Let the Claypool countdown begin

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool should start thinking about updating his resume. If Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s past actions are any guide, Claypool will soon be out of a job.

The choice of Claypool as CPS CEO was controversial from the outset. Now, however, Claypool’s actions have landed him in hot water in recent weeks, and it is likely the mayor now sees him as a distraction and a liability.

Last month it was reported that Claypool stonewalled a group of aldermen during a private briefing about CPS finances and then proceeded to called Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th Ward) a liar when she raised concerns about funding cuts to her local schools, causing some class sizes to balloon to more than 40 students.

“That’s when Claypool said, ‘That’s not true, I don’t believe you,’ ” says Garza, whose account was backed by Waguespack. Everyone in the room was shocked to hear a mayoral appointee essentially call an alderman a liar.

Then a week later came a report that the CPS Inspector General found that Claypool had engaged in a “whitewash” of an ethics violation by his longtime friend and hand-picked top lawyer. It was previously reported that Claypool allowed CPS General Counsel Ronald Marmer to supervise work done for CPS by his former law firm, an apparent violation of CPS ethics policies. IG Nicholas Schuler has now found that six lawyers consulted by Claypool told him Marmer’s actions were indeed ethics violations. Claypool kept opinion shopping until, on the seventh try, he finally found a lawyer who would agree with his claim that Marmer had not committed any violations.

Emanuel has a clear pattern when dealing with high profile appointees who are under fire or rumored to be departing. When it first comes up in public he makes a clear statement of support. As more time goes by and he is asked about it repeatedly, Emanuel curtly expresses his support, and then shortly after he fires the appointee.

Back in May, amidst strong rumors of discord between Emanuel and Claypool, Emanuel went out of his way to make a joint public appearance with Claypool and “had strong praise for his schools chief.”

“Nothing makes me prouder than to introduce my good friend, Forrest Claypool, who at every level has always left an incredible, indelible mark on the departments he has run,” Emanuel said while introducing Claypool during a City Club of Chicago luncheon.

Most recently, on September 22, the mayor was asked “if he still had full confidence in Claypool.”

“Yeah. Yeah. 100 percent,” the mayor said as he walked out of the event.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Leading up to, and throughout, the 2012 teachers’ strike, stories circulated that then CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard was on the outs with Emanuel.

On August 31, 2012: “As soon as I heard about this, I called J.C. and said, ‘you focus on the full school day, full school year. You’re doing a great job.’ ” The mayor went on to say “He’s doing a great job and has my backing … And anybody else that says they speak for me hasn’t talked to me.”

On September 19, 2012: “JC has my confidence,” [Emanuel] said.

Three weeks later, Brizard was out by “mutual agreement.”

A similar dynamic played out between Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy following the release of the LaQuan McDonald video.

November 25, 2012, the day after the video was made public:

Emanuel spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said in a statement that the mayor full[y] supports Superintendent McCarthy. “This incident is a tragedy and it’s absolutely unacceptable, but Jason Van Dyke’s actions are not representative of the Superintendent McCarthy’s values, or of the hard-working men and women of the Chicago Police Department,” Quinn said.

On November 30, 2012: “The mayor has been clear that Superintendent McCarthy has his support.”

Less than 24 hours later Emanuel fired McCarthy.

It’s time to start the Claypool countdown.

Posted in Chicago Public Schools Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Fargo the latest to give Chicago the tourism blues

Despite its incredibly blues musical heritage, Chicago has failed to use that heritage to promote tourism, losing out to New Orleans, Memphis, and St. Louis. And now, even Fargo, North Dakota is getting in on the act.

As Crain’s Chicago Business recently pointed out, “[Chicago blues] remains Chicago’s most famous global cultural export.”

However, “Chicago has largely been indifferent to its blues heritage. You’ll find no museums here. No statues, no official tours, no markers of the vital clubs where the music gestated on the South and West sides.”

Last week I escorted my daughter to an ice skating competition in North Dakota (the things we do for our kids). Sitting in the Fargo airport waiting for our flight home, I was confronted by a billboard touting Fargo as a destination for the blues. Who knew?

Posted in City of Chicago Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Mayoral suggestion box

Posted in City of Chicago

Exclusive: Rahm Emanuel to announce groundbreaking new policing agenda today

CHICAGO, April 1, 2016 – Mayor Rahm Emanuel will announce a bold and dramatic new police reform agenda at a press conference later today, in an effort to address the recent surge in violence in Chicago as well as the ongoing police accountability scandal, The Hall has learned through multiple sources.

