I was absolutely stunned by Ben Joravsky’s effort to gloss over the blatantly racist history of Ed Kelly, the 47th Ward committeeman [December 24]. According to Joravsky–who ought to know better–it would be wrong to consider Kelly a “bigot” simply because he made a “mistake” and opposed Harold Washington and is therefore erroneously lumped with Ed Vrdolyak.

What are the facts?

Immediately following Washington’s primary election victory, Kelly, on his own initiative, immediately broke with his beloved Democratic Party to support the Republican solely because of the color of Washington’s skin. He was the first north-side Democrat to do so–and then went on to organize other committeemen to oppose Washington. He–and many others–then won massive margins for Bernard Epton. He was a central actor in that ugly period of racial politics.

But this was not his worst act of racial discrimination. Joravsky quotes Kelly’s patronizing comments about providing programs for little black kids, but he ignores the fact that the Chicago Park District spent decades under Kelly discriminating against the entire black community (as well as against Latinos) in the provision of virtually all services. South- and west-side parks continually got the short end of the stick when it came to finances, maintenance, and programming. The Chicago Reporter documented the case thoroughly.

While a federal judge exonerated Kelly of discrimination, he was still forced, under a court settlement, to begin spending money more fairly.

This is not intended to be a defense of Kelly’s opponent, Gene Schulter, who crossed over to Washington only after Washington won control of the City Council. But to ignore or attempt to cosmeticize Kelly’s history of political and institutional racism is a disgrace. Shame on you, Ben!

Don Rose

N. Sedgwick