Friday, September 27, 2013

It’s about time we get a full-fledged U.S. attorney for Chicago!!!

I realize that government often works at its own pace, particularly in the partisan environment that we now exist. The worthiness of something doesn’t mean it’s going to be completed in an expedited manner.
FARDON: U.S. Atty sooner, than later

Yet there’s something about the way in which the U.S. attorney’s post for northern Illinois (as in the Chicago area and Rockford) has been handled that makes me wonder what the hang-up is.

BECAUSE THE APPOINTMENT of Zachary Fardon does seem to be dragging along. For people who want to think that Chicago is a cesspool of corruption and violent activity, it would seem odd that they wouldn’t consider having a permanent person in charge of the U.S. attorney’s office to be a high-priority.

For the record, it was back in May 2012 that former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald let it be known that he intended to leave the post – and as it turned out, he left the following month.

He has since moved on with his life – having taken a post with a local law firm and is currently serving as a member of a panel that is supposed to figure out how to reform the government agencies that oversee mass transit throughout the Chicago-area.

For Fitzgerald, the federal government post he held for 11 years is a past lifetime.

YET FOR THOSE people in Chicago who take an interest in the various levels of law enforcement, we’re still stuck on Fitzgerald as our idea of the ideal “G-man” because our federal officials can’t just get on with picking a replacement.

Fardon, a Kansas City native who worked in Nashville before coming to Chicago in 1997 for a stint in the U.S. attorney’s office before going into private practice, was made public many months ago – going through a process that saw him beat out a woman who could have been the first ever African-American U.S. attorney in Chicago.

Yet our political process that has become hung up on partisan ways of considering issues such as health care and immigration policy also is capable of letting things drag on way too long.

FITZGERALD: Some think he's still U.S. Atty
If anything, I wonder if the fact that the ideologues are too obsessed with those hot-button issues is to blame – they get so hung up on dominating the public perception on their pet issues that they can’t be bothered to do anything with the issues that relate to daily governance.

THEN AGAIN, CONSIDERING that some Republican officials are willing to see a federal government shut-down to emphasize their opposition to health care reforms desired by President Barack Obama, maybe they don’t really care that the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago has been “leaderless” for the past 15 months.

I write that sentence knowing full well that there have been people calling the shots for the federal prosecutors. The Dirksen Building hasn’t come grinding to a halt just because there’s an empty office where Fitzgerald used to work – and Fardon likely will someday.

The key to government agencies at all levels is the fact that there is a certain bureaucracy that lasts through several political administrations. They are the ones who keep things moving on a day-to-day basis.

They are the ones who kept things going on to the point where former alderman and Cook County Commissioner William Beavers could be found guilty and sentenced to six months in a federal prison – even though the prosecutor’s office was leaderless.

STILL, AN OFFICE gains some sense of direction from its leadership. The Beavers conviction was most likely just past momentum carrying it forward a little while longer -- just as a boat doesn't come to a halt when its motor is turned off.

It was a sense of direction provided by Fitzgerald that caused the U.S. attorney’s office in the past decade to be ambitious enough to go after now-former governors George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich.

I don’t know how Fardon’s direction, whenever it becomes reality, will compare – will he try to take a lead on the issue related to Chicago’s murder rate (not a record high, but still high enough to be depressing to the city’s image)?

Or is the fact that it took this long before a Senate committee to make a recommendation, and we’re not sure when a final vote will come about, a part of our overall problem?


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