* Fran Spielman reports on Latino politicians who have turned against Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez…
On Monday, vanquished mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and six of the City Council’s 10 Hispanic aldermen demanded that Alvarez resign for taking 13 months to charge a white Chicago Police officer with the first-degree murder of the African-American teenager.
“As we seek now to heal our city and our county, and as we as a society seek to enact long-overdue reforms of our criminal justice system, we need law enforcement officials who are honest, fair, and professional,” Garcia said.
“Too much is at stake to allow Anita Alvarez to continue in the position of Cook County state’s attorney, and accordingly, we call on her today to resign immediately.”
Joining Garcia at the news conference were four aldermen: Susie Salowski Garza (10th), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Gilbert Villegas (36th) and Ricardo Muñoz (22nd). Two other Hispanic aldermen — Roberto Maldonado (26th) and Proco Joe Moreno (1st) — also joined the call for Alvarez’s resignation, but did not attend.
“Ms. Alvarez’s record as the county’s chief prosecutor has been replete with actions that show a disdain for restorative justice and a petty vindictiveness wholly inappropriate for her office.”
Alvarez’s office later issued a written response to the latest demand for her to leave:
“I am a professional prosecutor and I am not driven by politics. I offer no apologies for enlisting the FBI to investigate Laquan’s murder because obviously the Chicago Police Department could not investigate themselves in this case. And I certainly do not apologize for conducting a meticulous and thorough investigation to build the strongest possible First Degree Murder case against Officer Van Dyke.”
Garcia did not call for the resignation of Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, however, saying he wanted to let a Chicago city council hearing into the matter play out first.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Monday called for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to step down and for Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to be ousted because of their handling of the investigation into the shooting of an African-American teen by a white Chicago police officer.
“I’ve had no confidence in (Alvarez’s) leadership for a very long time,” said Preckwinkle, who is backing her former chief of staff, Kim Foxx, over Alvarez in the March 15 Democratic primary election. “I think the way she has run the office is disgraceful.” […]
Preckwinkle said McCarthy either knew or should have known months ago that 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was not lunging at police when Officer Jason Van Dyke shot him 16 times in October 2014. […]
Alvarez released a statement saying she would not be “driven by politics” or “bullied by politicians who do not have a full understanding of the facts of this investigation.”
* And the Chicago Tribune, which has stubbornly defended McCarthy against aldermanic demands for his head, now wants an independent investigation…
Who failed Chicago and how? That question demands an answer, not a scapegoat. It demands an investigation independent of the political stakeholders in the Police Department, the state’s attorney’s office or City Hall.
Since April, the U.S. attorney’s office has been conducting an investigation of the McDonald shooting. We don’t know the nature or scope of that investigation; we do know the feds have a formidable track record for prosecuting wrongdoing that other agencies have dismissed or discounted. This is the place for an investigation of all the circumstances around this shooting.
There will be no accountability until Chicagoans know the truth about what happened to Laquan McDonald — and about what happened next.
* Frankly, getting rid of Alvarez and McCarthy and investigating this particular cover-up isn’t gonna do much to change things if this story is true…
If you did think an officer was lying, even in the most egregious cases where there was a dead suspect, reporting such behavior was met with severe consequences like taking cases away from young prosecutors, marginalization in the office and yelling and reprimand.
In my interviews with more than two dozen prosecutors and former prosecutors, they revealed that management did not support the attorneys who came forward; instead, they acted as henchmen at many levels of command, thwarting and even threatening whistle-blowers.
One prosecutor described a killing hauntingly reminiscent to the shooting death of LaQuan McDonald and how it may have played out if a prosecutor tried to investigate Officer Jason Van Dyke. As this assistant State’s Attorney explained:
A police officer killed a guy and they said he was shooting at them at the time. I could tell that didn’t make much sense, but I put the blinders on. [I got conflicting stories from police officers that came in at two different times]. I told my supervisor, and he asked why I had had them come in separately (I hadn’t, they just came in that way) and told me that I should have them get together and straighten it out. He got mad at me. [I went up the chain of command with the complaint, and didn’t get a response]. One supervisor told me, “You’re a prosecutor, not a defense attorney.” One supervisor got so mad that he threw an ashtray against the wall and broke it. They wouldn’t let me see Daley (State’s Attorney and Former Chicago Mayor) about it. They took the case from me and gave it to another lawyer…
Go read the whole thing.