The details of the policy agenda were shared with The Hall by a senior Emanuel administration official who requested to remain anonymous due to not being authorized to speak publicly on the matter. According to the source, the new policies include holding police officers accountable for the crime rates in their beats and districts, and also making it easier to fire police officers for underperformance or discipline problems.

The City reportedly will implement a major new tracking system, allowing for a data-driven approach that breaks down crime statistics by district, beat and individual officers.

“This new system will allow officers to be evaluated on the true measure of their job performance, which is the crime rate in the community they are serving. Numerous studies have shown that the number one factor influencing crime in a community is the police officer, and their ability to deliver a quality policing experience,“ said the anonymous source.

“The citizens of Chicago need and deserve to be served by quality police officers.”

The administration source also pointed to the many steps required to fire a police officer, making it virtually impossible to get rid of an officer who isn’t measuring up. Emanuel’s new plan will streamline the process, allowing quicker action.

“We have a contingent of problem officers who have been removed from street duty, collecting paychecks without doing any police work. This can go on for months until their case is resolved. The union contract allows us to use them as janitors, but that’s all they can do.”

A representative for the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), who requested not to be identified because the union has not had a chance to review the proposal, raised concerns about equal treatment of officers under the new evaluation system. “There are many variables that are outside the control of police officers, and it would be unfair to base the evaluations of these hard working public servants on those criteria. How can you compare the results of an officer working in Lincoln Park with one working in Englewood?”

The administration source dismissed the FOP concerns, saying “a good cop will have good results no matter where they are working. The FOP is just trying to cover for lazy cops.”

The improved database will also support a new ranking system for the districts. Each district will receive a grade on a scale of 1 to 73, with the top ranked districts receiving a score of 1, and lower achieving district getting lower marks, accordingly. Similar to the officer evaluations, the district grades “will allow residents to know whether their neighborhood police district is any good,” said the administration source. “For the first time, they will have a choice of which neighborhood to live in based on the quality ranking of the police district.”

The policing reforms will be paired with cost saving measures that will require police officers to work longer shifts without additional pay, and will close underutilized police stations. To smooth the transition to the new system, Mayor Emanuel will implement a merit pay program that will reward officers who outperform their peers.

“It’s simple math,” said the administration source. “The more time an officer spends patrolling their beat, the more crimes are prevented. The citizens of Chicago need and deserve to have less crime. This will also allow the City to eliminate overtime costs of $100 million annually, without needing to hire more police officers. It will be called the Full Shift initiative. In this era of fiscal crisis we all need to sacrifice, and do more with less.”

However, a Chicago Police Department (CPD) official, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the situation, was not able to confirm the cost savings. “I’m not sure where the Mayor’s Office is getting those numbers from. They haven’t asked anyone over here. This is the first we’re hearing about it.”

The city will also move to close five police stations on the south and west sides of the City, and consolidate the associated districts. “These areas of the City have seen dramatic population declines,’ said the administration source. “More than 200,000 residents have moved out of those districts, and based on a new police station utilization formula we developed, those five stations are now considered underutilized, and are a financial strain on the cash strapped department.” The source declined to explain the utilization formula.

The final item on the agenda is a pilot project to “Turnaround” a low performing police district. Which district is subjected to the Turnaround has yet to be determined. All of the police officers in the district will be replaced, and the district management will be turned over to a private entity. Emanuel will announce today that the City has signed a $20 million no-bid, sole source contract with Urban Police Leadership, a joint venture of Bechtel and Omni Consumer Products, to manage the Turnaround district.

Urban Police Leadership has also agreed to donate $1 million to fund the merit pay program, although sources insisted there was no connection between the donation and the awarding of the contract.

These changes come as Mayor Emanuel is besieged on all sides. The courts recently stuck down his pension reforms, Governor Rauner has made clear there will be no relief from Springfield, and public opinion polls have consistently shown Chicago residents siding with the CTU over Emanuel by a wide margin.

The Hall spoke with an Emanuel campaign aide, who requested to remain anonymous due to concerns about retaliation. “It’s no coincidence that the policing agenda is being released on a day the CTU is staging a protest strike. Rahm is desperate to change the subject. He is under tremendous pressure from his uber-wealthy republican donors. They have kicked in tens of millions of dollars to his campaigns, expecting him to break one of the public employee unions. He hasn’t delivered, and they’re getting impatient. Scott Walker got it done, they say, so why can’t Rahm? Since he failed with the teachers, he needs to switch gears, and the police union looks like an easy target.”

