I understand how hard it is to keep track of our politicians here in Austin. When you have to live and work hard, paycheck to paycheck, it is difficult to stay abreast of all the things that they have been up to. So here’s a brief look at what some of them who just happened to have been in the news the last few months:
Ald. Ed Smith (28th) is leading the charge to stop smoking in restaurants and bars. Now I must admit I have never smoked and hate the smell of cigarettes. So you would think I would be cheering from the ceilings over a ban on smoking. But my concern is that if you have a bar owner who smokes and all his/her clients smoke, and all the workers smoke, then shouldn’t they have the right to smoke in that establishment? It was very interesting to hear Mike Ditka come on WVON 1450am and ask how many restaurants and bars does Ald. Ed Smith have in his area that would be affected by the proposed smoking ban? Also, those very same aldermen are the first ones to increase the tax on cigarettes whenever they want to increase a tax. There was also an article in the Chicago Tribune which told the tale of small Mom-and-Pop bars in Madison Wis., being hurt by the ban on smoking in those places. So to the residents of the 28th Ward, here’s my question: If the smoking ban goes through, how many of you will appreciate seeing the people who would normally be in the bars smoking now standing outside smoking? If Chicago ever gets a casino, let’s see if they make it smoke free.
Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) has been caught up in the $40 million hired trucking scandal. It seems that some of those truckers who were paid to do nothing donated part of the money they got to her re-election campaign. When the alderman was asked to repay the money, she claimed she had “spent it.” Now I understand the bigger issue is that the feds want to know who got that “spent” money. In the meantime, her brother Excell Brown, Sr. who was head of the 37th Ward Streets and Sanitation Department, was arrested for soliciting a $600 bribe from a homeowner who was working on a property without the proper permits. Hmm, they sure have been a busy little family when it comes to getting money from questionable sources!
Ald. Ike Carothers (29th) has also had his name come up in the hired truck program scandal. Seems that John “Quarters” Boyle (so nicknamed because of his theft of thousands of dollars in quarters from the Tollway folks) was given money by a trucking company and then some of that money ended up in the coffers of Ike’s campaign. Lately I’ve noticed that Ike’s position as Daley’s “right-hand man” hasn’t been as prominent. I wonder which one is distancing himself from the other?
And speaking of campaign funds and money, why about a year ago I wrote about our “above-the-law” 8th District State Representative Calvin Giles owing $80,000 in fines for not doing his paperwork about his campaign contributions (now estimated to be around $79,000). A year later, Calvin now owes the state $144,000, including the added fines. It is reported that Calvin is ignoring requests to pay that money. Hmmm, didn’t he have an uncle, former Ald. Percy Z. Giles (37th) who took bribe money and went to jail for it? Is this another case of those involved in the 37th Ward having a certain trait that seems to “run in the family”?
Lastly, our 39th District State Senator Don Harmon (who represents a part of Austin and Oak Park) was part of a story out of the Reader newspaper. The story was about a man who, when he was 21, along with a 15-year-old accomplice, shot and killed a 17-year-old acquaintance who had walked in on them during a robbery. The 21-year-old served 30 years in prison and was paroled. Nothing unusual there, except that when the man was paroled, he had to register as a sex offender! Yes, even though it was murder for which he went to prison, the man had to register as a sex offender because our legislators (folks like Calvin who don’t pay their penalties because they place themselves above the law) decided that in a handful of cases where the victim was under the age of 18, those accused would have to register as sex offenders whether or not the crime was of a sexual nature. When asked about it in the story, Don didn’t believe the legislature had made a mistake in that decision (I wonder which neighborhood Don was thinking about). Later in the story it was stated that Don was willing to reconsider the current law, but with the number of men/women we have returning to the Austin community daily with felony convictions, do we really need them to carry a sex offender burden if a sex act was not a part of the crime?
Our elected officials sure have been busy. Let’s hope that come Election Day, you don’t find yourself too busy. These folks affect your lives. On Election Day, remember you can affect them back!