…Adding… State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago)…
To be effective, our outrage must be focused, our demands specific and sharp. Charging Jason Van Dyke with first-degree murder is not enough. There was a cover-up, and anyone involved in it must be held accountable. If we do not tear down the blue curtain of silence once and for all, Laquan McDonalds will continue to die in our city. We must never forget that the video – and the truth – were not simply handed to us. Instead, they were ripped from reluctant hands by journalists, citizens and the courts.
Policing reform legislation I co-sponsored this year provides a pathway to the appointment of a special prosecutor in cases such as this one. The law takes effect in January, and it must be used to help bring to justice rogue cops and those who cover for them. In the meantime, we need a fresh start. State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez must step down. She has failed in her responsibility to timely, openly prosecute a heinous crime that not only took a life but betrayed the public trust.
I am immensely proud of all who have protested peacefully in Chicago, and on Friday, I was honored to march alongside young people and veterans of the Civil Rights Movement alike on Michigan Avenue. I am more confident than ever that apathy and self-absorption will not succeed in suppressing the human bent toward basic fairness. Not only people of color, but all people who respect justice should be outraged and engaged, and that is the unity I have witnessed since the release of the video last week.
But if these protests do not result in top-to-bottom change, we will be here again – perhaps a month from now, maybe six months or a year from now. Our voices must not die away. We must not stand by while police officers act as judge, jury and executioner on our streets. We will remain united for justice.
- Posted by Rich Miller
|Final day to file!
Monday, Nov 30, 2015
* Click here and tell us what you see during the last official day to turn in candidate nominating petitions.
…Adding… Today’s craziest tweet is from the “Chief Political Columnist and White House Correspondent, Newsmax”…
“Totally ridiculous,” says the Kirk camp.
I really didn’t even need to ask, but this goofiness is what occasionally passes for national political journalism these days.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* From a press release…
The St. Clair County Circuit Court has ruled in favor of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, which was granted a temporary restraining order against Gov. Bruce Rauner and Comptroller Leslie Munger. The ruling issued late Wednesday (attached) protects health insurance for nearly 5,000 low-wage home healthcare workers in Illinois. The home healthcare workers serve adults with disabilities in Illinois’ Home Services Program. (Case No. 15 CH 475.)
Despite a contract requiring the State of Illinois to contribute health insurance benefits for home healthcare workers, Gov. Rauner refused to pay the State’s contribution to the workers’ health fund. Rauner’s administration owes the health fund $1.5 million from fiscal year 2015, as well as approximately $11.8 million for work already performed for the months of July through October in fiscal year 2016. If Gov. Rauner failed to honor the State’s contractual obligations to continue health contributions, workers would have lost all of their health insurance after December 31st, 2015.
The state’s 52,000 home healthcare and child care workers-the largest bloc of workers in Illinois-continue to work without a contract.
In response to the temporary restraining order, Keith Kelleher, President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, issued the following statement:
“We applaud the St. Clair County Circuit Court ruling to protect our home healthcare workers from a potentially devastating economic and health crisis.
“The Court’s ruling is yet another major rebuke to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s extreme agenda and another example of Rauner’s failure in leading and managing Illinois’ finances, contracts and basic state operations.
“Lisa Viti, a home healthcare worker in Berwyn, suffers from diabetes and extremely high blood pressure and must take eight medications daily. She is among thousands of other home care workers whose health insurance was protected by the Court’s ruling. If Gov. Rauner had been successful in stripping away Ms. Viit’s health insurance that she currently gets from the health fund, her life-saving prescriptions would have cost more than $1,000 a month, forcing Ms. Viti to choose between her health or losing her own home. This is an example of Gov. Rauner’s agenda in a nutshell.