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

Rahm’s Police Accountability Task Force misses report deadline

The Chicago Police Accountability Task Force will not release its report today as originally planned. Late on a Friday afternoon a few weeks ago, the Task Force quietly released a statement with the news that it intended to delay the release of its report. When Mayor Emanuel created the Task Force in December, he set a deadline of March 31st to report back to him. While only a delay of a couple of weeks, the action dredges up the skepticism held by many regarding the Task Force.

As the Sun-Times cynically noted at the time:

“On the same day he bowed to pressure to fire Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday employed a time-honored tactic for Chicago mayors under siege: He announced he was creating a task force — this time on police accountability.”

The article also provided some historical content:

“Former Mayor Richard M. Daley used the task force tactic repeatedly to wiggle out of crises during his 22-year reign.”

When he made his announcement, Emanuel seemed to recognize that people might believe that this was only a ploy:

“We have to be honest with ourselves about this issue. Each time when we confronted it in the past, Chicago only went far enough to clear our consciences so we could move on,” Emanuel said.

Still, the task force was seen by many as yet another press conference sound bite that would ultimately result in yet another report that would gather dust on the shelf. After all, that was what had happened to  a previous report commissioned by Emanuel just a year earlier.

The rational for the delay was laid out in the statement:

We set an initial goal to deliver our report laying out our recommendations for reform to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago City Council by the end of March. However, we have decided that more time is needed to complete our work. We will use this additional time to further develop our findings and recommendations as well as continue to engage relevant stakeholders so that we can set the stage for meaningful and long-lasting change. We anticipate delivering the report in mid-April.

Mayor Emanuel announced the formation of the Task Force the same day he fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, as he tried to staunch the furor that erupted following the public release of the LaQuan McDonald shooting video.

The test now will be whether the report is released in mid-April, or is delayed further.

Posted in Chicago Police Department Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Fioretti violating campaign finance laws

Former Alderman and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti is flaunting Illinois’ campaign finance rules, blatantly breaking some while skirting others. Fioretti is currently challenging State Senator Patricia Van Pelt in the democratic primary in the 5th District.

Fioretti has three different campaign committees: Friends of Bob Fioretti, (Friends), Bob Fioretti for State Senate (Senate), and 2nd Ward Democratic Org (Ward). The first problem is that both the Friends and Senate committees are Candidate Political Committees. Under Illinois law, candidates may not have more than one such committee:

  (10 ILCS 5/9-2)
    (b) Beginning January 1, 2011, no public official or candidate for public office may maintain or establish more than one candidate political committee for each office that public official or candidate holds or is seeking.

Yet Fioretti has two, and is actively fundraising through both of them, which is in direct violation of the law. He can maintain the Ward committee because that is a political party committee, and the law allows politicians to have different types of committees.

Why, you may ask, is it so important that candidates have only one committee? The reason is that there are limits on how much can be contributed by a single individual ($5,400), business ($10,800), or other committee (varies). Two committees would effectively allow the limits to be doubled. Therefore, for purposes of considering limits, donations made to both the Friends and Senate committees need to be treated as though given to a single committee.

Fioretti’s campaign finance problems don’t end there. On multiple occasions he has accepted donations that exceed the allowable limits.

J.R. and Dawn Davis are two of Bob Fioretti’s most prolific donors. They live in Barrington, and J.R. operates Davis Bancorp, a security company. When Fioretti ran unsuccessfully for mayor last year, finishing fourth, they donated a combined total of $58,000 to Fioretti’s campaign. There were no limits in that race.

Since then, J.R. Davis has contributed a total of $7,500 to Friends, while Dawn Davis contributed $8,000 to Friends plus $1,000 to Senate, for a total of $9,000. Both of their contributions were well over the $5,400 limit for an individual.

Another big donor to Fioretti is Chicago Imports. In the past year Chicago Imports has donated $10,000 to Friends and $3,750 to Senate, for a grand total of $13,750, exceeding the $10,800 limit for a business.

On top of these violations, Fioretti has managed to raise even more from these donors, utilizing loopholes in the law. Davis Bancorp donated $10,800 to the Senate committee, maxing out the limit for a business. Because the business is a separate entity, the donation is permissible and does not count against the Davis’ individual limits.

