Friday, August 26, 2016

Book Review on Gangs

Book Looks at Attempt to Build Hispanic Mafia
By Jim Vail
Special to

The Insane Chicago Way is the untold story of a plan to create a Hispanic mafia in the 1990s and why it failed.

The book is written by criminologist and UIC professor John Hagedorn who has been studying gangs in this city for more than twenty years and what he reports is an eye opener for anyone interested in how the city’s black market economy operates.

Hagedorn focuses on a white working-class gang called the C-Note$ who were interested in working with the Hispanic gangs to create an organized crime operation in order to limit violence and increase profits. Hot tempers and burning Latino emotions eventually doomed the attempt to mirror the Italians and Al Capone who consolidated the gangs in the 1920s and worked with the police and government to insure a multi-billion dollar organized criminal operation that would continue for the next 100 years.

The book centers on the secret history of Spanish Growth & Development (SGD) – an organization of Latino gangs founded in 1989 and modeled on the Mafia’s nationwide Commission. The C-Note$, considered a minor league team of the Chicago mafia (called the Outfit), influenced the direction of SGD. 

Hagedorn’s tale is based on three years of interviews with an Outfit soldier as well as access to SGD’s constitution and other secret documents, which he supplements with interviews of key SGD leaders, court records and newspaper accounts.

As you get into the book your head will start spinning with the number of gangs and affiliations and families that divide the city from Northside to Southside, People and Folks and neighborhoods. The history of gangs includes the Puerto Ricans who were pushed all around the Northside who formed them to protect themselves from the whites, and the blacks who some called themselves Vice Lords to take control of the drug market from their white overlords, so that now they are lords of vice.

The one problem Hagedorn has is his entire tale about SGD is based upon an insider who for obvious reasons does not want to give his name. As journalists we are loath to quote sources off the record, but at times it is necessary. There would be no story otherwise. However, this has been used by government and others to plant suspect stories in the media to fight rivals. But what “Sal” tells in this story to the author crosschecks with a lot of Hagedorn’s contacts and research, and certainly fact is a lot more fun than fiction. This is the real nasty world of gangs, drug money, dirty cops and government officials who all work together to ensure the profits continue despite the violence.

Hagedorn said one problem with traditional gang researchers is that they do not make the connection that Chicago gangs built complex, secret structures to regulate violence, organize crime, and buy off police and politicians. The professor attended a conference on gangs and not one “gang expert” mentioned the role the cops and corruption play with gangs. I wrote a previous article in this paper how the gangs help elect aldermen today. To ignore this is to ignore reality.

The beginning of the book explains how SGD was formed by seventeen “Latin Folks” gangs in 1989 and was dedicated to curtailing violence and organizing the drug trade. To begin, one has to understand that the gang life here in this city is central to our history and who we are. Former Mayor Richard Daley the First who ruled this city for over 25 years and some said had more power than President Kennedy was an Irish gang banger. Now you follow me?

“Well, it started out as turf gangs,” Sal tells the author. “You know, where you had the Irish on one side, the Italians on one side, Germans and the Puerto Ricans and the Mexicans and the blacks. And they basically fought, you know; you stay on your side of the street and we stay on our side of the street. And that was for years through the tumultuous sixties, through the seventies. But once the late seventies, early eighties came, uh, the game changed when narcotics were introduced at a high rate. And some of these organizations went from turf gangs and they evolved into more structured criminal enterprises.”

The key here is gangs who run criminal operations and want to be successful have to do what the Kennedys and others have done, assimilate into conventional society and become respectable. I myself as a journalist saw the transformation of the mafia in Russia in the 1990s where thick necked thugs in track suits transformed into Armani suits carrying briefcases mixing in luxury hotels to today’s businessmen and parliamentarians. Sal says: “And the Hispanics are doing that. They’re opening restaurants; they’re opening up grocery stores. They’re taking their money and turning it over. So sooner or later, they no longer have to do the illegal stuff and the legit stuff is taking them over.”

It was gangbangers seeking safety behind prison bars that led to forming the SGD. “Spanish Growth and Development was an attempt to try to get everybody on the same page. To try to get power and become a part of the Machine.”

The book starts with describing a hit, a drive by and who got killed. What the TV news people can never tell us is why did a 16-year-old get shot and killed. Drugs? Gangs? This book will tell you the details about why exactly young people shoot other young people on our streets almost every day. The hit involved a Latin gang called the Latin Lovers on the Maniac Latin Disciples (MLD), who had connections to Mexican drug cartels and saw its power on the streets grow considerably, allowing them to exact a street tax on smaller gangs buying their product, and attract young kids who flocked to the biggest and baddest gang in the hood. A violent power struggle erupted between MLD and the Spanish Cobras, who both were recruiting fellow gangs to join their factions, called “families.” They both joined SGD, whose top leaders were incarcerated in prison, or the “White House,” and that is where major decisions were made. “Killing people and doing drive-by shootings is bad for business. All it does is bring the attention of law enforcement. When law enforcement has all eyes on you, no one can make any money,” Sal says.

The major player behind SGD was the C-Note$, a mostly Italian group of working class guys who were successful because they were smarter, integrated into society working union jobs, and had family and friends on the police force or attorneys who would help them out. They started to integrate Latinos into the top leadership when they saw the explosive growth of the Hispanic population in this city who now almost outnumber the whites and blacks combined. One story I found almost unbelievable. Sal says the C-Note$ cleaned out Bill Daley’s house when the mayor’s brother was at his confirmation hearing to be commerce secretary in Washington after Obama was elected.

The history of gangs in the 1960s is a contested narrative, according to Hagedorn. “The increase in African American and Puerto Rican population in the 1960s shook Chicago politically. It has racialized gang identity, as whites defended their turf against nonwhites, as well as blacks, and Latinos affirmed their own racial and ethnic identity in the face of racist violence. This violence coincided with deindustrialization that in turn led to unprecedented  increases in concentrated poverty, particularly among African Americans. These desperate conditions led inevitably to the expansion of the illegal economy. Hypersegregated neighborhoods of the black poor, which had shaken loose of black politics by the white Daley machine, made it impossible for the Italian Outfit to keep control of retail drug sales and vice markets for the new street gangs.”

A mafia elder called the Don told the author, “Without the cops, none of this stuff could happen.”

Which leads to the next important step to understanding how the narcotics market continues to flourish in Chicago despite the so-called war on drugs. Enter the Chicago Police Department and their key role to keeping the drugs flowing, on the sly, or openly in some cases.

Latin Folks gangs learned from the Outfit (Mafia) the importance of police corruption to protect their business. “And cops didn’t come as cheap as politicians.” As stated earlier, traditional gang research almost has nothing to say about police corruption, who criminologists define as being on the side of social control, while corrupt cops, if they are mentioned at all, are “bad apples.” 

Those on the inside know the cops play a key role here, some referring to our men and women in blue who are here “To Serve and Collect.” Police corruption has always been strongly related to organized crime. The difference, Hagedorn writes, is the Italian Mafia focused on the highest levels of the Chicago police, while today’s street gangs work with the lower rung of the force. Race certainly plays a role.

The stories of top corrupt Chicago police officials are stunning. William Hanhardt, the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) chief of detectives and deputy superintendent in the 1980s, was convicted in 2001 of running a jewel ring for the Outfit that stole more than $5 million in diamonds and other gems. Hanhardt used CPD computers to get information on jewel traders to set up his burglary operations, protected and run by police.

