Indicted Chicago Alderman Ed Burke resigned his position as chairman of the Chicago City Council’s powerful Finance Committee. Mayor Rahm Emanuel quickly appointed his own floor leader, Ald. Patrick O’Connor, as replacement.
For some background on O’Connor, start with John Kass’ great piece in the Tribune yesterday. He references a 2008 Tribune article, part of a series, describing the relationship between O’Connor’s role in zoning changes and his wife’s real estate business.
“He zones. She sells. And it’s legal” — that’s how the headline summarizes it. “She had sold millions of dollars’ worth of houses and condos after the projects were approved by her husband. He makes developers happy, they make him happy, his wife is happy, everyone’s happy,” as Kass puts it.
And, good grief, look at the rest of O’Connor’s bio in Wikipedia (which is not always a reliable source, but the information on O’Connor seems properly documented with footnotes to credible sources). It reads like a parody of Chicago politics for the 35 years O’Connor has been an alderman:
In his first term a federal grand jury investigated O’Connor for providing, in late 1983 and again in late 1984, year-end jobs on the Education Committee staff for fifteen persons, including his mother-in-law, his brother-in-law, his sister-in-law, wives of two former members of his law firm, and the wife of a former staff aide. Some of those hired admitted they did not realize they were on the City payroll. “All in the Family” was a popular name for O’Connor’s hiring practices, and O’Connor became known as the “City Hall Santa.
O’Connor defended himself by defending nepotism, it says: “Absolutely. I think nepotism is a system that has been around a long time. It has worked very well in England. I don’t think it’s been much more of a problem here.”
Also according to that entry, “O’Connor and the ward organization he chairs, the 40th Ward Regular Democratic Organization, were cited in a complaint filed on August 31, 2005 with the Illinois State Board of Elections by the Cook County Republican Party.”
Finally, it says “In 2008 O’Connor was found to be one of seven Chicago aldermen who between them got ten of their children good-paying summer jobs with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.”
Yes, he’s the breath of fresh air selected to replace the disgraced one. It’s “just arrogant politics in Chicago, with the ruling political class continuing to show its absolute contempt for the people they govern,” as Kass put it today. “They’re not even the slightest bit shamed. Emanuel can spout such nonsense installing O’Connor, talk about Burke and morality, and never blush, because either his skin is made of wood or perhaps he just thinks the people of Chicago are stupid fools.”
“Perhaps” Rahm thinks Chicagoans are fools? No, he’s certain.
–Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.