A tough town in January.

God, I love this town. Corruption has such a happy shamelessness here. As what the Freep has branded “Text Message Scandal” unfolds, the new details keep getting weirder. The mayor has yet to emerge “from seclusion,” but Monday his ex-paramour, the chief of staff, quit her job. The battlefield promotion went to one Kandia Milton, who announced his first order of business would be…anyone?

Yes, paying $10,000 in back property taxes. It gets better:

Other problems uncovered:

• In the fall, Milton and his wife, Lisa, emerged from Chapter 13 bankruptcy. According to the bankruptcy records that the couple filed in August 2006, they owed $389,207 to a variety of creditors, including mortgages, credit cards, taxes and utility bills.

• They lost two Detroit properties at sheriff’s sales in April and May 2006.

• At one point, Milton had amassed $1,080 in parking ticket fines owed to the city.

• In April 2006, he was cited by Detroit police for failing to properly secure a child passenger. He paid a $235 fine, according to 36th District Court records.

I remember one morning back in my talk-radio days, when my co-host, a city councilman, casually mentioned that he’d paid a bunch of parking tickets the day before. His m.o. was to let them pile up in the glove compartment until his business took him to the city clerk’s office, then find out what his outstanding balance was and pay it all at once. He found this process far more efficient than worrying about having change for the meter and paying them one by one. Someone stopped me later and railed for a while about the “disrespect for the law” shown by this alleged public role model, and his shamelessness! In talking about it right out in the open! As though parking tickets were postcards from your doctor reminding you to get your cholesterol checked! The nerve!

Well, that was Fort Wayne, and this is Detroit. Meet the mayor’s new chief of staff. Model citizen.

While the News had that story, the Freep had another, a confirmation from a “fancy North Carolina resort” that the mayor, while passing the MLK holiday weekend there, officially alone and on official business — he was speaking at a King memorial breakfast — received a $504 “massage for two.”

Resort literature says, “The deluxe couples room is sprinkled with rose petals, then you and your significant other will receive a tandem candlelit Grove Park Inn Spa Massage, followed by an aromatic whirlpool bath. Sip chilled champagne while feeding each other chocolate-covered strawberries.”

The mayor’s companion is described as one “Carmen Slowski.” And yes, another media outlet noted the resemblance of the name to that of a fictional amphibian reptilian pitchwoman.

Jack Lessenberry chides us all:

You have to be a pretty stupid racist to take any delight or pleasure in this latest scandal.

OK, I’m chastened. He’s right that, beyond the cheap titillation, there’s absolutely nothing good to come out of this mess. But it does make the morning papers a lot more interesting. Let’s leave it at that.

Speaking of Detroit and its problems: I heard yet another stolen-car story the other day. I used to know hardly anyone who’d had a car stolen in circumstances short of extreme stupidity, i.e. leaving the keys in the ignition. Now I know half a dozen at least, and most around here. Hell, a couple of our local commenter JohnC’s friends had their car stolen, and it turned up on Belle Isle with a dead body in it. The story I heard the other day was typical, and had the effect of making me see certain things through a thief’s eyes. This lady was pumping her gas at one of those conveniently located stations on the service drive to a major freeway, and discovered the bad guys find it convenient, too. She unhooked the hose, turned to hang it up, and some dude jumped into the driver’s seat and was flying down the on-ramp to I-94 before she could say, “What the-?”

What’s perhaps miraculous is that they actually found the car, a month later. It was down in the D with a temporary tag, 3,000 more miles than it had when it was stolen, significant body damage and a nicely banged-up undercarriage. They snipped the OnStar wiring first thing, of course.

I used to wonder if all these new security devices on cars — the RFID fobs, GPS tracking, etc. — were absolutely necessary. No more.

Ah, well. As long as I drive an unsexy model with a stick shift, I feel a certain measure of safety. Foolish, perhaps, but let me cling to my illusions.

