Schulter exits; His legacy remains Part 1


This weekend marks the end of an era, not just for Chicago, but for Ravenswood. Today, for the first time since 1975, the 47th Ward will not be represented by Eugene Schulter.

Schulter’s impact on the Ward will last well into the future, even as the laminated signs disappear from our alleys and his name from projects completed.

Schulter joined the council at the age of 26 in 1975. At the time he was the youngest alderman to ever serve.

Schulter will be remembered in the Ward for his leadership in the movement of the Old Town School of Folk Music main campus to Lincoln Square, the establishment of the Sulzer Regional Library and the economic revitalization of Lincoln Square.

In this first part The Bulldog examines the political legacy of Schulter. In part two, we look at the civic projects and legacy of his time in office.

 

Political career

 

Russ Stewart, an attorney who often editorializes on Chicago politics for the Nadig Newspaper chain, describes Schulter as “the caricature of the meek, mild, loyal, do-what-you’re-told” Chicago alderman.

Back in 1975, when Schulter was just 271, powerhouse 47th Ward Democratic Committeeman Ed Kelly plucked him from obscurity and ran him for alderman. In a major upset, Schulter beat 28-year Republican incumbent John Hoellen by 2,300 votes, getting 57 percent of the votes cast.

In a 2009 history of 47th Ward politics by Ben Joravsky in the Chicago Reader, Schulter was called “one of the most cautious cats in the City Council.”

In 1968 (Richard J) Daley anointed Ed Kelly, soon to be named general superintendent of the Park District, as the (47th) ward’s Democratic committeeman, the party’s ward boss. In those days the job consisted of building and marshaling a patronage army that could deliver the vote on Election Day—and the better the results, the more jobs and power were granted from the mayor. Kelly was just what Daley was looking for. He handed out Park District jobs and chipped away at Hoellen’s base, and by 1975 he had enough campaign workers to oust this gadfly once and for all. All he needed was a candidate.

Kelly drafted Schulter, then a 27-year-old aide in the county assessor’s office, to run against Hoellen for alderman. “We needed a German name to run against Hoellen and Schulter is a German name,” says Kelly. “I bought up all the billboards in the area. Put Schulter’s name all over the ward. People didn’t know Schulter’s name when the election started. They did at the end.”

Schulter remembers things a little differently. As he recalls it, he wasn’t exactly a creation of Kelly’s organization. “Yes, I had the Democratic Party’s support, but I had a lot of support in the area,” he says. “I was a community activist.”

The 26 or 28 year old “community activist” played get-along and go-along politics at first. In the council wars he first sided with his political mentor, Kelly, working to block Mayor Harold Washington from appointing replacement Park District Board members. Schulter’s biography in CloutWiki notes:

The parks stalemate broke following the 1986 special Council elections, when the council tied between Washington supporters and Vrdolyak supporters, giving Washington the tie-breaking vote. One of the new council’s first actions was to appoint a new Park District Board and oust Kelly. In response, Schulter startled his long-time mentor, Kelly, by moving out of Kelly’s 47th Ward office and switching his support to Mayor Washington. Schulter supported Washington in 1987 and began a long-running enmity with Kelly.

With Kelly in control of the Ward organization and Schulter in City Council, the next 16 years were tense. Members of the 47th Ward Democratic organization wanted to replace Schulter, but were held back by Illinois Senator Bruce Farley and also by Kelly’s lack of interest.

Farley’s conviction on mail fraud in 1999 changed the equation.

In 2000 Schulter took on Kelly directly, running for 47th Ward Committeeman. Schulter lost that election by 153 votes. When Schulter ran again four years later the 80 year-old Kelly did not oppose him.

Schulter’s independent streak manifested itself again in 2010.

In that campaign, Cook County Democratic Party boss Joe Berrios ran for Cook County Assessor.

Berrios had won an early primary in 2010, gaining the party’s nomination with just 40.58 percent of the vote. His election was challenged by the editorial pages of the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times.

However, it was only after Forrest Claypool’s entry as an independent that there was a chance of success of defeating Berrios, according to political watchers.

Schulter joined other Democrats opposing Berrios and supporting Claypool. Berrios gathered more than twice as many votes in the city as all other candidates combined, and 48.03 percent of votes in the county overall.

The 1987 split with Kelly reappeared as Schulter’s end was forecast by anonymous commenters on sites such as CapitalFax.com. Older precinct captains indicated they hadn’t forgotten what “Mean Gene” had done to mentor Kelly. Berrios didn’t need to wait long to deal with Schulter.

In December 2010 Schulter announced he would seek the opening on the Cook County Board of Review created by Berrios’ move to the assessor’s office.

As noted at the time in The Bulldog, Berrios opposed Schulter’s appointment.

Schulter threw an all-in bet, announcing he would not seek reelection as alderman.

As the door closed on Schulter’s bid for alderman, his bid to be on the Cook County Board of Review closed too. In late January 2011 Schulter was passed over for the position.

That left Schulter supporting Tom O’Donnell’s failed bid for alderman in the 2011 municipal election.

Schulter’s ability to support candidates had been in question for several years.

For example, in the 2010 primary Schulter had backed Dan Farley against two candidates for the 11th Legislative seat. Ann Williams, who was supported by Lisa Madigan won the election with 46.23 percent. Farley, the son of Bruce Farley, garnered just 32.06 percent of the vote.

A further example is Schulter’s attempt to fill the seat of Larry McKeon in 2006. In a four hour executive session of four Democratic committeemen, Schulter’s candidate, Tom O’Donnell was abandoned as Schulter, with 32.85 percent, joined committeemen Patrick O’Connor, (D-40) 21 percent, and Tom Sharpe, (D-46) 35.75 percent, in appointing Greg Harris.

Nevertheless, Schulter remains well funded, with $8,092 available under his control in the Democratic Party of the 47th Ward and $834,600 available to him through Citizens for Gene Schulter.

 

1Stewart has the age for Schulter at the beginning of his term as 27. The website of the City has it listed as 26, which is the age used by The Bulldog. However, further clouding this small detail, Schulter’s birthdate is listed as November 14, 1947. If he took office in 1975, how could he be 26 and born in 1947? Perhaps we should demand the birth certificate?

Read Part 2 of the Schulter legacy.

*** UPDATE 05/16/2011 1.19P *** Schulter did not move out of Kelly’s offices until 1997.

201 Miles to Springfield: July 25th

A summary of the week’s political story affecting Ravenswood with some editorial observations thrown in.

The Chicago Tribune’s Clout Street Blog mentioned 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack (D-) and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (D-Ravenswood) among a long list of people who might run for mayor. The entry was tied to a poll, released by the Tribune last week, that indicated weak support for another term for Chicago Mayor Richard M Daley (D-). Earlier in the year Emanuel took himself out of the running if Daley seeks another term.

Daley has been mayor of Chicago since 1989. If he ran again it would be a seventh term. His father, Richard J Daley (D-Bridgeport), served 21 years, from 1955 till his death in office at age 74 in 1976. Daley would pass his father’s longevity record in office if he serves past December 25, 2010.

Other nearby residents mentioned in the entry were Cook County Assessor James Houlihan (D-Lakeview East) and 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney (D-Lakeview East). Houlihan did not seek another term as assessor this year. However the blog points out he would probably find a strong challenger backed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago: Westlawn) and also by Daley if he chooses to run for mayor.

Waguespack indicated to the Chicago Sun-Times he’s considering a run for mayor whether or not Daley is running. According to the Sun-Times, “he’s fed up with the corruption, waste and mismanagement” of the Daley administration.

Waguespack was among just five aldermen who opposed the Chicago parking meter sale. The Sun-Times reports Waguespack needs $2 million in his campaign chest to realistically make a run for the seat. Daley currently has a campaign chest of $1.9 million, the article said. The entry said that was not enough to guarantee Daley wouldn’t be forced into a difficult campaign and even a runoff. According to the most recent D-2 filing by Waguespack to the Illinois Board of Elections, he maintains just $16,518.55 in his campaign chest.

That’s not even enough to make a serious run for alderman. But there is still time.

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In the WTF department, in a Chicago Tribune editorial titled “Todd’s Pals, Joe’s Pals” the newspaper promises you’ll find a full six-page link to a list of politicians, from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D-St. Bens), to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (D-Ravenswood), from ousted Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-Ravenswood Manor) to Illinois Comptroller Daniel Hynes (D-North Center) and also 40th Ward Alderman Dick Mell (D-Irving Park), all of whom, the editorial assures us, backed Todd Stroger (D- Chicago: Marynook Park) for Cook County Board President in 2006.

Mell is singled out for also supporting Berrios in this election round.

“What’s especially galling is that many of those who endorsed Stroger now have endorsed his crony Joe Berrios,” the editorial says. Berrios (D-Cragin), a current Commissioner, Cook County Board of Review, is running on the Democratic ticket for Cook County Assessor. He is opposed by Sharon Strobeck-Eckersall (R-Evanston), Robert C Grota (G-Logan Square) and Forrest Claypool (I-Graceland West).

