challenging their refusals to disclose past expenditures.
(One ordinance, introduced by 50th Ward Alderman Bernard Stone–now a Republican allied with Vrdolyak, not Daley–goes so far as to provide explicitly that “elected officials . . . shall not be personally liable” for misspent funds in any pending or future lawsuit if they can show “good faith.” Stone calls this a “standard of care”; Orr calls it a “standard of protecting aldermen’s you-know-whats.” Pro-Daley aldermen have not yet signed Stone’s ordinance, but reformers will be watching to see how they vote.)
Meanwhile, Republican legislators in Springfield have introduced a bill to require disclosure of aldermanic expense accounts–and all the major mayoral contenders, including Daley, say they support it. Comments Orr, “I’m more interested in disclosing their expenses than their motives. But we should never have stalled so long that the state might have to intervene.”
Even election-eve religious fervor has not yet moved Daley to help the proponents of other key ethics reforms. In early January the City Club of Chicago released a package of ten reforms, authored by former alderman Dick Simpson, designed to make City Council more open, ethical, and accountable. In addition to requiring disclosure of aldermanic expense accounts, the package would among other things require aldermen to disclose the beneficiaries of any zoning amendments they offer.
Currently aldermen are not required to do so; frequently they hide the beneficiaries behind land trusts that conceal the real owners. Since 1971 ten aldermen and former aldermen have been convicted of taking bribes in return for votes on zoning. For the past two years Alderman Danny Davis of the 29th Ward has sponsored an ordinance to require disclosure of beneficiaries, but the ordinance has never even made it to a floor vote.
When the City Club’s package was released, Daley announced that he supported the reforms “in principle.” But when asked to translate that principle into action, Daley has been the City Club’s biggest disappointment among the major mayoral contenders. While Huels has agreed to be one of 18 cosponsors of the reform ordinances–how could Daley explain away a refusal to do so by his own man?–most of Daley’s City Council allies have yet to sign on.
City Club president Thomas Roeser explains, “We do the same thing with every candidate. Every other candidate came out and met with us, discussed our implementing ordinances, and endorsed them. We haven’t even been able to get a meeting with Daley.”
It was not for lack of trying. According to Simpson, “We have met at various times with a variety of Daley staffers. They got a copy of the report a day or two before it was released. Daley heard my speech on the proposals at the City Club.”
Mayoral elections are like church bells: they remind candidates and their aldermanic supporters that it is time to show devotion to virtue. Voting against ethics and accountability might cost votes in a potentially close election–especially among the reform faithful along the lakefront. For this reason the City Club deliberately released its report prior to the mayoral election. At the club meeting in early January, where Daley disclosed his own ethics proposals, Roeser asked him to help bring the club’s reforms to a Council vote before the election. Daley was polite but noncommittal.
Since then, despite repeated editorials urging prompt action on the reforms, Daley has apparently done nothing to bring about a preelection vote on the City Club reform package. When acting mayor Sawyer publicly declared himself in favor of delaying a vote until after the election, Daley had a golden opportunity to prove his reform credentials. But he stood mute.
In our interview, Daley would say only that the timing of the vote is up to the mayor and the City Council.
In late January, pro-Sawyer and pro-Daley aldermen combined to send the City Club reforms to subcommittee for extended “study.” It now appears that there will be no floor vote before the February 28 primary–except, probably, on the partial substitutes recently proposed by Mell and others.
Another of the City Club’s recommendations would reduce from 28 to 9 the number of City Council committees, thereby cutting costs, trimming aldermanic patronage, and streamlining the Council. Alderman (and mayoral contender) Larry Bloom of the Fifth Ward has long pushed his own proposal to reduce the number of committees. Following the publicity generated by the City Club recommendations, Bloom brought his proposal up for a vote in City Council. Most of Daley’s supporters voted (successfully) to table the proposal. But somewhat to Bloom’s surprise, Huels kept asking him when the measure would be called. “I wanted to be sure I voted in support of your proposal,” he explained.
Daley’s own four-point ethics plan–all of which is included within one of the City Club’s ten points–is good as far as it goes; it simply does not go far enough. Under Daley’s plan, employees in a few sensitive city agencies would be barred from political activity and from serving on political fund-raising committees; loopholes in the existing $1,500 limit on political contributions from city contractors would be closed; and solicitation of political contributions would be limited.
All of these measures were recommended in a report issued two years ago by Tom Sullivan. It would have been awkward, one might suppose, for Daley to recruit Sullivan to do TV commercials endorsing Daley’s ethics, without himself endorsing Sullivan’s proposals.
Not only has Daley been less than a leader on the Washington, Orr, Davis, and City Club ethics measures, and on the Bloom proposal to streamline committees, he has also declined to endorse an important reform proposed by rival Tim Evans. In announcing his support of the City Club reforms, Evans went one step further, calling for a state law requiring committeemen to disclose contributions to and expenses of their ward committees. The measure would remove a gaping loophole in present disclosure laws. Aldermen and mayoral candidates are required to disclose their political contributions, but committeemen are not. As a result, “clean” money goes to aldermen, while “dirty” money–any money that might prove embarrassing–goes to ward committees. The practical effect of the contribution is the same; indeed, often the alderman and the ward committeeman are the same person. Only the disclosure obligation differs.
This loophole is probably not unfamiliar to Daley. According to Illinois Common Cause, Daley and two of his close associates were the only three serious candidates for the Illinois Senate in 1976 who managed to avoid filing state election campaign disclosure reports. Either they spent less than $1,000 (like 12 Republicans who made token runs that year in heavily Democratic districts), or–more likely–their campaigns were funded not through their own campaign committees but through other groups, such as ward organizations.
Daley, according to the Tribune, “declined to support the Evans proposal. ‘I think there are more important issues,’ Daley told reporters. ‘We’re talking about education, crime, budgeting. I think these are priorities.'”
So much for the reformer who, in an “ethics speech” delivered only days earlier, had said, “I think the ethics of the candidates for mayor is an important campaign issue.”
And so it is.
On August 22, 1986, the Sun-Times revealed that five people too young to vote, including one eight-year-old, had signed a petition to place a referendum on the November ballot calling for a nonpartisan mayoral election in 1987. At the bottom of the petition, where the circulator is supposed to sign, was the name Keith Lesnick. Law requires the circulator of a petition to swear that the signatures on it were signed in his presence, that they are genuine, and that to the best of his knowledge the signers are qualified voters. For a petition circulator to swear such things falsely is, of course, a crime.
The Sun-Times article was accompanied by a photo of the eight-year-old, Marilyn Villegas. Her name had been signed by her 15-year-old stepsister, Ivette Martinez, who was also pictured. Martinez explained, “I thought I was signing something about jobs.” One of their neighbors, 19-year-old Nilma Velez, told the paper that she had circulated that petition and turned it over to a friend, not Lesnick.
The article accurately described Lesnick as coordinator of the referendum drive and an aide to county party chairman Ed Vrdolyak. Only later would it be disclosed that until January 1, 1986, Lesnick had been an administrative assistant to State’s Attorney Richard Daley.
Two days after the August 22 story, the Sun-Times followed up with an article headlined “Dead woman’s signature, warehouse address on list.” The dead woman was named, and so was the circulator, an employee in the office of Congressman William Lipinski, nominal leader of the drive for a nonpartisan election.
In fact, it was an open secret that the drive was designed to make it easier for Lipinski’s good friend Rich Daley to unseat Harold Washington in the next mayoral election. Under the proposal, if Washington won another three-way race with less than a majority of the total votes, there would be a runoff election. If Daley finished second in the first election, he would get another shot at Washington, one on one.
Washington had called the drive’s sponsors “miserable low-life slugs . . . politicians who have squeezed this city dry, and they want to control it, and I am defying them by standing in the way.”
The director of the Voting Rights Project of the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Frank Parker, had called the plan almost identical to the Mississippi Open Primary Law, which the Justice Department had blocked since 1966 under the Voting Rights Act.
Daley, who had carefully avoided open sponsorship of the referendum drive, had nonetheless defended the exercise of free speech by his friend Lipinski. “It is not a racist move,” he was quoted in the Chicago Defender. “What is wrong with the right of the people to place this question on the ballot?”
In the month after more than 200,000 alleged signatures were filed in support of the referendum, the torrent of damning headlines continued. Photos of petitions bearing identical hand-printed “signatures,” of addresses that were empty lots, and of Lipinski and Lesnick looking defensive greeted readers of the morning papers. Repeated, documented instances of fraud, complete with names and addresses, were detailed by reporters.
The day after the first Sun-Times disclosure, Michael Angarola, Daley’s top aide in the state’s attorney’s office, announced that Daley had disqualified himself from the investigation. Angarola, assisted by Daley’s elections-unit chief Gary Leviton, would personally direct the investigation. Handwriting experts would be called upon, Mayor Washington’s political chief Tim Evans would be asked for all pertinent information, and the public was asked to phone in tips. No stone would be left unturned.
That announcement was made August 23, 1986. As of this writing in early February 1989, no one has been charged with any crime in connection with the petition drive.
It is known that many of the phony signatures came from Daley’s 11th Ward and Lipinski’s 23rd. It has also been alleged, in a court action requesting a special prosecutor, that the petition circulators included some 27 employees or former employees of Daley’s office or their relatives.
Former Daley elections-unit chief Leviton, now in private practice, also reportedly told the Sun-Times that he recommended to Angarola in December 1986 that evidence against five state’s attorney employees or their family members be turned over to Attorney General Neil Hartigan for possible prosecution because of Daley’s conflict of interest. He also reportedly recommended that the state’s attorney’s office prosecute three additional petition circulators against whom strong cases had been developed.
Hartigan’s office says it never received any request from the state’s attorney’s office in the matter. Angarola died in a tragic car crash in October 1987. Since that time, Daley says, the investigation has been headed by his current first assistant, Michael Shabat.
Disputing Leviton’s claim, an anonymous source told the Sun-Times that there was no consensus on his recommendations of December 1986, and that four months was not enough time to bring charges in such a time-consuming investigation.
Perhaps not. Although enough evidence to indict several people was disclosed in the initial news accounts, one could plausibly argue for more time than four months in order to discover the full scope of the fraud. Maybe six months, or even eight months. But more than a year passed before Angarola’s death, and well over a year has now passed since.
When Evans’s supporters renewed their request for a special prosecutor in December 1988 (an earlier request had been turned down in September 1986), Daley at first resisted. Although he knew nothing of the investigation, having disqualified himself, he had complete confidence in his outstanding prosecutors.
As adverse publicity about the long delay mounted, Daley did allow, “I wish it was completed. I wish it was completed six months ago or three months ago or two weeks ago. I am just as upset as anyone else that it isn’t.”
Finally Daley acceded to the request of Evans’s supporters, who had asked the chief judge of the criminal court, Richard Fitzgerald, to appoint a special prosecutor. Fitzgerald appointed former U.S. attorney Dan Webb, who is presently investigating the matter.
Something here is amiss. If Daley, as he says, gave no hint to his assistants that the investigation should be muzzled or dragged out, then why has it taken so long? From a professional perspective, the delay is indefensible.
One possible explanation is that Mike Angarola and Mike Shabat–both professional prosecutors highly regarded for their skill–bungled an important investigation. Not likely.
Alternatively, one or both of them, in an effort to protect the boss, allowed political considerations to affect the pace and vigor–and perhaps the scope and outcome as well–of a criminal investigation. If so, what does that say about the integrity of Daley’s elections prosecutions? Indeed, if two successive top assistants felt free to let politics influence their handling of such an important case, what does that say about the environment at the highest levels in Daley’s office?
When Daley became state’s attorney, the elections unit was made a part of the Public Interest Bureau under Glenn Carr. By October 1985 Daley claimed to have prosecuted more than 125 individuals for elections law violations. However, there were recurrent allegations of a political tilt in Daley’s prosecutions. In the 1984 campaign for state’s attorney, Daley’s opponent Larry Bloom charged that of 30 individuals indicted the preceding fall, none were from wards that had carried for Daley or Vrdolyak.
Daley’s press spokesman Terry Levin responds, first, that Daley and Vrdolyak are not political allies. While that has been true throughout most of their political careers, it was not true in the fall of 1983. As early as August of 1983, Greg Hinz wrote in the Lerner newspapers that “sources close to both Daley and county Democratic Chairman Edward Vrdolyak–and independent sources, too, for that matter–are suggesting to a man that Daley and Vrdolyak have made a working peace . . .” As discussed earlier, by November 1983 Harold Washington openly broke with Daley, complaining that he was too close to Vrdolyak.
