The spectator sport that is local politics plays out in a stadium that extends beyond Chicago City Council chambers and the grand gray capitol dome in Springfield. Which is why our review of governmental goings-on encompasses more than just elected officials. Here, then, the good, the bad, and the ugly from this year’s political arena. Did we miss any in our hall of fame/shame? Tell us who in the comments below.
HALL OF FAME
In late June, 15 weeks after former governor Rod Blagojevich entered a Colorado prison, Fitzgerald—the man who sent him there—stepped down as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. One question, Counselor: Who will corral the crooks now? RELATED: Most Powerful Chicagoans—Patrick Fitzgerald
This fall, demanding more construction jobs for African Americans, the 87-year-old Soft Sheen founder stuck his cane into a swath of wet cement, got a powerful alderman on his side, and demonstrated that the political process really can belong to the people.
By joining the board of the city’s new infrastructure trust fund in June, Chicago’s former inspector general (now a partner at Sidley Austin) provided ethical gravitas to an ill-defined public-private partnership created by the mayor and rubber-stamped by a compliant City Council.
What a change from the lackluster leadership of Todd Stroger, her predecessor as president of the Cook County Board. Preckwinkle, among other things, chastised Joe Berrios in June (see below) and struck a blow for affordable housing in October.
Recruited from IBM by Mayor Emanuel to serve as Chicago’s chief technology officer, Tolva upgraded the city’s data portal to make it more citizen friendly. In March, the site earned an A+ and a Sunny Award from Sunshine Review, which promotes government transparency.
HALL OF SHAME
It was bad enough that the Cook County assessor, taking a page from the Richard J. Daley playbook—“If I can’t help my sons, then they can kiss my ass”—hired his son and his sister to work in his office. But in June, told he had broken the law, Berrios said county ethics ordinances didn’t apply to him. RELATED: Joseph Berrios Under the Microscope
THE FOUR TOPS
As Illinois’s credit rating crumbled, the state’s legislative leaders—the two Dems, Speaker Michael Madigan (left) and Senate prez John Cullerton, and the GOP’s Tom Cross and Christine Radogno—reprised two of their greatest hits: “It’s the Same Old Song” and “I Can’t Help Myself.”
In May, word leaked that the billionaire patriarch of the clan that owns the Cubs might fund a racially repugnant anti-Obama ad campaign. When the news threatened to stall family efforts to get public financing for Wrigley Field improvements, Ricketts père said he had already nixed the Obama deal. RELATED: Joe Ricketts and the anti-Obama film
Expelled in August from the Illinois House after his arrest on bribery charges, the West Side Democrat left constituents dangling when he refused to forgo his reelection bid. (Silent party leaders and poorly informed voters share some of the blame for Smith’s embarrassingly high poll numbers.)
The GOP congressman spewed pollution on two fronts. In July, he maligned his 8th District opponent, Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs in Iraq, saying she wasn’t among our “true heroes.” Two months later, a national environmental group identified him as one of Congress’s “dirty air villains.” RELATED: Joe Walsh on Tammy Duckworth: Did he really say that?
Photography: (Fitzgerald) Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune; (Gardner) Antonio Dickey; (Hoffman, Preckwinkle) E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune; (Tolva, Berrios) Heather Charles/Chicago Tribune; (Madigan) William Deshazer/Chicago Tribune; (Smith) Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune; (Walsh) Heather Charles/Chicago Tribune