Local Politics:

Machine Sleaze in . . .
---David Meyers

West Town

I went down to Texas for the last two weeks of January; when I got back to Chicago Jesse Granato posters were smeared all over the neighborhood. First Ward Alderman Granato was up for reelection, and facing some progressive opposition.

Although not shocking, seeing all those Granato / Daley signs was still a surprise. As far as I can tell, Granato has little support in the ward, outside of the 100 or so developers and wealthy anti-community groups (Old Wicker Park Committee, Eckhart Park Neighborhood Association, the new West Village Organization) who fill his campaign coffers. He is rabidly disliked by all legitimate community organizations, and every single individual I've ever talked with.

Granato was opposed in the Feb. 23 election by four candidates. Cynthia Soto enjoyed the support of most progressives, political radicals, and even a few anarchists.

Why were there so many Granato signs, while a somewhat popular Soto was nowhere to be seen?

I talked with a small businesswoman whose experience prior to the election shed some light. A few days after placing a Soto sign in her storefront window, this woman was visited by a few guys from Granato's staff. They asked, "Why don't youse take down that Soto sign and put up one of Jesse's?"

She didn't want to.

Two days later, city inspectors arrived, looking for license problems, sanitation problems, whatever. This harassment, this low-level extortion, led her to take down the Soto sign in her window. (She couldn't stomach putting up a Granato poster, tho.)

And so I learned how it is that in a ward where the reigning Machine alderman is about as unpopular as can be can still get his name and picture up all over the place.

Logan Square

Alderwoman Vilma Colóm, another Machine hack, also faced progressive opposition in her attempt to hold onto her neocolonial 35th Ward position. Her staff wasn't so polite. According to sources, one day Colóm's staff started to put a large campaign poster on a Logan Square man's lawn. Without his permission. This man came out of his house and told them to go away. They said, "No, we wanna put this sign here." He told them to go away again, and they did.

Shortly after, this man was visited by city inspectors. They presented him with 48 housing code violations, potentially costing him tens of thousands of dollars in repairs or fines.

Humboldt Park

In Humboldt Park, incumbent and Puerto Rican independentista Billy Ocasio faced bizarre competition from right-wing radio personality Ray Rubio in the 26th Ward election. Ocasio has been unfairly targeted by city media for his defense of the right of Puerto Ricans to resist being displaced from the Humboldt Park area.

During the campaign, Rubio sent out a flyer to all the ward residences, featuring a photograph of four youth. The youth were portrayed as the gangbanging thug-faced youth that need to be cleaned out of the area so People of Money can move in.

These four youth were told by Rubio's campaign staff, who took the photo, that it was going to be used as publicity for a GED program - for a positive community project. Instead, Rubio used them and the photograph to bolster his pro-yuppification campaign; the young men and their parents saw it as not only unethical and deceptive, but as putting their lives in danger in a community wracked by drug sales and gang activity.

Granato, Colóm, Rubio. Selling out their communities in the service of profit-hungry developers. New faces; same old Machine.

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