Transcript

179:

Cicero
Transcript

Originally aired 03.16.2001

Note: This American Life is produced for the ear and designed to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that's not on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print. © 2001 Chicago Public Media & Ira Glass

Prologue.

Ira Glass

Father Jim Kastigar isn't exactly sure what he and his parish did to get on the bad side of town hall, but he's pretty certain that their meeting with the town president was the turning point. His parish is filled with Mexican-Americans, and they had some complaints about the way the local police were treating them. They presented these complaints to the town president at a big meeting in the church and it got pretty heated. The town president got mad at them. They got mad at her. There must have been 500 people there, and they booed. They actually booed the woman.

In most towns, that would be the end of it. No big deal. Not in Cicero, Illinois.

Next thing Father Kastigar knew, town hall refused to give the church permit to hold its annual Way of the Cross procession at Easter, a Mexican Catholic tradition they'd held peacefully for seven years. They fought. They got the permit.

Then came the tamale dispute. The church youth group was going away on a retreat and they needed to raise some money to do it.

Father Jim Kastigar

So they stayed up all night making tamales in the home. And they were out in front of church, selling the tamales, asking for a donation for the youth group retreat. So I'm just, after mass, I'm still vested. Come out in front. As I was greeting people and standing on the front porch of church, a policeman comes up. Says, have to give you a ticket, Father. I said, what for? I was quite surprised, actually. And so the ticket read, "For running a business without a license."

So I went to court with a lawyer, just a friend. The hearing officer said, "Well, you know, you're right. There's nothing in the ordinance that says this, you need a license. But they clearly meant it to be in the ordinances. But it isn't. So even though it's not there, you're guilty." Then the lawyer that was helping me asked if it would be necessary for a seven year old child selling lemonade on the street in Cicero to have a business license, and the answer was yes.

Ira Glass

The youth group didn't give up. They decided they wanted to get a business license to sell food, fair and square. This meant hepatitis shots and a TB scan and special training course on food sanitation. They did all that and applied for a license. Just one hour later, they say, an inspector showed up at the church and told them they couldn't get their license until they put in a third sink and some other improvements.

Then there was the parking problem. The public school near the church had always left its lot open on Sunday morning for people to use when they went to mass. That is, until the city cut off access.

Father Jim Kastigar

The director of the school, the principal, told me there was an anonymous phone call saying that people were driving through too quickly, very quickly, in the school lot on a Sunday. And my room is right above this parking lot, and I'd never seen anybody drive quickly through it, so I thought that was kind of strange.

There was another anonymous phone call which said that someone on Sunday morning and bumped into the fence, done damage to the school property. Well, even the principal himself told me, Father, I don't see any damage at all. But you know, can't do anything about it. We have to close the parking. So they closed the lots.

They said the parking lot was not sound, structurally sound, for parking cars. Which seems kind of strange, since it's called a parking lot, and because the teachers park there every day. The garbage trucks, big, heavy garbage trucks go across. It certainly seems that the parking lot is fine.

Ira Glass

The city of Cicero insists that it is not targeting the church for political reasons. The timing of these incidents is a coincidence. That the town president, Betty Loren-Maltese, is a Catholic herself, and would never wage war via city inspectors.

But longtime residents are skeptical of these kinds of explanations. Leo Satos moved to Cicero when he was a kid.

Leo Satos

I can put it to you simple. Hitler had the SS. Communists had the KGB. Cicero has the code enforcement. OK?

Ray Hanania

Cicero is like the Twilight Zone. I mean, these are not things that our normal towns in Illinois-- you know, it's not the same in other communities.

Ira Glass

Ray Hanania was a newspaper reporter who went to work for the town as press secretary for three years.

Ray Hanania

In other communities, when you get mad at the mayor, you have a dispute with them. You don't go home worrying about whether you're going to get sued, or whether someone's going to come pounding on your door and inspect your house. You have a disagreement. You move on. And even some people end up being friends. In Cicero it's like, you know, you cross the line, that's it.

Ira Glass

Cicero is just different. For most of the twentieth century, there were direct links between town hall and the mob. Most of the twentieth century, town hall didn't hesitate to strong-arm anybody. If city officials decided they didn't like you, you obeyed, you suffered, or you got out of town. And then finally Cicero row that into a fight that it had trouble winning.

From WBEZ Chicago and Public Radio International, This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today on our program, Cicero, Illinois. The story of a town in a bubble and what happens when the bubble pops.

And let's say before we go any further that Cicero is just over the border on Chicago's west side. And although officially it is called a suburb, what it actually looks like is just another West Side Chicago neighborhood. Working class families, brick bungalow houses.

For decades, Cicero was this place that did not want outsiders moving in. That fought violently against blacks and other minorities coming from town. And then at some point, the outsiders came anyway.

In a sense, this story today is a kind of worst case scenario. You have a town connected to the mob, notoriously racist. So what happens when the town starts to go through the kind of demographic changes that are happening everywhere else, all over America? What happens when people of other races start to show up in large numbers?

Well, what happened in Cicero wasn't just that the town opposed it, kicking and screaming and fighting every step of the way. Though they did. It's a lot more complicated than that.

Just a few weeks from now, the first week of April, 2001, the town will hold elections. The same Republican political machine that has run the town for decades faces a Hispanic challenger who the machine is likely to defeat, despite the fact that three-fourths of the town is now Hispanic. Today we explain how that is possible. Stay with us.

I am joined in this very special edition of our program by Alex Kotlowitz, who will be co-hosting the hour. He is the author of the books There Are No Children Here and The Other Side of the River, and he's an occasional contributor to our program. Welcome, Alex.

Alex Kotlowitz

Hi, Ira.

Ira Glass

So Alex, our plan here is that sometimes we're going to do these stories together. Sometimes we're going to trade off between us. Why don't you take us into act one?

Alex Kotlowitz

Sounds good.

Act One. Untouchables.

Alex Kotlowitz

Act One. Untouchables.

To understand how Cicero handled an influx of Hispanic outsiders, you have to understand how the town traditionally dealt with conflict. And to understand that-- I know this might sound strange-- we have to talk about Al Capone.

Al Capone moved to Cicero in 1924, when Chicago decided to crack down on the mob. In Cicero, he rigged elections with a combination of violence and kidnapping. He installed and controlled the town president. He owned the police force. He made Cicero into a safe haven for his businesses, which at the time employed hundreds of people.

Ira Glass

However the outside world might see Al Capone, people in Cicero remember him fondly.

Sophia Bannick

He was all right. We didn't kick him out of Cicero.

Ira Glass

Here's a lady I met after mass one Sunday at Father Kastigar's church. Sophia Bannick.

Sophia Bannick

He took care of the poor. I mean, he didn't keep all the money for himself. He'd give out the Thanksgiving baskets, food baskets and that, to the very poor families. And so he helped out a lot of families.

Alex Kotlowitz

Here's Christy Berkos, who once was a town lawyer in Cicero, and for a period the town president.

Christy Berkos

I do remember Al Capone, way back when. I was probably five or six years old. He'd get in a little gangway right off of Cicero Avenue and Cermak, and all the kids would gather there, and he would throw change in the air, and all the kids would scramble for all the change. He did it quite often.

Ray Hanania

You could be traveling in South America or Europe and people would do the international sign of Cicero. The fingers like machine guns.

Ira Glass

Rat-a-tat.

Ray Hanania

That's right.

Ira Glass

Again, the town's former press officer, Ray Hanania.

Ray Hanania

You know, this perception that I would encounter all the time in Cicero was, the mob did a good job of running the city. They cleaned the streets. And when the mob was in control, we got our garbage picked up, our taxes were low, crime was down. No, it was! It was, like, amazing.

Ira Glass

People would say this? People would actually say this?

Ray Hanania

Yeah. I mean, all the time. And still do.

