1999 in Review: The year in race, poverty and Chicago politics

Police Distrust Goes Mainstream

A Death Row prisoner wins his freedom through the efforts of undergraduate journalism students. Two unarmed African American motorists are shot to death by police within eight hours on a tragic June night.

Stories that once seemed more the gritty fantasy of television crime dramas have become real on the streets of Chicago. With each new law enforcement scandal, more and more citizens call for justice. And no longer is the public outcry limited to the usual community activists and defenders of minority rights. In 1999, distrust of police went mainstream.

Anthony Porter was released from Death Row in February after Northwestern University Professor David Protess and his journalism students uncovered evidence showing he was wrongly convicted of a 1982 double murder. Ten other Death Row inmates claim they were tortured into confessing by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, who was fired by the Chicago Police Board in 1993 for coercing a confession.

At the Chicago Police Department, one “isolated incident” of questionable conduct could barely be explained and another would appear, demanding answers. Officials offered few solutions, only suggesting that officers needed more training.

After three weeks of protests over the two shootings, Superintendent of Police Terry G. Hillard recommended firing the four officers involved in the death of 26-year-old LaTanya Haggerty. That punishment must still be approved by the police board, which scheduled a hearing for Jan. 18. But Hillard chose suspensions and reprimands for the three officers involved in the shooting of 22-year-old Northwestern University student Robert Russ.

By year’s end, Hillard announced the department would videotape homicide confessions and place cameras in some police cars. But Chicagoans are demanding more: For public trust to return, they must have official accountability.

–”Rebecca Anderson

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Blacks Throw Support to White Candidates

Gone are the days of plantation politics, when Chicago’s white politicians hand-picked black candidates. Instead, in two key races in 1999, many in the city’s predominantly black wards backed white candidates, even against black challengers.

In the Feb. 23 mayoral race, Mayor Richard M. Daley breezed to a fourth term with almost 72 percent of the vote, including about 44 percent in the 20 black wards. Daley still polled lower in black wards than in white, Latino or mixed wards but surpassed his previous high of 28 percent in 1995.

U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Chicago) became the seventh African American since 1989 to mount a serious challenge to Daley in a primary or general election–”and lose. He captured nearly 56 percent of the vote in the black wards, but won just 28 percent citywide. The former 2nd Ward alderman won just two endorsements from the City Council: African American Shirley A. Coleman, from the 16th Ward; and the 46th Ward’s Helen Shiller, a longtime Daley foe, who is white.

Daley’s victory may have been expected, but few anticipated the outcome of the 18th Ward aldermanic race. In 1998, after a six-year, $20 million legal battle, the Chicago City Council approved the redrawn Southwest Side ward with a 72 percent African American majority. The new boundaries moved white incumbent Alderman Thomas Murphy into the neighboring 13th Ward, but that did not stop him from seeking re-election in the 18th Ward. Murphy won about 57 percent of the vote against eight African American challengers, making him the only white alderman to represent a majority black constituency. He moved back into the 18th Ward in April.

–”Alysia Tate

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Tough Year for ‘Team CHA’

Mother Nature got the Chicago Housing Authority off to an inauspicious start in 1999. Plunging temperatures after a New Year’s Day blizzard froze, and then burst, water pipes in five partially occupied buildings at the South Side’s Robert Taylor Homes and the West Side’s Henry Horner Homes. Hundreds of families fled apartments through iced hallways.

On June 1, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officially returned control of the CHA to the city. Mayor Richard M. Daley earned kudos for selecting Phillip Jackson, a former CHA resident, as the agency’s new chief executive officer. But within a few months, the honeymoon was over for the new administration, which Jackson had dubbed “Team CHA.”

Tenants roundly criticized the agency’s proposal to demolish 52 high-rises during the next five years, including all of the Taylor Homes and Stateway Gardens, which together stretch 2.5 miles along South State Street, from 35th to 55th streets. The plan still must be approved by HUD.

Jackson stepped onto another land mine this fall when he announced a “winterization” plan to empty seven of Taylor’s 22 remaining buildings, and two buildings at the West Side’s Rockwell Gardens development, all deemed too vulnerable to cold temperatures. Many tenants said the CHA neglected repairs in the buildings to win public support for demolition.

But at year’s end, the last resident holdouts gave in. Barbara Moore, a leader at a targeted building at 5266 S. State St., expects next year will bring more closings and vows to “draw a line and not let anyone move [us] around like cattle.”

–”Brian J. Rogal

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The Year in Review

Jan. 7 After a New Year’s Day blizzard, the Chicago Housing Authority begins evacuating more than 200 families from apartments with frozen pipes and failing boilers in the Robert Taylor and Henry Horner public housing developments. Displaced tenants at three Taylor high-rises are upset when CHA officials announce plans to close their buildings for good. Critics accuse the CHA of neglecting repairs to win public support for demolition.

Jan. 21 Two Chicago Fire Department supervisors are reassigned after Capt. Curtis Powell, an African American, said other fire-fighters racially harassed him. In a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Powell alleges he was the victim of verbal attacks and injurious pranks after he was promoted to captain of Engine Co. 96. Five days later, about 50 white firefighters protest the transfers outside City Hall, according to press reports.

Jan. 27 A federal grand jury indicts Chicago City Treasurer Miriam Santos on 12 counts of extortion, and mail and wire fraud. Santos, the first Latino and woman to hold the post, is indicted the day former state Rep. Miguel A. Santiago (D-Chicago) is acquitted of ghost payrolling. Santiago served as 31st Ward alderman from 1983 to 1987.

Jan. 31 After a two-hour jury deliberation, former Alderman Virgil E. Jones Jr. (15th) becomes the 25th current or former member of the Chicago City Council in the past 26 years convicted of a crime. Jones is found guilty of taking $7,000 in bribes from federal government mole John Christopher.

Feb. 5 Anthony Porter is freed from Death Row when Northwestern University Professor David Protess and his journalism students discover evidence suggesting Porter was wrongly convicted of a 1982 double murder. He had been incarcerated at Pontiac and Menard correctional centers since 1983. Twelve Death Row inmates have been released since Illinois reinstated the death penalty in 1977. Community and legal groups renew calls for a death penalty moratorium.

Feb. 23 Mayor Richard M. Daley trounces U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Chicago) in the mayoral election, capturing nearly three out of every four votes cast. Daley receives about 85 percent of the votes in predominantly Latino wards and about 44 percent in black wards. Treasurer Santos, under indictment, narrowly defeats African American challenger Dorothy Brown, general auditor for the Chicago Transit Authority, with 51.4 percent of the vote. And Alderman Thomas Murphy, who is white, wins his 18th Ward seat with almost 58 percent of the vote against eight black challengers. In August 1998, the ward’s boundaries were redrawn, making it 72 percent African American.

March 5 Cook County officials reach a $36 million settlement with the Ford Heights Four, four African American men wrongfully accused of killing a south suburban couple in 1978. It is one of the largest awards for wrongful prosecution in U.S. history. Three other men have since been convicted of the killings.

March 8 In Cook County Circuit Court, Judge Judith M. Brawka sets a goal of returning “Baby T” within a year to the custody of his mother, Tina Olison, a former drug addict. Born with cocaine in his system, Baby T has been in the foster care of Alderman Edward M. Burke (14th) and Illinois Appellate Court Justice Anne Burke since he was 8 days old. The white, politically powerful couple have sought to become private guardians of the black child. Announcing her decision, Brawka cites racial considerations and Olison’s successful rehabilitation.

March 11 Presiding Cook County Criminal Court Judge Thomas R. Fitzgerald vacates the two murder convictions against Porter. “Thank God, I’m innocent of all charges. Thank God, I’m free,” Porter says. But within two weeks, he is arrested and charged with domestic battery against one of his daughters and her mother. Porter is freed on bond, but Gov. George Ryan accuses the state of inadequately preparing Porter for life after prison. In August, prosecutors drop the charges.

April 27 West suburban Cicero adopts an anti-gang ordinance that would force repeat offenders to leave town or face fines of $500 per day. Critics charge the law is anti-Latino. In June, under another anti-gang measure, Cicero police begin impounding cars belonging to suspected gang members, who only can retrieve their vehicles after paying $615 in fines and fees. Police seize more than 60 cars before the law is challenged in court and Cicero stops enforcing it. On Aug. 25, Cicero moves to impound cars driven by minors violating curfew. “There is more than one way to skin a cat,” says Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese. “These punks are not going to beat us, even if we have setbacks on certain things.”

May 3 A federal jury finds Santos guilty of five counts of mail fraud and one count of extortion. Santos, who won reelection as city treasurer despite her indictment, relinquishes her office. Twenty-three days after the jurors’ decision, Daley appoints Barbara A. Lumpkin, who is black, as Chicago’s new treasurer, despite pressure from African American leaders to name Brown, Santos’ challenger in the February election.