“Let’s not forgot how we got here. Gov. Rauner chose to use low-wage home healthcare workers, and their health insurance and economic security, as ‘leverage’ for his extreme anti-worker and political agenda.
“Gov. Rauner manufactured the State’s ongoing government shutdown for over five months now with no resolution in sight. But then Rauner claimed he had no budget authority to pay money into the health fund, putting workers, their families, and adults with disabilities in jeopardy and potentially devastating our vital workforce.
“Rauner’s attempt to manipulate and gamble with peoples’ livelihoods and health security is utterly reprehensible. Rauner’s actions show how little he cares about the struggles of low-wage workers and families in Illinois and how willing he is to use them as pawns in his political game.”
The ruling is here.
I’ll let you know if there’s an administration response.
- Posted by Rich Miller
|Question of the day
Monday, Nov 30, 2015
* A quick perusal of the Interwebtubes produced four types of people to ignore in the LaQuon McDonald case.
* 1) The radical left…
* 2) National conspiracy theorists and/or apologists for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez…
[Chicago politicians] want Alvarez to wear the jacket for it all.
Rahm seems to be throwing her under his bus, but he doesn’t want his fingerprints on her. So his ally, David Axelrod, threw her under.
Axelrod is a Rahm pal, but for years he was also the mouthpiece for former Mayor Richard Daley, and was the top political and media strategist for Obama. It’s a Chicago thing.
“Why did it take a year to indict a CPD officer who shot a kid 16 times?” Axelrod tweeted Tuesday night. “Would it have happened today if judge hadn’t ordered video release?”
That puts it on Alvarez. Does she deserve it?
I don’t think so. To me, she’s not the issue.
The video threatened Rahm Emanuel and his pursuit of power. Alvarez told reporters she’d been waiting for the feds to issue a joint announcement with her office. That didn’t happen.
Funny how things work out.
Axelrod’s tweet legitimizes a self-preservation tactic Chicago politicians have been pursuing for the last day or so: They know people are angry over what happened to 17-year-old McDonald. They want to be safe from that anger. So they’re directing the mob to go against Alvarez.
You’ll get zero excuses about Rahm from me. He was obviously covering things up. But we can’t ignore what Alavarez has done over the years. This was no one-off event.
* 3) Anyone in power who had anything to do with delaying this case…
In announcing the charge against Van Dyke, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said forensic testing revealed no evidence that anyone had intentionally erased the Burger King video. NBC5 News first broke the story about the missing footage.
“We have looked at those videos and … it doesn’t appear that it’s been tampered with,” Alvarez told reporters. […]
The officers stayed on the scene until almost midnight and even brought in their own information technology specialist when it appeared they were having trouble operating the system, [Jay Darshane, a Burger King district manager] said. […]
When the video system kicked back on, it recorded two police officers in the Burger King office who appeared to be looking at something on the monitor over and over, according to Michael Robbins, an attorney representing McDonald’s family.
Yeah, I’m sure they were looking over and over at nothing whatsoever.
She waited over a year to charge the cop, even though this appears to be an open and shut case, and then she says no tampering was done on the BK video and expects us to trust her.
Plus, unlike Emanuel, she’s up for reelection next year. She ought to face some heat.
* 4) Fascists…
Others took a more draconian line. Vince Tribo, 84, was out shopping for underwear. He said he lived in Flossmoor but also keeps a downtown condo, and that he “doesn’t really believe in protesting.”
“I grew up in Italy under Mussolini — I wasn’t brought up with all this,” he confided with a smile, gesturing to the crowd, which was chanting that McDonald had been shot 16 times. “There was more discipline and law and order.
“My mother always said that before Mussolini came to power it was lawless,” he added, before gesturing to the crowd again and adding, “it was like this.”
* The Question: Your own nominations?
- Posted by Rich Miller
|So long, Kurt!