Ira Glass

The town's connection to the mob didn't stop with Al Capone. It continued straight through to the present day. In the '90s, the town of Cicero overpaid a mob-connected insurance company $4.5 million. And investigation is still ongoing. In fact, there's been a continuous string of investigations and indictments for decades. Five indictments this year alone, including a few town officials.

Alex Kotlowitz

In 1951, Cicero became notorious for something besides Al Capone when an African American family moved to town, a Chicago bus driver named Harvey Clark with his wife and kids. They kicked off a three day riot in which white mobs entered their apartment and destroyed it, pushing a piano through the wall. Police watched but did nothing. The governor had to call out the National Guard.

There were other incidents as well. By the '60s, the town was known as the Selma of the north. Of course, lots of towns and neighborhoods in the '50s and '60s tried to keep blacks out, but in Cicero, they succeeded.

Leo Satos

Blacks were allowed in Cicero between six in the morning and six at night. Working hours. After that, you know, you're not welcome anymore.

Alex Kotlowitz

Leo Satos and his brother Victor remember how in the '60s, they and their buddies would be hanging around on the street and police would come by and then send them on little missions.

Leo Satos

Oh, sure, many times. I mean, we were just sitting around [UNINTELLIGIBLE] at the tractors, and there's two officers come and say, oh, listen, you guys. There's a black person over-- well, they didn't refer to them as black then. But they'd say, yeah, on 56th and Roosevelt. And it's after six o'clock. And our job was to physically escort them out of town. You know? With rocks, bricks, stones, whatever. You know? And if we didn't, well, we'd end up in jail for illegal gathering or whatever.

Victor Satos

Loitering.

Leo Satos

Yeah. And that'd be the end of story.

Sophia Bannick

Talking about the black people. We've always had them.

Ira Glass

Again, here's Sophia Bannick, one of the Catholic ladies I met after mass.

Leo Satos

Walking down 14th street. Remember, we had National Malibu. They all worked there. They used to go into our stores and ask the butcher to make them a ham sandwich or something. I have a friend who had a tavern. They used to go and have a drink and cash their checks there. And they walked up and down.

We thought nothing of it. In fact, we'd even say hello and everything else. We were never taught to avoid them or shun them or something.

Ira Glass

Do you think it would have been different if they had moved on the block, though?

Sophia Bannick

Well that, yeah, I think so. Yeah.

Ira Glass

In the summer of 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. came to Chicago after his successes in the south and he staged marches in Chicago neighborhoods, that weren't far from Cicero. But when he threatened to march in Cicero, county officials warned that it would be a "suicide mission." That was the phrase they used.

As recently as the 1980s, a federally monitored effort to desegregate Cicero failed to lure black families to town. Around that time, a run-in between a police sergeant and one of the few African Americans who had moved to Cicero resulted in 1980s-era mandatory human relations training for the entire Cicero police force.

Long-time civil rights activist Cal Williams helped organized the session.

Cal Williams

When we got there, most of the people who came in with blue T-shirts with the lettering "Cicero Police and Proud of It" across them. Except for the sergeant. And he had his own separate T-shirt. And it said, "Police Brutality-- The Fun Part of Police Work." And that was their message to us.

Ira Glass

So this was the environment the Mexican-Americans moved to when they arrived in Cicero starting in the 1970s. Hostile residents, hostile officials. And this is where our story really begins.

Act Two. The Inevitable.

Alex Kotlowitz

Act Two. The Inevitable.

It was economics that finally integrated Cicero, succeeding where protest marches failed. By the '70s and '80s, old Cicero was disintegrating on its own. Industries shutting down, grown kids moving away, the older generation dying off. Mexican-Americans wanted the houses and realtors needed someone to sell them to.

After all the violence when blacks tried to move in, if you ask longtime residents why they felt Mexican-Americans were acceptable neighbors, they often just kind of shrug and reply, well, they weren't black. Having said that, for the first wave of newcomers, things could get pretty rough. This is Frank Aguilera, whose family moved here in the '70s.

Frank Aguilera

First thing they did to my house was burn my garage, killed my dog, and put a swastika on my doorway.

Ira Glass

Killed the dog?

Frank Aguilera

They poisoned him.

Ira Glass

And that was within how soon after--

Frank Aguilera

In about a week after we moved to Cicero. About 25 years ago.

Ira Glass

Why did you decide to stay?

Frank Aguilera

Well, I was a child, so I had no choice.

Ira Glass

Why did your family decide to stay?

Frank Aguilera

Well, they liked Cicero. You know, they bought their first home. And it was the American dream, owning their own house.

Ira Glass

1980. Just a fraction of the town was Hispanic. By 1990, it was a third of Cicero. In the 2000 census, Hispanic residents make up 77% of the town. Drive on Cermak Road and when you see today is a clean, prospering community whose businesses are mostly Mexican. Groceries and banquet halls and banks, with just a handful of aging storefronts that say things like "Dumpling Capital of USA."

But as this population shift happened, the old guard that ran the town did everything possible to hold on, which included all sorts of things that no other town anywhere seemed to have ever tried. The person behind most of these efforts was the current president of Cicero, a woman named Betty Loren-Maltese. She's had such a visible profile in Cicero that most everyone there now simply refers to her as "Betty." Here's how she came to power.

She was once married to a city official named Frank Maltese, 19 years her senior, who also apparently worked as a bookie for a mobster with the unhappy name Rocco Infelise. In 1990, Frank Maltese pled guilty to mob-related gambling charges. But he hadn't started to serve his time when the then-town president died. Frank Maltese was the heir apparent, but facing prison time, he had his wife appointed to the job. She had also been working in the city government. He died the same year she took office, in 1993, and she named the town's public safety building after him. We were unable to determine if it is the only government building in Illinois named after a convicted mobster.

The white constituents of Cicero feared that having Mexican-Americans in town meant Hispanic gangs were coming to town. And in fact, in some neighborhoods, there some new gang activity. Betty Loren-Maltese put in place a series of ordinances that was so aggressive that in fact they were were found to violate the United States Constitution. First there was a measure to limit the number of people who could live in any one residence, apparently aimed at big Hispanic families. Then a measure that would seize the cars of suspected gang members and one that would evict gang members from town. The city start suing the parents of kids who were in gangs.

Ray Hanania worked for Betty Loren-Maltese starting in 1993 and described the kind of debates that would surround these ordinances.

Ray Hanania

One of the ideas we came up with was when you arrest a street gang member, put them to some public use. Make them sweep the streets. Make them clean windows. Make them scour the graffiti off the garage doors. It seemed like a great idea.

And Betty just needed to take it one step further. She wanted to make them wear a pink apron. And the logic was good. I mean, when you think about the logic-- she wanted to embarrass. She knew that the power of street gangs wasn't just being a member. It was the peer pressure and intimidation. So put a pink apron on them and let your tough friends see you sweeping the curbs.

It wasn't exactly a good idea, because I remember it went into the board meeting, and I know a lot of us argued against it. But again, you know, she has a way of prevailing over everything in Cicero.

One of the candidates running against her brought a pink apron to town hall just before the election and said, yeah, I like the idea of the pink apron. Let's start with your husband, who is a street gang member, too. And just kind of the whole town board meeting just kind of erupted into pandemonium. Everybody yelling, and this pink apron being waved in the air, and Betty screaming at the guy, and the guy screaming at her, and you know, the police intervening-- it was just a mini 1968 Chicago Democratic riot.

Alex Kotlowitz

In putting together today's radio program, we tried a number of times to get an interview with Betty Loren-Maltese, but were always turned down by her spokesman, Dave Donohue.

Dave Donohue

Generally as a rule, she just doesn't give interviews.

Ira Glass

Is she giving any interviews during the campaign? I mean, she's running for--

Dave Donohue

Not so far.

Alex Kotlowitz

We asked for a copy of her schedule. Maybe we could watch her at a fundraiser or meeting with the town committee. No, we were told. They don't give out her schedule because of threats on our life.

Dave Donohue

Over the last four years, she's had so many different ordinances and civil lawsuits filed against gangs that they've become very angry, and they've taken it out on her in terms of threats against her and her family.

Ira Glass

When is the last time-- how often does that happen?

Dave Donohue

I don't really talk to the police chief about it much. He takes it all in. And a lot of it has been turned over to the Attorney General and the State's Attorney, as well.

Alex Kotlowitz

So we checked with the Attorney General and State's Attorney and they told us in fact, no one's reported any threats on her life. Which brings us to the real reason she doesn't do interviews.

Dave Donohue

She's got a 99% name ID rate in this town, and like a 70% approval rate. She doesn't really enjoy the media spotlight, and she doesn't need media attention to win her election.

Alex Kotlowitz

Under Betty Loren-Maltese, Cicero cops would stop Mexican-Americans for ordinary traffic violations and demand to see their green cards. Town hall ordered a bank that flew the Mexican flag to lower it. Police broke up a baptism party with tear gas.

When David Niebur moved to town to run the police department in 1998, this is what he found.

David Niebur

You know, officers were shaking down Hispanics on a regular basis. I learned within just the first couple of days that the quote unquote "Gang Unit" was arresting Hispanics, sometimes 25 to 30 people at a time, and their crime was standing on a corner. There was absolutely no probable cause whatsoever for the arrest of the Hispanics, other than they were Hispanic.

Alex Kotlowitz

Here's Niebur's story. It's a brief one, but that's only because his stay in Cicero was brief. He'd actually been brought in by Maltese to reform the police department, or at least that's what he'd been told.

Then came his undoing. He found some evidence suggesting that the towing company that does the town's towing might be selling stolen cars. And he told the FBI. The company, Ram Recovery, also happens to be one of the largest contributors to the town president's campaign fund. Betty Loren-Maltese publicly called Niebur a "nitwit" and fired him after just four months on the job.

The police department shipped Niebur his personal belongings. One item was a statue of a policeman holding the hand of a little boy.

David Niebur

This was all in styrofoam, peanut-type thing wrapping. But the head of the police officer had been twisted off and laid nicely inside with the rest of it.

Ira Glass

When we asked Cicero spokesman Dave Donahue why Niebur was fired, he said it wasn't because he was cooperating with the FBI, but because he simply mishandled town documents.

Dave Donohue

What David Niebur did, in a misguided attempt to either make himself look better or to ingratiate himself with federal officials, decided to turn over all the original towing records to them without making a copy.

Ira Glass

But in a case like that, wouldn't it be a simple matter just to get the Feds to make copies and send them back?

Dave Donohue

It would've been. And the town attorney was going to do that. And he specifically told Niebur, I believe, well, just hold on. We're going to make a copy and then we're going to give it to him. And he, of his own volition, decided to turn over all the original records that could have been copied, and it caused a very serious problem at town administration.

Ira Glass

No, but I mean, once the town found out that he had turned over the originals, couldn't they just go to the Feds and say, you know, make us copies and send these back? It doesn't seem like that serious a thing.

Dave Donohue

I don't know if they give you back records after they've gotten them. You know, I couldn't tell you that.

Ira Glass

The towing company, Ram Recovery, was never indicted and has denied any wrongdoing.

When I meet with real estate agent Armando Gonzales he tells me a series of horror stories about how the town of Cicero seemed to target his real estate firm with all sorts of rules that they didn't apply to other realtors. Rules that cost him literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. this company went from being the largest real estate firm in town-- 48 sales agents in a huge office space-- to being run out of Cicero, nearly bankrupted.

Armando Gonzalez

We did not know how to respond to the problem that we had. But agents were having problems with inspections, with us not being able to get compliance. In the room where out there was, we were in trouble with the town. So people didn't want to give us business anymore.