The editorial describes Berrios as having a “grotesque” conflict of interest representing  Speaker Michael Madigan’s and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton’s (D-Ravenswood Manor) clients before the Cook County Board of Review, and also lobbying Madigan and Cullerton in Springfield on behalf of his clients.

The WTF comes in when you attempt to follow the link to the “six page” list of office holders who supported Stroger or those who have endorsed Berrios. Those links are dead. It would be interesting to compare and contrast those two lists… But if the Tribune can’t get that right…

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Comptroller Daniel Hynes issued a report stating “Illinois ended the year in the worst financial position in its history.” The report, which was widely covered in the media, went on to conclude “it will be extremely challenging to close out fiscal year 2010 and maintain key functions of state government.”

Although $1.3 billion in spending was cut from the state budget at the beginning of the month by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D-Chicago: Galewood), the state revenues are an estimated $11-13 billion below expenditures. The total state budget is about $22 billion.

Moody’s downgraded the ratings on state bonds, meaning there will be higher interest costs for borrowing ahead. “The state has not demonstrated the political willingness to take action during the fiscal crisis to restructure its budget to achieve balance,” according to Fitch Ratings which also downgraded Illinois debt obligations late in June.

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Swing State Project predicts Democratic US Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Lakeview) is safe in his run against GOP challenger David Ratowitz (R-Avondale). Not mentioned in the Swing State Project is Green Party challenger Matt Reichel (G-Andersonville South Neighborhood).

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Just in time for the election, Congressman Mike Quigley has opened a satellite office in the district at 1057 W Belmont Ave.

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Congressman Mike Quigley has also pushed through legislation that renames the post office at 1343 W Irving Park Road in honor of singer/songwriter Steve Goodman. Goodman, who died at 36 of leukemia, wrote such songs as “Go, Cubs, Go” and “City of New Orleans.”

Quigley is the co-chair of the “Congressional Hockey Caucus,” which the AP reports is a group of “14 lawmakers who share a passion” for hockey. The group gained attention this week in Canada when it honored a veteran who lost a limb to amputation, but still wanted to play hockey. You may remember a WGN-TV spot aired in June about the hockey playing priest, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, who was assigned to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria. Quietly working the puck in the video was our congressman. Quigley even lists hockey as a passion on his twitter page.

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Depite the predictions of Swing State, Quigley’s Republican opponent, David Ratowitz, has not given up hope. He appeared at a Thompson Center rally to address Second Amendment rights. The embedded video has his two minute speech.

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The Swing State Project also predicts a win for Attorney General Lisa Madigan in her run reelection. “Madigan is the most popular politician in Illinois who will have no trouble against Kim. Had she ran for Governor or Senate, she would have been the overwhelming favorite,” the report says.

Madigan is running against Steve Kim (R- Northbrook) and David F Black (G-Belvidere). Three other candidates for Attorney General have not yet passed objections to their filings: Bill Malan (Libertarian- Chicago: Tri-Taylor), Louis Cotton (Constitution- Sorento) and Christopher Pedersen (Independent Conservative- Joliet).

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The name of Attorney General Lisa Madigan has been floated around Washington, DC as first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. However, she issued a statement saying that she appreciates being mentioned in light of her work fighting “predatory and often discriminatory mortgage lending.” But Madigan threw her support behind the perceived front-runner for consumer czar, Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

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The Alton Daily News notes Senate President John Cullerton is “not ruling out the idea of calling lawmakers back sometime this summer.” The Daily News noted that the summer session would reconsider a plan to borrow nearly $4 billion to pay the state’s pension obligations. However the President’s office does not believe the plan has enough support to pass. So, why is the Daily News mentioning this if it won’t happen? Why is Cullerton discussing it?

Monday the Illinois Radio Network reported Cullerton told Governor Pat Quinn that there won’t be a vote on borrowing to balance the state budget until after the November election. Quinn responded, “the General Assembly doesn’t have a lot of fortitude when it comes to raising revenue or making cuts.”

Rich Miller, of theCapitolFaxBlog noted that the Illinois Radio Network story incorrectly equates borrowing with balancing the budget. That will be something to watch when listening to the rhetoric this campaign season.

Expect to hear more about November 4. That’s the date Quinn has mentioned for the next legislative meeting. It is after the November elections, meaning decisions by the legislature will be from a lame-duck session. A key question to those running is why the public has to wait till after the election to learn how the state plans to deal with the mess it is in.

