Meet Daley's New Alderman

Maldonado is Daley's guy

Let's face it: Anyone Mayor Richard M. Daley appoints to the city council is automatically suspect.

You don't work your way into Daley's favor by being an advocate of good, clean, honest government.

You do it by getting your hands dirty - and keeping your  mouth shut.

"Why did I pick Roberto Maldonado?" Daley said on Monday when he announced his choice to replace outgoing Billy Ocasio to represent the 26th Ward. "That is the question."

Not really.

Daley likely picked Maldonado for three reasons: he's confident Maldonado will be a reliable vote for him; he wanted the post to remain in Hispanic hands for political reasons; he wanted to screw the disliked Ocasio, whose own terrible suggestions included a gay-hating reverend and Ocasio's own wife. That part isn't difficult to suss out.

The real question is: Who is Roberto Maldonado?

First the personal, then the political.

"Reminiscent of the hopes of so many immigrants from around the world who have come to America, Roberto’s parents migrated to New York City in 1947 from the impoverished island of Puerto Rico - in search of the American Dream," says Maldonado's website.

"Born in the South Bronx on August 28, 1951, Roberto learned the values of hard work and perseverance from his mother, Carmen, and from his father, Jose, who both worked long hours in factories and small grocery stores in the face of economic exploitation and discrimination."

Long story short after that, Maldonado arrived in Chicago at the age of 27 to pursue his studies at Loyola University while working full-time in the Chicago Public Schools as a psychologist. He opened what he called the first Hispanic-owned mortgage-banking firm in the Midwest, and latched on to Luis Gutierrez, then an alderman, running at least one of his campaigns.

In 1994, he won his seat on the Cook County board, representing the 8th District.

His wife and three children live in Humboldt Park.

Politically, Maldonado has always been seen as a man with a future in higher office, "perhaps in Washington," the Tribune editorial page said in 2003.

Over the years, though, the Tribune has become less enchanted. 

"[Commissioners Joan Murphy, Earlean Collins and Deborah Sims] all fell for empty rhetoric from board member Roberto Maldonado, lead sponsor of the cigarette tax hike, about how the new revenue would help treat childhood asthma and other diseases caused by smoking," the paper said in 2004. 

"Baloney . . . Maldonado's noble-sounding fiction was exposed when [Commissioner Larry] Suffredin confronted him with an amendment to spend all revenue from the cigarette tax not to balance Stroger's budget, but to treat lung illnesses and campaign against smoking. All that piety about helping children? That suddenly went right out the window."

In 2005, the Trib said that Maldonado "fancies himself as [John] Stroger's successor" and "has carried water for Stroger for years - usually at the severe expense of county taxpayers."

Maldonado has consistently seemed to favor raising taxes in areas other than the sales tax.

In 2007, he proposed hikes in jet fuel, hotel and alcohol taxes instead of a sales tax increase.

His plan went nowhere.

Also in 2007, Maldonado had raised $230,000 as an initial stab at Gutierrez's congressional seat before Gutierrez decided to run for re-election. Maldonado said at the time he would keep the money and use it for a 2010 run.

Maldonado highlights health care, immigration, seniors and the environment as issues topping his agenda on his website.

In the council, his agenda will be whatever Daley wants it to be.

That's why he got the job.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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