In a November 13, 1983, Tribune article headlined “Former Democratic foes put on a united front,” David Axelrod described how Daley, Vrdolyak, and Hynes had appeared together “in smiling camaraderie” at a party fund-raiser earlier that month. Only one year earlier, “you could not find them on the same stage,” but now “there they were, standing together, a beaming threesome.”
Levin further answers Bloom’s charge by saying, “We can’t indict unless we get evidence, and we can’t get evidence unless there are complaints. Bloom will never find a case where something was brought to us and we did nothing. I’d like him to point out a case where we didn’t prosecute and should have.”
Setting aside the 1986 referendum case, which Daley’s office investigated for two and a half years without ever bringing charges, another case of nonprosecution arose out of the 1983 mayoral election. A campaign worker for Harold Washington, Salome Quinones, claimed that a 32nd Ward precinct captain, Chester Szorc, shouted racial epithets at him, put a gun to his head, and struck him. Two days later, Szorc claimed Quinones pulled a knife on him. Faced with these conflicting claims, the state’s attorney’s office filed no charges against the precinct captain, but charged Washington’s worker with aggravated assault.
Quinones then produced three witnesses who corroborated his version of events. The state’s attorney responded by dropping the charges against him. But still it failed to charge Szorc.
Quinones then filed a civil suit against Szorc. As reported by Chicago Lawyer, a federal jury “heard the evidence in the case–the same evidence Daley’s office would not act upon–and awarded Quinones $140,000. To avoid an appeal, the case subsequently was settled for $100,000 . . .”
Levin told Chicago Lawyer that politics had nothing to do with the case, and that there were two other witnesses who saw no weapon drawn by anyone. But he would not identify them, and no such witnesses testified in the civil trial.
Bloom’s were not the only charges of selectivity in Daley’s elections prosecutions. Shortly before the 1986 special election in the 26th Ward, the one that put Luis Gutierrez in City Council and finally gave Washington control of City Council, Daley announced indictments of seven persons, mostly Latinos, including two from the 26th Ward, on elections charges. Accusing Daley of attempting to intimidate voters, Washington claimed, “I think Daley was trying to send a message to the Gutierrez forces. We should come out and make it clear that the old way of playing games is over.”
Daley denied any political motive. According to his press release, “These felony charges should send a message to anyone thinking of violating the election code that we can and will prosecute.”
Whatever message this stern warning might have sent, it presumably lost some of its sting when, only months later, obvious fraud in the 1986 referendum petition was revealed by the newspapers, but no indictments resulted.
In 1987 Daley’s elections unit ceased to exist. “It wasn’t disbanded, it was split up,” explains Levin. “The criminal aspects went to the Special Prosecutions Bureau of the Criminal Division. We put the civil part in the Civil Division.”
The demise of the elections unit, according to Levin, was due in part to the referendum investigation. “The resources needed for that investigation were more than the resources of the elections unit of the Public Interest Bureau.”
If the split truly brought additional resources to bear on the investigation, one can only wonder all the more why Daley’s office never produced any indictments.
The result of the “split” of the unit is that Daley no longer has prosecutors assigned full-time to elections cases. In both the civil and criminal divisions, the lawyers on election cases handle them as part of their overall caseload (although the assistant in the civil division, says Levin, is occupied full-time with voting matters around every election).
Levin contends that the main thrust of Daley’s effort now is prevention. “We put every available person on the streets on election day.”
That practice, however, was not originated by Daley. According to Richard Means, former chief of Bernard Carey’s elections unit, Carey began sending all available bodies out to monitor and troubleshoot at the polls in 1973. Carey also maintained a staff of full-time lawyers in the elections unit throughout his tenure as state’s attorney, supplementing them as needed with additional resources from other units.
One former Daley assistant with expertise in elections cases, who was willing to speak only off the record, takes a dim view of Daley’s doing away with the elections unit. “You can’t merge the elections unit into special prosecutions, because that whole division is oriented toward street crimes and financial crimes. Maintaining a general presence in that field is important. You need a lot of staff time to follow up on citizens’ complaints. You can’t wait for solid cases to come to you. You have to go out and make them. That can’t happen without a specialized unit.”
And apparently it isn’t happening.
“Education,” says a Daley press release, “is the top priority for Richard M. Daley.” He promises to appoint a deputy mayor for education, to name school board members committed to reform, and to pursue state and federal funding for education, which will be the “number one item on his legislative agenda.”
What Daley does not pledge is to support the state income tax increase needed to prevent Chicago public schools from falling even further into the educational sewer. No serious observer disputes that neither school reform nor basic education can succeed without much greater state funding. Ten years ago, Illinois ranked seventh among the 50 states in funding for public education; now it ranks seventh from the bottom.
And no one has suggested any realistic way to secure the large sums needed without a state tax increase. Last month the state Board of Education, for the third straight year, proposed an income tax increase to help fund its recommended $400 million increase in state aid to public schools. Daley opponent Tim Evans has proposed a $140 million income tax increase, to be paid by both individuals and corporations, to fund 1,000 additional teachers and 1,000 more classrooms in Chicago.
Daley explains his refusal to endorse a tax increase as a matter of bargaining tactics with the governor, who has in prior years pushed unsuccessfully for an income tax increase, but this year says he won’t propose it unless the Democrats agree. Daley told Crain’s Chicago Business, “When I negotiate with somebody, I don’t say ‘Gee, I’m for you: You can’t say I’m for it and now I’ll give you a blank check now, you give me what I am supposed to receive.”
No one could argue with that negotiating principle. But it has little if anything to do with supporting a state income tax increase. Daley could say, for example, “I’ll support a tax increase only if so much of the revenue is earmarked for Chicago public schools. Otherwise, Mr. Governor, take a hike.”
Even after Crain‘s pressed Daley on whether he opposed a tax increase for schools “in principle,” all he would say was, “At this time, we have to make sure school reform works. You have to make sure it works.”
But if there’s one thing we know for sure, it is that school reform won’t work without the additional funds that only a tax increase can supply. As state education superintendent Ted Sanders recently pointed out, the new school reform legislation requires, among other things, reduced class sizes and expanded early childhood education programs. “Without new dollars, they simply cannot do it,” Sanders told the Sun-Times. “And so school reform may well be in some part dead on arrival.”
Daley has to know this.
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Daley has some other reason for not supporting a tax hike–such as the political risk of running for office while advocating higher taxes. While Daley’s reticence is understandable, it hardly marks him as the “strong leader” he promises Chicago.