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Senate President John Cullerton wrote an opinion piece in the Springfield State Register-Journal defending the Emergency Budget Act. He says $3 billion are available to Governor Pat Quinn to use to pay bills, although he notes the money will need to be paid back. Quinn, he explains, can use the act to tap the $1.2 billion tobacco settlement and to order state agencies, departments and universities to reserve parts of their budgets.

“Armed with an assortment of newfound budgetary authority, it is time for the governor to act,” Cullerton writes. “The governor has been given a lot of responsibility. But the Illinois Senate has acted, too. The same Emergency Budget Act forces lawmakers to take a dozen furlough days, eliminates salary adjustments and lowers travel and housing reimbursements.” Cullerton claims the Senate has reduced spending by $2.5 billion over the last two years.

Cullerton appeared on Fox Chicago Sunday to discuss the Illinois budget mess. You can watch his appearance below.

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Thursday Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan issued a press release that raised hopes of advocates of public financing of state elections. The two leaders named committee members to a study, expected to report in 2011, on the affects of capping financial contributions. That bill took affect last year following the removal of former Governor Rod Blagojevich. The full committee is still waiting a final Republican pick and on Governor Pat Quinn to take action.

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47th Ward Alderman Eugene Schulter (D-North Center) joined a number of aldermen at Dvorak Park to propose an ordinance to limit the emissions of two South Side coal-fired power plants. The plan would limit emissions of particulate matter and carbon dioxide.

Opponents of the plants say coal-fired plants produce 180,000 pounds of soot each year which has contributed to a growing number of asthma diagnoses. Watch for this issue to gain interest. Schulter joins a group of 13 aldermen working for the ordinance.

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It’s Bleepin’ Golden, the ring tone, was offered FREE! Yes, no campaign contributions required. The Springfield State Journal Register put together such Rod Blagojevich (D-Ravenswood Manor) favorites as:

The newspaper is offering nine ring tones to the public, with instructions on how to load the Ravenswood Manor defendant’s voice on to a phone.

Former Blagojevich office-mate, 11th Illinois Legislative Representative John Fritchey (D-DePaul West. John Fritchey is also currently running for the 12th Cook County Board of Commissioners District), summarized the attitude of some members of the public with a tweet: “funniest line so far today, Rod has no ‘testifycular virility’. Courtesy of my friend Noel.”

My nominee for best line (not funniest), “I talk too much.” Let’s see that as a ring tone.

However the most thought provoking discussion of the dog that will not bark was offered by James Warren, a former editor of the Chicago Tribune and now a columnist for the Chicago News Cooperative. “Since the indictment of former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, little has intrigued me as much as what’s on wiretapped conversations between the profane coosome twosome of Blago and Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff and Blago’s successor as a North Side congressman,” Warren starts writing in his Saturday column, “Oh, the Loss as the Taped Rod-Rahm Calls Go Unplayed.”

More ring tones! That’s what’s on there. Oh! They would have been golden!

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Patti Blagojevich (Ravenswood Manor) has taken to reading Sherlock Holmes mysteries on her phone during the prosecution of her husband, according to a report by the AP. Her favorite seems to be Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.” “Patti Blagojevich has been seen reading during several less-riveting stretches of the case. She says she’s also fond of Jane Austen,” according to the report.

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Chicago Sun-Times gossip columnist Michael Sneed seems to indicate the former first lady could be the next indicted in the Blagojevich scandal. “Is former first lady Patti Blagojevich still in the line of fire? Is there fear her real estate dealings with Tony Rezko fall within the realm of indictability? Stay tuned.”

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If you haven’t had enough of the Blagojevich family, Second City is presenting “Rod Blagojevich, Superstar” at the Metropolis in Arlington Heights, The spoof originally ran in the Lincoln Park location of the theater group. The play has a limited engagement August 6 – September 18.

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You may have missed State Representative John Fritchey’s appearance on WLS’ Connected to Chicago with Bill Cameron. Cameron and Fritchey discussed the Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment and safety in Chicago. The broadcast is archived on WLS.

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State Representative John Fritchey was reported by NBC5 to be trying to entice 50th Ward Alderman Bernard Stone‘s (D-West Rogers Park) daughter to run against Alderman Scott Waguespack for 32nd Ward Alderman. Waguespack defeated a Fritchey foe, former 32nd Ward Alderman Ted Matlak (D-Bucktown), to seize the ward in 2007, but the report says Fritchey “thinks he’s done a poor job.”

As noted earlier, Waguespack announced he is interested in running for mayor of the city in 2011.

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