Another loophole is the ability to donate to different types of committees. Chicago Imports also gave $1,691 to the Ward committee. While legal, these donations infringe on the spirit of the law. 

Then there are the inter-fund transfers. On 10/15/2015, Friends transferred $2,250 to the Ward committee, and on 12/31/2015, the Ward committee transferred $2,500 to the Senate committee. I can’t decide what to think about that one. Is it confusing but legal, or just a way to launder campaign donations to get around the limits?

This is not the first time Fioretti has been in trouble over his campaign finances. His original campaign fund, Fioretti for Alderman, was shut down in 2008 after the committee treasurer informed the Board of Elections that the records were incomplete and disorganized. He also told the Board that Fioretti had failed to disclose about $500,000 in donations, and that he couldn’t account for how hundreds of thousands of dollars had been spent.

The Hall previously broke the news that Fioretti is falsely claiming to be a law school professor. The primary election will be held tomorrow.

Disclosure: Jonathan Goldman is president of Advocacy Incorporated, which provides consulting services to Friends of Patricia Van Pelt.

Posted in General Assembly Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Bob Fioretti pads his resume with false law professor claim

Former Alderman and mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti’s personal bio states that he is an adjunct professor at Northern Illinois University (NIU) Law school. Turns out that’s not quite true.

Fioretti’s bio includes the line:

He earned his law degree from Northern Illinois University College of Law, where he remains a member of the adjunct faculty.

This can be found on his campaign web site, his law firm’s web site, his Facebook profile, his LinkedIn profileWikipedia, and many other sources.

Yet the NIU Law School faculty directory does not list Fioretti’s name.

Employment records provided by NIU in response to a Freedom of Information request show that Fioretti was hired to teach a class on State and Local Government for a four month period in the Spring of 2000. For this he was paid a $2,000 honorarium and reimbursed for travel expenses.

In other words, Fioretti taught a single class at NIU 16 years ago, and based on that is claiming that he “remains” a professor today.

Fioretti is challenging State Sen. Patricia Van Pelt in the Democratic primary for the 5th district in the primary election next Tuesday.

Fioretti is not the only Illinois politician in hot water for stretching (falsifying?) the truth about his past. Downstate Sen. Sam McCann (R-Jacksonville) is trying to survive his claims of having been a member of the Marine Corps and receiving an Honorable Discharge, despite no records or documentation backing up that claim.

Disclosure: Jonathan Goldman is president of Advocacy Incorporated, which provides consulting services to Friends of Patricia Van Pelt.

Posted in General Assembly Tagged with: ,

A tale of two McCormick Places

Within the span of two days this week, two well respected voices put forward drastically different visions of the Lakeside Center building at McCormick Place. The backdrop: the entire McCormick Place complex and the surrounding lands have been mired in controversy for months regarding the plan to build the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art along the lakefront.

Several alternative proposals have been offered to move the Lucas Museum and make better use of the area, but it appears that the only options being considered are to keep it in the proposed location next to Soldier Field, or move to another city.

So it was fascinating to see these two competing visions. First up, on Wednesday, Preservation Chicago released its annual list of the most endangered architectural treasures in Chicago. Included on the list this year is the McCormick Place Lakeside Center:

Preservation Chicago believes this is one of Chicago’s great mid- century modern buildings.

I learned something new about it:

It is also the world’s largest space-frame structure, and a feat of engineering in its day.

And the threat:

Talk in the past has also turned to demolition and replacement.

The next day, Blair Kamen wrote about an idea from Helmut Jahn for the future of the building. As both Kamin and Preservation Chicago note, Jahn was one of the designers of the building nearly 50 years ago.

Rather than preserve the building, Jahn proposes to remake it, and place the Lucas Museum on the site.

A sketch from architect Helmut Jahn, which proposes stripping McCormick Place’s Lakeside Center down to its bones and adding a curving museum pavilion that would pop through its boldly overhanging roof.

 

By transforming the building into a giant trellis, he makes it less wall-like and more porous, putting most of the ground beneath the big roof back to a public use. The new Lucas Museum could be inserted within this framework, creating a visual dialogue between old and new, void and solid, rectilinear and organic.

There will surely be more twists and turns as the museum project moves forward (or doesn’t).

 

Posted in MPEA Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Rahm experiences deja vu all over again

Mayor Emanuel stated today that there is no need for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the City of Chicago Law Department. This comes in the wake of sanctions against a City lawyer who lied about the evidence in a police shooting case.

