Archives for category: Emanuel, Rahm

As almost everyone reports, Chicago is on fire with outrage. The question, says Mike Klonsky, is whether Rahm will resign or will tough it out. 


His poll ratings are down below 20%. He said in the past that he couldn’t release the video of Laquan McDonald’s killing because of an ongoing investigation, but local reporters have found emails that contradict that story.


It just keeps getting worse, and there may be a teachers’ strike. The national media may say a teachers’ strike is all about greed, but parents in Chicago know that CTU will strike, if it does, to get libraries, the arts, smaller class sizes, and other things that their children are denied. It truly is about the students, and the parents know it. Teaching conditions are learning conditions.

The Wall Street Journal published a biting editorial today, calling on the Justice Department to investigate Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s role in the suppression of the video of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald. The shooting, almost a year ago, was taped by police video cameras but the city refused to release the video until ordered to do so by a judge. The title of the editorial: “The Chicago Fire.” Protestors will not be ameliorated by a half-hearted investigation that protects the mayor from scrutiny.




Attorney General Loretta Lynch said last week that the Justice Department will investigate whether Chicago police “engaged in a pattern or practice of violation of the Constitution or federal law.” We hope Justice will also investigate whether Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and city officials prevented the release of a videotape of the shooting for political reasons.


In October 2014 officer Jason Van Dyke shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald multiple times. Though a police car’s dashcam recorded the confrontation, the videotape was kept from public view until a judge ordered its release in a lawsuit. City officials, who had likely seen the video, echoed the police line of self-defense that now seems suspect.


The episode has roiled Chicago. On Wednesday an emotional Mayor Emanuel tried to defuse the tension by issuing a public apology and acknowledging the problems with a police force that embraces a culture of silence. “I should have given voice to the public’s growing suspicions, distrust and anger,” Mr. Emanuel said. “My voice is supposed to be their voice.” Protesters demanded his resignation.


According to the Better Government Association, the city has spent more than $521 million over 10 years defending and settling excessive-force lawsuits against the Police Department. Between 2010 and 2014 the police killed 70 people, the most of any big city. Since 2007 the city’s Independent Police Review Authority has investigated almost 400 shootings and categorized only one as unjustified….


In DNAInfo Chicago, columnist Mark Konkol reported last week that Mr. Emanuel’s corporation counsel Stephen Patton blocked police reforms pushed by former police chief Garry McCarthy, whom Mr. Emanuel appointed in 2011. Mr. McCarthy wanted to give the police chief the power to discipline or fire officers accused of misconduct or of keeping a “code of silence” and to make misconduct investigations more transparent….



While Justice investigates the cops, the answers about the role of City Hall are most likely to come from the investigation by the U.S. Attorney, who has been looking into the case since not long after the shooting. The failure to release a video for political reasons may not be a crime, but City Hall’s complicity in any cover-up will leave lasting scars. Mr. Emanuel will have to answer for the consequences.

John Kass of the Chicago Tribune says that Rahm is in deep trouble with no sign of a life saver. And Kass says he predicted that this would happen if the Laquan McDonald video was suppressed, as it was, until after the election.


Kass writes:


A month ago I wrote a column telling you about a police dash-cam recording that could tear Chicago apart.


It was that recording of a white cop killing a black teenager, the cop pumping 16 bullets into the kid with the knife in his hand who was trying to walk away, the officer firing most of the shots with the young man already on the ground.
The video that might rip Chicago apart — and why you need to see it
It was kept from public view for months and months, kept hidden until Mayor Rahm Emanuel won re-election with black voter support. But it couldn’t be suppressed forever.


Since the video was released, protesters have taken to the streets, demanding “Rahm Resign” and the mayor became publicly weepy, telling us once again that he wanted to be a Rahm reborn, a better version of himself.


Who knows? Maybe he was hoping to put on that warm and fuzzy campaign sweater — the one he wore when he cut those re-election commercials to announce he’d be a kinder, more reasonable, and less imperious Rahm.


But you can’t play the sweater game twice. And the city can’t forget what he’s done.


So a month later, where is Chicago?


The mayor limps along, weakened, his public approval ratings underwater. New polls say what I’ve told you for weeks: That if the Laquan McDonald video had been made public before Election Day, Rahm would not be mayor today.
If police shooting video had been released sooner, would Emanuel be mayor?

That makes people feel as if he’s cheated them. So resentment builds against the mayor most of Chicago never really liked, but feared. And now that he’s been humbled, he’s ripe.


According to Kass, conventional wisdom says Rahm won’t resign. But he predicts that the months and perhaps the rest of his second term will be torture. As they said about Watergate, the coverup is what gets you.

Facing massive layoffs and outraged by the Mayor’s closing public schools while opening non-union charter schools, the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates unanimously endorsed a strike vote.


