Deborah Graham, a Don Harmon protege, approves TIF money for pusher after he gives her money

She didn't know that about him, she tells Chi Trib

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Jim Bowman


Ald. Deborah Graham, former state rep for part of Oak Park was snookered by phony TIF grant applicant?

Officials knew the Convenience For You store was coming — in fact, the city gave it $105,000 in tax increment financing grants.

Ald. Deborah Graham, 29th, then pushed through a special ordinance lifting the moratorium, saying she wanted to help an African-American businesswoman with stellar credentials.

Actually, the new liquor store was bankrolled and launched by convicted drug dealer Frederick "Juicy" Sims, who has been tied to the Vice Lords street gang, a Tribune investigation found.

And what do you know? After the drug salesman gave her money!

Six months before Graham lifted the moratorium on new licenses and cleared the way for its opening, the store sent her a political contribution, records show.

She told the Tribune the money had no impact on her decision, and she said she was not aware of Sims' involvement in the business or his criminal background. "That's new information to me," she said. "If I had known then what I know now, I would not have supported them."

Grim details:

In February 2012, the store donated $1,950 to Graham's 29th Ward political fund. It was among the largest single donations she received that year.

Six months later, Graham reversed the long-standing moratorium on new liquor licenses in the 5300 block of West Madison Street.

And the pawnshop on North Avenue:

Last year she provided critical support to a special use zoning permit that enabled a fifth pawnshop to open in a half-mile stretch of North Avenue.

Angry residents filed a lawsuit disputing that permit for EZ Pawn at 6432 W. North Ave. They say the collection of pawnshops exploits the poor and is another visible reminder of the area's economic decay.

The local lobbying firm helping EZ Pawn is run by Victor Reyes, a former aide to Daley. It has donated $2,100 to Graham's ward organization to cover the expenses of community meetings on the issue, according to Graham.

Question is, how close is she to finding out who snookered her? Assuming she is giving it a college try.

Email: Twitter: @BlitheSp

Reader Comments

6 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Reality Check  

Posted: October 8th, 2013 7:29 PM

Leave it to an old rightwing white guy to trash a black female politician for being pro business. It's perfectly in keeping with you and your ilk trashing a black man for implementing a heretofore GOP-promoted national health care plan. It never ends with you people, does it?

Tom from OP from Oak Park  

Posted: October 8th, 2013 5:23 PM

This moment has been brought to you by the Democratic Party. Thanks guys. Oh, and thanks for Stroger, and Blago, and Harmon, and Madigan...


Posted: October 1st, 2013 2:52 PM

Jim I don't think Debrah is going to do that. She knew exactly what she was doing and it will not hurt her in future elections or appointments. Perhaps you are right that she will get caught reaching in the piggybank one too many times but until that happens she is laughing to the bank, or Liquor store.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 1st, 2013 1:46 PM

Deborah Graham needs to return any and all donations she has received from these individuals and businesses. A pledge to no longer accept any campaign money until the donor has been properly screened may help her regain the public's trust. She seems to lack a basic understanding of the principles of open and honest government and is heading in a direction that have led too many other local pols to prison.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 1st, 2013 10:51 AM

I wan't aware that any projects moved forward in Chicago until a criminal gave money to a politician.

North Ave Neighbor  

Posted: September 30th, 2013 3:33 PM

Wow, Graham not only sold out her own constituents for a few thousand dollars, but helped funneled TIF money taken out of school funds to support a liquor store run by a gangster. And yes, she's the North Ave pawn shop enabler. The trib article is very telling. What's her relationship with Don Harmon?

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2017

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2017 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad