(Another) chance to save Cicero
BY CAROL MARIN firstname.lastname@example.org January 1, 2013 3:44PM
Cicero Town President Larry Dominick | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 3, 2013 6:15AM
Cicero’s Larry Dominick, president of the town that time forgot, isn’t talking to me.
A terse reply arrived from his press spokesman, Ray Hanania, to a recent email.
“Ray,” I wrote, “Am writing about the Cicero election . . . Would like to talk to President Dominick by phone tomorrow. Is that possible?”
One word was shot back:
Cicero again is at a crossroads. And Dominick is in the crosshairs.
On Feb. 26, four candidates including Dominick, who is seeking a third term, are running to represent 84,000 residents, 80 percent of whom are Hispanic and barely middle class.
Town government has been ripping them off across two centuries dating back to the days of Al Capone.
Sweetheart contracts, padded payrolls, clout-heavy consultants, and patronage armies top Cicero’s sorrowful list of ways to stick it to taxpayer.
Dominick, 64, is just the latest of a lousy lot.
Rising from a garbage truck to the police department to the president’s office, he couldn’t spell “reform.” He got elected only because he was slightly less awful than Henry Klosak, who gave the mob the keys to the town; Betty Loren-Maltese, who was married to the mob and landed in prison; and Romero Gonzalez, who improved the economy of his own family by hiring them all.
Dominick came into office in 2005 promising no nepotism. (A complete and total lie.) And to dump political bloodsuckers like Chicago attorney and Cicero consigliere Ed Vrdolyak. (The truth.) But Dominick brought in his own guy, Michael Del Galdo, who makes Vrdolyak’s multimillion-dollar legal fees look like a paltry public defender paycheck by comparison. Del Galdo also advises other Cicero town boards and school districts. Ka ching, ka ching!
Now three candidates are coming after Dominick. They are political newcomer Lizveth Mendez, a state expert in community affairs with an executive MBA; Joseph Pontarelli, a former town administrator; and most worrisome of all for Dominick, Juan Ochoa.
Ochoa, wisely, does not bill himself as a reformer. Former head of McPier, appointed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Ochoa has plenty of political connections, including U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez. He calls himself a “pragmatist.” And he has begun to hurt Dominick where it counts.
First, Ochoa was part of a lawsuit that threw out Cicero’s kangaroo election board. Gone is the board Dominick controlled that customarily tossed his political enemies off the ballot.
A new, independent election panel is in place. (This qualifies as a bona fide Cicero miracle.)
Second, Ochoa is now working to throw Dominick off the Feb. 26 ballot for failure to reimburse the town for personal expenses he has incurred. Things like the private use of his town car, unpaid license and permit fees, etc. Election law is clear that, if proven, these can disqualify a candidate.
And finally, Ochoa has built a slate of candidates for all Cicero municipal boards and school districts that hire Del Galdo for his legal services.
If Ochoa and his slate wins, not only will Larry Dominick be gone. So will Del Galdo.
People, have we seen this movie before?
Has it ever had a happy ending for Cicero?
So is it wrong to hope?
Just for the hell of it.