Monday, Nov 30, 2015
* Kurt Erickson’s column is his last in Illinois…
I gave thanks this week for being able to ply my trade in one of the most continually interesting buildings in Illinois.
Heading into the press offices carved in the Illinois Capitol these recent weeks, I’ve been recalling memorable moments that occurred during my tenure as a reporter covering state government and politics in Springfield.
Go read the whole thing. As we’ve discussed before, Kurt is moving to Missouri to report on that state’s capital.
* From Erickson’s Facebook page…
You know what to do…
- Posted by Rich Miller
* A vote is expected as early as December 14th…
Months after formally endorsing Gov. Bruce Rauner’s controversial turnaround agenda for Illinois, Lincolnshire officials are going further by moving to establish the town as a right-to-work zone.
Trustees are considering an ordinance that would prevent local employers from automatically deducting union dues from workers’ paychecks. Eliminating that mandatory deduction means workers couldn’t be fired if they choose not to pay union dues or fees. […]
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has issued a formal opinion that municipal right-to-work zones aren’t allowed under federal law. […]
The Illinois Policy Institute — a nonprofit research group that focuses on economic and government issues — disagrees. It endorses the right-to-work concept and says Illinois law doesn’t prevent home-rule communities, such as Lincolnshire, from adopting such ordinances. […]
When asked for his opinion of Lincolnshire’s proposal and the potential legal risks, village attorney Adam Simon said officials are relying on the Illinois Policy Institute’s analysis. He declined to comment further.
- Posted by Rich Miller
For the first time in seven months, the small group of people who could bring an end to the state’s epic budget impasse are finally going to meet.
But, rank-and-file lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say Tuesday’s pow-wow with Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Legislature’s four leaders may be more of a public spectacle than a productive meeting.
“So there’s a meeting in Springfield. Great,” said state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton. “What I want to see is a common-sense plan from the governor to lead us out of this impasse that he created.”
“I do not have high hopes for the meeting,” added state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. “It’s going to be theater.”
* Just a taste of what’s at stake from recent news stories…
* Chicago Teachers Union plans strike vote on Dec. 9: NBC 5 news reported Sunday night that the Chicago Teachers Union has set a strike vote for Dec. 9.
* Vendor Payment Program suspended in Illinois budget impasse: Vendors facing payment delays have lost another lifeline for getting what they are owed. The Vendor Payment Program gets cash quickly to vendors who have provided products or services to the state but have not been paid. It has been temporarily suspended because legislators and Gov. Bruce Rauner have not agreed on a permanent state budget.
* Drug Courts Affected by Illinois Budget Impasse: A program that gets drug addicts clean and helps prevent them from committing more crimes is at risk of shutting down.
* Budget stalemate nearly kills Lincoln’s Challenge program: “Before I came here, I had given up on everything,” Gwinn said. “(Lincoln’s Challenge) has helped me come to my senses, and I’m very grateful for that.”
* Budget impasse traps people dependent on utility help: Unable to work since 2005, the 57-year-old Effingham woman has been relying on the state’s Percentage of Income Payment (PIP) utility assistance program to help her pay her power bill on a $753 disability check. But the state budget impasse has eliminated the PIP programs, at least for the time being. She’s eligible for the Low Income Household Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), but she said that’s not an immediate option.
* Legislators, Rauner must compromise: More than 5,000 NIU Monetary Assistance Program grant recipients are at risk of having to repay MAP grants that were credited by NIU despite no money coming in from the state, and the university plans to spend $300,000 to maintain the Stevens Building — a state project — over the winter to avoid $1 million worth of damage.
* State employees’ travel reimbursements on hold during Illinois budget impasse: “It has been most acute at the Department of Children and Family Services, where unpaid reimbursements had built up to the point that more than half a million dollars was owed to child-protection workers at that agency alone.”
* State needs to fund services for people with disabilities: Every day this stalemate goes unresolved social service agencies struggle to keep their doors open. Agencies sign contracts with the state to provide valuable community-based services, and that’s what they continue to do – even though payments are not being processed for state-funded grant programs.
