Thursday, November 17, 2016

An encore in corrections for ‘Fast Eddie” would be a unique outcome

Perhaps it was intended that Edward R. Vrdolyak have his life in the public eye end in a way unlike just about everyone else.
VRDOLYAK: Back in the public eye

A return trip to prison, if that is what ultimately occurs, would be something unheard of.

BECAUSE USUALLY WHEN someone on the Chicago political scene gets into legal trouble and winds up with a criminal conviction and prison time, upon their release they manage to fade away and we don’t really hear much about them again.

Just think – how many of us know off the top of our heads whatever became of Larry Bloom or Miriam Santos.

But it seems there’s no way the man known during his time as “Fast Eddie” was going to fade away like that – even though he has been retired for roughly the past decade and probably wishes he weren’t thought about so much anymore.

Vrdolyak was the son of Croatian immigrants from the East Side neighborhood down at Chicago’s far Southeastern corner (where Indiana is a next door neighbor and the smells of the oil refinery in Whiting often waft across the state line) who was elected to the City Council in 1971 and achieved his political peak in the mid-1980s.

HE WAS THE man who realized that many Chicagoans were hostile to the idea of Harold Washington being elected mayor in 1983 – which he used to justify his own blatant resistance to anything the city’s first black mayor tried to achieve. He also banded together 28 other alderman into a caucus that was openly defiant.
Someday to be sequel to this headline?

For those of you too young to remember "Council Wars" as we laughingly referred to it back then, think of the way Congress has treated the Barack Obama presidency, only much less polite.

The “Vrdolyak 29” is how it was publicly known, the group that for more than two years did everything it could to make Washington look ridiculous. It took a court-ordered redistricting of City Council ward boundaries to break this up and give the mayor some sort of control over the city.

All I know is that locally in his home neighborhood, there are those people who remain grateful that Vrdolyak kept THAT MAYOR from doing more harm (in their minds) than was actually achieved.
Will Harold's backers be able to control laughs?

IN OTHER PARTS of Chicago, there are those people who remain eternally peeved (to put it mildly) that Vrdolyak existed. They were the ones who privately cheered back when the feds got a criminal conviction against him and he wound up serving 10 months in prison (briefly being a fellow inmate with former Gov. George Ryan at the work camp connected to the Terre Haute Correctional Center).

That should have been the end of the Vrdolyak story. But it isn’t. For it seems the feds have come up with a new indictment – criminal charges related to payment for legal work he never actually did and speculation that he didn’t make payments to the Internal Revenue Service that were owed for someone else.

Vrdolyak’s attorneys are saying the money was actually paid into a special account and theoretically are still sitting there waiting for the IRS to come collecting. Not that the IRS is buying such an excuse.

Vrdolyak is now facing charges (for which he will make his first court appearance two days before Thanksgiving) for which he could face up to an eight-year prison term. An encore performance in the Bureau of Prisons! A political recidivist.

THAT WOULD GIVE Vrdolyak a unique niche in our political culture. Off the top of my head, former alderman Ambrosio Medrano is the only return case I can think of.
MEDRANO: Also doing a sequel to serving time

The alderman is now serving a 10 ½-year prison sentence for a deal involving bribes connected to a contract for selling bandages to Stroger Hospital, which came after he had already served prison time – just over two years for his role in the Operation Silver Shovel investigation at City Hall back in the mid-1990s.

But if a return to prison is meant to be Vrdolyak’s fate (his backers can’t believe that any charge is being sought for actions so old), that would be quite the outcome for the man who once defied Harold Washington, saying famously, “It’s a racial thing, don’t kid yourself,...We’re fighting to keep the city the way it is.”

Which is why some people now will take great pleasure if it turns out that a 78-year-old man like Vrdolyak winds up ending his life sitting in a cell somewhere.


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