Then there is Chicago’s police commissioner Matt Rodriguez, who was forced to resign in 1997 for his ties to Mafia figure Frank Milito, who happened to also be a deputy sheriff who owned gas stations and restaurants. The two vacationed together in Italy, Israel, California, NY and the Bahamas. Milito encouraged Rodriguez to protect Pierre Zonis, a Chicago police officer who was being investigated as a hit man for the mob in multiple murders. Those hits included killing oil company executive Charles Merriam whose uncle and grandfather were both famous anti-machine reformers. Merriam took away Milito’s gas station franchise after he was convicted of tax fraud, and Milito was suspected of paying Officer Zonis to do the hit. Rodriguez squashed the investigation of Zonis.

But more important than these high-profile cases is the fact that being a police officer and told to arrest anyone consuming or selling a product that is visible on almost every street corner and consumed by so many of us is impossible. 

“From the police officers’ point of view, it is impossible to do their jobs without making deals with one enemy in order to get another. There are so many drug transactions going on that arresting everyone is impossible. Good police work in the war on drugs means discretion, and discretion means police officers are always making decisions on who to arrest, who to make a deal with, and who to leave alone for a time. This means difficult decisions for honest officers and golden opportunities for corrupt ones.

This book takes such a fascinating look at the underworld that is connected to our legal cash economy that I have decided to make this book review the first part in a series. Look for my second part that will get into more of the specifics of which gangs are fighting on your streets.     

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Watch Me!


Chicago Teachers Union members marched in the rain as the CPS board voted on the district's budget. (WLS)
The Chicago Public Schools board unanimously approved Wednesday a $5.4 billion budget for the district which is expected to increase Chicago property taxes.

The fiscal year 2017 budget is contingent on several factors, including $200 million from the state, which must pass pension reform by January, and on $30 million in concessions from the Chicago Teachers Union, which members are not happy about.

Gov. Bruce Rauner said he would "try my darndest" to get pension reform done by January. And CTU concessions are also uncertain.

In fact, CTU said they will likely strike in mid-October if they don't get a new contract. The union's leadership and delegates will hold a phone meeting on Thursday.

Undeterred by Wednesday morning's rain, Chicago teachers marched on the sidewalk in front of CPS headquarters chanting, "They say cut back. We say fight back!"

"We're very concerned. A lot of positions, especially for special education. There were vacancies before this school year started and they closed those vacancies," said Maria Moreno, CTU financial secretary.

This year's CPS budget is bigger than last year. But CTU said it's still not enough money - specifically for special education students.

Many teachers and parents spoke out during the meeting, concerned about fewer teachers and expanding access to pre-kindergarten services.

"We're seeing CPS shuffle money from pre-K education to K-12 education, instead of using those dollars as intended," said Brynn Seibert, Service Employees International Union.

CPS spokeswoman Emily Bitner said there are more teacher job vacancies than layoffs. CPS still has 700 openings they are looking to fill for this school year.

Teachers said they will work on Sept. 6, the first day of school for CPS. But teachers also said they aren't afraid to strike to avoid cuts.

"It's going be a cut in salary. Teachers don't get social security, so it's their retirement - what they expect after working many years," Moreno said.

CPS CEO Forrest Claypool thanked taxpayers for shouldering the burden of another property tax increase. He also said he hopes a strike will not dampen the CPS community's spirit, especially at the beginning of the school year.

"Our hope now is to reach a final agreement with the CTU so that once school begins our children can remain in the classroom where they belong," Claypool said.

The Civic Federation called the CPS budget "out of balance" because of the uncertain funding.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Budget hearings

Chicago Public Schools Hold Budget Hearings
By Jim Vail
Special to

CTU organizer Marty Ritter
People spoke out at the Chicago Public Schools budget hearings last week after 1,000 teachers and teacher aides were recently fired.

“Most teachers who came here are here because they lost their jobs,” said Chicago Teachers Union organizer Martin Ritter. “Every school has lost teachers. New schools are great, but there are hundreds of schools that need extra resources.”

The CPS budgeting team spoke to a room of about 75 people at the National Teachers Academy on Wednesday, Aug. 17, to lay out a $300 million capital budget plan to renovate and build new schools.

Activists have pointed out that CPS has been building new schools while enrollment has been dropping.

