posted by chicago pop
So to speak.
You also get used to Aldermen reassuring us that, whatever the offense, "everyone is doing it." As convicted felon (and former 20th Ward Alderman) Arenda Troutman put it, “Most aldermen ... are hos."
So when the Chicago Tribune reports on a $1.3 million slush fund that not even the Daley-appointed, hiring compliance lap-dog knew about, it's not really that shocking. Alderman George Cardenas (12th) thinks it's perfectly A-OK to have his dad on the payroll because, after all, "He does a lot of things -- a lot of the things in the community that people have no idea about."
The existence of the slush fund, then -- which apparently is used as a way to allow aldermen to hire independent contractors without having to follow mandated hiring rules or pay city pensions -- is not surprising, nor is the fact that Alderman Leslie Hairston drew down a $28K check from the fund.
What is surprising is that the $28K went to political consultant Delmarie Cobb, and was paid from the fund between January 2008 and July 2009 "to prepare newsletters, news releases and publicize ward meetings for the 5th Ward alderman," during exactly the time that Alderman Hairston had a big crisis on her hands: Doctors Hospital.
(Cobb's next gig, it appears, was working to rehabilitate Senator Roland "Tombstone" Burris' political reputation.)
Now, we happen to have one of Cobb's old news releases publicizing a ward meeting for the 5th Ward alderman, and it pertained to Doctors Hospital. And I remember thinking at the time: The Adlerman is going to get some professional help this time. She wants to keep control of the meetings, avoid another Point fiasco. She wants to stay on the ball.
Back in July 2008, as the Doctors Hospital redevelopment plan was heating up, Delmarie Cobb's PR firm The Publicity Works [no website] sent this email around:
Fifth Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston has scheduled a public meeting on the status of the former Doctor’s Hospital for 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, August 5, in the auditorium of Bret Harte Elementary School, 1556 E. 56th St. The University of Chicago purchased the structure, located on Stony Island Avenue between 57th and 59th Streets, and is working with White Lodging, which proposes developing hotel accommodations at the site.
“It’s been a year since the developer unveiled their original concept to the public,” Hairston said. “The community expressed serious concerns about reservation, how the project visually ‘fits’ in the environment, labor practices, and overall degree of dialogue with local stakeholders.”
Hairston said she the university and White Lodging kept the lines of communication open. “I am pleased to say they listened and even reviewed an alternative design submitted by preservation advocates. We are now at a place where we can talk about how they took our issues into consideration, or why they believe something might not be feasible. It’s an on-going negotiation, and I encourage anyone interested to attend, ask questions and give honest feedback about what they hear.”
But we all know what happened. Hairston pulled off a meeting that was relatively orderly, a year after one that was not. But in terms of PR campaigns against the dry vote, or even just advice on how to manage the Doctors Hospital controversy, there appears to have been virtually nothing. At least, not as far as we can tell.
Except, it will be recalled, Hairston's letter to the Hyde Park Herald, published by the hapless newspaper AFTER the election, but also written only 11 days before the election, encouraging voters to oppose the dry vote. And this, after a full summer and fall of controversy on the issue -- when residents of the 39th precinct were receiving mailings from unions and receiving door-to-door visits from petitioners.
Whatever that $28K was spent for, it doesn't seem to have had much effect either advocating for or even informing the voting public of Alderman Hairston's position on the Doctors Hospital issue. It would be fair to say that, if any of that money went towards publicizing Hairston's position, or anything to do with Doctors Hospital, it went down a hole.
With that in mind, we wish Senator Burris the best of luck.