After all, if Evans, Sawyer, and Bloom all support a state income tax increase for schools–and they do–why can’t Daley take the plunge?
It must also be asked whether Daley’s reluctance may have something to do with the racial makeup of public school pupils in Chicago compared to that of Daley’s electoral base. The student population of Chicago public schools is about 61 percent black, 24 percent Hispanic, and less than 15 percent white. Daley’s performance on election day is likely to be closer to the opposite: he can expect to receive the votes of most whites, many Hispanics, and only a small minority of blacks.
Not that Daley is consciously racist. But he is a politician, and he knows where his electoral bread is buttered. If Chicago’s 400,000-plus public school pupils were 85 percent white, for instance, the odds that Daley could summon up the courage to support a school tax increase might be about 85 percent better.
As Daley himself says at every campaign stop, Chicago needs a strong leader. And as he also rightly says, a leader for all the people, not half the people.
In July of 1983, as he neared a reelection campaign for state’s attorney, Daley wrote an op-ed piece in the Tribune denouncing the “present policy of early release of thousands of convicted felons from the Illinois prison system.” Dangerous criminals were being freed due to the state’s failure to build enough jail cells to keep up with increasing convictions. Governor Thompson and state corrections director Michael Lane were “making a mockery of the criminal justice system.”
“This situation cannot be tolerated,” Daley declared. “Action must be taken immediately to expand prison capacity . . .” He proposed a variety of steps, including hiring more staff, renovating old prisons, and putting new ones into service sooner than had been planned.
“While money is tight today,” he concluded, “I feel confident the people of Illinois consider money spent for greater public safety and peace of mind a bargain.”
Even though he had no direct responsibility for administering or funding state prisons, Daley thus used the platform of his office to lecture the governor publicly on how to improve the criminal justice system in which Daley, as state’s attorney, played a key role.
In blasting Thompson and the state prisons, however, Daley made no mention of his good friend and client George Dunne or the Cook County jail. This omission was notable. At that very time, Dunne and the county jail were experiencing overcrowding problems similar to those in state prisons. In 1983 they were also–under court order–responding in the same fashion as the state, by releasing prisoners who otherwise would have remained behind bars. If Thompson was at fault, so was Dunne. And so, to a lesser degree, was Dunne’s lawyer and the chief prosecutor in Dunne’s county, State’s Attorney Daley.
In 1974 a class-action lawsuit had been filed against county officials charging that conditions in Cook County jail were so harsh, unsafe, and unsanitary as to violate minimum constitutional standards. In April 1982 the federal court entered a consent decree negotiated by lawyers from the Legal Assistance Foundation, representing the prisoners, and Daley’s office, which represented Dunne and other county officials. The decree restricted overcrowding and required better conditions at the jail. Among other limits it allowed only one prisoner to be housed in each of the eight-by-eight-foot cells in the Jail’s Division 1, built in 1927.
(Most prisoners at the jail, it should be noted, are pretrial prisoners, who have not been convicted of any crime, and who are in jail only because they cannot make bail or have had bail denied.)
The county had trouble living up to its bargain almost immediately. As more persons were arrested and could not make bail, the jail’s population swelled beyond its approximate 4,500-bed capacity. By June 1982 100 to 200 prisoners per night were sleeping on the floor; by the end of the year the number had risen to between 700 and 800 per night.
In October 1982 the John Howard Association, which both sides had designated to monitor compliance, issued its first report. It found overcrowding and identified a number of causes, including the incarceration of growing numbers of low-bond inmates unable to raise bond as low as $100. Based on that report the Legal Assistance Foundation lawyers asked the court to find Dunne and other county officials in contempt for violating the consent decree.
In January 1983 the court ruled on this request by setting a cap on the inmate population at 4,500–the number of beds in the jail.
Later that month a report of the National Institute of Corrections projected that the county jail population would exceed 6,000 by early 1984 unless there were changes in policies.
In February, in violation of the cap, the jail population passed 4,800. County officials began to discuss building a new 500-bed unit before the end of the year.
In March, in order to enforce the cap, the court ordered that inmates be released, starting with the lowest-bond prisoners, until the overcrowding was eliminated.
Represented by Daley, Dunne and the other county officials then appealed. By July, when Daley publicly blasted the governor for not expanding state prison capacity, this appeal was pending. Two weeks later, the appeals court ruled against Dunne and Daley, issuing an opinion critical of the county.
Among other points, the court ruled that the county had failed to show “any unforeseen or unexpected condition since the entry of the Decree.” In other words, county officials should have foreseen the problem, but failed to take preventive measures (such as reducing court delays, changing the system for pretrial confinement to reduce jail intake, or finding ways to expand the jail’s capacity).
The appeals court also pointed out that “remedial measures regarding the jail population were not implemented until after the petition for a Rule to Show Cause was filed”; that is, only the alertness of the inmates’ lawyers had spurred the county to act. The appeals court found the cap a reasonable response to the county’s “substantial noncompliance” with a nearly year-old consent decree. It quoted approvingly the lower court’s finding that the new 500-bed facility “should have been addressed before the situation reached its current crisis.” It concluded, “This Court is under the impression that the County defendants are attempting to avoid compliance with the Consent Decree by rewriting the terms which they have difficulty meeting.”
Two successive defeats in court should have finally focused Dunne’s and Daley’s attention on the need to take timely and effective action to prevent overcrowding of the jail–even if the consent decree, the steadily rising prisoner population, and the National Institute of Corrections report had not been enough by themselves.
Meanwhile, at about that time, the John Howard Association warned that building 500 new beds would not be enough. A long-term plan was needed. The association’s director, Michael Mahoney, explains, “You need a long-range plan. The system is not just bricks and mortar. You can’t build your way out. That’s the most expensive approach, and it takes the longest. You have to look at demographics, at case processing, at court delays.”
But Daley never responded to the recommendation for a long-range plan, Mahoney says.
Despite the court orders, the reports, and the requirement that prisoners be released to relieve overcrowding, the county continued to fall farther behind. No long-range plan was prepared, the new 500-bed unit was not readied for use until the spring of 1985, and prisoners had to be released.
In 1984 more than 9,000 prisoners–more than twice the capacity of the jail–had to be released on their own recognizance, even though judges had ordered bail and the defendants had been unable to pay it. By November 1984 the shortage of jail space was so critical that the county began releasing prisoners accused of felonies, many with prior criminal records. In January 1985 alone, nearly 1,500 prisoners were released, of whom more than 300 were accused of felonies. By early March, more than 50 of these had become fugitives, and 16 had been rearrested on new charges, including ten felonies.
