Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Our Man Dart


You may not agree with everything he does or says but guess what? He is the best that we have right now. 

He is our guy.


            In the past 68 years, since 1946, Cook County has had nine sheriffs, all of them ostensibly devoid of moral turpitude, reasonably competent, generally resistant to temptation to indulge in graft and favoritism, able to sublimate the duress and stress of sitting on a timebomb – and almost all eminently forgettable.

            That’s Sheriff Tom Dart’s problem. He’s forgotten. The 51-year old lawyer from Chicago’s clout-heavy 19th Ward craves a promotion – to Chicago mayor, U.S. Attorney, county board president, state’s attorney, or even a high-level job in the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice.

            “I love my job,” he said. “I work 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week. I get calls at 3:00 AM. I’m making a difference.”

            Get me out of here, he really means. Dart sits atop a timebomb. The sheriff’s responsibilities include courthouse and courtroom security, operation of the County Jail and House of Corrections, and patrol of the county’s unincorporated areas. A possible courtroom shooting, a jail break, a drug dealing or gun-toting deputy, a Juvenile Court incident – all have political repercussions.

            During his 8-year term, Dart said, there have been no jail breaks, only several “walk-aways,” due to tangled paperwork. The Jail houses 12,500 inmates daily, of which half are accused felons awaiting trial, and the remainder convicted felons serving their sentence. Over 3,000 are housed in four segregated buildings, and Cermak Hospital, while being given meds, and therapeutic and psychological treatment for “mental health” problems. Another 3,000 convicts or detainees are on electronic monitoring.

            Welcome to “New Age” law enforcement. In the days of yore, the criminal justice system was intended to be punitive. Jail was a place of misery and suffering,  to deter ex-cons from crime and re-incarceration. That philosophy “is not working,” said Dart. Now the focus is curative: Criminals are not predators, they’re victims. Instead of spending their squalid life shuttling in and out of prison, they get a lifetime of Medicaid-paid meds and therapy, a Link card, Section 8 housing subsidies, and public aid. It used to be: Don’t commit a crime if you can’t do the (jail) time. The new jingle is: If you don’t commit another crime, the taxpayers will make sure you live real fine.  

            I asked Dart: Is the sheriff’s office is now a social service agency? A veritable half-way house? “If I can prevent one in 20 (ex-cons) from coming back (to jail), I’m satisfied,” said Dart, a Democrat first elected in 2006. “We need a thoughtful strategy to fight crime.”

            According to Dart, his two-term “accomplishments” include: Shakman compliance; a crackdown on sex trafficking; inmate “mental health” programs and screening; banning evictions on apartment tenants in foreclosures; monitoring gang activity; requiring rape kits; and employing social workers to intervene in inmate, evictee and child matters.

Here’s a tricky multiple-choice question: Who will be the next county sheriff?

            (a) Tom Dart; (b) Ted Palka; (c) Sylvester Baker; (d) Bill Evans; (e) Ed Burke Jr.; or (f) Chuck Norris.

            If you answered (a), then you didn’t read the question. Dart is the sheriff, and he will easily beat Palka, Baker and Evans in the March 18 Democratic primary. If you answered (f), then you’ve been watching too many “Walker, Texas Ranger” reruns. If you picked (e), then you have phenomenal insight into the way Chicago and Cook County politics operates. DNA and geography control. The South Side 19th Ward, which has controlled the sheriff’s office since 1990, will be superseded by the South Side 14th Ward.

            Count on this: Ed Burke Jr. will be sheriff sometime soon. The son of 48-year Chicago Alderman Ed Burke, the council’s Finance committee chairman, and Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, young Burke is one of the sheriff’s 210 “exempt” hires, out of 6,640 employees. Non-exempts are hired through civil service exams, not political clout. Burke is presently an assistant chief deputy sheriff, in charge of child support enforcement, earning $85,667. His dad has $8.2 million in his campaign account – more than enough to spend (or is it buy?) sonny’s way into the sheriff’s job.

            As for 19th Ward Alderman Matt O’Shea, who covets Dart’s job, one word: Foggataboutit.

            According to Palka, a deputy sheriff and inspector in the sheriff’s office for 30 years, the “culture of corruption and favoritism has not changed” under Dart. What has also not changed is the office’s reputation as a political career capstone, not a steppingstone.

            Under the 1871 Illinois Constitution, a sheriff was limited to one four-year term. The 1969 Constitutional Convention removed that term limit, the rationale being that graft was less endemic.

            In the past 17 sheriff’s elections, the luckiest guy was Richard J. Daley: He lost the 1946 election to Republican Elmer Walsh by 978,011-1,044,294 (48.4 percent). Had Daley won, he would have been termed-out in 1950, might not have been slated for county clerk in 1950, and would not have been on the mayoral track. Surprisingly, a Republican won five times (1946, 1950, 1962, 1966 and 1986). Not surprisingly, the job is usually a dead end. Only a few have advanced.

