The Senate Democrats privately insist that Calumet City is in the strongest position to get a new south suburban riverboat, but Carol Marin is absolutely right to suspect that Bill Shaw’s Dolton is in the running.
The only thing about the Shaws to be grateful for, I suppose, is that their mother had twins, not triplets. These two have wreaked enough havoc on the notion of good government in 50 years of elective and appointed office.
That includes a civil racketeering suit against the village, convicted felons getting honorary police badges, and the testimony of a convicted drug smuggler in federal court saying he paid Mayor Shaw $30,000 to join the force.
In recent years, voters have gotten restless. Bob was deposed as alderman of Chicago’s 9th Ward, dumped as a commissioner of the Cook County Board of Review (but not before voting to reduce his brother’s property taxes), and defeated in a run for mayor of South Holland. Bill, meanwhile, only narrowly won a third term as Dolton mayor a couple of years ago after being clobbered by state Sen. James Meeks, who ejected him from his legislative seat in 2002.
So why be worried that these guys could get the cash windfall of a casino along the Little Calumet River in their south suburb?
Because, people, this is Illinois.
One of Mayor Shaw’s best friends is Senate President Emil Jones, and, as we’ve seen time and time again, Jones hasn’t exactly been shy about helping out friends and family this year. Jones has been pushing very hard for a south suburban casino in private leadership meetings and in talks with the governor - perhaps a bit too hard to take him at his word that his best buddy isn’t somehow in the mix.
Besides Dolton and Cal City, the other eligible towns for a casino in the Senate proposal include Harvey and Chicago Heights. Country Club Hills is too far from the Indiana border (the limit is eight miles from the Indiana border) to qualify, and Mayor Dwight Welch is not happy about that.
Country Club Hills has been a leading contender for a possible south suburban casino. Investors have a site chosen and a business plan that won high marks from state gaming board staff in 2004. And Welch has gotten neighboring towns to sign on by promising to share the revenue.
Welch is allied with Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., who is not exactly a major Jones ally. So it’s no surprise that his town was dumped.
Meanwhile, the Senate Democrats claimed that they’ve cleaned up the gaming bill, but it doesn’t look like they did nearly enough sweeping…
A top Jones ally, Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago), said other controversial elements of the gaming package had been scaled back. A provision was removed that would have compensated investors in the failed Emerald Casino planned for Rosemont, he said, and plans to dedicate casino revenue to Chicago State University, a favorite of Jones, was trimmed to about a quarter of what had been an estimated $40 million. The remainder would go to other state universities, Hendon said.
So, Chicago State still gets $10 million a year while other universities split $30 million? That’s fair. Not.