* Enforcement of underage drinking laws slows during Illinois budget standoff: Liquor commission sting operations are among the latest casualties of Illinois’ nearly five-month budget standoff, with only 38 this past August — the most recent month for which figures are available — compared with 208 in August 2014.
* Little interest in loans to cover state shortfalls: Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to offer loans to help cash-strapped local governments weather the lingering budget storm appears to be drawing little interest. According to the director of the Illinois Finance Authority, only two 911 emergency telephone systems have inquired about the loans, and neither has taken the steps to apply for the financial assistance. The lack of business comes as a surprise, Illinois Finance Authority chief Chris Meister said last week. “I was expecting a lot of calls,” Meister said.
- Posted by Rich Miller
|More poison pills
Monday, Nov 30, 2015
* Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti says the savings from her government consolidation task force proposals will be “huge.” But, as always with this administration, there are anti-union poison pills…
One would give local governments the right to decide what should be part of collective bargaining with public-worker unions. Another would repeal or make changes to union-backed laws requiring governments to pay a certain level of wages and benefits to workers on publicly funded projects.
Holmes said she doesn’t understand why the proposals are part of group’s discussion, other than that “attacks on collective bargaining and organized labor are an ongoing theme” for Rauner.
Sanguinetti countered that many of the officials who spoke to the task force — from cities, universities and elsewhere — said repealing those requirements would save money.
“When Bruce and I were chosen to lead, we promised the people we would change Illinois,” she said.
[Rep. Jack Franks] argued that debating those measures is futile, since they have been repeatedly shot down by Democrats who run the Legislature, and even some GOP lawmakers don’t support them.
“Besides being a waste of time it’s a question of credibility at that point,” Franks said.
It’s like they can’t help themselves or something.
I mean, haven’t these people ever done any marketing? If your pitch involves pointing to an essential ingredient that you know your targeted consumer will hate, then you’re not gonna get very far with your target audience.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Tom Kacich…
Remember the furor nearly three years ago when newly elected state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, was the only Republican in the Illinois Senate to vote for a bill to legalize gay marriage in Illinois?
He was criticized by members of his own party — the Ford County Republican Party passed a resolution expressing its displeasure with his vote and former McLean County Republican Party Chair John Parrott said the young senator had made a lot of enemies.
“The outpouring of dissatisfaction from Republicans in McLean County has been overwhelming, along with other county chairmen calling me and talking to me about how disappointed they are in Barickman’s vote,” Parrott said.
But unless someone files [today] to oppose him, Barickman is going to get a pass in the March 15 Republican primary. Although he hasn’t filed yet, Barickman said he’ll do so on Monday.
We’ll see what happens today, but Sen. Barickman is an otherwise conservative Republican, he diligently works his district and, because of the US Supreme Court gay marriage is a done deal nationally. Ain’t nothing anybody can do about it now. Plus, it was probably an overblown issue to begin with, especially by the time it was passed here.
Also, the very real problems Illinois faces completely overshadow the minor little question about whether two people from the same gender can get married. Live and let live, and all that.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* It’s not that there’s a whole lot of new stuff in this Sunday New York Times article, but I’ve been forwarded the link a kabillion times because, I suppose, it’s in the Sunday New York Times…
The richest man in Illinois does not often give speeches. But on a warm spring day two years ago, Kenneth C. Griffin, the billionaire founder of one of the world’s largest hedge funds, rose before a black-tie dinner of the Economic Club of Chicago to deliver an urgent plea to the city’s elite.
They had stood silently, Mr. Griffin told them, as politicians spent too much and drove businesses and jobs from the state. They had refused to help those who would take on the reigning powers in the Illinois Capitol. “It is time for us to do something,” he implored.
Their response came quickly. In the months since, Mr. Griffin and a small group of rich supporters — not just from Chicago, but also from New York City and Los Angeles, southern Florida and Texas — have poured tens of millions of dollars into the state, a concentration of political money without precedent in Illinois history.