Ritter said CPS should endorse a couple of proposed ordinances for progressive revenue that would include funneling the surplus of tax increment financing funds and increasing the employee “head tax” and personal property lease tax to generate additional school funding.

CPS responded that they have looked at state funding, but that all sources of revenue should be explored.

The mayor has so far made no effort to support these measures nor has he asked the banks that have profited off toxic loan swaps at the schools’ expense to reimburse the city. Other cities such as Jefferson, Alabama have successfully sued the banks to recover money lost to toxic loans.

In addition to borrowing $725 million at a whopping 8.5 percent that will further indebt the city, the Chicago Board of Education proposed the sale of up to $950 million in bonds to pay for construction projects to support capital improvements and other expenses at 7.25 percent interest.

Bond holders and banks continue to profit at the schools’ expense.

Rather than build new schools or additions to relieve overcrowding, CPS can make boundary changes to save money and preserve teachers and minimize class sizes, said Sarah Hainds, a CTU researcher.

“Now we have many schools that are underutilized because of all these charter schools,” she said.

CPS continues to make proposals for more charter schools despite the costs and opposition.

Jennifer Biggs from Raise Your Hand said to release the TIF funds and to not build a proposed new Obama Prep school that would save $60 million.
“Chicago does not need another high school,” she said.

Alderman Pat Dowell from the Southside said she agreed that CPS should build a new annex to relieve the overcrowded South Loop school and that CPS should find new revenue for the schools. She did not state if she was in favor of releasing the TIF surplus funds.

Rod Estvan, an analyst with Access Living which advocates for disabled students, said the increased Americans with Disabilities (ADA) funding of $500,000 would maybe fund a new bathroom or some water fountains, but not what is necessary. He said under the Daley administration the ADA funded millions over five years to support students with disability.

Another speaker said CPS should build more athletic facilities such as one stadium each year to promote athletics as an alternative to violence.

A substitute teacher who said she worked as a gym teacher, said she noticed there are fewer teachers, including some classes with no regular teacher. Why, she asked, does the funding not address hiring more and not less teachers.

CPS responded that the capital funding is earmarked only for building and not for hiring teachers.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Education Minister Resigns


Fired Russian Education Minister Dimitry Livanov

Moscow, Russia --  Dmitri Livanov, the Russian Minister of Education  since 2012, has recently resigned, and been replaced by a teacher, and historian, Olga Vasilieva.

              Many observers presume he was pressurized to resign. If so, he is not the only victim of a government reshuffle. An old comrade , Sergei Ivanov, has also been dismissed from his post in the wake of an imminent Presidental election. This conveys the impression that the government seems to be edgy and anxious about the unpopularity of many Duma ministers.

              In some circles, Livanov was unpopular and even a scapegoat for often unwanted reforms in education.

              Livanov had a daunting job! In recent months Livanov, along with Medvedev, had come under fire for failing to increase teachers pay under the May 2012 accord. By 2015, teachers's salaries were lower than the promised amounts in 17 regions throughout Russia while the workload of teachers had often doubled.

              The attempts to close down poor quality institutions of education was often handled in a haphazard, and chaotic way  that even the existence of high-quality universities came under threat !  Livanov was also accused of attempting to close down the Russian Academy of Sciences and 100 scientists signed a petition of protest demanding " the end of this thoughtless reform of the Russian Academy of Sciences". However, perhaps the greatest scandal to have threatened Livanov was when someone leaked the exam questions in Russian literature openly publishing them on the Internet. Nevertheless, after this scandal, Livanov introduced  draconian measures of surveillance to prevent any potential cheating including the banning of mobile phones, classroom
surveillance cameras and an increase of strict observers.  What amazes many people is how Livanov happened to keep his job after this scandal.

               To be fair, Livanov did not have the easiest of jobs. Practically every problem arising in education was thrown on to his shoulders. He was a convenient punch ball as well as  scapegoat!