How did all this come to pass? Who was minding the store? Dunne and the county board, as the funding authority, and the Cook County sheriff (Richard Elrod and later Republican James O’Grady) had primary responsibility for expanding the jail. At least one large addition requested by Elrod was turned down by the county board.
But as Mahoney pointed out, the problem was larger than the jail, and so was the solution. The problem involved the entire system of criminal justice in Cook County. Ways to prevent cases that didn’t belong in the system from getting there in the first place had to be explored. And cases that did belong in the system had to be processed as speedily as possible. If both these approaches were used, fewer prisoners would enter the jail, and those who entered would leave sooner. More jail beds were needed, yes, but only as part of a comprehensive improvement of the system placing priority on other, more cost-effective means to reduce overcrowding.
As the attorney representing Dunne and Elrod in the federal case, and also the chief prosecutor sending prisoners into the jail and processing their trials once they got there, Daley as much as anyone else was responsible for making sure that the entire system worked. And it didn’t. If, as the John Howard Association recommended in 1983, a comprehensive plan was needed, Daley should have taken the lead in developing it or, at a minimum, made sure that someone did. And he didn’t.
When I asked Daley about his response to the 1983 recommendation for a comprehensive plan, he answered that “Elrod had a plan, and it was basically to release prisoners, and we opposed it.”
Daley has taken some steps. In his January 1989 budget request to the Cook County Board, he recommended “at least 4,000 new beds” and said that he was “one who has consistently argued for increasing the jail’s capacity.” In our interview he said he had so argued every year since taking office. Mahoney says that over the years Daley has attended a couple of meetings and been supportive.
Yet whatever Daley did to encourage timely expansion of Cook County jail, it was not effective in persuading the county board to fund adequate jail expansion. And in contrast to his forceful public criticism of the state, Daley has not held the county’s feet to the fire.
According to Richard Hess, one of the Legal Assistance Foundation lawyers representing the inmates, Daley also deserves credit for supporting legislation in Springfield to set up a pretrial screening agency. Such an agency would investigate the background of arrested persons to give judges better information on whether to release them on personal recognizance, based on an assessment of whether they are “safe risks.” If implemented, Hess believes, this system would reduce the county jail population.
Unfortunately, although the bill passed several years ago, the state has never funded the agency. Dunne and other county officials, Hess says, are now talking about the possibility of the county’s funding it.
In our interview Daley also suggested the use of rehabilitation centers for alcohol and minor drug cases as an alternative to jail. He emphasizes that the county needs to “plan for the future.” Both suggestions are good, but they would have been more timely if Daley had pursued them vigorously six years ago.
If Daley’s constructive efforts have been too little and too late, his prosecutorial policies have actually aggravated the problem. As his most recent budget request acknowledges, “The overcrowding at County Jail, as you well know, is largely drug-related.”
According to a 1987 report of the Special Commission on the Administration of Justice in Cook County, Daley exempted narcotics cases from his office’s felony review process, by which prosecutors screen the evidence in most felony cases before police bring charges. As a result, thousands of drug cases have been brought–and thousands of prisoners sent to Cook County Jail–only to have their cases dismissed later because the evidence was weak or the police search was improper.
The defendants in these cases should never have been occupying jail beds in the first place.
Criminal court judge Kenneth Gillis was recently quoted in Chicago magazine saying, “I’m not sure what his reasoning is, but nearly every arrest for drugs gets into the court system. I hear a lot of complaining about it: judges spending time with what we call a bad search, or just one or two pills, or one marijuana cigarette.”
In response to public criticism, Daley in the last two years has asked the Cook County Board for additional funds to set up a Narcotics Felony Review Unit. This belated step is welcome, but drug cases never should have been exempted from felony review in the first place.
Overcrowding at Cook County jail and the forced release of accused felons became so severe by March 1985 that Daley asked the federal court to allow temporary doubling up of prisoners in Division I until the new 500-bed facility was ready in mid-May. The lower court denied his request, saying the crisis resulted from the county’s “dereliction of duty” and its foot-dragging in building new facilities. The court also pointed out that the county could have proposed a procedure that would release the least dangerous prisoners first. Instead the county had persisted in releasing prisoners based on the dollar amounts of their bonds.
The appeals court reversed the lower court’s refusal to allow the temporary doubling up, but joined in criticizing county officials. In an April 1985 opinion the appeals court (a different panel of three judges from the panel that had ruled two years earlier) stated “we want to make clear our dissatisfaction with the County’s behavior in this litigation . . .” Among other criticisms the court complained that “we still fail to understand . . . why the County repeatedly gave the district judge unrealistic estimates of the progress of its building program, why three years after the consent decree was entered there are still inmates sleeping on the floors of the jail. . . . [T]he County’s conduct invites and deserves censure . . .”
Those admonitions were made more than three years ago. By April of 1988, the county was still in default, and the federal court held county officials in contempt of court. The court held that the county’s “compliance efforts have been both tardily begun and inadequate in scope.” The county was ordered to meet a new compliance schedule or face penalties of $ 1,000 per day.
Supported by Daley, Sheriff O’Grady then asked the county board to authorize jail expansions, and it did so. Plans are now in progress for a 1,000-bed addition and a new 800-bed building.
But the problem remains far from solved. On January 27, 1989, a front-page Tribune story began, “Cook County Jail in recent days has been hit by its worst overcrowding in months, with as many as 300 inmates sleeping on the floor . . .” This occurred even though jail capacity is now up to over 5,500 beds, and more than 20,000 inmates were released from April through December 1988.
No one pretends that jail overcrowding is an easy problem to solve. But neither are Chicago’s problems in education, jobs, housing, or health, to name a few. Rich Daley is not the only official at fault in the jail overcrowding problem. And he has attempted some positive steps to deal with it, albeit too little and too late. But here was an opportunity for him to prove his campaign claim that he is a strong and effective leader, capable of timely planning, good management, and bringing together the relevant public officials on a matter of vital concern to the public. It was an opportunity he missed.
As noted earlier, Daley deserves credit for converting the state’s attorney’s consumer protection unit from a collection agency for merchants into a real consumer office. In 1988, for example, the unit collected a total of $750,000 in refunds and fines from companies bilking consumers, including travel agencies, trade schools, home-repair contractors, and the like.
