Thursday, January 20, 2011

He’ll be home for Christmas

Ed Vrdolyak, the man who was once the face and the voice of the vocal opposition to Harold Washington, went to prison this week.
His "time" has arrived

“Fast Eddie” reported Wednesday to Bureau of Prisons officials in Terre Haute, Ind., the site of the maximum-security prison that has a minimum-security work camp where Vrdolyak will serve his 10-month sentence.

WE’RE GOING TO hear a lot of wisecracks in coming months based on the fact that Vrdolyak will now be at the same prison facility as former Gov. George Ryan. Cellmates? Who gets to do something funky to whom? Or will prison officials just build a new special wing in Terre Haute for corrupt Chicago politicos?

Yet I can’t help but look at the two political people together and appreciate all the more what a sweet deal Vrdolyak managed to get for himself in U.S. District Court. He had an even better one at one point that would not have required any prison time for himself.

But not even Fast Eddie had the connections to make that deal stick.

Seriously. Ten months?

VRDOLYAK WILL BE back at his East Side neighborhood home for the Christmas holiday season. Depending on how one calculates the math (and just how well behaved Edward R. remains while serving his sentence), Vrdolyak may even be free just in the nick of time for Thanksgiving.

While Fast Eddie (the nickname dates way back before Harold Washington) won’t be able to spend Independence Day with his family this year, somehow I think he’ll get over it – unlike Ryan, who has a serious chance of having his wife die in coming weeks without being able to see her again, and gets to think of Independence Day as the date he will finally be set free.

Just over two years from now, that is!

What also amazed me about Vrdolyak’s fate is that it came long after his active career as an elected official was over. While he was still an adviser of sorts to certain political people, it’s not like Vrdolyak has to give up a political post.

HE DIDN’T EVEN have to give up his career as an attorney specializing in personal injury law, and running a law firm named for himself.

Vrdolyak had already retired from practicing law. So he may have been disbarred. But he wasn’t handling any more cases anyway.

His legacy was already set, and nobody is going to think any less of Vrdolyak because his biography will include a prison term.

In fact, I’d be willing to bet that Vrdolyak’s eventual obituary will not lead with the fact that he went to prison. The fact that he was willing to lead the City Council in revolt against the desires of Chicago’s first African-American mayor is more intriguing than the fact that federal prosecutors were able to get a conviction against him for a real estate transaction along the Gold Coast neighborhood.

ALTHOUGH THE VERY fact that Vrdolyak rose from a Croatian/eastern European enclave at the far southeast corner of Chicago to being able to do real estate deals along the city’s Gold Coast is probably a legacy in and of itself, and a story that should be told in the context of Chicago’s many ethnic groups.

Not that the Washington allies will want to tell it. Many of the same people who are disappointed these days that the mayoral aspirations of Carol Moseley-Braun aren’t resulting in a stronger campaign (although it may be strong enough to qualify for the runoff election to be held April 5) are probably feeling a sense of glee. “Fast Eddie” in Terre Haute.

Of course, if I wanted to be nasty, I’d point out that Washington also had a tax-related conviction for which he served his own jail term, doing his time at the Cook County Jail. Washington-backers shouldn’t get too cocky about this.

The smart-aleck in me wonders if this now creates the potential for a future conversation in the hereafter between Washington and Vrdolyak similar to that moment in “The Blues Brothers” when the cabbage rolls served to inmates at Terre Haute was compared to the oatmeal served at the Cook County “slam.”

THE MORE SERIOUS political observer in me actually is relieved that Vrdolyak won’t be available to comment on Feb. 22 (or April 5, for that matter).

Those are the Election Days to be held for Chicago city government, and with the potential for racial disharmony that could crop up depending the election results, you just know somebody would have felt the need to dig up Council Wars and try to get Fast Eddie to speak about how the current situation compares to the past.

I don’t know what Vrdolyak would have said, although I do know there are some people who continue to this day to defend the Vrdolyak name on the grounds that his actions helped keep Washington from accomplishing more as mayor.

Take that attitude for what it’s worth. You may want to think it is one buried deep in our city’s past.

I SAY WE’RE going to learn on Election Day just how relevant Vrdolyak is to the way some people in this city still think, and that he’s not as “gone” as some of us wish he was.

Just think Bing Crosby, singing, “I’ll  be home for Christmas. You can count on me, …”


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"...although I do know there are some people who continue to this day to defend the Vrdolyak name on the grounds that his actions helped keep Washington from accomplishing more as mayor."

Not only that, but we support Mr. V. and his entire family because he has done nothing but help people. We'll be there waiting for him later this year. You and I both know he could have fought this thing.. but he wanted it behind him. He's served his time, now leave him alone.