               Some people credit  Livanov with achievements. Firstly, he managed to introduce standardised school history books (Common Core in US), took steps to improve the fairness of the Unitary State Exams and attempted to address thorny issues such as whether new topics should be introduced into the school curriculum such as teaching the Orthodox religion. Other ministers would not have dared touch such questions and simply brushed them aside.

New Russian Education Minister Olga Vasilieva

               However, the new minister, Olga Vasilieva, raises some questions. She is not only a teacher, but a historian who wrote a curious paper titled: 'The Soviet Government and Patriotic activity of the Orthodox church during the years of The Great Patriotic war.' Vasilieva herself states that although historians have to strive for objectivity, it is almost impossible. Few people would disagree with this statement.  They might well take issue with whether Stalin himself
revived the Orthodox church during the war and a new ideological interpretation of Russian history where the role of the Orthodox church is idealised .

                In recent interviews, Vasilieva has reassured people she has no intentions of imposing her views of history, or Orthodoxy, on the school system.

                So why was Vasiliev appointed?  Because her Orthodox views appeal to the Partriarchy and conservative members of the Orthodox church and might reverse the poor image of the Russian Ministry of Education. It is important to stress that the Orthodox church remains a powerful lobby in Russian politics and its conservative wing are amongst the staunchest supporters of President Putin. So the appointment may represent an attempt to appease such a lobby who are striving to extend their influence in all areas of Russian life.

                The firing is also an attempt to cool down  the anger of Russians. Dismissing incompetent ministers is a way of taking the heat off Putin and Medvedev. 

                Not long ago the Prime Minister Medvedev made an insensitive gaffe on how teachers should stop complaining about pay and become businessmen.

                But instead of Medvedev being fired, Livanov lost his job!

               It is very unclear what, if any new steps, the new Minister of Education intends to make in education. All the recent statements to the press are generally vague         statements about the importance of teaching as a vocation and the role of education in bringing up children. She even refused to disclose her city of birth for inexplicable reasons!  Being religious, she put down her appointment to God's will!

Russians Bomb Syrians


Moscow, Russia -- In recent days there has been a massive outcry and anger at the latest Russian -Syrian bombardment of Aleppo in Syria, which has led to the needless death of civilians . The prominent photo of a rescued shell-shocked young boy covered with gray ash from rubble provoked much anger and annoyance. However, indignant protests have hardly altered or stopped the bombing. The French are currently bombing Syrian again !

              WAVE OF PROTEST

              Humanitarian organisations and human rights groups claim that the Russian bombing campaign has not only been ineffective but hindered their efforts by creating more untold suffering of civilians , rather than less.

              The Russian military have been fighting in Syria since 30 September 2015 until  present,  in an attempt to bolster the fragile government of Assad as well remind the World they are still a power to be reckoned with on the
World stage. The war also  serves to strengthen patriotic sentiment as a means  to divert attention from Russia's rising social problems. It is largely about preserving the power and  prestige of the Russian state than  effectively fighting 'terrrorism'. And alot of odd people express support for this war. I heard that an Orthodox priest was cheerfully informing  his congregation that the Syrian campaign : " has made Russia a great power again. Now the west taking account of us."  Actually this rhetoric is more extreme than President Putin. President Putin is on record as having declared that: "Russia is not a superpower ... America is the only Superpower."

               Constant  Russian media reports on television applaud the bombing campaign, claiming terrorists of the Government of Islam have either been killed, or forced to flee.  There is a photo which  shows a pilot painting on one of his bombs : "For Paris".

               But how effective is this bombing campaign ? Can anyone really justify its largely unsystematic and indiscriminate nature? Perhaps  the harshest criticism comes from the Syrian Network of Human Rights. They claim that
Russian forces have killed more civilians than ISIS . They accuse Russian forces of killing no less than 2704 civilians, including 746 children and 514 women, since 30 September  2015. Amongst the victims were 28 medics, including 8 women.

               The Russian Ministry of Defence denied those accusations  stating:

               "Russian forces do not make strikes against targets  inside  inhabited areas". The humanitarian group, Physicians for Human rights , a New York based advocacy group  thunders back:

               'Nothing could be further from the truth. Since launching its military campaign  in support of the Syrian forces, Russian aircraft have hit numerous civilian targets, including well  over a dozen identifiable hospitals killing and injuring scores of people... We know that Syrian and Russian
forces are responsible for more than 90% of the 373 strikes on hospitals and medical facilities'. When those groups appeal to the Americans to do something to relieve the suffering civilians trapped in Aleppo, the standard response is : "we are working on it ". Actually, they, along with their European partners, have also been indisciminately bombing Syria.

               For Americans to condemn Russia for indiscriminate bombing is like the kettle calling the pot black !

               UNLEARNT LESSONS

               It is odd that governments learn nothing from history books. Since the Spanish Civil war, aerial bombing has been largely ineffective. It was not the Germans who invented mass air raids on cities but the British. 

               Neither the Blitz of London nor the subsequent mass bombing of German cities helped the Allied efforts to defeat the Germans. In fact, it hindered it. Britain was saved by fighter planes such as Hurricanes and Spitfires, not bombers. The English historian A.J. P. Taylor stated :
              'The Germans were answered and defeated not by British bombing, but by Fighter command, which had been despised and comparatively neglected before the war. When the British in turn went over to the bombing of Germany, this did more harm to themselves than to the Germans - that is,
it used up more British men and materials than it destroyed German. No one could grasp this before the event, as many in deed failed to grasp it afterwards. ' (See The Origins of the Second world war, Penguin, A.J.P. Taylor)

               Unfortunately, few people still grasp this simple lesson now.

               So why do governments still resort to counter- productive strategies ?

               Maybe part of the reason lies in an uncritical affirmation of new technology.

               Very few people actually ask themselves whether a new machine or invention is needed or really progressive. People overestimate the accuracy  of new improved sights in bombers. The mass media is always churning out articles about how wonderful new Japanese robots are or how wonderful the internet is. Expounding 'the miracles' of military technology is no exception.

               The Russian bombing campaign has been as unproductive as any former bombing strategy stretching back to Iraq, Vietnam or the allied bombing of Germany! A further reason is that politicians  overestimate  their abilities to solve complex problems. They resort to crude 'quick fix solutions'.

               Mass bombing has created more resentment, anger and rage against Russians.

               Instead of killing terrorists , bombing helps fill their ranks. It is no accident that the  mass bombing campaign in Syria coincides with a rise in terror acts throughout Europe. What we see is a deranged and demented revenge   psychology arising. Mass indiscriminate bombing not only kills innocent civilians but can create psychological wrecks.

               The rubble, left by the bombers, also serves as ideal terrain for terrorists.

              Military expenditure not only wastes lives but badly required resources.

               What is spent on bombing, could be more rationally spent on education.

               The lavish spending on the military is indicated by the fact that Russia retains the largest number of tanks in the world. (18177)  In 2015, while the budget on education was cut by 31%, military investment increased by 33% !  A  politician, Yulia Galrmina, stated: " I created a petition,     Children not Tanks, where we call for the future deputies to demand increasing investment in education, science , culture and health."

               It is a pity the petition was not  titled :  'Stop bombing children'.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tom Tresser

Chicago Is Not Broke Author Highlights Chicago Corruption
By Jim Vail
Special to

Tom Tresser

Chicago News spoke with Chicago Is Not Broke author Tom Tresser about why he wrote this book and what he hopes the outcome will be. The book highlights how a public bank, financial transaction tax, and a progressive income tax could provide billions of dollars to the city, while highlighting the fact that corruption, secret TIF funds and toxic swaps have cost the city billions. He told us he believes this book should be taught in all the schools so that students know where exactly our money is going and what we as citizens can do to make sure it is protected for the good of the people.

Chicago News:    Can you tell us about your background? What inspired you to write this book?

Tom Tresser:     I first came to Chicago from New York in 1980 and was involved in the theater world. We thought we were doing something that was so good. But what I saw was public policy was lacking. I got a certificate in non-profit management and a Masters in urban development. I was the co-founder of The Free Shakespeare Company in 1981. I joined Pegasus Players in 1985 where, in 1986 I started the Chicago Young Playwrights Festival. Over the years some 12,000 teenagers have written plays for the festival. Every year the four winners are produced and performed by professional artists. I found out Chicago is very stingy when it comes to the theater. Other cities devote much more money to the theater. At the time there was a right-wing attack on the arts from people like Reverend Pat Robertson of the Christian Coalition and Senator Jesse Helms who fought funding for the arts. So we had to respond and fight back. It was because of that interest in fighting for the arts that I got involved in community organizing. What is our path to power so folks can put their hands on the steering wheel? That’s why I decided to write the book.

CN:      Can you tell us about your organization the TIF Illumination Project that also led you to the book?

TT:      I began by finding people to tell about their story of TIFs (tax increment financing districts that divert our taxes away from the schools into a mayoral slush fund) in their wards. We had our first TIF townhall meeting at the Chopin Theater in Feb. 2013. There were 230 people. We gave an analysis and told people to give us a call if they wanted a presentation in their community. We have had 45 meetings in 31 wards and 141 TIFs. With no budget 4700 people have attended our meetings. We simply pass the hat. Eventually we asked for an honorarium of $500 for the CivicLab.

CN:      How difficult is it to work with no budget? Have you received any grant money or state support for your important work?

TT:      All the city foundations like the Chicago Community Trust have refused to fund us. The national foundations have turned us down 15 times. The McCormick Foundation asked us to make special presentations but didn’t even let us submit a proposal for funding. The civic players like the Metropolitan Planning Council, The Civic Federation, and BGA (Better Government Association), try to control the dialogue.

CN:      Did any of them warn about how the Olympics could have bankrupted the city?

TT:      No. Our No Games Chicago had only non-paid volunteers to do the research. The more we learned the more alarmed we became. Who’s watching our back? The 2016 Olympic Committee raised $90 million by threatening groups and seducing groups. Almost every media outlet was committed to the Games. We risked our careers, but the message was you could not fight City Hall and win (Chicago lost the bid to host this summer’s Olympics in Rio). And today we have been shut out to talk about it. We tried to do a seminar one year after we lost the bid and only 20 people came. The Illinois Humanities Council did something on the Olympics in 2010 and didn’t invite us. Today the Chicago Tribune is writing how the Olympics would have been our funeral while before they were promoting it. They never mention this. They and other late comers to the No Games point of view NEVER mention us or our efforts.

CN:      That is an amazing story of David vs. Goliath. How did you guys defeat Mayor Daley, the Chicago machine and his corporate empire to prevent Chicago from getting the Olympics bid?

TT:      We learned that if the Games have the support of less than 50% of the people, then the bid is toast. In Feb. 2009 84% polled were in favor of Chicago hosting the Games in a Tribune poll, and then in late August it dropped to 47%. The key was the Trib. asked in the next poll the question: If there are cost overruns should the taxpayer fund the Olympics? We had a spy, an Olympic insider who gave us the email addresses of the IOC members and told us to go to Switzerland. We would disrupt meetings held in Chicago by the 2016 Committee.  

CN:      The Civic Federation is always promoting itself as the financial experts of the city. Are they?

TT:      The city hired them to whitewash the process to get the Olympic bid. The City Council hired the Civic Federation who hired a consulting company who receives city contracts to evaluate the bid as an “independent” auditor. Their opinion was completely bogus. For example, they said the naming rights for corporate sponsors would bring in millions. However, you can’t show the sponsor’s names during the sporting events. They also estimated it would cost $1 billion to build the Olympic Village, the same cost as the one in Vancouver in the 2010 winter Olympics, even though the summer Olympics village is seven times bigger, and this cost is projected seven years into the future. They just gave the mayor what he wanted and there was nobody watching the public’s interest other than us.

CN:      Have you been involved in other fights to protect the public’s interest?

TT:      Yes, the private Latin School built an artificial turf soccer field in Lincoln Park and then tried to make this public park their own. So we sued them and said these are public lands open to the public. And we won. But the public lands are not just given to us, we have to fight to keep them. The Metropolitan Planning Council helped draft a bill to privatize the roads in Illinois, which was co-sponsored by State Sen. Heather Steans, whose father is a billionaire. The bill was signed by Gov. Pat Quinn and supported by the construction trades. That means any public roads built after 2010 can be funded by private dollars and the owner can charge us whatever rate they want.

CN:      Is the TIF Illumination Project still alive?

TT:      The No Games work led me to create the CivicLab. The think tanks are not doing their jobs. The aldermen (49-0 vote in favor of Olympic bid) are not doing their jobs. In 2013 we opened the TIF Illumination Civic Lab, and Benjamin Sugar, my partner, and I put in $12,000 for the lease and to pay operating expenses.  We got a one-time grant from the Voqal Fund for expenses. We had a civic space for hacking. No one would fund us and we closed the office June 30, 2015. But it is still alive and our website and database is still alive to show how schools are being closed and millions of dollars is being showered on private developers.

CN:      Can you give examples of TIF conflicts of interest where TIF owners shower local aldermen with campaign donations?

TT:      Alderman Danny Solis got a $60,000 in campaign donations that were connected to a $9 million TIF project in his ward. Sy Taxman got $7 million to build a supermarket in Greek Town across the street from a supermarket built with public funds. Taxman and his partners gave $3,000 in campaign contributions to Ald. Walter Burnett and $40,500 in contributions to Ald. Ed Burke. There are many examples.

CN:      What is project flipping that you mentioned in your book where TIF-funded projects are sold for millions of dollars and the owners keep the profit and TIF tax dollars? 

TT:      Developer (Seymour) ‘Sy’ Taxman invested $5.2 million of his own, got a $15 million loan from Wells Fargo and $7 million in TIF money to build the Mariano’s Supermarket at Halsted and Monroe across the old Dominick’s that was built the old way with no tax dollars. He then flipped it (sold it) to Jones Lang LaSalle global real estate firm for a 20–30 percent profit. So we as taxpayers acted as his banker. Sy gave $6,000 to Ald. Walter Burnett whose ward Mariano’s is located in.

CN:     So city corruption tied to the TIFs is taking money from the schools to pay wealthy developers who then make money off of us?

TT:      The city does it too. Chicago had a total of $1.35 billion in total TIF funds in their accounts on Jan. 1, 2016. They paid a total of $49 million to Wells Fargo Bank and the Amalgamated Bank for loans tied to the TIFs. The city’s department of planning then skimmed $8 million for TIF administrative costs. That’s over their regular city budget. Skimming the skim. No one has asked to explain this. But it’s all in our TIF Illumination Project.

CN:      How have you promoted this book? Have the mainstream media commented on it?

TT:     I’ve tried to get book reviews in radio and TV and sent press releases to Crain’s, Sun-Times, Chicago Tonight. I suggested Chicago Tonight do a debate between me and the city’s budget director. But nothing yet.

CN:      So is Chicago broke?

TT:      Under no circumstances. There is plenty of money on the table. And plenty of waste and plenty of payoffs.

CN:      Who should read this book?

TT:      Everyone in Chicago should read this book. It’s being translated into Spanish, Arabic and Chinese. We want people to add to the book. They can put it on our website. I especially want this as a text for the colleges, for students. Prof. Dick Simpson who wrote a chapter will introduce it as required reading in his classes at the University of Illinois Chicago.

CN:      How can we order a copy?

TT:      Just go to our website and order. It’s $12 plus shipping and it supports the people!