Their wealth has forcefully shifted the state’s balance of power. Last year, the families helped elect as governor Bruce Rauner, a Griffin friend and former private equity executive from the Chicago suburbs, who estimates his own fortune at more than $500 million. Now they are rallying behind Mr. Rauner’s agenda: to cut spending and overhaul the state’s pension system, impose term limits and weaken public employee unions.
Read the rest if you want.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* My weekly syndicated newspaper column…
Here’s what the Chicago Police Department told the media after LaQuan McDonald was killed by a police officer 13 months ago: A drug-addled black kid lunged at a cop with a knife and was then shot in the chest.
Six months later, and a week after Chicago’s mayoral election, the City Council rushed through approval of a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family, even though no lawsuit had been filed.
Seven months after that, the city finally released the dashboard video from a Chicago police car which clearly showed McDonald walking away from the police when he was shot 16 times—and almost all of those shots were fired as he lay bleeding to death on the pavement.
In addition to the officer who shot him, everybody failed that kid, from his own mother, who lost custody of LaQuan after her boyfriend savagely beat him; to the state’s Department of Children and Family Services, which was supposed to protect and help him as his legal ward; to the city’s mayor, who covered up the gruesome manner of McDonald’s death by fighting the release of the dashboard video; to the City Council, for not demanding answers before approving such a huge settlement; to the mainstream media, for not following up on their denied Freedom of Information Act requests with a lawsuit; to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, for her all-too-usual slow-walking of investigations of alleged police misconduct; to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who waited until days before a judge finally acted to claim that the city had violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act by sitting on the video.
Other states take much better care of their young wards. Yes, that can be expensive. But if caring for the kids nobody else wants isn’t one of the state’s most important responsibilities, I don’t know what the heck is.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, LaQuan was sexually molested in two different foster homes that were chosen, vetted and paid for by the state.
If that doesn’t boggle your mind and enrage your very soul, then absolutely nothing will.
Other states release their police dashboard and body cam videos much, much faster than Illinois. While that may lead to some unrest in the streets, it’s infinitely more democratic and honest than our far too encumbered, lumbering process, which overwhelmingly favors the political interests of those who run things.
Citizens can’t hold politicians accountable if they are deliberately kept in the dark, so Chicagoans deserved the right to know about McDonald’s death before they voted last spring.
And most other states license their police officers.
According to an article in Police Chief magazine, 44 states license police officers and have a statewide process for revoking those licenses.
Illinois does neither, but it’s not for lack of trying.
Earlier this year when the General Assembly was debating law enforcement reforms, police licensure was a hot topic. But, according to its chief sponsor, Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), the idea was derailed by the House Republicans. The proposal was dropped in order to achieve a bipartisan victory on some much-needed reforms like body cams and police training.
Cops have an almost impossible job, particularly in Chicago. Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 23, there have been 2,712 Chicago shooting victims, according to the Chicago Tribune. I wouldn’t want to be a Chicago cop for any amount of money.
The number of fatal shootings by Chicago police (70 in five years) pales in comparison to the total of all shootings. For most, our first instinct is to back the police. It’s a natural reaction. They’re our protectors, so we want to believe they are just and good people, and most definitely are.
But more citizens, particularly in high crime areas, have more contact with the police than they do with any other government employees. And, of course, the cops carry guns and are allowed to use them. In Chicago, official discipline of bad cops is so rare as to be almost non-existent, according to some recent studies. It’s a problem that screams for a remedy from above.
We need to do a better job as a state. The nightmare at DCFS needs to be addressed before the government makes more kids’ lives even worse.
Our Freedom of Information Act should no longer be a freedom from information law.
And we as a state should revisit the police licensing issue, since Chicago apparently can’t seem to take care of this very real problem on its own.
…Adding… The attorney general’s office is adamant that “we did our jobs” in this case and they sent along their early November memo as proof. Click here and decide for yourself.
- Posted by Rich Miller
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