By Jim Bowman
Let us now praise Ike Carothers, or at least point out how he is not an absurdist candidate, made for horrifying Democrats and amusing Republicans.
First, he has a point about being forgiven, of course, even by voters. Depends what he did badly and what he did well and (frankly) how his constituents fared, comparatively speaking, especially in Chicago and Cook County, where standards are lower.
The question in any case is how, all things considered, a candidate stacks up against opponents. There are no paragons here. As for Republicans, we live where Democrats decide and others reside, so primaries matter. A lot.
Consider, therefore, the bad old Ike. In June 2006, when City Hall patronage chief Robert Sorich was standing trial, prosecutors had a list, not a little one, of clouted job seekers and their political sponsors. Ike's name turned up more than any other alderman's. He was the kind of clout-wielder who gives clout-wielding a bad name.
In 1985, cleared criminally of threatening and beating a political opponent and his allies, Ike, his father, his brother William, and a fourth defendant were found liable civilly and ordered to pay the complainant $152,000. He was the kind of hardball-playing politician who gives hardball politics a bad name.
More recently, he pleaded guilty to taking a bribe and spent 28 months in federal prison, finishing his two years post-prison probation six months ago. Is this whom we want for a Cook County commissioner?
Ald. Emma Mitts thinks so, and was in the audience at the Oak Park library for the Feb. 25 commissioner candidates forum. (Ike noted her presence.) He made a big mistake by accepting bribes, Mitts told the Sun-Times. But since his return from prison, he has been humbled, she said. "He used to have this attitude of swag. He had a walk of power, throwing his weight around — I didn't see that anymore," said Mitts, who was a Carothers protégé on the City Council. He's a different man, as she sees it.
Others of her constituents have done time. "When they come back," she said, "they don't get a hand, they can't get no help." She decided to help this one.
Ike told The Chicago Reader's Mick Dumke he's done a lot of thinking and has grown. He looks different, Dumke wrote. "He's still thick-chested and bulldog-necked, but slimmer and mellower. He no longer looks quite as ready to plow everybody over for not stepping to the side fast enough."
Ike: "Sometimes trouble comes your way, but I think you have to be resilient enough to recognize you've made some mistakes in life, to learn from those mistakes, and you come back and you learn from them so you're better. And I feel I'm better. I feel I'm better."
The supposed bribe came from the (since convicted) Galewood Yards (Central Ave. north of North Ave.) developer, Calvin Boender.
But Carothers was all for the development, he told Dumke.
There was nothing in it not to like, [he said] he did not have to be bribed. The community was grateful for it and other projects he brought about while alderman, including a new hospital, a new police station, and street lights and infrastructure upgrades. But he admits that it wasn't "appropriate" to let developer Boender pay for the work on his house.
"When the contractors came I asked him, 'Let's work out the details in terms of the cost,' and he said, 'I'll get back to you.' Down the road it became evident that [Boender] made the decision that, 'Oh, I'm going to pay for that.' And that's the mistake that I made, to continue to let him do that. And I'm remorseful for it."
You don't believe him? Be my guest. But keep in mind he got $40,000 worth of repairs and World Series tickets for doing what's done a lot by Chicago aldermen -- it's the most corrupt city, says UIC prof and ex-Ald. Dick Simpson -- who are enmeshed, like it or not (they like it), in the city-businessmen partnerships that beg for collusion. Boender made millions on the deal. $40,000? Peanuts.
This situation also begs for scalp-hunting by prosecutors, who fill out the picture of Kabuki-like prancing and dancing that we call big-city government. Consider the grandstanding by Patrick Fitzgerald on the morning he arrested Blagojevich, including his over-the-top headline-grabbing rhetoric. Mission accomplished, something on order of Elliott Ness driving his souped-up, front-armored vehicle through distillery doors or axe-swinging lawmen of the same era busting up beer barrels for the late editions.
more more more later . . .