Chicago magazine has this long spread about the slow fusion between black and Hispanic gangs and black and Hispanic politicians in the city. Of course, they show you a white-looking gang banger and a white man in a suit. Go figure.
Some interesting tidbits:
Baskin isn’t a slick campaign strategist. He’s a former gang leader and, for several decades, a community activist who now operates a neighborhood center that aims to keep kids off the streets. Baskin has deep contacts inside the South Side’s complex network of politicians, community organizations, and street gangs. as he recalls, the inquiring candidates wanted to know: “Who do I need to be talking to so I can get the gangs on board?”
I’ve warned out about this cottage industry of “former” gang bangers pretending to “go straight” and then running around and preaching to kids about “doing right” (implicitly recruiting for their “former” gang, and running interference for their “former” gang’s criminality with superficially legal methods, IMHO).
The gang representatives were former chiefs who had walked away from day-to-day thug life, but they were still respected on the streets and wielded enough influence to mobilize active gang members.
Then they’re not really “former” gang chiefs. You don’t really leave a gang, unless it’s in a pine box, or you just get so damned old that the world passes you by.
The gang representatives were interested in electing aldermen sympathetic to their interests and those of their impoverished wards. As for the politicians, says Baskin, their interests essentially boiled down to getting elected or reelected. “All of [the political hopefuls] were aware of who they were meeting with,” he says. “They didn’t care. All they wanted to do was get the support.”
Getting black politicians to advocate for black interests. There’s something that hasn’t been tried before.
During the meetings, the politicians were allotted a few minutes to make their pitches. The former gang chiefs then peppered them with questions: What would they do about jobs? School safety? Police harassment? Help for ex-cons? But in the end, as with most things political in Chicago, it all came down to one question, says Davis, the community activist who helped Baskin with some of the meetings. He recalls that the gang representatives asked, “What can you give me?” The politicians, most eager to please, replied, “What do you want?”
The irony is that these same politicians oversee the Chicago Police Department, whose officers aren’t supposed to have any sort of link to any sort of ne’er-do-well. Now you know why I don’t want local control of the SLPD.
Most alarming, both law enforcement and gang sources say, is that some politicians ignore the gangs’ criminal activities. Some go so far as to protect gangs from the police, tipping them off to impending raids or to surveillance activities—in effect, creating safe havens in their political districts. And often they chafe at backing tough measures to stem gang activities, advocating instead for superficial solutions that may garner good press but have little impact.
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
The 46th Ward is one of Chicago’s most diverse communities, home to the well-heeled and the downtrodden. Throughout her career, from 1987 until she stepped down last year, Helen Shiller was known as a fierce advocate for the latter. Few aldermen on the City Council have been more resistant to gentrification or more likely to embrace social welfare programs. In Uptown, large public housing complexes were a source of pride for Shiller, who trumpeted how they added diversity to the ward and provided a rare commodity on the North Side’s lakefront: affordable housing.
Shiller is white, some would say “arguably so.” Important because virtually all the other politicians involved in this narrative are either black or Hispanic. This one will get her comeuppance when the diversity she loves so much votes her out office and replaces her with another low grade black. At least she’ll be able to take pride in Chicago City Hall becoming more diverse.
Allowed such free rein, our lawmakers operate in an ambiguous moral universe that seems as lawless as some of the street corners in their districts. “No wonder corrupt pols here fear only one person: U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald,” said a Chicago Tribune editorial a few years ago.
But guess who is Fitzgerald’s boss, has been since January 20, 2009 and will be until at least January 20, 2013?
For better or worse, gang members are constituents, the same as businesspeople in the Gold Coast. Says Aaron Patterson, an imprisoned gang member: “It ain’t like gangs come from another planet.”…(snip)…Though estimates vary, most authorities and criminologists agree that there are 70,000 to 125,000 gang members in the city. In the numbers game of Chicago politics—in which, as the old joke goes, a one-vote victory constitutes a landslide—a constituency of that size gets noticed. (Keep in mind that in Illinois convicted felons can vote once they are released from prison.)
Now you understand why most states prohibit convicted felons from voting while they’re in prison or jail or on probation, and a few extend it to lifetime. Now you know why Eric “My People” Holder, Thomas “Hate White People” Perez, and President Obama, want convicted felons to be able to vote even while they’re in prison.
And though gangs are anything but a monolithic voting bloc…
I’m sure a lot of gang bangers vote Republican.
Many politicians who enlist gang members try to cloak the relationship in the rhetoric of political empowerment or social activism. They’ll say they want to get troubled youth involved in the political process in constructive ways: doing things like circulating nominating petitions, passing out campaign literature, or registering voters. They’ll say that for many of these men and boys, participating in politics is one of the few positive things they’ve done in their lives.
The problem is the way the politicians reciprocate.
A high-ranking Latin King claims that a Latino elected official, still in office, and a member of his staff routinely buy drugs from the gang. “They do PCP, coke, smoke weed, drink, everything,” he says. Several gang members call such actions common. “That shit that goes on behind closed doors is outrageous,” says a Latin King from another part of the city.
Like I said…
Consider the case of Radames DeJesus. A convicted cocaine dealer who was sentenced to seven years in prison for shooting and seriously wounding three rival gang members in 1989, DeJesus, 45, is currently active in the Latin Kings, according to three Chicago gang investigators and a well-placed Humboldt Park gang member. At his 1990 trial, a gang investigator testified that DeJesus was an enforcer in the gang. DeJesus admitted he was a gang member but not an enforcer, according to court documents.
Sometime around 2006, sources say, a political insider told DeJesus he could start up a minority-owned business and reap lucrative city contracts. He then opened SewerTech Services, a sewer maintenance company on the city’s West Side. SewerTech has received a total of $31.1 million in subcontracts from Kenny Construction, the politically connected firm that has won hundreds of millions of dollars in sewer lining and repair business under the Daley administration.
This “minority owned business” is probably a regular business with DeJesus as a front in order to cash in on the affirmative action contract gravy train. I doubt a street cocaine dealer has the mental mojo to start a sophisticated above ground above board legit business like that.
Anti-gang activists, police, and political insiders say that elected officials show how serious they are about tackling the gang problems in their districts by the public safety actions they take or don’t take and by the services or favors they provide. For example, many politicians in high-crime districts regularly offer help to ex-offenders who want to get their criminal records expunged—treating such favors as a constituent service, like garbage pickup, rather than a legal process best left to practicing lawyers.
The only person in Illinois who can expunge a criminal record full of state charges is the Governor. Remember, this current Governor won only because of Crook County.
A brief survey of the City Council’s recent actions on gangs reveals mostly empty posturing and symbolic gestures, some worthy of a Second City sketch. Other than an anti-loitering law that’s been on the books for nearly two decades and various gun restrictions that apply to all city residents, the city’s efforts to combat gangs have gotten increasingly absurd. Over the years, the council has targeted pagers and telephone booths, which are the street offices of choice for drug dealers, and banned the sale of spray paint, which Alderman Edward Burke once called “weapons of terror,” to cut back on graffiti. In 1997, aldermen considered cracking down on residents who put up basketball hoops in their alleys, saying they were magnets for gang members. Soon afterward, Mayor Daley proposed an ordinance making it a crime simply to shout the words “rock,” “blow,” or “weed”—street slang for crack cocaine, heroin, and marijuana.
But the absurdity of the City Council’s efforts to deal with gangs reached a zenith in early 2008, when aldermen considered banning the tiny plastic bags commonly used in drug sales. As silly as this proposal was to many people—“Our elected officials are addicted to symbolism,” wrote Neil Steinberg in the Sun-Times—the reaction by opponents was equally ridiculous. Aldermen Freddrenna Lyle and Helen Shiller, for instance, argued that little girls or women who used the bags to carry small beads for their braids could be arrested. Ditto for someone caught with a bag holding spare buttons for clothing, said Alderman Walter Burnett.
Now you know why most Chicago politicians were so opposed to the Heller decision, and why they’re fucking around and being as restrictive as possible hoping the Federal judiciary doesn’t notice.
Remember, the Wall Street Journal just came out against partitioning Illinois into Chicago and non-Chicago — It somehow thinks that Illinois Republicans can win these people over. Yeah, right. What kind of gang is dealing which sort of substance to people that write for the WSJ?