Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Political corruption in Chicago was so pervasive that a federal judge ordered payments of $12 million -- more than $4 for every living Chicagoan -- to make amends for past wrongs. The hiring monitor charged with overseeing reforms says the City is dragging its feet and that problems are still endemic. The city's inspector general agrees. Court-approved payments are going out to 1,424 people whose allegations of political discrimination had merit.

And what does Mayor Richard M Daley have to say about all this? He complains that one payment to one of these claimants was "silly."

Calling something "silly" is usually Daley's way of saying he doesn't want to answer the question. Silly apparently has a different meaning in the Daley dictionary than how most people use the term. But Webster's notes that an obsolete definition is "Harmless; innocent; inoffensive". That seems to be what the Mayor is getting at when he says something is "silly." Recall this exchange from 20 months ago:

"It's the silliest thing I've ever heard in my life. It really is silly. It's silly, silly, silly. It is just silly. Silliness. It is silly. Completely silly. . . . You've been on [the Skyway]. Come on. It's silly. . . . You know me. That is the silliest thing I've ever heard."

City employees at the federal corruption trial of mayoral patronage chief Robert Sorich had testified that they went out of their way to staff toll booths on the Skyway because that was the road Mayor Daley took to his vacation home and Daley didn't like avoidable traffic jams. Daley said the notion that city hiring would be skewed to favor his habits was "silly." Just the same, Sorich was convicted.

In any list of 1,424 things, a few outliers can always be mocked. Even if Jay Stone didn't deserve any payment, there are still another 1,423 recipients whose right to compensation goes unquestioned. When will Mayor Daley address the scope of political corruption that, by all indications, pervades Chicago's City Hall? The problems are many things: appalling, offensive, illegal. "Silly", no matter what the definition, isn't the right word for them, and the Mayor should start finding more effective response, in word and in deed.

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