May 27 The city of Chicago announces an agreement to receive control of the CHA from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which took over the agency in 1995. Daley taps Phillip Jackson, chief of staff for Chicago Public Schools’ Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas, to run the authority.

June 4-5 In separate incidents, Chicago police shoot and kill unarmed black motorists LaTanya Haggerty, a 26-year-old computer analyst; and Robert Russ, 22, a Northwestern University student and football player. Critics cite the shootings as examples of the Chicago Police Department’s racial profiling and use of excessive force. The Cook County State’s Attorney and the U.S. Attorney’s Office begin a joint investigation of both shootings. Hundreds of protesters demanding greater police accountability march on police headquarters.

June 10 The U.S. Supreme Court upholds a ruling that struck down Chicago’s anti-gang loitering ordinance. The 1992 law allowed Chicago police officers to disperse loiterers they believed were gang members, but the Supreme Court agrees with two lower courts in calling it vague and unconstitutionally restrictive of personal liberties. The city pledges to rewrite the ordinance.

June 27 A report by the Chicago Tribune shows the number of white welfare recipients has dropped by nearly half in the past two years, but minority numbers have fallen only 30 percent. Downstate welfare recipients are moving off welfare twice as fast as those in Cook County, which accounts for 71 percent of the state’s recipients.

July 2-4 Benjamin Smith embarks on a shooting rampage that leaves three people dead and nine wounded. The 21-year-old Wilmette native first opens fire on six Orthodox Jews in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, then drives to Skokie and kills African American former Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong as he walks with his two children. Smith also shoots at an Asian couple in Northbrook before heading downstate. After shooting blacks and Asians in Springfield, Decatur and Urbana, Smith travels to Bloomington, Ind., where he guns down Won Joon Yoon, an Indiana University graduate student from Korea. With police in pursuit, Smith shoots himself outside Salem, Ill. Police believe Smith acted alone but link him to the white supremacist group World Church of the Creator, based in East Peoria. Experts consider the organization, led by Matthew Hale, one of the nation’s fastest growing hate groups.

July 7 The Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards rules the shooting of Haggerty unjustified and recommends Superintendent of Police Terry G. Hillard move to fire the four officers involved. Hillard makes the recommendation five days later. The final decision rests with the Chicago Police Board, which schedules a hearing to begin Jan. 18. The Fraternal Order of Police, the police union, accuses Hillard of bowing to political pressure.

July 15 In a dramatic press conference, new CHA chief Jackson accuses HUD of mismanagement by showcasing a warehouse containing bicycles and computer equipment. He says the CHA acquired the equipment while under HUD’s control but never used it. Jackson’s demonstration provokes a bitter dispute between the two agencies. The next day, a HUD official sends Daley a hand-written fax demanding to know “What kind of bullshit is this?” Raising questions about tenant relocations, HUD later agrees with critics of Daley that federal approval should hinge on how well residents’ concerns are addressed. Daley lambastes HUD for meddling.

July 27 U.S. District Judge Charles R. Norgle Sr. sentences Santos to 40 months in prison for mail fraud and extortion. Santos apologizes to the court, saying “I never dreamed my career would end in this manner,” according to the Chicago Tribune. But Norgle states that “Santos has not accepted responsibility. … When you looked in the mirror, you should have seen yourself as the treasurer. Instead, ambition took control.”

Aug. 12 Downtown Chicago loses electrical power as underground cables short-circuit under heavy use in the intense summer heat. After weeks of sporadic power outages across Chicago, Commonwealth Edison Co. officials admit they are struggling with an aging infrastructure. Daley fumes. “You better go to ground zero with that company,” he tells Chief Executive Officer John Rowe. The next day, Rowe fires one of the ComEd’s senior vice presidents. The outage costs businesses as much as $100 million.

Aug. 16 Chicago firefighter Robert Nole sues several colleagues and the city for racial harassment. In his federal civil rights suit, Nole, who is of Native American descent, says colleagues called him “Chief Sitting Bull” and danced around him.

Aug. 28 Thomas Cooper attacks Burbank resident Roy Trumblay, his wife Geri, his daughter Kristy and her boyfriend Brian Quan, with a wooden table leg as they walk on 35th Street toward Comiskey Park. Cooper is black and the Trumblays are white, but prosecutors and defense attorneys

say no evidence suggests Cooper was motivated by race. Cooper is charged with first-degree murder when Roy Trumblay dies Nov. 2.