Sound familiar? That’s because he said the same thing about the possibility of a DOJ investigation of the Police Department, a day before he reversed his position, and less than a week before the U.S. Attorney General announced that the DOJ would be investigating.

Here’s a comparison of his comments:

Then (December 2, 2015): “[The U.S. Attorney and FBI] are looking into this situation and all the aspects around it. I think an additional layer prior to the completion of this, in my view, would be misguided. And if you notice, they are doing a thorough job, given that they had the information two weeks after, just immediately after the incident. They are doing a thorough job, and hitting the restart button on a whole new investigation does not get you to the conclusion in an expedited fashion.”

Now (January 5, 2016): “Emanuel said that step is not needed to give Chicagoans confidence that necessary changes are being made.” Also, Emanuel said “Steve (Patton) has my support to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”

Similarly, in both cases Emanuel downplayed the possibility of a broader problem or conspiracy by utilizing the ‘One Bad Apple’ storyline.

Then (November 23, 2015): “One individual needs to be held accountable. They need to be held accountable for what they’ve done,” Emanuel said. “And as I’ve said before, now that the judge has made the decision, I would like to see the prosecutors wrap up their investigation and make a decision, so we can go as a city and begin the process of healing.”

Now (January 5, 2016): “There is zero tolerance for violating not only the public trust but your professional standards and they’ll be no place for that. Once the decision was made, the lawyer and the City parted ways.”

Emanuel has repeatedly underestimated the impacts of police-related scandals in the past few weeks, and this has further fueled the backlash he’s been experiencing. We’ll see if that is the case here as well.

 

Posted in City of Chicago Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Police accountability: How does Chicago compare?

While most of the recent furor about the Chicago Police Department (CPD) has focused on allegations of excessive force, there have also been concerns about the accountability of officers who engaged in potentially unjustified uses of force. The accountability issue is front and center today after the announcement by Attorney General Loretta Lynch that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is launching an investigation of the CPD, including looking at accountability, and the news last night that the head of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), Scott Ando, had abruptly resigned. The IPRA is responsible for reviewing all allegations of misconduct by Chicago police officers.

The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday that of the 409 cases of officer-involved shootings reviewed in its nine year history, IPRA found 407 to be justified, and cleared the officer of wrongdoing. That works out to a clearance rate of 99.5 percent.

Such a high rate would seem to be statistically improbable. So how does Chicago’s experience stack up against other police departments?

Las Vegas stands as a positive example of how a troubled police department can turn itself around, reduce the number of police shootings, and create a culture of accountability. That story is told in an excellent article “How one of the deadliest police forces in America stopped shooting people.”

The DOJ also investigated the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and the Department there subsequently implemented many of the recommendation that stemmed from the investigation.

The investigation was initiated in large part as a response to a series of investigative articles by the Las Vegas Review-Journal that documented the problems there, much as we are seeing new information come to light in Chicago from a variety of media investigations.

One of the findings by the Review-Journal was that the Use of Force Review Board cleared officers of wrongdoing in “a staggering” 97 percent of  the use of force cases it reviewed. In its petition to the DOJ calling for an investigation, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) cited the 97 percent figure, noting that “Meaningful review of these events simply does not take place.”

Clearance rates in other places, while still high, were much lower than in Chicago. The Miami Police Department was also subjected to a DOJ investigation, which found that 87 percent of police shootings were cleared. In Palm Beach County, Florida, 90 percent of officer-involved shootings were cleared over a 15 year period.

A DOJ report examining the Philadelphia Police Department was released earlier this year, which found that 77 percent of the officers involved in a shooting did not violate departmental policies. Even with a clearance rate lower than some other departments, “Some interviewees told the Justice Department they believed that the department’s board of inquiry undermined findings from internal reviews of officer shootings, resulting in “too little discipline.””

Only one other police department had numbers similar to Chicago. The Newark, New Jersey police department was investigated by the DOJ beginning in 2011, after a request was made by the ACLU. In its petition calling for the investigation, the ACLU notes that in 2008 and 2009 there were 128 excessive force complaints made against Newark police officers. Not a single complaint was sustained – 100 percent were cleared, even better than Chicago’s 99.5 percent. An interesting trivia fact: the police chief in Newark at the time was Garry McCarthy, who was just fired by Mayor Emanuel from his Superintendent position here in Chicago because of similar problems.

 

Posted in Chicago Police Department, City of Chicago Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,