Notes

Notes for 11/14/18

no thank u, next

Last week, for the first time in twenty-eight years, a Cook County circuit court judge lost their bid for retention. Matthew Coghlan earned fifty-three percent approval from voters, fewer than the sixty percent threshold required to keep his seat. Several progressive activist groups campaigned against him relentlessly; Injustice Watch reported on his harsh sentencing practices and a lawsuit contending he framed two defendants for murder when he was a prosecutor; and, finally, the Cook County Democratic Party bucked its tradition of rubber-stamping all judges to recommend that voters punch “no” on Coghlan. And throughout it all—even as multiple outlets dutifully asked for comment for each article—Coghlan stayed mum. A few days after the election, however, Coghlan suddenly found his voice. On November 9, he complained to WBEZ that the “Dump Coghlan” contingent had “misrepresented” his record. He said that numerous appellate court reversals of his decisions were all technicalities, though he failed to address the case of Antonio Nicholas (reported by Injustice Watch) in which he drew the appellate court’s ire when he completely ignored their recommendation. He also said that the analysis of his sentencing practices took decisions out of context, a hint that he did not read Injustice Watch’s detailed description of its statistical methodology in analyzing his record. Unfortunately, WBEZ’s usually diligent Chip Mitchell was dishearteningly docile during the interview, not bothering to fact check any of Coghlan’s claims or press him on inconsistencies. Oh well—in this case, voters spoke louder than words.

Exactly What It Looks Like

Last week, twenty-six percent of voters in Illinois’ Third Congressional District voted for a Nazi. The district stretches diagonally from Bridgeport to the southwest suburbs with a little upward hook to cover Beverly and Mount Greenwood. The Nazi in question is Arthur Jones, who ran unopposed in this year’s Republican primary (he later bragged about “snookering” the party, which had successfully blocked him from the ballot in the past). Jones is a Holocaust denier, a self-described “white racialist,” a former local leader of the American Nazi Party—and 56,000 people chose him over Democratic incumbent Dan Lipinski.

Within the city, Jones’ strongest showing was in the 19th Ward, which covers Mount Greenwood and Beverly. The ward’s alderman, Matt O’Shea, has insisted that his constituents are not Nazi supporters—just lazy. “They go right through the ballot voting for every Republican, not doing their homework, not doing their research,” he told the Sun-Times. Lipinski agreed.

Jones, for his part, says that’s “baloney!”, given the number of news stories about his racist and anti-Semitic beliefs. We find ourselves agreeing with the Nazi. 56,000 people in Lipinski’s district supported a Nazi’s run for congressman, and that makes them Nazi supporters. We say this, not in the spirit of finger-pointing or name-calling, but to highlight these politicians’ refusal to confront difficult truths. Less than a year ago, when swastikas and other racist graffiti appeared in Beverly, O’Shea dismissed the incident as the work of “stupid kids,” as Scott Smith of the Southwest Diversity Collaborative pointed out on Twitter. But the voters of IL-3 are (by definition) not kids, and they’re not stupid. As Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Once More to the TIFs

In one of its last—and extremely on-brand—gasps, the Emanuel administration is planning to allocate about $1.5 billion in subsidies for a quintet of megadevelopments before Rahm leaves office next May, according to Crain’s. Three of the locations are south of Roosevelt: the old Michael Reese Hospital site, an industrial complex on the Southeast Side, and Related Midwest’s “The 78.” (As in the number of community areas in the city plus one. Yes, we also think it’s a bad name.) Part of the city’s funding will come through the creation of new TIF districts; despite Rahm’s much-maligned TIF usage, like the time he surreptitiously diverted funds to a development on Navy Pier, the city has defended their use in this particular case, claiming that it will be used primarily to build a few thousand units of affordable housing and expand infrastructure. Affordable housing is good, even if these come pre-seasoned with techno-optimism: the head of Related Midwest suggested “the 78” might be a Silicon Valley for the Midwest, and one of the North Side projects will have “a transit way that may be equipped to handle new self-driven vehicles.” Meanwhile, TIFs are still supposed to be used to fund infrastructure projects in low-income, under-invested-in neighborhoods, like Woodlawn, where a 2015 analysis from the Reporter showed that most of the money was either unspent or invested somewhere else.

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