The decision about whether to strike will now go to the members who will vote over the period from December 9-11. The vote will last for three days to make sure that every member has a chance to vote.


Mike Klonsky says that Rahm Emanuel has become an albatross for the Democratic party.

Mike Klonsky reports the latest talk in Chicago.


Talk of the town: #ResignRahm

John Kass of the Chicago Tribune speculates that Rahm Emanuel would not have been re-elected Mayor of Chicago if the video of the police killing of teenager Laquan McDonald had been released before the 2015 election.


Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by a police officer in October 2014. The video appeared only days ago, more than a year after the event. The police officer has been charged with first-degree murder. There have been marches and demonstrations since the release of the video.


Kass writes that had the video been posted before the election, no black politician would have stood by Rahm Emanuel’s side. He would have lost the black vote, and he would not be mayor today.


It is the Chicago way.


Kass writes:


You can see the truth of it by watching the other politicians scrambling for cover in the wake of the Laquan McDonald video release.


They don’t like questions about how they helped Rahm win. That puts the jacket on them. And they don’t want to wear the jacket.


So they’re stitching one up for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who charged Van Dyke with murder the other day.


They want Alvarez to wear the jacket for it all.


Rahm seems to be throwing her under his bus, but he doesn’t want his fingerprints on her. So his ally, David Axelrod, threw her under.


Axelrod is a Rahm pal, but for years he was also the mouthpiece for former Mayor Richard Daley, and was the top political and media strategist for Obama. It’s a Chicago thing.


“Why did it take a year to indict a CPD officer who shot a kid 16 times?” Axelrod tweeted Tuesday night. “Would it have happened today if judge hadn’t ordered video release?”


That puts it on Alvarez. Does she deserve it?


I don’t think so. To me, she’s not the issue.


The video threatened Rahm Emanuel and his pursuit of power. Alvarez told reporters she’d been waiting for the feds to issue a joint announcement with her office. That didn’t happen.


Funny how things work out.



The former CEO of Chicago public schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, pleaded guilty to charges of participating in a kickback in exchange for a $23 million contract for SUPES Academy, her former employer.

Prosecutors recommended a reduced sentence of 7 1/2 years in prison in return for her cooperation. Her sentencing comes later.

Further down in the story, one reads that Mayor Rahm Emanuel concealed his knowledge of the deal. Even more interesting, Byrd-Bennett’s co-conspirator is a close ally of Rahm Emanuel. He recommended Emanuel’s first CEO, J.C. Brizard, then recommended Byrd-Bennett. Emanuel claimed that his administration asked “hard questions” about the no-bid contract before it was approved.

This story illustrates what is wrong about mayoral control: no checks or balances. A perfect set-up for corruption.

“A federal indictment unsealed Thursday accused Byrd-Bennett in a massive scheme with the co-owners of SUPES Academy, a company she worked for before joining CPS. The federal probe was revealed in April after CPS acknowledged receiving grand jury subpoenas seeking an array of documents on the SUPES contract. Soon after, Byrd-Bennett took a paid leave of absence and then resigned in May.

“SUPES owners Gary Solomon, a consultant with ties to the Emanuel administration, and partner Thomas Vranas also were charged in the 23-count indictment, as was SUPES and another education consulting company the two ran. Solomon and Vranas are scheduled to be arraigned at 2 p.m. Wednesday, records show.

“The heart of the indictment involved more than $23 million in no-bid contracts awarded to SUPES to train CPS principals and other administrators beginning in 2012. A CPS committee set up to evaluate no-bid contracts initially balked at awarding SUPES a noncompetitive deal but less than a month later approved the plan, records show.

“According to the charges, Solomon agreed to kick back 10 percent of the total value of any contracts awarded to SUPES while Byrd-Bennett held the No. 2 post with CPS. She was later elevated by Emanuel to CEO.

“Much of the indictment centers on emails sent between Solomon and Byrd-Bennett that seem to make no effort to conceal the alleged kickback scheme. In one message, Byrd-Bennett even implied she needed cash because she had “tuition to pay and casinos to visit,” according to the charges.

“In a December 2012 message, Solomon assured Byrd-Bennett that trust accounts had been set up in the names of two of her young relatives — identified by sources as twin grandsons — and that they would be funded with a combined $254,000 as a “signing bonus” for her help in obtaining the contracts.

“The cash would be hers once she stepped down from her public post and rejoined his firm, Solomon wrote in the email….

“While Byrd-Bennett became the public face of the scandal, the Tribune has reported previously that Solomon’s ties to the Emanuel administration go back to the beginning of Emanuel’s tenure in office, predating the arrival of Byrd-Bennett. In fact, Solomon helped recruit Emanuel’s first schools CEO, Jean-Claude Brizard, at the request of the mayor-elect’s transition team in February 2011.

“Solomon went on to recommend Byrd-Bennett, who was the lead trainer at SUPES when CPS hired her as chief education officer in April 2012.