Time to fasten eyes on the day ahead. We had a day or two of mild temperatures, and then around nightfall yesterday the wind began to howl, and the thermometer dropped 40 degrees overnight. Yesterday: mid-40s. At this moment…checking widget…9 above. Yikes. I retrieved my garbage-can lid from the neighbor’s yard this morning, and reflected I never used to notice the weather beyond the obvious sweater/umbrella/boots wardrobe decisions. Probably because, as a younger woman, I was preoccupied with my internal weather report. It was like the Dutch Antilles, where the media doesn’t report daily conditions in anything other than a hurricane, because they’re always the same: High 70s with westerly winds of 10-15 miles per hour, chance of afternoon showers. Mine was: Steamy, with a 70 percent chance of bad decisions. Around my mid-30s I noticed I no longer worried that my palms were sweaty when I shook someone’s hand. The great cooling had begun. Someday I will reach room temperature, but until then, I have an on-spec essay to polish and throw out there for the usual rejections. Have a great day.

Posted at 9:10 am in Current events, Metro mayhem |

35 responses to “A tough town in January.”

  1. Julie Robinson said on January 30, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Isn’t it amazing that a city will tolerate such a high level of corruption? I grew up outside Chicago, where Mayor Daley and his cronies controlled everything at every level. Yet most just shrugged their shoulders because that’s the way it was.

    Daley et al also made the city function well, with the notable exception of the 1968 Democratic convention. But this doesn’t seem to be true in Detroit. So why is the ongoing corruption allowed?

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  2. Kirk said on January 30, 2008 at 10:16 am

    I take delight and pleasure in the revelation of idiotic scandals involving any and all lying, fraudulent politicians, regardless of party or what color they are. Kilpatrick has shown himself to be exceedingly stupid and arrogant, even for a politician. I am not a racist, stupid or otherwise. So screw Jack Lessenberry.

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  3. nancy said on January 30, 2008 at 10:26 am

    I’d be interested to hear JohnC’s take on this, as he’s lived in both places as well, but here’s what I think:

    Daley survived because he never lost the middle class. When people talk about the great exodus to Detroit’s suburbs in the 1970s, they tend to cast it purely in racial terms, when it was a money/class issue more than anything — those who had the means moved out, and that included many, many African Americans. So yeah, the city doesn’t work (outside of downtown, which is, perversely, thriving), but the people who suffer are poor, barely educated and, hence, voiceless. The racial comparison is discomfiting, but you could almost compare the situation to that of a former European colony in Africa, stripped of its wealth and resources, with a small black ruling class who learned well from their white predecessors, and see the place mainly as a pot to be looted.

    That’s the cynical take, anyway. Latest word is the mayor will emerge tonight, at his church, make a big speech about forgiveness and sorrow and all the rest, and vow to carry on. In other words: No retreat, no surrender.

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  4. alex said on January 30, 2008 at 10:52 am

    As a former Chicagoan, I’m accustomed to a level of political shamelessness that makes me wonder what all the fuss is about Kilpatrick.

    Unsexy? Your Passat is unsexy, Nance? Passats are very sexy. People in Detroit will never admit it, the same way Pentecostal women will never allow that they’d love to try on a miniskirt and six-inch heels, but Passats are sexy.

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  5. nancy said on January 30, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Sexy for a GP mom, maybe, but hey — it’s a station wagon, after all. Although I will say, when you’re hurrying to go somewhere, that flat, German handling and smooth engineering is almost enough to qualify as hawt.

    Joke of the day: Why don’t Grosse Pointe women like group sex? Too many thank-you notes.

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  6. beb said on January 30, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Mayor for Life Coleman Young was once described as “The last Irish Politician,” meaning – I think – someone like Chicago’s Daley, who ran machine politics. There was only one party, Democratic and only one leader in that party – da mayor. There’s simply no one else around to complain about corruption.

    I find it interesting that Kilpatrick will launch his survival from the pulpit of a church. What kind of a church lends its integrity to a politician? And especially a politicisn who has not exactly expressed contrition over his sinful ways.

    You don’t have to be a racist to enjoy watching the spectacle of the mayor’s meltdown. It’s spectactular theater. And reminds me of Rudy Guilianni who was doing well in the polls until it came out that he was billing his adulterous trysts to obscure city departments. Everyone knew he had been doing his mistress while still married but that was OK. When it turned out that he was misusing city funds…. He suddenly dropped from mainstream media coverage and had been polling a distant 6th in early caucauses.

    Kilpatrick’s problems stem from the $9 million settlement the city was forced to pay. That’s abuse of city money and that is why the text ,essages stick in people’s craw.

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  7. Sue said on January 30, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Nancy’s right, Daley didn’t lose the middle class. That’s because the garbage got picked up, snow got plowed, and people knew who they needed to call if they had a problem (precinct captains, who would then make sure the caller voted for the right candidate). And if occasionally someone who didn’t want to give up his business location got a visit from the inspectors who found enough violations to put him out of business, well, these things happen. You couldn’t go through the Bridgeport neighborhood if you were black, but that’s ok because if you were black you would know to stay out of there anyway. That’s just the way it was and was expected to be. Except Chicago had one thing no one else had: Mike Royko. Five days a week for decades (except when he was writing about the Cubs or 16 inch softball), he made sure people knew the price they and others were paying for their high-functioning City and County government. As I watch some of the stuff going on in Chicago right now, I wish Royko were still around. Every city needs a writer like him, but I’ve never seen anyone anywhere else who was so effective at shining the light in dark corners and changing conventional thinking.

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  8. alex said on January 30, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Daley II not only keeps the middle class happy with good garbage and snow removal, he also knows how to suck up to every ethnic group and subculture. I was astounded years ago with his Boyztown beautification project — the gay strip studded with phallic pylons. (There was also supposed to be a giant decorative arch over the intersection of Belmont and Halsted but fortunately the good taste of the gay people prevailed and it never happened.)

    The press gave Daley II a honeymoon of about a dozen years before writers like Mark Brown and Carol Marin started going after his mobbed-up city contracts, but no matter how scandalous the news, he’s another mayor for life with almost unanimous support from the electorate.

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  9. Mike Berry said on January 30, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    I’m shocked and appalled by the ignorant species-baiting in this post. The Slowskys are reptiles, not amphibians.

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  10. nancy said on January 30, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Ack! Fixed. In my defense, all I can say is: Around here, most turtles are found in water. But that doesn’t make them amphibians. You’re right.

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  11. alex said on January 30, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Aren’t cross-species relations a more serious offense than perjury in Michigan?

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  12. del said on January 30, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Penecostal women wearing miniskirts & 6-inch heels? Loved that.
    A worthwhile book is The Quotations of Mayor Coleman A. Young. The man was perpetually at war with the media but didn’t care. His seat was safe with voters falling into 2 camps, ABC or NBC (anybody/nobody but Coleman). One funny quote was made via live satellite feed from Hawaii to an annual meeting of journalists gathered in downtown Detroit. I imagine him wearing a lei and sipping a drink as he began: “Aloha motherfuckers!”

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  13. nancy said on January 30, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Excellent shout-out, Del. Nice link to some of the best, here.

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  14. Julie Robinson said on January 30, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    My favorite: “The man has all of the characteristics of a dog, except loyalty.”

    BTW, I just realized why I read the comments more on NNC than any other blog. It’s their nice large type font! Never overlook the aging eyes of the boomers.

    (And of course the sparkling personalities of those who post, and the scintillating posts themselves.)

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  15. Joe K said on January 30, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I flew that weather last night, three trips from Ypsilanti to Cleavland. On my flight home from Cleavland at 10:00pm it was 54 degrees in Cleavland and 18 degrees in Fort Wayne, The winds when I landed in Auburn were 35 gusting to 45. Wild night