The real consumer action in Daley’s office, however, is not in the consumer protection unit but in the utilities division. There Daley deals not with mere hundreds of thousands, but with hundreds of millions of dollars in consumers’ money. In naming a new utilities supervisor in January 1989, for example, Daley’s office issued a press release stating, “In all, [Commonwealth] Edison has been denied over $1.4 billion in rate hike requests during Daley’s tenure as state’s attorney.”
The press release neglected to mention that Daley had supported Com Ed’s request for approximately half of that total. In December 1986, Governor Thompson, Attorney General Hartigan, and Daley jointly announced a plan to allow Edison an “innovative” $660 million rate increase beginning in July 1987, with no further increases for five years thereafter.
In calling that increase “fair and reasonable,” Daley had stated in his press release of December 19, 1986, “I think anyone who examines this agreement in detail will recognize that it is much better for consumers than is possible through the traditional rate-setting process.”
Despite Daley’s high praise, the proposal was opposed by every consumer group active in Edison rate cases before the Illinois Commerce Commission (including BPI, or Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, from which I am currently on leave as general counsel).
Seven months later, after extensive hearings, the ICC turned down the proposal because it was illegal and because the amount of the proposed rate hike had not been adequately justified.
Com Ed then filed a traditional rate case. Last spring the ICC’s staff recommended that the utility receive not a $660 million rate increase, but a rate decrease of more than $300 million.
Later the ICC staff proposed, and the ICC recently adopted, an alternative five-year plan involving a 1989 rate increase of $235 million–some $425 million less than Daley said two years ago was a good deal. Under the new plan rates in 1990 will rise no more than an additional $245 million, bringing the total increase to $480 million–still $180 million less than Daley said was a good deal.
And that’s not even counting the zero increase that Com Ed consumers enjoyed from mid-1987 until 1989, thanks to the ICC’s rejection of the rate hike proposed by Daley. If Daley’s proposal had been accepted, consumers would have paid an extra $990 million during that 18-month period.
Almost as disturbing as Daley’s position was how he arrived at it. According to deposition testimony by Daley aide Frank Kruesi, the proposal was presented for the first time to key Daley aides two days before Daley endorsed it. It was presented to Daley’s chief utilities lawyer one day before Daley endorsed it. In contrast, the ICC studied the complex proposal for months before rejecting it.
Daley’s staff has argued that he supported the $660 million rate increase in part because it allocated relatively little of the total increase to residential consumers. While that was a factor, it was not emphasized by Daley at the time, and it is simply not a credible explanation for his leaping onto the bandwagon. A more realistic explanation is that good politics got in the way of good government. The state’s highest-ranking Democratic and Republican politicians both supported the rate hike plan as a supposedly good deal for consumers. Edison and major business interests also favored it. And no one at the time imagined that the governor’s own appointed commerce commissioners would shoot it down. It looked like a safe bet, and Jim Thompson, Neil Hartigan, and Edison chairman James O’Connor were jointly asking Daley to come on board.
In other cases involving major utilities, Daley’s utilities lawyers have often done good work. They are currently appealing the latest Com Ed rate increase (along with several consumer groups, including BPI). But one cannot simply overlook the fact that Daley took the wrong side, and for the wrong reasons, in the biggest consumer case he faced as state’s attorney. If Daley is elected mayor, in the next two years he will preside over the city’s renegotiation or termination of its franchise with Edison. Will consumers once again get lip service from Daley while Com Ed gets another good deal?
The Human Rights Ordinance
Little more need be said about Daley’s record toward gays and lesbians following the fine piece by Achy Obejas in the February 1989 Chicago magazine entitled “Gay Rights, Gay Votes.”
In short: the gay rights ordinance languished in City Council for 15 years without a peep of support from Daley until two months ago, when he declared for mayor and it appeared that the increasingly political gay and lesbian community might constitute an important swing vote in this year’s election.
The Gay Rights Ordinance lost in City Council in July 1986 by a vote of 18 yeas and 30 nays. The nays included Daley’s alderman Huels and such Daley allies as Kellam, Krystyniak, and Sheahan. The Human Rights Ordinance, protecting not only gays and lesbians but an array of other social minorities victimized by discrimination, lost in City Council in September 1988 by a vote of 21 yeas and 26 nays. The aforementioned Daley aldermen again voted against equal rights, as did newly elected Daley ally Mark Fary of the 12th Ward. Newly elected 48th Ward alderman Kathy Osterman, formerly one of Daley’s assistants, voted for the ordinance.
When Daley announced for mayor on December 5, 1988, he publicly supported the Human Rights Ordinance for the first time. On December 21, 1988, the final vote was taken–and the ordinance passed 28-17. This time Huels and Fary joined Osterman in voting yes, and Kellam was recorded as “not voting.”
In our interview Daley denied calling any aldermen to change their votes, although he acknowledged discussing the ordinance with supporters Osterman and 44th Ward Alderman Bernie Hansen on several occasions. He claimed no credit, praising instead Osterman, Hansen, and others for their good work.
Daley’s modesty is undue. Daley aldermen do not need a set of orders in triplicate to know how to vote. Public pronouncements by Daley coupled with encouraging words relayed through Osterman are quite enough. Simply put: If Daley had adamantly opposed the ordinance, Huels, Fary, and Kellam would have stuck with their prior “no” votes. But he supported it, and so they let it pass.
Daley thus deserves credit for swinging some votes on the ordinance, just as he must bear responsibility for all that he failed to do in prior months and years. His record on this issue fits the Daley pattern: When good government is also good politics, you can count on Rich Daley. When it is not, well . . .
One of the most sensitive issues arising from Daley’s tenure as state’s attorney is that dozens of criminal appeals have been brought claiming that Daley’s prosecutors used their “peremptory” challenges (challenges for which no reason need be given) to exclude disproportionate numbers of blacks from juries. In most of these cases, either all-white juries or juries with very few blacks resulted.
Daley responds by noting that these are relatively few among the thousands of cases his office handles, that only two cases have been reversed on appeal for improper exclusion of blacks, and that his office uses training programs to discourage racial discrimination by prosecutors.
