Tuesday, June 26, 2012



Ever since my first book, The Chairman, A Novel of Big City Politics, came out, most readers, but especially those attuned to the politics of our town, have been trying to determine who the title character, Chairman Eamon DeValera Collins, is in “real life.” Many names have been posited: Richard M. Daley, Richard J. Daley, Mike Madigan, Ed Burke, even Ed Vrdolyak. (See my 10/16/10 post, ED VRDOLYAK, MEET EAMON DEVALERA COLLINS for a treatment of this theory.) All these guesses are, of course, wrong, as would be any guess; Chairman Collins is a fictional character who is no “real” person but who has characteristics of many “real” people, much like another popular fictional character, Don Vito Corleone. (Both The Chairman and its sequel, The Chairman’s Challenge, are available at Amazon.com, Marathonbooks.net, the Irish Book Club, IndieLitWorld.com, and various independent book stores, most notably The Bookies’ on 103rd and Artesian in my old neighborhood.)

After a recent recommendation by the Cook County ethics board, another name will surely be thrown into the hopper as a possible “real world” Chairman Collins, that of Cook County Assessor, 31st Ward Democratic Committeeman, and Cook County Regular Democratic Organization Chairman, Joe Berrios. The ethics board recommended that Assessor Berrios fire his son and his sister from their mid-level jobs in the Assessor’s office but made no recommendation regarding Chairman Barrio’s daughter, who had worked in the Assessor’s office before he arrived (while Mr. Berrios was on the Cook County Board of Review, which hears appeals of property tax assessments made by the Assessor’s office…hmm…) but who has been promoted a few times since her father became her boss. The board has also assessed Chairman Berrios a fine of $10,000, $5,000 for each of the relatives it says he should fire, but, since the board has no enforcement powers, it has to go the Cook County Circuit Court to compel payment; good luck with that.

What really might make one suspect that Mr. Berrios might be Chairman Collins, or vice-versa, was Chairman Barrio’s response to charges that he is an “old-school politician.” To this surely groundless charge, Assessor Berrios replied

If I was an old-school politician, I would have picked up the phone, had someone else hire them and I wouldn’t even be answering these questions.”

Despite such a statement, and the attitude that underlies it, Chairman Collins is NOT Chairman Berrios…nor is Chairman Collins anybody else but Eamon DeValera Collins. But such a statement might cause Diogenes to put down his lantern.

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