Friday, May 23, 2008

I Got A Guy

Chicago works when you've got a guy.

Need to get that occupancy permit and there's no time to wait for the inspector? You need a guy.

Need zoning changed on a piece of land that you'd like to develop and sell for a tidy profit? You need a guy. Or at the very least, you need a guy who's got a guy.

Everyone knows the game. If you have clout, you can skirt the rules that apply to the commoners. What is common knowledge among the dogs in the street was a startling revelation to David Hoffman, Chicago's Inspector General. The man who runs the show was shocked at the level of corruption in the zoning and building departments. And Barack Obama sat in a church for twenty years and never heard a sermon.

City employees took bribes so that builders could get the right zoning or get a plan approved that didn't meet code. Zoning changes were approved for builders who just happened to make a generous campaign contribution to the local alderman.

Eight city workers were arrested last year, charged with accepting bribes, but the payoffs didn't stop, just because a few guys got caught. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has announced another round of arrests as his crew continues to investigate the entrenched system of corruption that passes for government in the city of Chicago.

William Wellhausen is one of the government employees who got caught. He's got a guy, a powerful guy, who got him his job. Alderman William J.P. Banks, the chairman of the Zoning Committee, saw to it that Mr. Wellhausen was hired, and it had nothing to do with qualifications. Mr. Wellhausen was written into the clout list, the roster that was handed to Mayor Daley's patronage chief, so that the right people were given employment in the right departments.

The patronage chief is in jail, and Mr. Wellhausen will be joining him soon. So Mr. Banks must wonder, will Mr. Wellhausen keep his mouth shut, or will he rat out his clout?

No comments: