1998 in Review

Black Vote Not Enough for Moseley-Braun

They did it for Harold, and they hoped to do it again for Carol. But a strong turnout in Chicago’s black wards couldn’t make up for the white moderates statewide who turned their backs on Carol Moseley-Braun, the nation’s first black woman senator, in her failed re-election bid in 1998.

In 1992, “The Year of the Woman,” voters swept the former Cook County recorder of deeds into office by a 10-point margin, helping her carry 57 of the state’s 102 counties. She ran on the coattails of Democratic President Bill Clinton, earning roughly 47 percent of the vote in suburban Cook County and about 41 percent in the collar counties.

That support evaporated this time around. Moseley-Braun carried only five of the state’s counties and her suburban support slipped: While she hung on with 48 percent of the votes in suburban Cook, she won about 36.5 percent in the collar counties.

Republican state Sen. Peter G. Fitzgerald, a millionaire banker from northwest suburban Inverness, spent $12 million to ensure voters focused on Moseley-Braun’s mistakes. Topping the list: a 1996 visit to now-deceased Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and news that the Internal Revenue Service had been reviewing her income taxes. Though the Justice Department didn’t find enough evidence to call for the grand jury investigation the IRS requested, the issue provided handy ammunition for Fitzgerald.

Leading in the polls through most of the campaign, Fitzgerald agreed to only one televised debate. Moseley-Braun, pointing to Fitzgerald’s missed roll-call votes, branded him a “no-show ghost senator.” But in the end, it was the South Side native who became the no-show among voters outside her home base.

–”Alysia Tate

So Close, Yet So Far

In 1998, relations between the Chicago Housing Authority and tenants opposed to the agency’s redevelopment strategy experienced a perceptible thaw. Two years earlier, Cabrini-Green residents had sued to block the CHA’s plan to transform Cabrini into a mixed-income community. The tenants accused officials of practicing “ethnic cleansing” to remove low-income African American families from the North Side’s Gold Coast.

But in July, the two sides shook hands on a settlement that boosted the number of new, very low-income units from 325 to 895 and made tenants the co-developer of all housing built on CHA property.

However, The Habitat Co., the court-appointed real estate firm that oversees CHA construction, had other ideas. In August, at Habitat’s request, U.S. District Judge Marvin E. Aspen sent the negotiations back to the drawing board, with Habitat as a third party. The new talks have now stretched into 1999, and tenant criticisms once aimed at the CHA also are directed at Habitat.

Other legal entanglements await the CHA in the new year. Residents at the Addams-Brooks-Loomis- Abbott development on the Near West Side are expected to sue in January with a demand to increase the number of public housing units in the CHA’s redevelopment plan.

–”Brian J. Rogal

Clark Case: Trials and Tribulations

The beating of Lenard Clark, a 13-year-old African American, by three young white males, captured the nation’s attention in 1997. In 1998, efforts to prosecute the notorious hate crime took as many twists as a made-for-TV crime drama.

During the highly publicized case, one witness, Michael Cutler, 19, was shot to death in an apparent robbery on the West Side. A second witness, Richard DeSantis, then 19, disappeared, triggering a nationwide search by the FBI and the police department.

The trial of 19-year-old Frank Caruso Jr., one of the defendants, drew crowds every day, but courtroom observers who shouted their support or condemnation did not always fall along racial lines. The Rev. B. Herbert Martin, an African American pastor and former chairman of the city’s Commission on Human Relations, came to Caruso’s defense, along with former gang leader and 3rd Ward aldermanic candidate Wallace “Gator” Bradley.

Days before Caruso’s Oct. 15 sentencing, the Dantrell Davis Memorial Foundation, named after a 7-year-old boy killed at the Cabrini-Green public housing development in 1992, honored Frank Caruso Sr. for his work with the black community.

The younger Caruso was found guilty of aggravated battery and a hate crime, and was sentenced to eight years in prison. The other defendants, Victor Jasas, 18, and Michael Kwidzinski, 21, pleaded guilty and received 300 hours of community service.

In November DeSantis turned up and was arraigned Dec. 14 for obstruction of justice. But for Lenard, whom prosecutors called too emotionally unstable to testify, the ordeal may never be over. Lenard, who has suffered permanent brain damage, may be one of the few Chicagoans who cannot recall the incident.

–”Natalie Pardo

Police Distrust: Ryan Harris Case Sours Community

In 1998, Ryan Harris joined those other child-symbols of the decade–”Lenard Clark, Dantrell Davis, Eric Morse, Girl X–”who have become shorthand for what can go horribly wrong for children in Chicago.

Eleven-year-old Ryan was killed in July while riding her bike through the Englewood neighborhood on the city’s South Side. Police quickly arrested two African American boys, ages 7 and 8, interrogated them and charged them with the crime.

But three weeks later, results from the police crime lab revealed evidence of semen on Harris’ underwear. Charges against the boys were dropped when police concluded the children were incapable of producing the semen.

At year’s end, the case remained unsolved, and the community’s sorrow turned to anger and frustration. Black residents complained that police were too quick to conclude the boys were suspects.

In fact, law enforcement agencies use computer databases to track “suspicious” people–”many of them minorities–”even if they have not committed crimes, The Chicago Reporter revealed in September.

Chicago officials even went before the U.S. Supreme Court in December to defend an ordinance that allowed police to arrest suspected gang members for congregating in public. The court is expected to rule this summer.

Meanwhile, while Chicago has made some progress in integrating its police force, policing remains largely a white profession in the suburbs, even in towns with significant minority populations, the Reporter found in a February article.

In response to the Ryan Harris case, Chicago police announced they are considering videotaping confessions. In January, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Commission on Juvenile Competency will offer recommendations on how juvenile offenders should be treated at police stations.

–”Danielle Gordon

Days to Remember

Jan. 8 African American Jeremiah Mearday, 19, testifies against two white police officers, saying they stopped him without cause and beat him as he walked to a nearby drug store on the city’s West Side.

Jan. 10 Accusations of mass cheating on the police sergeants exam thwarts yet another effort by the city to fairly promote officers. Protesting the exam’s legitimacy, the Fraternal Order of Police sues the city on Aug. 4 to halt the promotion of 248 officers to sergeant. This suit follows a ruling that previously dismissed blocking the officers’ promotions.

Jan. 12 Wearing orange “Parent Patrol” armbands, volunteers escort pupils to Terrell Elementary School, 5410 S. State St., in an effort to reduce fear of gang gunfire from nearby high-rises in the Robert Taylor Homes public housing development. In recent weeks, the crackle of gunfire has become so frequent that parents have kept nearly one-third of the 605 pupils out of school. The escorts bring the attendance rate back to normal, school officials report.

Jan. 28 A jury convicts Eric Holder, a black Chicago police officer in the Harrison District, for resisting arrest, but acquitted him of battery against two white officers. In July, officers were called to investigate a shooting in the Austin neighborhood where Holder was visiting while off duty. Holder identified himself as an officer but was asked to move along. He did not, reiterating he was an officer. On March 6, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Marvin Luckman sentences Holder to a year of probation and orders him to serve 30 days in the Cook County Sheriff’s Department’s Work Release Program. Holder is on a leave of absence from the department. Still pending is a federal investigation of the police department.

Feb. 9 The Cook County Board of Commissioners approves the $301 million bid to build a new 464-bed County Hospital. The bid was submitted by a joint venture of Walsh Construction Co. and Riteway Construction Services Inc., which offered about $8 million less than the next lowest bid. The facility is expected to be completed in early 2002.

Feb. 13 A federal jury finds James Roccasalva, a white Chicago firefighter, guilty of racially intimidating two police officers and a real estate agent. In April 1995, officers Lolita Fenner, Benjamin Jones and the agent, all African Americans, visited a Scottsdale home on the Southwest Side. Fenner was considering buying. Roccasalva yelled, “You mother-fucking black niggers. If you buy that house, there will be trouble!” Fenner filed a civil suit in 1997, and the jury finds Roccasalva intentionally intimidated and harassed Fenner because of her race and awards her $40,000 in damages.

Feb. 23 U.S. District Judge Marvin E. Aspen orders the Chicago Housing Authority to build half its replacement public housing in areas that are no more than 30 percent black. The ruling is based on the landmark 1969 Gautreaux decision, which ordered the CHA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to desegregate public housing.

March 3 Twenty-seven fire department employees are recommended for disciplinary action for their participation in a firehouse beer party in 1990 that was videotaped and released to the media seven years later. In the retirement party at Engine Co. 100, 6843 S. Harper Ave., the firefighters guzzled beer, dropped their pants and sang a song that included racial slurs. Fire Department spokesman Will Knight said that the majority of the firefighters were off-duty at the time.

March 5 U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel rules that the CHA must provide one-for-one replacement of the 281 units at the West Side’s Henry Horner Homes, blocking the agency’s plan to demolish the housing as part of the first phase of redevelopment.

March 5 Barbara Radner, director of the Center for Urban Education at the DePaul University, tells a state legislative panel that Roberto Clemente High School, 1147 N. Western Ave., is in disarray and that students are being neglected. The panel is investigating charges that Clemente officials misused up to $1 million in state funds earmarked for low-income students. The panel began its investigation the same month the Chicago Sun-Times reported the anti-poverty funds were being used to help free imprisoned Puerto Rican independence advocates.

March 7 A federal jury convicts Thomas Fuller, former president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, of accepting $9,000 in bribes from government mole John Christopher and an undercover FBI agent. Fuller blasts the decision: “Do you see me crying? No. Because I don’t feel like I did anything wrong. –¦ That was a set-up by the government from day one.” The African American and longtime politician receives a three-year prison sentence on Oct. 8.

April 9 Cook County State’s Attorney Richard A. Devine announces he will not charge Jeremiah Mearday with a misdemeanor or pursue charges against the two Chicago officers who attacked him because of inconsistencies in the case. Devine’s decision comes after the Chicago Police Board votes to fire the two officers.

April 26 The Chicago Transit Authority eliminates bus routes, weekend and overnight services on rail routes on the South and West sides. Labor leaders, residents and politicians protest the changes. “We’ve got congressmen complaining at the 11th hour, the very same congressmen who voted to reduce the operating assistance of the CTA. If these hypocrites want to blame somebody for these cuts, they should look at themselves in the mirror,” says CTA President Frank Kruesi.

May 7 Eighteen African American women file a civil rights lawsuit alleging they were subjected to undue strip searches by U.S. Customs officials at O’Hare International Airport because they are black. None of the searches, the suit says, turned up drugs or other contraband.

May 14 The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service reports that its Chicago branch has nearly doubled deportations of illegal immigrants. From October 1997 to March 1998, the agency deported 838 illegal immigrants, almost twice the 418 deported during the same period a year earlier. Nationwide, Mexicans represent 81 percent of undocumented immigrants expelled from the country during the first six months of the current fiscal year, the INS reports.

May 18 A 10,000-pound wrecking ball begins pounding a Robert Taylor Homes building slated for demolition. The 16-story, 158-unit building is one of three, collectively known as “The Hole,” which CHA officials say housed a thriving drug trade.

June 12 Former 17th Ward Alderman Allan Streeter is sentenced to eight months for accepting $36,765 in bribes. Streeter, who wore a wire for investigators during the federal Operation Silver Shovel investigation, has been criticized by his former City Hall colleagues for cooperating with the government to investigate them, says Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Bertocchi. “That sort of talk, that corruption is something to be protected and to be silent about, goes a long way to fostering public cynicism about corruption,” he tells the Chicago Sun-Times.

June 17 To better identify issues important to Latinos, the Center for New Community Policy is created by three Chicago groups: The United Neighborhood Organization of Chicago, the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association and the Mexican American Chamber of Commerce of Illinois.

July 28 Eleven-year-old Ryan Harris is found slain in the 6600 block of South Parnell Avenue. Harris lived in southeast suburban Lynwood but was visiting her godmother in Englewood at the time of the murder. She was last seen riding a blue bicycle.

July 29 Chicago aldermen hand themselves a 13.3 percent pay raise, but only after sugarcoating the politically sensitive move with a living wage measure. The ordinance directs city contractors with 25 or more full-time employees to pay their workers “no less than” $7.60 an hour. Aldermanic salaries rose from $75,000 a year to $85,000, effective Jan. 1. Six aldermen pledge to refuse the raise or donate the money to worthy causes.

July 30 U.S. District Judge Marvin E. Aspen blocks the CHA from settling an October 1996 lawsuit filed by Cabrini-Green residents on the grounds that negotiations did not involve The Habitat Co., the court-appointed private firm in charge of overseeing all construction of new public housing. The suit calls for blocking demolition at the Near North Side development, and the deal would have made Cabrini residents co-developers of all units built on CHA land. Aspen calls the disagreement between Habitat and the CHA a “mini-turf war.”

Aug. 1 HUD officials announce they will return control of the CHA to Chicago, three years after taking over the troubled agency, but no date is set. HUD gives the CHA its first passing grade in 20 years, which removes it from a list of the nation’s most troubled public housing agencies.

Aug. 1 The 25-year-old Latino Institute attempts to navigate its way through a severe financial crisis by removing its executive director and laying off staff. A leading think tank on Hispanic issues, the institute provides its constituents with public policy analysis and data, leadership and organizational development.

Aug. 9 Chicago police arrest and charge two boys, ages 7 and 8, with the murder of Ryan Harris, making them possibly the youngest murder suspects ever in the country. Local politicians and Englewood residents are livid when they discover that police questioned the boys without their parents or a youth officer present.

Aug. 14 Following a six-year, $20 million legal battle, the Chicago City Council approves the redrawing of a new 18th Ward on the Southwest Side, with a black population of about 72 percent, up from 54 percent. Alderman Thomas Murphy, who is white, is redistricted out of the area but later vows to move in and run for re-election.

Sept. 4 The Cook County State’s Attorney drops all charges against the two youngsters in the Ryan Harris case when the state police crime lab identifies stains on Harris’ underwear as semen.

Sept. 18 The Advisory Board to the President’s Initiative on Race releases its report, “One America in the 21st Century: Forging a New Future.” The report “seeks to move America toward its highest aspirations” by “promot[ing] a constructive national dialogue to confront and work through the challenging issues that surround race.”

Sept. 18 A jury convicts Frank Caruso Jr., 19, of aggravated battery and committing a hate crime. On Oct. 15 Cook County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Locallo sentences him to eight years in prison for the racially motivated beating of black teenager Lenard Clark. Caruso is exonerated of attempted murder, the most serious charge. Clark and two friends were riding their bicycles through the predominantly white Armour Square neighborhood on March 21, 1997, when they were accosted by Caruso, Victor Jasas, 18, and Michael Kwidzinski, 21. The beating left Clark, 13 at the time, with permanent brain damage. Jasas and Kwidzinski received probation and community service after accepting plea agreements.

Oct. 5 Tina Olison is not a fit parent because of her past cocaine addiction, says Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Timothy Ray to a judge. The case against Olison drew much attention because her child, known as Baby T, has been cared for by Alderman Edward M. Burke (14th) and his wife, Illinois Appellate Court Justice Anne M. Burke. As the child’s foster parents, they now want to adopt him. On Nov. 4, Kane County Associate Judge Judith M. Brawka rules for Olison, who begins working out a plan to regain custody of Baby T.

Oct. 18 A poll finds that 65 percent of Illinois residents are aware of the controversy over the use of the symbol Chief Illiniwek at the University of Illinois. Of that group, 77 percent supported and 10 percent were opposed to keeping the symbol. WCIA-TV in downstate Champaign polled 401 residents.

Nov. 3 U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.) loses her seat to state Sen. Peter G. Fitzgerald of northwest suburban Inverness. Although Moseley-Braun received 96.3 percent of the black vote in Chicago and 88 percent of the votes in majority black towns in suburban Cook County, she lost the collar counties to Fitzgerald by a 24-point margin. Cook County Board President John H. Stroger Jr. defeats Democrat-turned-Republican Aurelia M. Pucinski, and Cook County Recorder of Deeds Jesse White becomes the first African American elected Illinois secretary of state.

Nov. 12 Mayor Richard M. Daley announces that the City of Chicago will file a $433 million lawsuit against gun manufacturers, gun shops and distributors. “We’re going to hit them where it hurts–”in their bank accounts and we won’t stop hitting them until they stop flooding our streets with guns,” Daley says. The suit charges 22 manufacturers and four distributors, and follows a similar challenge in New Orleans. Both suits call for the gun industry to bear the costs of handgun violence.