“Emanuel and his aides have maintained that the mayor’s office had nothing to do with the SUPES contract. When asked in April if his administration had any role at all in the SUPES contract, Emanuel told reporters, “No, you obviously know that by all the information available. And so the answer to that is no.”

“On Monday, Emanuel acknowledged for the first time that his office had prior knowledge of the deal, saying his staff “asked some very hard questions” about the no-bid contract before the Chicago school board approved it.

“The comments came on the same day the Tribune reported the mayor’s office was more involved in the $20.5 million contract than previously disclosed and was fighting the release of public records that could shed more light on how the deal came to be.

“As part of that fight, the Tribune in June sued the city under the state Freedom of Information Act after the mayor’s office redacted or withheld about two dozen emails emanating from Emanuel’s office.

“While much of the picture remains missing, the email logs and documents the administration did release show frequent communication among key Emanuel aides, Chicago school leaders and the heads of the SUPES Academy consulting firm in the months, weeks and days leading up to Emanuel’s hand-picked school board awarding the contract.”

We are left to wonder: What did Mayor Emanuel know and when did he know it?

An afterthought: I served on two different boards with Barbara BB. I thought she was smart and honorable person. I liked her. I am sad for her. She swam with sharks, and she lost her moral center. Very sad.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, former CEO of the Chicago public schools, is expected to plead guilty to charges of taking a kickback from a $23 million contract to a company she once worked for. Now, other contracts are under scrutiny, including a contract to a company owned by Robert Bobb, former leader of the Educational Achievement Authority in Detroit.

““Chicago Tonight” has learned of a probe into another contract where a firm with ties to Byrd-Bennett received CPS business. This as Byrd-Bennett is expected to plead guilty Tuesday to charges that she steered $23 million in CPS money to SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates in exchange for bribes and kickbacks.

“The arrangement in question: a $31 million contract to help CPS manage the controversial closing and consolidation of 50 schools that took place two years ago. It’s under scrutiny, “Chicago Tonight” has learned, because of ties between former CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and one of the companies that received that business.

“A company called Global Workplace Solutions won the $30.9 million bid to help close the schools. The duties involved relocating records, removing contents, furnishings and equipment from the closed schools, and then securing the closed schools. A portion of the business was subcontracted to a company called The Robert Bobb Group, a company run by Robert Bobb, the former Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit Public Schools. Bobb hired Byrd-Bennett in Detroit in 2009 as Chief Academic Auditor and paid her a salary of $18,000 per month.”

Barbara Byrd Bennett, who served as CEO of Chicago Public Schools for Rahm Emanuel, pleaded guilty in a scheme to profit from a no-bid contract.

The former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, will plead guilty to charges in an indictment released Thursday that alleges she steered more than $23 million in no-bid contracts from CPS to her former employer, authorities said Thursday.

U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon made the announcement at a news conference Thursday. He declined to discuss the details of any plea agreement, including possible prison time.

Fardon said Byrd-Bennett and others “entered into a scheme to secretly profit from schools.”

Byrd-Bennett — Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked choice — becomes CPS’ first chief executive officer to face criminal charges in connection with her job. Federal authorities have been investigating the most controversial of those contracts — a $20.5 million no-bid CPS deal for principal training, the largest in recent memory — for more than a year.

Receiving that contract in 2013 to train principals was The SUPES Academy, owned by former Niles West High School dean Gary Solomon and his former student Thomas Vranas. It generated controversy at the time because SUPES was not known for training principals while many other, respected organizations did that very job. The deal continued to draw criticism as some educators questioned the quality of SUPES’ training.

Solomon, 47, of Wilmette, and Vranas, 34, of Glenview, also were charged, as were SUPES and another company they owned that was given CPS contracts, Synesi Associates LLC.

Solomon’s attorney suggested Thursday his client would plead guilty in the case as well.

The feds allege in a 43-page indictment that Byrd-Bennett, 66, and Solomon set up a kickback scheme, detailed in emails, in which Byrd-Bennett would get 10 percent of any CPS contracts she steered to SUPES and Synesi. The feds don’t allege how much money, if any, was paid to Byrd-Bennett.

In one email discussing the alleged scheme, Byrd-Bennett wrote: “I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit (:”

“I think those emails reflect greed,” Fardon said.

The scheme started right around the time Byrd-Bennett started her job as chief education officer at CPS, the post she held before becoming CEO, the feds allege.

Mike Klonsky reports that Chicago Public Schools is cutting special education.

“Our autocrat at City Hall appears bent on dismembering special education in Chicago by a thousand cuts. SpEd took its first major deep cut over the summer eliminating 500 positions at CPS. More cuts announced late Friday mean approximately 160 schools would lose special education teachers, while 184 would lose aides.”

Let the lawsuits begin. There is a federal law to protect children with disabilities.


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