Willie Horton Comes to Rogers Park
by Lew Rosenbaum
[This article was written for the People’s Tribune Chicago Area Facebook Page.
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Most of my older friends will know what I am talking about when I ask “Do you remember Willie Horton?’ They may not remember the year, the presidential campaign, and the names of the candidates. They’ll know I’m not talking about a baseball player and his homerun hitting heroics.
The candidates were George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis in 1988. The latter, a Democrat, hailed from Massachusetts and opposed the death penalty. Horton, an African-
American man, had been convicted of murder. He was on leave from prison under a program in place while Dukakis was governor. While furloughed, Horton raped a white woman and stabbed her partner.
Bush launched an ad with the mug shot of Horton, and with these words spoken by a narrator and flashing across the screen: “Dukakis not only opposes the death penalty, he allowed first-degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison,” and ends with “Weekend prison passes, Dukakis on crime.”
Unless you have forgotten your recent history, you know that Bush I won in a landslide
over Dukakis, and that this ad was very successful. It tapped into the long simmering racial schism that has besmirched this country since its inception. It is the primary way an otherwise out-of-touch elite has been able to divide and conquer, especially after the Civil War (when legal equality between white and Black began to be legislated). It has been all over the map, openly, in the last two years with a federal administration that courts the KKK and the Nazis, while using the one word “wall” to summon up the most vicious myths of people “threatening” our existence. And now Willie Horton has come to Rogers Park.
Today, February 22, the birthday of George Washington (incidentally the wealthiest man in North America at the time of the revolution, a considerable amount of that property in enslaved people), the postal person delivered two mailers. They say substantially the same thing: “Maria Hadden wants to take police officers from safe neighborhoods.” She “supports moving officers from Rogers Park to other neighborhoods, putting our safety at risk.” Joe is white. Maria is Black. Pictures of each. In stereotypical fashion, Rogers Park is safe (because it has cops); the South and West sides are unsafe (because they don’t have cops).
First of all, does anybody reading this NOT see: the “Black woman is soft on crime”
message in this? Does anyone NOT see: residents of Rogers Park, especially white residents, are supposed to protect themselves from the hordes on the South and West Side with this message? This is a barely clothed appeal for white unity.
Second, the source for the smear is an answer that Maria gave on the IVI-IPO questionnaire to aldermanic candidates. The question (#82) is: “Do you support reallocating police services from high-crime to low-crime neighborhoods?” There is no sane person who would answer that question “No.” Moore himself “reallocates police services” within his ward from one neighborhood to the next depending on the crime rate. It is bogus. But it is sensationalized in this mailer.
Third, if we are going to talk about soft on crime: what about Moore destabilizing the community by advocating with the Mayor to close half the mental health clinics in the city (there were only 12 at the time; now there are six) including one in the 49th ward? What about lying to the community that they could find the services they need in the privatized sector? The reality is that Cook County Jail has become the largest provider of mental health services in the County. Thanks Joe.
And what about public schools, the anchors of the neighborhoods? Maria has always championed the neighborhood school, while Joe has led the fight to privatize education — he has brought two charter schools into this community, stealing resources from both the elementary schools and the high school. He advocated for a third charter to which community residents expressed such opposition that the plan fell through. Joe supported efforts to close two neighborhood schools (parents and teachers resisted this and embarrassed him so badly he could not complete that plan); he ignored legitimate and documented claims of lead paint in Gale School, thus delaying remediation — he claimed that he did not know of a study CPS had done a decade earlier that revealed the lead paint, and that CPS (in typical Daley-Emanuel style) had simply neglected to correct. Community residents had to embarrass him at a meeting on violence in the ward that he called to welcome a new police commander. We pointed out that lead paint in the schools does a violence to our community. We also pointed out that the school had been
asking CPS to fix a fire alarm that was out of order and got no response from his office nor from CPS. In a school named after Stephen Gale, who from 1844-47 served as the chief engineer of the Fire Department, Moore failed to advocate for fire safety. In a city that early in its existence almost completely burned down! If he wanted to reduce violence he should pay a little attention to that kind of violence.
And then there is the little matter of housing and services. Diana and I moved into Rogers Park a few years after Joe became alderman. One could find affordable housing here still, but the winds of change were blowing. The Rogers Park Community Action Network (RPCAN) had its hands full doing the research and confronting the alderman about prospective TIFS and redevelopment plans that were created sub rosa, without community input, while continuing to disinvest in the area north of Howard, the most poverty stricken area of the ward. At one point, the alderman denied that plans to redevelop were in existence, only to find RPCAN had found them and made copies to distribute among activists. Complete plans, in fact, with extensive implications for community residents such as displacement at least by rapidly increasing rents. You can see how Moore had learned the business of denial, which he employed in his stonewalling Gale’s lead paint, early on in his administration. Development with displacement has become the rule in this ward as affordable units are converted to luxury units; and only with tremendous resistance are affordable units maintained.
Joe Moore: a friend to private developers, privatization of public mental health services, privatization of public schools.
So who mailed this flyer smearing Maria Hadden with Willie Horton claims? “Paid for,” it says, “by INCS Action Independent Committee.” Further, the INCS AIC is not authorized by Joe, nor did Joe authorize the content of this communication. In Crook County, are we to believe the emperor has a tuxedo? INCS is the acronym for the “Illinois Network of Charter Schools,” and the “Action Independent Committee” is a PAC that supports candidates that support charter schools. Joe has been THE pivotal person on city council to block an advisory referendum from coming before the entire city electorate on an elected school board. And, as mentioned above, he has been actively soliciting charter schools to his ward to the detriment of the public neighborhood schools in the ward. Joe is clearly acting in their interest, a mainstay on the city council at a time when nearly every mayoral candidate now has expressed a concern about proliferating charters and declared a willingness to invoke a moratorium on charter expansion. Incidentally, the INCS PAC has contributed heavily to Moore’s campaign.
The history of the 49th ward is an important one. In 1983,organizers in this ward were on the front lines organizing on the North Side for Harold Washington. While Alderman O’Connor (just south of the 49th in the 40th ward) joined with “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak and Ed Burke to lead the pernicious Council Wars against newly elected Mayor Washington, David Orr from this ward took a leadership role in organizing to support the Mayor. The election of 1983 was a partisan election — that is contested by Republicans and Democrats. Washington won the Democratic primary by a plurality among the three major candidates. Winning a Democratic primary was the expected prelude to a guarantee to occupy the mayor’s office — at least for the entire 50 years prior to 1983. O’Connor et al were shocked by Washington’s stunning victory and deserted the Democratic Party to endorse the Republican candidate. But once Washington won, the Vrdolyak 29 engineered changing the primary system so that never again, they thought, could a radical emerge as a winner. Thus came about the “non-partisan” mayoral and aldermanic elections we have today. The form of this was a racist attack on Washington. The content, however, was an attack on the movement that Washington symbolized, a movement of the disenfranchised, the working class of the city in all its hues. Momentarily a movement emerged that began to recognize that there was no demand that the African-American working class could make that would not benefit the entire class.
And now, 36 years after the Harold Washington election, the Bush-Trump-and-Vrydolyak-like Democrat in office in the 49th ward conducts a racist smear campaign against a candidate I have no hesitance in comparing with Harold Washington. Joe should be ashamed of himself. But then Joe, after 28 years feeding from the trough of the privatizers, has no shame. I hope that the good voters of the 49th ward will resist the politics of division and embrace the politics that has long characterized our ward: the politics of a multicultural, diverse class unity. I’m casting my vote for Maria.