Nov. 19 Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa wins the National League’s Most Valuable Player award. It is the first time a player from the Dominican Republic has won the honor. Sosa hit 66 homers and leads the Cubs to the playoffs; their first since 1989.

Nov. 23 U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D.-Ill.) announces his campaign for mayor. Charging that Mayor Daley has neglected city neighborhoods in favor of downtown development, the South Side congressman hopes to become the city’s second popularly elected African American mayor.

Dec. 2 A plan to issue $6 million in city industrial development revenue bonds to finance a new kitchen for Flying Food Fare, a caterer serving Midway Airport, is sent back to the Finance Committee by the Chicago City Council. Black aldermen complain the company had not hired enough African Americans. Mayor Daley said Chinese American owner Sue Gin had hired “too many Asians” and “has a responsibility to hire” more blacks. Gin is a Chicago entrepreneur who founded the company in 1984.

Dec. 12 In the city’s first public housing implosion, four CHA high-rises on the South Lakefront are reduced to a pile of rubble. The demolition of the four 16-story buildings at Lakefront Properties, bounded by 40th Street and 42nd Place, Lake Park Avenue and the Metra tracks, eliminate what some area residents see as hulking impediments to developing a viable, mixed-income community.

Dec. 14 The Chicago Fire Department suspends two firefighters from Engine Co. 112 at Damen Avenue and Grace Street for reportedly harassing a Native American firefighter and calling him “Geronimo” and “Chief Sitting Bull.” The department also suspends four of their supervisors. “These men and women [firefighters] are with [one another] 24 hours a day,” Mayor Richard M. Daley tells the Chicago Tribune. “It creates a lot of problems, tension problems within those firehouses. We can’t babysit them 24 hours a day. I can’t be sitting next to each one of them.”

Dec. 14 The Chicago Police Department unveils an on-line lost of 2,400 convicted sex offenders living in the city. The list, available on the department’s Web site, includes the name, age, year of conviction, block address and photograph of each offender. Other municipalities and sheriff’s offices, such as DuPage County, also post lists on the Web.

Deaths of Note

March 5 Latino community leader and local barber Louis J. Gomez, 59, dies in Evanston. A member of the Evanston Human Relations Commission, he aided impoverished Native Americans by sending blankets to Chiapas, Mexico, the site of a December 1997 massacre.

May 7 Longtime community activist, Celeste Pena, 41, dies of breast cancer in her North Side home. The special assistant to Jess McDonald, director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and a Chicago native, is credited with creating an advanced degree program in social work at the agency as a way to professionalize and upgrade standards.

Sept. 1 Arthur Morimitsu, English editor of The Chicago Shimpo newspaper, dies at Illinois Masonic Medical Center at 86. An important voice in the successful campaign for an apology and compensation from the U.S. government for Japanese Americans held in internment camps, Morimitsu served with U.S. military intelligence during World War II. He was also president of Chicago’s Japanese American Service Committee.

Sept. 16 James Fletcher, co-founder and chairman of South Shore Bank, dies of complications from lymphoma. Fletcher, 63, was one of four co-founders of a community bank on Chicago’s South Side aimed at reviving and providing economic development. In 1983 Fletcher, a resident of Beverly on the Southwest Side, became president and CEO, serving until 1994. He was elected chairman in 1996. The bank has become a national model for community-based lending.

Nov. 4 Wendell Chino, 74, president of the Mescalero Apache Tribe in New Mexico, dies of a heart attack in Santa Monica. The tribe’s first and only elected president for 35 years, Chino is credited with taking it from crippling penury to near self-sufficiency. He also helped write the Indian Financing Act of 1974, which provided nearly $1 billion in economic development for more than 200 reservations.

Illustrations By Jim Flynn. Terrell Elementary School photo: Reprinted with permission, Chicago Sun-Times, 1998, Brian Jackson; Caruso photo: Reprinted with permission, Chicago Sun-Times, 1998, John H. White; Morimitsu photo: The Chicago Shimpo.

Written by Nicolette McDavid and Rui Kaneya. Contributing: Danielle Gordon, Sofia Javed, Karen Shields, Cedric L. Stines and Stephanie Williams. Researched by Nicole Cashaw and Astaria Dillard.

Comments are closed.