Friday, December 22, 2023

Ed Burke’s unwelcome birthday present

Graphic by Harebrained, used with permission.


     Edward M. Burke turns 80 in a week. In an alternate universe, his half-century-plus on the Chicago City Council would be celebrated in the days leading up to Dec. 29. Instead, he could be going to prison.
     Before Burke was an alderman of the 14th Ward, he was a policeman, as was his father, Joe, before him — well, a Cook County sheriff’s policeman (and an alderman). Close enough. And though Burke was on the council for 54 years, the longest anyone has served on that body and a safe bet to be the longest anyone will ever serve, the swagger of an untouchable Chicago cop always clung to Burke. It was baked into his skin, his soul.
     Only he was touchable, as Thursday afternoon’s verdict showed. Heck, not merely touched, but beat down. Thirteen of 14 counts — bribery, extortion, racketeering.
     On one hand, the verdict was no surprise — based on the evidence presented in court, collected in recorded conversations with former Ald. Danny Solis, once of the 25th Ward, Burke sounded guilty, like a man who wanted to make sure that a Burger King franchisee used his law firm for its tax work in return for Burke’s not blocking the permit for a new driveway.
     On the other, it was pitiful. Not just to see the lion of the council humiliated — there was some satisfying payback in that, at least to anyone who ever encountered the Burke arrogance firsthand, so tangible it was almost a physical Chicago landmark, like the Bean. But the triviality of it, the pettiness, the way the Field Museum, having refused some kind of intern post to Burke’s goddaughter, scrambled to appease him somehow.
     In a nation where the inflamed ego of longtime politicians is driving us into the ditch on all fronts, it’s revolting to see it on a local level, a Chicago institution groveling before a man who feels his slightest requests should be acted upon, even without ever having to be made.

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14 comments:

  1. I was ecstatic when TV broke in with the news in the afternoon!
    His arrogance was beyond belief: The only member of the council with a city supplied limo, driver for the limo, police protection 24/7 for him & his overgrown house on 51st, next to the railroad with the big ironwork fence around.
    His street was the absolute first street in his ward to be plowed after any snow fell, even before any hospitals, fire stations, schools or any other important places.
    All the seats in the council chamber are arranged by ward numbers, but he big footed himself into a front row seat, out of the order. There are also two doors behind the mayor's podium that lead to offices & conference rooms, one door was reserved solely for him & him alone for years.
    I'm, sure he'll get at least 5 years in federal prison, although the legal experts said the standard for this is 8-10 years. But it will be at a Club Fed, not a real prison with cells & most likely due to his age the Federal Prison Hospital in North Carolina. maybe he can get Bernie Madoff's old bed!
    But at least he loses his city pension, which is probably well over $100,000 a year!

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    1. I forgot to add that Burke's house is on a dead end street, so plowing that street first is an absolute disgraceful act on his part & the stooges & Streets & San that allow it.

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  2. Reminds me of that old saying about what does it profit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose their own soul. When Burke stands before God, I suspect that he like the rest of us will experience a special sense of insight in which all of the lies we tell ourselves are stripped away and many will be left with an eternal regret.

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  3. I'm guessing that Burke will never serve a single day behind bars. Appeal, appeal, appeal, until he dies or someone pardons him. Of course, all that is expensive and he may want to hang on to some of his ill gotten gains for his wife and progeny. Plus I'm sure he still doesn't think he did anything at all wrong and may actually harbor a delusion about preserving his reputation. We'll see. Madigan is next, but seems to me that he wasn't quite as careless in discussing his skullduggery as Burke was.

    john

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  4. Do you think Richie chuckled while reading the news?

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    1. Richie's pals insist he has dementia, so I have no idea if he can laugh at anything.

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    2. How can they tell?

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  5. The aldermatic perogatives have got to go. Power is clearly too intoxicating, and the response of sitting alderpersons (other than Michelle Smith) to all of this is not an encouraging sign of reform.

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  6. Flipping the electronic page from your column to Fran Spielman's certainly offered a bit of a different perspective, which is what a good newspaper should do.

    In addition to the likelihood of people toadying up to a powerful guy for cynical reasons, there did seem to be genuine appreciation for the guy and some positive attributes.

    I have no particular point to make about that -- I've considered him a scoundrel since the infamous era when he opposed Harold -- but I thought it was interesting.

    What really bothers me is the way justice works in this benighted nation. The feds searched his office over 5 years ago. He was finally convicted yesterday. But his sentencing hearing will be ... checks notes ... June 19? So much for the "GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL" cartoon atop today's post.

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    1. As El Rushbo more than once broadcast, "the process is the punishment."

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    2. Michele Smith retired from the city council last year, so that column’s tally is zero sitting alders expressing anything other than support. That's discouraging, but not unexpected, and at least Smith gets the last word in.

      But nearly as discouraging is Fran Spielman seeming to go along with it, like she's learned nothing from the last seven norm-busting years. What is it, Stockholm syndrome? I guess one can't be expected to afflict the comfortable when you've been cozied up to them for so long.

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  7. Don't forget "Baby T." That woman never had a chance of regaining custody once the Burkes stepped in.

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    1. You mean Maefaye Melton? I’m not sure she wanted custody back.

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    2. Chief Justice Burke got her first trier of fact appointments from Republican Illinois governors. The systematic fix was always in.

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