None of these responses quite answers the charge. While thousands of cases do move through his office, fewer than 400 jury convictions per year result, and the claims of discrimination arise in this much smaller pool of cases. True, only two of these have yet been reversed (many are still pending), but this fact could mean much less than it appears to, because it is extremely difficult for a criminal defendant to prove that the prosecutor was racially motivated. Typically the prosecutor claims he excluded the black juror because of some other trait, such as educational level. The defense lawyer then shows that the prosecutor did not exclude three white people of the same educational level. The prosecutor responds, yes, but each of them had some other desirable trait . . . and the judge is left to decide. The bottom line is that no matter what the ruling, in most of these cases there is at least a questionable appearance of discrimination, offset by a not very satisfying explanation. There may not be clear-cut proof, but the feeling lingers that there may well have been an injustice. The best way to deal with such cases is to try to prevent them from arising in the first place.
Whatever message is conveyed in Daley’s training classes, it appears not to have worked: claims of discriminatory use of peremptory challenges have persisted for years.
Daley could and should have done more. For example, when Daley was asked in our interview if his office kept data on the number of blacks excluded from juries, the answer was no. Yet the simple act of having to report such data to supervisors might keep prosecutors on their toes, without unreasonably intruding on their discretion in selecting juries. One might even go a step further and require them to send up written explanations for review whenever they exclude blacks disproportionately. At some point, they would likely get the message; if not, high-level counseling, one-on-one, could prove helpful.
Such steps would evidence a commitment to rid the system of an unacceptable practice. In the absence of these or other effective measures, a question arises as to the depth of Daley’s commitment.
Daley’s most visible response to this problem has been simply to propose that peremptory challenges by either side be eliminated; jurors could be challenged only “for cause.” It is hard to tell whether this ill-advised proposal is only for show or if, given that Daley himself has never tried a criminal jury case, he genuinely fails to appreciate the role of peremptory challenges in the criminal justice system. Most experienced trial lawyers know that frequently there are jurors who are unlikely to render a fair and impartial verdict, but not for reasons that can be proved as “cause” for exclusion. Daley’s proposed solution amounts to throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Daley’s proposal is in any event unlikely to pass in Springfield. More will need to be done, then, if the criminal justice system is to gain the confidence of all races in Cook County.
Dear White Community:
It’s our turn again. I’m going to get rid of those minority hiring quotas that have made it harder for young white men from my ward and Tom Hynes’s ward to follow their fathers’ footsteps into the police force and other city jobs.
Very truly yours,
Dear Black and Hispanic Communities:
Don’t worry. I’m not absolutely opposed to minority hiring quotas. And I’ll hire fairly even without them. Trust me.
Rich Daley has not literally sent these letters, but his campaign has sent both messages. If he is elected mayor, it will be very difficult for him to come through on both.
On December 9, 1988, a Sun-Times headline read, “Daley would end police hiring quotas.” Answering questions at a press conference the day before, Daley reportedly said he would abolish minority hiring quotas for police and rely instead on “outreach programs” and increased training in public schools and community colleges to “open up” the hiring process. He agreed with the federal court and with police superintendent Leroy Martin that quotas are no longer needed as long as police exams are fair.
Daley’s white ethnic base was cheered; many blacks and Hispanics were concerned. Yet is was important to Daley not to alarm the latter unduly. There was not yet in the black community a level of intensity about the campaign anywhere near the enthusiasm that Harold Washington had engendered; the last thing Daley wanted to do was provoke an outpouring of support for Sawyer or Evans. It was thus no accident that he sounded as if he was merely agreeing with conclusions already reached by the court and the black-led city administration.
Neither the court nor the city, however, had gone quite as far as Daley seemed to believe.
Beginning in 1973, federal lawsuits charged that Chicago police hiring and promotion tests and standards discriminated against blacks, Hispanics, and women. The suits prevailed. As a remedy, the courts ordered revised testing and employment practices, plus quotas for new hires and promotions to redress the preexisting racial, ethnic, and gender imbalance in Chicago police ranks.
By November 1988, prior to the most recent ruling, the courts no longer required quotas for hiring. This was because revised testing and hiring practices were now resulting in fair proportions of new hires. However, a court-ordered quota of 25 percent black and Hispanic males and 5 percent women remained in effect for promotions to sergeant.
Because there were still disproportionately few Hispanic and female sergeants, the city asked the court to require that 20 percent of new promotions to sergeant be women and 10 percent Hispanic. On November 21, 1988, federal judge Prentice Marshall denied the request, ruling that the time had come to end court-imposed quotas for promotion to sergeant.
Within days, police superintendent Martin announced that he agreed with the court. Then in December Daley said he agreed with Marshall and Martin.
In fact, Judge Marshall had left open the door for continued quotas. While lifting the court-ordered quota, the judge acknowledged that even now “the gender, racial and ethnic mix of sergeants does not fully reflect the patrol officer mix.”
He continued, “Of course the city may adopt its own affirmative action program if it is of the view that additional promotions should be extended to Hispanic males and women.” The court would not now prejudge whether the city should or could “voluntarily” adopt the 20 percent female and 10 percent Hispanic promotion goals it wanted.
Since then the city has in fact adopted these promotion ratios. In addition, acting mayor Sawyer has continued Harold Washington’s across-the-board 20 percent city hiring goal for Latinos. (This is not a rigid quota but merely a goal. In practice the city has generally fallen short of meeting it.)
It is not clear how much of this Daley knew when he spoke out against quotas. In our interview he professed to be unfamiliar with any numerical hiring goals now in use by the acting mayor; “I don’t get into that.”
Daley’s effort to soft-pedal his pronouncement by invoking the court and the city was only partially successful. In January, as the Reverend Jesse Jackson prepared finally to endorse Sawyer in the primary, he repeatedly cited Daley’s opposition to quotas as a reason for the black community to unite. Daley responded by shifting emphasis.
On the eve of Jackson’s endorsement announcement, Daley wrote him a letter stating, among other things, “I have never said I supported the wholesale and immediate dismantlement of quotas. I have said that they should be a last resort. If an administration fails to aggressively pursue affirmative action, court-enforced quotas certainly would come into play.”
This statement, too, was partially successful. Jackson responded that Daley must have changed his mind. But Daley’s new position remained ambiguous. It made no reference to any existing quotas or numerical goals. Would he continue them if elected mayor? If so, which ones? And does the reference to “court-enforced” quotas mean that Daley would rule out voluntary goals or ratios?
Our interview did not succeed in clearing up these ambiguities. As noted above, Daley pleaded ignorance of current city practices. When asked whether he would use numerical standards for hiring or promoting Hispanics, he answered, “I’m not getting into numericals at this point.”
