Sunday, January 15, 2006

Lessons to learn from Laski indictment

City Clerk James Laski, 52, was charged Friday with taking bribes and obstructing justice. The former southwest side alderman, once considered a reformer, is the highest city official to be charged in the investigation. A special Daley Show investigation reveals several lessons to be learned from these developments.

1. The end to Polish Power
The $135,545-per-year city clerk's post has been in Polish Chicago's hands since 1955. The next clerk will most likely be a Hispanic. So, what's happened to powerful Polish politicians?

They're getting prosecuted and possibly starting a new stereotype of the crooked Pole.

Laski, a politician who harbored mayoral ambitions, is the most recent Polish-American to be charged with wrongdoing.

Donald Tomczak (any relation to the former Bears QB?), a former top Water Management Department official, is at the center of the investigation of corruption in the city's Hired Truck Program (and is now cooperating with prosecutors).

Prior to Laski, City Clerk Walter Kozubowski pleaded guilty in connection with a $1 million ghost payrolling scheme. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

With the number of Poles in Chicago decreasing and the number of Hispanics increasing, Polish politicians will be spoken of in past tense. As in, "Hey, remember when What's-his-name-ski ran this ward?"

2. The end to friendship
The evidence against Laski -- he's on tape telling witnesses to lie to a grand jury and deny that they had given him bribes to continue getting business in the city's Hired Truck Program -- was recorded by a wire worn by Michael "Mick" Jones, a childhood pal. These two even played softball together on the Bulldogs, a local team that played at Hale Park and other area diamonds.

At some point, Laski must have made a critical error.

Perhaps it was when he showed he was no friend of Daley.

3. The end to opposition
Laski is supposedly on tape saying this to Jones: "My position right now is I'll do anything ... to help the inner circle, but I, I can't frickin' help somebody if I'm gonna get ... it stuck to me."

Is it possible that the inner circle includes Daley and that the mayor will eventually get charged with something? Possible. But unlikely.

It's no secret that Laski and Daley are not exactly chums. In 1990, Daley selected Laski to fill a vacancy, making him the ward's alderman. But Laski quickly showed an independent streak by opposing Daley on issues ranging from property tax increases to police and fire promotions to the future of Midway Airport. In 1996, he infuriated the mayor again by blowing the whistle on millions of dollars in parking tickets owed by city workers.

The Hired Truck probe might nab Laski and a few other Daley opponents. And the lasting lesson learned might be: Don't mess with the mayor.


Anonymous art attack said...

The amount of Poles in Chicago seems to be dwindling in recent years, hopefully to the point where they will not be able to hang that moniker of largest Polish population outside of Warsaw. I do not know why, but I always disliked that esp. when I found myself using it. So let's run all the Poles to jail or better yet the suburbs

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

most are heading in that direction (jail or suburbs) without requiring a push from anyone

8:20 AM  
Anonymous jenska said...

Maybe it's because 2nd generation Polish-Chicagoans have moved to other parts of the country now that language and culture aren't as big a pull to stay in the Polish neighborhoods. And, life in Poland has improved for enough people that they aren't as interested in coming here for the rest of their lives.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous The Mom said...

Maybe it's not so much that Poles are leaving - they're just taking the "ski's" away ---- from their names. I know lots of Poles who pretend to be otherwise. The nose always gives them up.

3:40 PM  

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