Sept. 9 The CHA confirms plans to shut down seven high-rises in Robert Taylor in order to avoid costly winter weather repairs. Five to six hundred families are asked to move by November. Many refuse. “We want them to winterize our building so we can stay here,” says Barbara Moore, president of the Taylor building at 5266 S. State St. “Where will we go?”

Sept. 10 The three Chicago police officers who chased Russ before his shooting death are punished by the department but keep their jobs. OPS rules the shooting accidental but Officer Van Watts receives a 15-day suspension without pay. Officer George Renner is suspended for one day, and Officer Philip Banszkiewicz gets a reprimand. “I’m appalled,” says Vera Love, Russ’ mother. “They slap these people on the wrist for killing my son?” But Fraternal Order of Police President Bill Nolan blasts the punishments as politically motivated, and Watts appeals his suspension.

Sept. 30 Calling for drastic reductions in the CHA’s size and scope, Jackson unveils a five-year plan to revamp the agency. The $1.5 billion capital proposal would knock down 52 high-rise buildings, reduce the agency’s housing pool from 38,000 to 24,000 apartments, turn management of all developments over to private companies and, in the next year, slice the CHA’s workforce by one-fourth. The plan also calls for rehabbing or rebuilding the 24,000 units. “Our goal with this plan is not to dissolve CHA communities, but to enhance and stabilize them,” Jackson says. But resident activists blast the agency for failing to solicit their input. “We can fight it,” says Francine Washington, president of Stateway Gardens. “We won’t go anywhere. They’ll have to blow us out of there with a stick of dynamite.”

Sept. 30 U.S. District Court Judge Ann Claire Williams denies the City of Chicago’s request to modify the Red Squad consent decree. The city’s proposal would have increased its power to investigate hate crimes. It also would have allowed Chicago police to share gang data with other departments. The 1981 decree prohibits police and other city agencies from conducting investigations that could violate an individual’s First Amendment rights.

Oct. 12 The CHA’s Jackson announces a move to disband the agency’s 270-officer police force. Responsibility for patrolling public housing developments returns to the Chicago Police Department on Oct. 29. Most CHA officers are African American, and some denounce Jackson’s announcement as racist. Many residents complain that Chicago police avoid CHA properties.

Oct. 19 Reversing her March decision on the guardianship of “Baby T,” Circuit Court Judge Brawka rules that Olison, the child’s mother, has not made enough progress to win custody. Brawka says Olison is not prepared to offer the child a stable environment, and orders he remain in the foster care of the Burkes. Outside the courtroom, Olison’s supporters accuse the state’s child welfare system of “destroying black families.”

Oct. 26 Cook County Circuit Judge Benjamin E. Novoselsky orders Beverly Reed to repay $51,000 she misspent out of a trust fund for “Girl X,” the 9-year-old beaten and sexually assaulted in a Cabrini-Green stairwell in 1997. Reed had traveled across the country to help raise more than $300,000 for the girl.

Oct. 27 Gov. Ryan wraps up his five-day “humanitarian” mission to Cuba, the first visit by a U.S. governor since Cuban leader Fidel Castro gained power in 1959. Illinois farmers are looking for new markets and Ryan supports lifting the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Ryan gives Castro a bust of Abraham Lincoln; Castro allows two sick Cuban boys to come to the U.S. for treatment.

Oct. 30 Reginald Cole, a state prison inmate, is shot to death during questioning at the Chicago Police Department’s Wentworth Area Detective Division. Ten days earlier, Cole was transferred to Cook County Jail from the Illinois River Correctional Facility in Canton. Police say Cole fatally shot himself in the mouth. According to press reports, he was shot between one and three times. The medical examiner rules Cole’s death a suicide but the case remains under investigation.

Nov. 1 The Chicago Cubs hire Don Baylor as manager. He is the first African American skipper in club history. “Who wouldn’t want to manage at Wrigley Field?” Baylor asks. Baylor previously served as hitting coach of the Atlanta Braves and manager of the Colorado Rockies. As a player, he won the 1979 American League Most Valuable Player award, and in 1985 Major League Baseball named him the Roberto Clemente Man of the Year for his athletic performance and civic efforts. Baylor was dinged by pitches 267 times in his playing career, setting a major league record.

Nov. 7-8 Rev. Jesse L. Jackson leads a march in downstate Decatur to protest the “zero tolerance” expulsions of seven African American high school students. The school board acted too severely when it kicked the students out of school for two years for brawling at a Sept. 17 football game, Jackson says. He also sites a study suggesting the board disciplines black students more frequently and harshly than whites. The board agrees to reduce the expulsions to one year and, in the meantime, to allow the students to attend alternative education programs. But Jackson rejects the offer as too severe and pledges to continue to fight for the students’ reinstatement.