Similarly, in a Hispanic community forum at Roberto Clemente High School on January 30, Daley was asked whether he would commit to hiring Hispanics in parity with their percentage of the city’s population. Avoiding a direct answer, he instead affirmed his strong commitment to hiring Latinos and cited his recruitment of Hispanic lawyers for the state’s attorney’s office.
If it remains unclear what Daley would do about numerical hiring goals if elected mayor, it is clear at least that he resists any commitment to using them.
Daley’s equivocation has sparked concern not only among blacks but among Hispanic activists as well.
“I’m disturbed by what I see,” comments Ruben Castillo, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund in Chicago, and counsel for the Latin American Police Association. “If the polls are accurate, many in the Hispanic community are willing to support Daley based on name recognition rather than on his record on city hiring and his hiring record as state’s attorney.”
Businessman George Loera, cochair of the Latino Coalition in Defense of Affirmative Action, adds that Daley appeared initially to oppose quotas, but then, in the letter to Jackson, “sort of softened his position. When a person does that you know it’s because of political expediency, not real commitment. There’s real concern in the community.”
Even so, Daley leads among Hispanic voters in polls and has been endorsed by former pro-Washington alderman Luis Gutierrez. (Of the other Latino aldermen, Jesus Garcia of the 22nd Ward and Raymond Figueroa of the 31st support Evans, while 25th Ward Alderman Juan Soliz supports Sawyer.)
Nonetheless Castillo explains, “If there are no numbers, I’ve really got a problem. Then we’re left to rely on what Daley means by affirmative action recruiting. What’s aggressive affirmative action to one person is nothing to another. Do we get high-visibility positions for a couple of well-known Latinos, or really meaningful participation by Hispanics in city government?”
Whatever his position on numerical goals, Daley’s minority hiring record in the state’s attorney’s office is better than it has sometimes been made to look in the press. In 1980, at about the time he took office, there were only 24 black, 6 Hispanic, and 1 Asian assistant state’s attorneys, or about 5 percent, 1 percent, and 0 percent, respectively, of the total number of prosecutors, at that time fewer than 500. By early February 1989, these figures had risen to 70 blacks, 23 Hispanics, and 7 Asians, or roughly 11 percent, 4 percent, and 1 percent of a total of about 630 prosecutors. (An additional 10 blacks and 3 Hispanics have been offered positions contingent on their admission to the bar.)
Because the population of Cook County is about one-fourth black and about one-tenth Hispanic, critics argue that the much lower percentages in Daley’s office reflect a lack of affirmative action. However, comparing the county population to Daley’s percentages of lawyers is not realistic. Minorities represent a much smaller percentage of Cook County lawyers and graduating law students than they do of the county’s total population. Daley’s black Public Interest Bureau chief, Glenn Carr, who has been actively involved in minority recruiting for Daley, points out that of about 1,500 recent graduates from five local law schools, only 85, or about 6 percent, were minorities.
In addition, the comparatively low salaries (for lawyers) of assistant state’s attorneys make it difficult to recruit–and keep–minority lawyers from this relatively small pool. Carr contends that more than 50 minority lawyers have left Daley’s office for more attractive positions.
As the number of women graduating from law schools has steadily risen, so have Daley’s percentages of women lawyers: from less than 20 percent in 1980 to nearly 40 percent by 1987.
Apart from the number of minorities hired, questions have also been raised about Daley’s assignment practices. Illinois Appellate Court Justice R. Eugene Pincham told the Sun-Times that until late 1988, “Daley had not assigned one black first-chair assistant to a high-volume felony courtroom.” Daley’s office responded in part that blacks held 7 of 73 supervisory positions in the fall of 1988.
Without an in-depth examination, it’s hard to tell from a distance how much better Daley’s minority lawyer recruitment, assignment, and promotion practices might or should have been. But the overall numbers do suggest that he has made a genuine effort at least in recruiting, and that he has done better than most law offices.
Daley appears to have made less progress in hiring minorities for nonlawyer positions, although these statistics, too, have improved during his tenure. According to figures published in the Sun-Times, from 1981 to 1987 the percentage of blacks in Daley’s total work force grew only from about 9 percent to 13 percent, and of Hispanics from 1.6 percent to 3 percent. While these percentages are quite low compared to county population figures, they are heavily weighted by attorneys (about two-thirds of his work force), and reflect total employment, not new hires. One indication of Daley’s recent hiring practices is an increase in the number of Hispanic employees from 33 in mid-1987 to 55 in December 1988.
While generally rejecting numerical standards for city hiring, Daley nonetheless says he supports the city’s “set-aside” goals of 25 percent for minority business enterprises and 5 percent for female businesses in city contracting. But he will need more than good intentions if he is to meet these goals. This January, in a case involving a similar program set up by the city of Richmond, Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such minority and female contracting goals cannot be used unless there is a specific showing of past discrimination against local minority and female businesses. Even then, numerical goals must be “narrowly tailored” to the extent of prior discrimination.
As a practical matter in Chicago, meeting that standard will require a vigorous probing of past discrimination under the administrations of Daley’s father and his fellow 11th Ward mayor, Michael Bilandic. How energetic can Rich Daley be in demonstrating the full extent of such discrimination?
In our interview, when asked how he would have the city respond to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Richmond case, Daley responded, “You could do it by ordinance.” When asked how he would go about that, he replied, “I’m not getting into that decision. The mayor should have a set-aside program.”
Taken together, Daley’s minority hiring record and his campaign positions suggest that if elected mayor, he will continue affirmative action efforts through outreach, training, and the like, while likely discontinuing the use of numerical goals. What the bottom-line result of such an approach would be, in terms of the percentages of minorities hired, is difficult to predict. However, facing another potentially close mayoral election only two years away, Daley is likely to be cautious about initiating any radical departure from the status quo.
A more serious threat to the city’s affirmative action practices if Daley is elected could well come from new lawsuits. Following the Richmond decision, opponents of affirmative action may be emboldened to challenge not only minority contractor programs but affirmative action in other areas as well. Because the plaintiffs in such lawsuits might well come from places like the 11th and the 19th wards, Daley may find himself in a politically awkward position in defending against such suits. How vigorously he defends the city’s affirmative action efforts from court challenges could become a critical question.
On most if not all issues, then, the same lesson seems to emerge from Daley’s mixed record. So long as good government and good politics pull together, Chicago can count on Rich Daley. But there will come times–important times–when any mayor will have to choose between the two. And Daley’s record holds little promise that when those times come, he will make the right choice.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Marc PoKempner.