January 10, 2007


Chicago is certainly not Bosnia or Cambodia, but in the city's black community, there's a definite perception that "ethnic cleansing" is afoot and that Mayor Rich Daley is the cleanser.

As development explodes in the areas south and west of the Loop, as upscale whites replace poor blacks, the "whitening of Chicago" continues on a steady pace. The 2nd, 3rd, 24th and 27th wards, now represented by black aldermen, have large and growing white populations.

Also, as the city's Hispanic population grows, blacks are being pushed out of areas on the West and Southwest Sides. The 9th, 15th and 37th wards, now represented by black aldermen, have large and growing Hispanic populations.

At present, there are 22 white aldermen and 19 white-majority wards, eight Hispanic aldermen and 11 Hispanic-majority wards, and 20 black aldermen and 20 black-majority wards.

At least 16 black incumbents face a serious challenge on Feb. 27. There are a number of issues riling the black community. First, there is the belief that development means that blacks get pushed out and whites move in. Condominiums in the South Loop 2nd Ward are selling for $400,000 and up, and whites are buying them. Daley talks about broadening the property tax base, but blacks dissent: They view him as wanting to broaden the white voter base, and they're angry at black aldermen who support development.

Second, there's chronic unemployment, high crime and gang problems in black wards. They see Daley doling out city jobs to the Hispanic Democratic Organization in the Hired Truck Program and wonder why blacks don't get their share.

Third, the issue of police abuse resonates. Former police commander Jon Burge, according to a special prosecutors' report, allegedly oversaw the torture of at least 75 black arrestees from 1970 to 1993. He can't be prosecuted, as the statute of limitation has expired. "It's police abuse as usual," said Frank Avila, the attorney for one of the victims, who is suing the city.

And fourth, there's disappointment over U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., who toyed for 2 years with challenging Daley and then wimped out.

Here's an analysis of key black aldermanic races:

2nd Ward (South Loop: Dearborn Park, North Bronzeville, Taylor Street and South Lawndale along the Eisenhower Expressway): McCormick Place and Soldier Field are here. The mayor lives here. Condos costing $1 million are being sold here. The white population is nearing a majority here. And black Alderman Madeline Haithcock will soon be gone from here.

Haithcock, first elected in 1995, has been supportive of Daley and developers, estranging her from her black base. She also introduced an ordinance to rename a ward street after slain Black Panther Fred Hampton, irritating whites; then she refused to call it to a vote, irritating blacks. She has been feuding with U.S. Representative Bobby Rush, the ward's Democratic committeeman, for years. And she is criticized for her inept aldermanic staff.

Forrest Claypool beat Todd Stroger in the ward in the 2006 Democratic primary, and the ward's white population is around 45 percent.

Haithcock has six foes, the most formidable being attorney Bob Fioretti, who is white, David Askew, a black former assistant in the state Attorney General's Office, and Kenny Johnson, a black marketing executive and a former aide to Jackson, who has endorsed him. Also running are Larry Doody, who is white and who is the brother of Republican county commissioner Liz Gorman, former alderman Wallace Davis Jr. of the 27th Ward, who is black and who was convicted of bribery in the "Operation Incubator" probe, and Arne Kent, who is black.

My prediction: Fioretti represented one of the Burge victims, and he got a $9 million judgment. He has the money to saturate the ward with mailings. He'll get about 32 percent of the vote, to 27 percent for Haithcock, 18 percent for Askew, 15 percent for Johnson and 7 percent for Doody. In the low-turnout April runoff, Fioretti will win, marking the first instance of a ward which has had a black alderman electing a white alderman.

3rd Ward (Near South Side: Bronzeville): Alderman Dorothy Tillman is best known for her fashionable hats, preoccupation with slavery reparations and erratic politics. Once a Harold Washington booster, she now is a Daley supporter and an ally of developers. Tillman won with just 52 percent of the vote in 2003, and Pat Dowell, who finished second with 35 percent of the vote, is running again, as are Mell Monroe, Benjamin Harris and Angelo James. All are black.

My prediction: Poorer blacks want to stop the gentrification of Bronzeville, fearing that a flood of upscale whites will soon breach the ramparts. They will abandon Tillman. Expect a Tillman-Dowell runoff, with Dowell winning.