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  16. john c said on January 30, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    I’ve been chomping at the bit to sink my teeth into this one all day … just now getting a break.
    Both Nancy and Alex are spot on. Daley never lost the middle class, and he takes care of all the various ethnic-cultural groups in the city, whether he likes them or not. His administration has serious corruption issues, and I’m proud to say that my byline is on a few pretty good corruption stories. But if you take corruption as an issue unto itself and just look at how he has run the city, he is a great, great mayor.
    One thing he has going for him is the city’s even more corrupt city council. It is made up of 50 ward aldermen, each of whom cares about nothing other than his or her neighborhood. And the good ones take care of their neighborhood. Once I woke up to find an abandoned car blocking my garage. Imagine having to call downtown in a city the size of Chicago to have that towed – say good-bye to the day. I, however, called the alderman, whose office was a few blocks away. He called the Streets and Sanitation yard in the ward. The car was gone within an hour – and my precinct captain was knocking on the door within a day. This leads to low-level corruption, since a the alderman pretty much control what gets approved in their ward. But it also means things get done. It brings a city of 3 million people down to the level of 50 cities of 60,000 apiece. And guess what. Whenever an alderman gets indicted and sent to jail, the mayor appoints his successor, who is almost automatically re-elected. Thus has Mayor Daley personally appointed a majority of the city council.
    Detroit, on the other hand, has councillors elected at large. Most of them come from the same neighborhood. None of them has any kind of political mandate. They are almost impossible to unseat, and therefore totally unaccountable. They are, as far as I can tell, worthless hacks. They waste their time posturing over big-picture issues that have nothing to do with real quality of life in Detroit.
    At the core, though, is the fact that Detroit has one constituency – down and out. Race plays a role. But, as Nancy said, it’s mostly about class and income. The white collar class of Detroit has more African Americans than any other city I know. Most of them don’t live in the city, which is instead filled with people who either have been, or think they have been, left behind – screwed over by “the man.” You get elected, therefore, by flipping off the man, when what you should really be doing is getting the man to build his corporate headquarters downtown.
    In other words, if you are a leader and try to take the city where it needs to go, you are unseated by someone who accuses you of selling out. Kwame is perfectly comfortable with that, as long as he gets the city-leased Navigator and the largest personal security unit in the country. He is a hack feeding off a carcass.
    One last thing and I promise I’ll stop – the Daley-Kwame comparison popped into my head just a few days ago. There was yet another tragic child-death story in the paper – a 15 year-old killed when someone opened fire on the car she was riding in. The story had all the usual trappings – innocent kids, grieving adults. Then I read that the shooting took place at 2:30 A.M. on a Monday morning. I cursed out loud. Richie Daley has his faults, to be sure. But I know – KNOW – that he would curse out loud when he read that story too. And later in the day, when a reporter asked him a question about it, his face would get red and he’d garble his syntax. But the message along the lines of: “What the F&#K is going on here. Where are the parents?” would come through loud and clear. Now, imagine how much more powerful that message would be if it came from the mouth of a handsome, successful African American mayor, instead of a puffy-faced Irish ward heeler. Kwame said nothing.
    Phew. I’ll shut up now.

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  17. nancy said on January 30, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Preach it, brother.

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  18. Kim said on January 30, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    All the stuff John C said about Daley, right on. I suspect you’re right on about Detroit, too.
    I remember clearly how the precinct captain would work the neighborhood, always in a suit and tie, always sitting down with my mom and dad to talk about how things were going, if he could do anything for us, remind the folks to vote. My dad would usually have some tickets he was selling for the fire dept. so he precinct captain would inquire about tickets and my dad would sell him a couple. It was a beautiful little system where a complaint was answered, not ignored. So long as you turned up on Election Day, that is.

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  19. john c said on January 30, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Watched Kwame tonight … started out okay, apologizing to everyone and anyone. He actually said “I’m sorry.” which is alway good. But it quickly lapsed into poor-poor-pitiful me and can you believe all these evil media types staking out my house. Then his wife talked, which was weird. And they officially lost me when she declared: “This is between me, my husband and God.” Tell that to the judge m’am, as there appears to have been at least one very big law broken here.
    Good strategy, trying to make it all family crap and nothing else. Trouble is he fired someone to cover his tracks. And it cost the city $9 million to fix that.

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  20. nancy said on January 30, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    He’s trying to make it about sex and betrayal, when it’s about perjury and obstruction of justice. Cry me a river, KK.