Nov. 9 A federal jury finds Alderman Percy Z. Giles (37th) guilty of accepting $91,000 in bribes before and during Operation Silver Shovel. Giles, the sixth alderman to be convicted in the federal probe, has represented the West Side ward since 1986. Daley has 60 days to appoint Giles’ replacement. A special aldermanic race will be held in the ward in February 2001.

Nov. 10 The U.S. Senate confirms former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.) as ambassador to New Zealand and non-resident ambassador to Samoa. Only two senators vote against her confirmation: Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Sen. Peter G. Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), who defeated Moseley-Braun in her 1998 re-election bid. Moseley-Braun is the only black woman to serve in the Senate.

Nov. 14 A week of contention in Decatur climaxes with three protest rallies. More than 2,000 people march against the student expulsions with the Rev. Jackson. Nearby, about 250 marchers express support for the school board, and about 100 others join members of the Ku Klux Klan in speaking out against Jackson. On Nov. 16, Jackson attempts to escort the students back to school. Police arrest him for trespassing. By the end of the week, the students enroll in an alternative school.

Nov. 15 Fire Commissioner Edward P. Altman Jr. resigns days after his son, Edward Altman III, charged him with covering up a botched internal investigation. The younger Altman was head of the department’s Internal Affairs Division in 1997 when a videotape surfaced showing firefighters partying on the job and using racial slurs. He resigned Feb. 27. In his suit, he accuses his father of sandbagging the inquiry and making him a scapegoat. Daley taps First Deputy Fire Commissioner James Joyce to succeed Altman as commissioner. Joyce pledges to increase training and diversify the department.

Nov. 22 Cook County Circuit Judge Sidney A. Jones reinstates an injunction preventing south suburban Harvey from shutting off water to neighboring Dixmoor. Harvey first threatened to cut off the water supply in February because Dixmoor had amassed a $347,328 bill. Meanwhile, Dixmoor village trustees had voted in September to disband the fire and police departments. Harvey Mayor Nickolas Graves proposes annexing Dixmoor and taking over its city services.

Nov. 22 A report released by the Metropolitan Planning Council warns that moderate- and low-income renters are having more trouble finding adequate, affordable housing in the Chicago area. Segregation remains entrenched and tenants leaving CHA properties for subsidized private housing under the Section 8 program are more likely to end up in poor, segregated communities.

Dec. 20 The CHA vacates the Robert Taylor building at 5266 S. State St and turns off the power. Cold weather kills worms and fish left behind in the building’s tenant-run farm, set up to teach children about business and farming. “I was contacted by the worms’ attorney to make sure they are being treated fairly,” the CHA’s Jackson tells the Chicago Tribune. “How worms got to be such celebrities is beyond me.”

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Obituaries

March 25 Gung Hsing Wang, 90, civic leader and businessman, dies at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Wang came to Chicago as the Chinese vice consul in 1930. In 1969, Mayor Richard J. Daley named him planning coordinator for the Model Cities Program. He also founded Neighborhood Redevelopment Assistance, a non-profit corporation that helped revitalize Chinatown.

June 15 “He went 24 hours a day,” Marie Yotaghan tells the Chicago Tribune about her husband, Wardell, 53, after he dies of a heart attack. “He had an understanding with our family that what he was doing would not only help others, it would help us, too.” He co-founded the Coalition to Protect Public Housing and worked with the Chicago Association of Resident Managers Corporation. His efforts helped residents win control of some CHA buildings from the federal government. “Wardell believed in the slogan –˜I am my brother’s keeper,'” says Della Mitchell, an organizer with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Nov. 1 Former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, 45, dies of bile duct cancer. “He was the best football player I’ve ever seen and one of the best people I ever met,” said former Bears coach Mike Ditka. Payton, whom many knew as “Sweetness,” holds eight National Football League records, including most career and single-game rushing yards. He also led the Bears to a Super Bowl victory in the 1985 season. After leaving football, Payton was involved in many business enterprises and charitable efforts. A public memorial service held Nov. 6 at Soldier Field draws 15,000 friends and fans.

–Illustrations by Jim Flynn. By Mick Dumke. Contributing: Leah Bobal, James Boozer, Nicolette L. McDavid, Cory Oldweiler, Billy O’Keefe and E.J. Rublev

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