            Joseph Lohman (D), elected sheriff in 1954, won the state treasurer’s post in 1958, but lost the 1960 governor primary. Dick Ogilvie (R), a former assistant U.S. Attorney, elected sheriff in 1962 in an upset (951,647-921,605), won the county board presidency in 1966 and was elected Illinois’ governor in 1968. Ogilvie had designs on the presidency in 1976, but lost re-election in 1972. Ex-FBI agent Joe Woods (R), whose sister was President Richard Nixon’s secretary, won the job in another upset (961,848-945,728) in 1966, crafted a “law-and-order” image, but got trounced by George Dunne (D) for county board president in 1970; he then spent the next 18 years as an obscure and irrelevant county commissioner.

            1970 produced a sea change. The legendary Shakman decision precluded hiring or firing on a political basis. Prior thereto, the 3,000-plus court bailiffs, process servers, and Jail officers were just a bunch of grunts: They worked precincts, donated to their party and committeeman, and were on the street if their party lost. Shakman “professionalized.” Once on the job, no coercion or compulsion could be exerted. .

            Dick Elrod, now a Circuit Court judge, was an obscure Chicago corporation counsel when assigned to monitor a 1969 “Days of Rage” anti-war protest. He tried to tackle a protester, missed, collided with a post, and was partially paralyzed. In a stroke of genius, Daley ran the “heroic” Elrod for sheriff in 1970, against Bernie Carey (R), another ex-FBI agent. Elrod won by a narrow 887,026-876,549 (50.3 percent). Carey became state’s attorney in 1972.

            Able to seek re-election, Elrod won with ever-increasing majorities: In 1974 he got 53.7 percent; in 1978 he got 56.3 percent; in 1982 he got 69.5 percent. 

            But then, after 16 years, “Elrod fatigue,” including a string of mini-timebombs, proved insurmountable. Ex-Chicago police superintendent Jim O’Grady switched parties to run as a Vrdolyak Republican, whipped Elrod 706,659-673,233 (51.2 percent), and proceeded to a swift demise. Harold Washington died in 1987, eliminating the “race factor,” and Undersheriff Jim Dvorak got enmeshed in controversy.

            In 1990, Alderman Mike Sheahan (19th) ran for sheriff, aided by the clout of Assessor Tom Hynes, the 19th Ward Democratic Committeeman. In a humiliating meltdown, O’Grady got just 369,631 votes (28.5 percent), to Sheahan’s 719,489 (55.4 percent), and black independent Tommy Brewer’s 191,101 (14.7 percent). Thereafter, Republicans imploded. Sheahan won with 65.2 percent in 1994, 71.1 percent against the son of a black former Chicago police superintendent in 1998, and 76.9 percent in 2002. In 2006, Sheahan pulled a “switcheroo” – announcing for re-election, getting slated, but then withdrawing on the last day of filing, with the 19th Ward and Hynes’ allies submitting petitions for Dart, a 10-year state representative and 2002 loser for state treasurer.

            Dart won the 2006 election with 74.9 percent, and was re-elected in 2010 with 77.2 percent. No Republican is on the 2014 ballot. ADD HERE         

            The primary is dispositive. Palka is appealing to ethnic voters, particularly Poles. “I am campaigning at all the Catholic churches,” he said, “People want change. I will hire more deputies and police. I will stop the endless stream of civil rights and harassment lawsuits.” Baker, a black 22-year retired sheriff’s police sergeant, lost to Dart twice. Evans is a 23-year sheriff’s police lieutenant.

            In 2006, Dart got 331,318 votes (61.9 percent), beating Baker (133,944 votes) and Rich Remus (69,899 votes), in a 535,161 turnout. Baker carried four black wards, and Dart got over 80 percent in his Southwest Side base. In 2010, Dart trounced Baker with 76.3 percent, getting 397,844 votes to Baker’s 123,096, in a 520,940 turnout. Baker won one ward, while Dart got over 80 percent in the Northwest Side 33rd, 36th, 39th and 47th wards, and over 90 percent in the 11th Ward.

            Turnout in 2014 will barely exceed 500,000. Palka projects Baker near 150,000 votes, and Evans at 50,000. That leaves 300,000 for Dart and Palka to split.

            No polls have been taken, but the “money race” is an accurate gauge. Dart had $310,211 on-hand as of Jan. 1, and raised $127,430 after April 1, 2013. Palka’s numbers, respectively, were $44,279 and $52,390; Baker’s were $22,639 and $27,113; and Evans’ were $2,595 and $31,366.

            Dart may be forgettable and/or forgotten, but he still has enough juice to get renominated. He’ll win with 55 percent.


  1. Anonymous2/12/2014

    Before you vote, ask yourself:

    "What has any 19th Ward politician ever done for you or your family?"

    1. Anonymous2/12/2014

      I have to say, Hynes, Joyce, Sheahan, Rugai have done allot for my family and friends. By extension, they have been good for the neighborhood too. I am proud to have known them.

    2. Anonymous2/12/2014

      The wrong question to ask as there are a number of 19th Ward hacks who HAVE benefitted nicely from Hynes, Joyce, Sheahan, Rugai, Dart, etc....they may have been good for YOU but please your good fortune having the right connections means NOTHING to the rest of us.