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  21. Peter said on January 30, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    The lovefest you guys are spouting for Daley is just about going to make me puke. The guy’s a thieving hack through and through. The only thing he’s got better than Bush is that his son’s in the military.

    Several of the posters had examples of how the lovely precinct captain would take care of you with no problem provided you voted the right way in the election. They were able to do that because the City is so byzantine that only they know who to really call if there is a problem. Back in the day, a normal citizen wouldn’t know where to begin.

    However, any decent suburb would do the job just as well, and without you having to buy tickets to the alderman’s fund raiser. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the idea of good government based on the concept that you have transparency in government transactions and you are able to contact your locality if something needs to be done? Good fucking luck getting that in Chicago.

    And another reason Chicago and Daley didn’t go down the toilet ala Detroit and other cities is the regulation that all city workers have to live within the city limits. How would Detroit be different (and better) if all of those teachers, cops, and firemen lived in the city instead of the suburbs? At least you would have a few islands of stability, which is what chicago had in the early ’80’s.

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  22. basset said on January 30, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Here in Nashville, we have the largest city council of any city in the USA outside Chicago… 35 district councilmembers and four more at large for a combined city/county government covering about 525 square miles and almost 700-thousand people.

    one of the drafters of the combined city/county government charter back in the 60s refers to the Council as “forty jealous whores.”

    which is true in some cases, not by any means all…

    totally unrelated topic… Joe K, think you could get anything short of a Turbo Porter into and out of this unnamed and probably Photoshopped field?


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  23. Danny said on January 30, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    The lovefest you guys are spouting for Daley is just about going to make me puke.

    Pete, that made me chuckle. For one, it reminded me of Rosanne Rosanna-Danna. And though I have nowhere near the front row seat that many of you have, I do know enough about Daleys to have a pretty low opinion. Justifiably so.

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  24. john c said on January 31, 2008 at 12:01 am

    Sorry to make you puke, Pete. You are right about some things. Very wrong about others. First of all, aldermen don’t get things done because the city is “so byzantine that only they know who to call.” They get things done because they are aldermen. Streets and San knows to take the alderman’s calls and do what they say. That’s the whole idea. The alderman is your guy when you have a problem. It is the opposite of byzantine. It is simple. That’s why it works.
    And I’ve covered many suburbs. Many are well run. Many others are, governmentally speaking, bitchy little cliques of mediocrity, and hardly squeaky clean. And none of them have 3 million residents, including many, many poor folks and not just a few bad guys.
    Chicago is a thriving, beautiful, vibrant city. Daley is the mayor and has been since 1989. If pointing those things out, as well as noting that the guy has corruption issues coming out his overfed ass, is a Daley lovefest, well, at the risk of sounding like a precinct captain I used to have the occasional Old Style with, I gotchyer lovefest right here pal.

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  25. Joe K said on January 31, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Little Dick Daley should have been thrown in jail for what he did to Meigs field. Direct violation of faa regulations that could have caused a major accident. Lil Dicky walks away scott free, and the citizens had to pay the bill.
    Pilots hate him,

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  26. MarkH said on January 31, 2008 at 2:10 am

    Basset (and Joe K) —

    Most likely not photoshopped, possibly telephoto-lensed, but definitely real, and, named now: Courchevel, France in the Alps. Check out the two planes already parked there for perspective. All Airliners.net photos are real and actual, far as I know. Anyway, here’s how it’s done:


    Joe, your thoughts…?

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  27. john c said on January 31, 2008 at 7:08 am

    Won’t argue with you on that one Joe. The Miegs thing was disgraceful.

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  28. basset said on January 31, 2008 at 7:53 am

    holy shit. and you can’t land there without specific training because “there are special hazards”… I would surely think so. and mountains or no mountains, that’s a really short runway anyhow.

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  29. Joe K said on January 31, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Having the uphill would help but your takeoff would have to be in a lightly loaded airplane due to density altitude.
    I would like to try it sometime.

