Sunday, July 09, 2006

Hiring scandal signals lack of black clout at City Hall

Today's Mary Mitchell column about the hiring scandals that have resulted in convictions this past week. She notes that...

A decade ago, the City Council was reeling from Operation Silver Shovel, a bribes-for-dumping scandal that snared several black aldermen as well as the council's resident reformer. Although the Rev. Jesse Jackson accused the U.S. attorney's office of engaging in unfair selective prosecution, the feds' net was wide enough to bring in whites, blacks and Hispanics who were taking bribes.

This time around, however, not one black political operative has been mentioned.

Obviously, I'm not advocating that black pols should be involved in illegal hiring schemes. But the absence of black names among those associated with Mayor Daley's clout machine shows blacks had little clout at City Hall when it came to jobs.

That's pretty shocking when you consider how desperately jobs are needed in the wards black aldermen represent. Indeed, everything from gang violence to littered streets has been blamed on the lack of jobs.

Yes, the names of a couple of black aldermen showed up on the so-called clout list. But what the scandal really exposed was the tight grip the Hispanic Democratic Organization and its chief, former Daley intergovernmental affairs director Victor Reyes, had over jobs, including the lucrative Hired Truck program. In fact, until the scandal forced Hispanic commissioners out, there were five such commissioners working for the Daley administration.

With Reyes, HDO had someone -- allegedly -- who could crank up the clout machine. At the end of Daley's first year in office, Hispanics held 10 percent of management jobs. They now hold 16.7 percent of those jobs.

But blacks -- who had no alleged advocate in this regard -- have lost valuable ground.
What is the shakedown right now for blacks in policy making positions. Well before Daley became mayor in 1989 it was 45.2%. As of this year there were only 29.6%. Here's some more notes from Mitchell...

When it comes to city jobs, black men hold only 12.7 percent of the jobs with the highest salaries, while black women have a 17.2 percent share. Whites now hold 49.2 percent of the Shakman-exempt jobs, a 1.4 percent increase over 2003.

As if the hiring scandal wasn't bad enough, African Americans are also getting the short end of the stick when it comes to contracts. Despite the presence of a black man to oversee the city's minority business enterprise program, blacks still received just 8 percent of the $1.7 billion in city contracts awarded last year.

Yet every time Daley ran for re-election, the number of votes he picked up from black wards increased dramatically. In his last bid for re-election, Daley amassed the largest black vote he has ever received. He couldn't have done that without the enthusiastic support of ward bosses.

Apparently, all that political campaign work should have counted for something.
Let me close this out with her parting words...

Again, I'm not suggesting that black pols should have been part of this scam. But frankly -- right or wrong -- this is the way Chicago politics has worked. And when you get right down to it, individuals may end up in prison, but it's the system that's on trial.

After all, everyone who was on the clout list knew they were benefitting from a crooked system.

Everyone who requested a favor from these rainmakers knew they were part of the scheme.

Everyone -- from department heads to secretaries -- knew they were part of a corrupt system that has now been determined to be illegal.

Everyone, that is, except black political operatives.

Go figure.

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