7th Ward (South Side: South Hyde Park): Longtime (1983 to 2006) alderman Bill Beavers, a solid Daley backer, was elected a county commissioner in 2006. The ward is more than 90 percent black. Daley appointed Beavers' daughter and top aide, Darcel Beavers, to the seat. Sandi Jackson, the wife of the congressman, filed, as did Ron David, Jesse Harley, Curtis Hinton, Eric Brown and Tennesha Frierson.

As an ally of John Stroger, Bill Beavers, who is the Democratic committeeman, packed his ward with county patronage jobs. He is a key supporter of new Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, and he has plenty of precinct workers.

However, Jackson leads a "movement," not a "machine," and by declining to run for mayor, his movement has deflated. He has harshly criticized Daley, but rather than take a chance on running and losing in 2007, he has astutely concluded that he should wait until 2011 -- when 4 more years of investigations will, at best, cause Daley's indictment or, at worst, force him to retire amid a cloud of corruption.

My prediction: Running his wife was a dumb idea. The mayor, and everybody who wants to show Jackson's political feebleness, will pour workers into the ward for Beavers, who will win on Feb. 27.

8th Ward (South Side: 75th to 103rd Street, east of Cottage Grove Avenue): Todd Stroger was elected alderman in 2003, and he was a loyal Daley backer, as was his father. Stroger resigned his aldermanic seat after winning the county board presidency, and Daley appointed Michele Harris, the county board's secretary, as his replacement. This black, middle-class ward is home to large numbers of teachers, CTA workers, and city and county employees. The "Stroger Machine" controls more than 1,000 county jobs alone, meaning it can put 2,000 people on the street. Had Stroger not won the race for county board president, the machine would have withered. But he won. Harris faces 12 foes, the most prominent being Joe McAfee, who got 2 percent of the vote in a 2003 bid for mayor. My prediction: Harris wins easily, without a runoff.

9th Ward (far South Side): Incumbent Alderman Anthony Beale has estranged himself from Jackson and state Senator James Meeks, the pastor of the Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Roseland, which draws 20,000 worshippers every Sunday. Beale, first elected in 1999, won with 66 percent of the vote in 2003. He faces five foes, the most prominent being Harold "Noonie" Ward, a former "governor" in the Gangster Disciples street gang.

My prediction: Churches and gangs are an enduring presence in the black community. Beale must heal his rift with Meeks to win re-election. He will win narrowly.

16th Ward (South Side: Englewood): Shirley Coleman, first elected in 1991, is the target of a federal investigation into her ties with a real estate consultant who reportedly paid $50,000 to Coleman's church and $20,000 to Coleman's interior decorator. In exchange, Coleman sent a letter to a home investment company vouching for the consultant. The investors then advanced $515,000, which has vanished. A federal racketeering lawsuit seeks $6 million from Coleman and others.

My prediction: Coleman won with 53 percent of the vote in 2003. She faces 10 opponents, including Hal Baskin, who lost to her in 2003 (with 21 percent of the vote) and 1999 (with 26 percent), and Darryl Smith, who barely lost a primary for state representative in 2006. Expect a Coleman-Smith runoff and a Smith win.

18th Ward (South Side): The ward has had a black majority since the 1970s, but a white alderman forever until incumbent Tom Murphy, elected in 1991, won a judgeship in 2006 and resigned. Daley appointed Lona Lane, a black Murphy aide, as alderman. John Joiner, who is white and who is the county's director of facilities' management, took over as the Democratic committeeman. Murphy wanted Daley to appoint Paul Stewart to the post, but Stewart has a prior criminal conviction.

My prediction: Stewart is running anyway, as are six others. The old Murphy organization is split. Expect a Lane-Stewart runoff.

37th Ward (West Side): This ward has a growing Hispanic population, and they have no liking for black incumbent Emma Mitts, first elected in 2001 and re-elected in 2003 with 73 percent of the vote. Mitts has six foes, including assistant state's attorney Daryl Jones, who is black, former alderman Percy Giles, convicted of bribery in the "Silver Shovel" probe, and two Hispanic candidates. Mitts' mentor is Alderman Ike Carothers, from the neighboring 29th Ward. My prediction: Carothers will send in precinct troops, and Mitts will win -- just barely.