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  30. brian stouder said on January 31, 2008 at 8:58 am

    It looks like a carrier deck, without the catapult! The picture remindes me of that saying about old pilots and bold pilots…

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  31. Jeff said on January 31, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Re: Mayor Kwame and his modified limited apology — where do these guys get these wives? How do we keep seeing these ghastly, multi-year, detailed revelations of hanky-danky-panky, followed by a guy apologizing with a grim spouse saying “I still love my husband” for the cameras?

    No, i’m not saying they all should take an axe to them (strategically, targeted), and i believe in redemption and forgiveness, straight up i do, but the next day, standing right next to ‘im, saying the useful thing? I would never, never, never counsel a woman to put herself in that position, for her own health and sanity first and foremost. If the marriage can be saved, ooh-rah and i can happen with a Kwame-esque situation, happens all the time, but . . . going on camera to affirm the goober the next day after seeing the details in the paper?

    I don’t get it. Hillary, however she sorted out the relationship down the road, didn’t do press conference kissy-face for Bill right after the main revelations, and wouldn’t even hold his hand heading for the chopper — which is part of why i think they’re 92% less hypocritical than most of my friends do.

    But if you go to nytimes.com this morning, i think you see the first day of the end of the Clinton campaign, and we’re gonna be lookin’ at Obama v. McCain. What a year, and i don’t even live in Detroit.

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  32. MichaelG said on January 31, 2008 at 9:32 am

    I lived in Chicago and in the Chicago area when I was a kid. That was when Richard J. Daly, Hizzoner himself, was mayor. I don’t know anything about the younger Daly and his job and I certainly don’t know anything about Detroit except that that mayor and city g’ment look like a couple of real pieces of work. When Hizzoner was mayor the corruption was a mile wide and an inch deep. The machine and the city worked exactly as John C describes it. No need to give further examples. I think John C gives you the flavor. Daly himself never took a dime. He was born, grew up and died in the same “back of the yards” house. He didn’t drive big cars or take rich trips or any of that. His corruption was about power plain and simple. Oh, and this all covered Cook County, not just Chicago.

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  33. alex said on January 31, 2008 at 10:05 am

    I still feel all warm and fuzzy about my old Chicago aldercreature, Helen Shiller. She was a true old-school leftist and not one of Daley’s cocksuckers and she always managed to fend off every Daley-backed candidate that ever ran against her. Last I knew, anyway.

    One time I got a parking ticket in the mail. Some cop evidently mistranscribed a license plate number which turned out to be mine. The car was described as a blue Dodge, but my car was a red Honda. The location was somewhere I’d never been before. And the offense was pretty serious, parking in front of a hydrant or something.

    I appealed. The city refused to consider it and doubled the fine because I hadn’t paid within so many days. So I faxed the ticket to Helen Shiller’s office, along with a copy of the letter of appeal I’d sent the city and a copy of my auto registration. I got a personal call from Ms. Shiller who fixed the problem and joked about the dumb fucks who work in the traffic court.

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  34. Sue said on January 31, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Peter, I think you may be misunderstanding the posters whom you describe as taking part in a “lovefest”. We don’t necessarily love it, but we sure understand it. The City worked (and works), but I really believe that because of some of the journalists there (as noted before, Mike Royko almost single-handedly in the past and John Kass & Carol Marin & co. today), few people are unaware of what’s going on. That’s what I meant when I posted earlier that Royko made sure that people knew the price they were paying for their high-functioning City and County government. Cook County is huge – people don’t realize how far out it goes (I lived in Barrington as a high schooler, about a forty-five minute drive into the City, and the town was split – Cook County on one side of Lake Cook Road, Lake County on the other). That’s a big power base for the City politicians, even though the burbs are mostly Republican. And regarding the requirement that City personnel live in the City – all Chicago-area posters who know a teacher, cop or firefighter who maintained an apartment in the City while living in the burbs, raise your hand.

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  35. basset said on January 31, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    it is indeed a large county. last time I was in the Chicago area was for a car auction in St. Charles… we decided we just had to go downtown for a real Chicago pizza, drove to the nearest train station, rode to the Loop, ate, came back out. took six hours.

    pizza wasn’t anything special, either.

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