  2. Anonymous2/12/2014

    hey,if Dart gets out does that mean no more fun with chickens at the county?????

  3. Anonymous2/12/2014

    Dart will be re-elected for sure but his office is a time-bomb. The County has already paid out millions because of his discrimination practices.
    Since 2007, 188 Employment Discrimination suits have been filed by Cook County employees... Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is the defendant in over half these cases.. The Sheriff's office shockingly has more federal employment suits pending than ALL County offices combined, despite the fact the sheriff only employs 20% of the County workforce... The alleged discrimination practices of Sheriff Tom Dart is costing the Taxpayers millions. Just in the last two years Dart has had 23 employer federal suits filed against his office including the nephew of former Sheriff Sheahan has just filed a bomb shell suit alleging Dart is delibertly understaffing the Deputy division while numerous officers are getting injured.

    Sheahan v. Cook County Sheriff's Office et al

    Filed: December 20, 2013 as 1:2013cv09134

    Defendant: County Of Cook, Cook County Sheriff's Office

    Plaintiff: Patrick Sheahan

    Cause Of Action: Fed. Question: Employment Discrimination

    Court: Seventh Circuit > Illinois > Illinois Northern District Court

    Type: Civil Rights > Employment

    1. Anonymous2/12/2014

      Its just political.

    2. Anonymous2/12/2014

      Its not political when numerous officers are getting injured because Dart has not hired a Deputy in 8 years. The Deputy division is down over 50% staffing, However, Dart has found the funding to hire 100 new Shackman exempt political positions. Dart now has 237 Shakman exempt political positions at over 22 million a year.

      His budget has increased 40 million since 2011 and still not one Deputy has been hired. WHERE IS THE MONEY SHERIFF?




  4. Anonymous2/12/2014

    He is no Mike Sheahan.

    1. Anonymous2/12/2014

      How is the Sheehan suit political. I though Sheehan hired Tom Dart?

    2. Anonymous2/12/2014

      Do really think he cares if a Sheahan is suing him. His own siblings are even suing him. The guy is a narcissistic nut case. He does not care!

    3. Anonymous2/12/2014

      Sheahan, Joyce, and Hynes have hired thousands of people from the neighborhood. Dart hires only those who contribute money to him. Different styles of politics.

  5. Anonymous2/12/2014

    Why half of Dart's employees are suing him in Federal Court.

    Sheriff recently Dart sat down for interview with left-wing radical Katy Hogan who claims her organization is spied on by the police. She also tells Sheriff Dart the Nation of Islam should run the Cook County jail. Sheriff Dart gets excited when he talks about harassing his employees at the 15 minute mark of the video..

    Click Link to video below. 15 minute mark!

  6. Anonymous2/12/2014

    In an effort to combat scandal and incompetence in some suburbs, the Cook County sheriff is seeking the power to review the finances and police departments of suburbs that repeatedly fail to follow a basic financial accountability law.

    Citing a Tribune series this week that exposed a litany of problems in Harvey, Sheriff Tom Dart is asking the county board to let him become a suburb’s inspector general if that municipality has failed to file two years of financial audits as required by state law. As inspector general, he would be able to audit nearly every aspect of a suburban government, from policing to spending.

    Last year, Dart offered suburbs the opportunity to voluntarily give him that power – with some success – but said he should be given the ability to come, uninvited, into severely troubled suburbs. He argued that, for too long, outsiders have done too little to demand basic accountability from those suburbs’ leaders.

    “To just really sort of shrug your shoulders and say that there are certain towns, villages and cities in Cook County that, you’re just not going to get justice, you’re just going to have no basic competence in your government, that’s not going to happen,” Dart told the Tribune in an interview Wednesday. “We can’t sit around continuing to do this.”

    In a three-part series, the Tribune showed how Harvey had the highest violent crime rate of hundreds of Chicago suburbs, paired with a low arrest rate that left many crime victims or their families complaining the poor south suburban community had become lawless.

    The series documented not only substandard policing and troubled backgrounds of some officers, but also how federal officials – as part of an undercover investigation – helped re-elect the controversial mayor, then later documented widespread problems in policing but left without forcing changes. The series also showed how state officials have done little to enforce laws requiring the mayor to disclose his campaign donors and have the suburb’s books audited once a year.

    It is the last finding that Dart seized upon in his proposal.

    The proposed ordinance would allow his department to become a suburb’s inspector general if it failed to follow the audit law two years in a row. Dart said there are a number of suburbs that would qualify. Harvey, for example, owes audits for the past four fiscal years.

    “If they’re not doing a basic audit, my God, if that doesn’t set off the bells and whistles that there’s a bigger issue,” Dart said, trailing off while shaking his head.

    Even if the proposal passes, the sheriff would have to approach the county board for approval to go into a specific suburb. He said that’s only fair to give a town’s leaders time to make a case as to why intervention isn’t needed.

  7. Anonymous2/12/2014

    I don't agree with some of his stuff but I think he is better than most.

  8. Anonymous2/12/2014


  9. Anonymous2/12/2014

    good for Mount Greenwood.