Ira Glass

When Armando Gonzalez to Cicero to court, a judge ruled that in fact he had been treated differently from other firms.

So why did town hall single him out with such a punitive treatment? Gonzalez's lawyer suggested it was because he was Mexican-American, and, more than anybody, was building a new wave of low-cost homes for Mexican-Americans. Though town hall was hoping to slow the Hispanic migration to town this way, it doesn't seem like a very effective strategy.

Perhaps he just wasn't doing business the Cicero way. On the witness stand, Gonzalez told the story of how he needed a certain town permit once and was set to meet with one of Betty Loren-Maltese's advisors who told him, he'd get the permit, but he should be sure to take care of Betty. He sent her flowers. Presumably this was not enough caring. Maltese's spokesman, by the way, denies that this happened, and the town is appealing the case.

Whatever the truth is, Gonzalez's problems with the town, like David Niebur's, don't seem to be only about race. And this is part of what makes all this so complicated. At some point, it seems, town hall decided that it didn't matter what race ended up living in Cicero. What mattered is that they played by Cicero rules.

Those rules, Gonzales says, are remarkably familiar for someone like him, who grew up in Mexico. This town that's made life so hard for Mexican-Americans, he says, actually runs a lot like the old one-party government in Mexico.

Armando Gonzalez

I mean, it's like a government that shouldn't exist in this country. I don't know why these things keep happening in this town. It seems like somehow they are untouchable. They do whatever they want.

Ira Glass

The one difference between the sister of government and the old PRI party that ran Mexico, he says, is that in Mexico, after 70 years, people voted the old guard out. Why that hasn't happened in Cicero in a minute from our own PRI, Public Radio International, when our program continues.

Act Three. War By Other Means.

Alex Kotlowitz

Moreno was well-connected. It looked like the first time an Hispanic candidate could win. So town officials introduced a referendum lengthening the residency requirement to run for president from a year to year and a half. This would have kept Moreno out of the race, and it so alarmed a federal judge that he knocked the referendum off the ballot, and then told the town that for the next five years, federal monitors would be sent to Cicero to watch over every election.

Then on December 15 of last year, Moreno and his wife were coming home from a late night party in Chicago. He claims they were tailed by an unmarked Cicero police car, and as they entered Cicero, they spotted another cruiser parked with its lights off right on the border.

Joseph Mario Moreno

We did both simultaneously say, they're going to stop us. They're waiting for us. I was given field sobriety tests, passed those tests. Four and a half hours later, I found I was charged with a DUI. I asked to take a breathalyzer. I was declined. Police officers indicated to me I "got to do what I was told to do." Quote.

You know, they claimed that it was a random stop. I drive a black Navigator with MORENO plates. You could smell something foul in that whole incident. I mean, that incident baptized me into Cicero politics.

Ira Glass

This was a smear campaign. Moreno made it easy for opponents. Because of a previous DUI conviction, it's actually illegal for him to drive at night at all. As Betty Loren-Maltes's spokesman Dave Donahue happily points out.

Dave Donohue

He said he was framed. But you cannot get framed for driving on a revoked license. Either you were driving on a revoked license or you weren't. And that's why, to this day, he still-- you ask him, were you driving that night? He says he won't answer. He refuses to say.

Alex Kotlowitz

And that's true. We asked him.

Alex Kotlowitz

Did I read, is this true, that you weren't supposed to be driving?

Joseph Mario Moreno

That's assuming I was driving. That's one of the things we won't discuss because we want to keep them thinking.

Ira Glass

Just to be clear, under the terms of when you're allowed to drive, was it legal for you to drive at all after 7 PM that night?

Joseph Mario Moreno

Assuming I was driving, absolutely not.

Alex Kotlowitz

Regardless, the Attorney General didn't see enough in the case to prosecute Moreno.

Ira Glass

And in February, the Maltese campaign tried another tactic which led the local news that night.

Announcer

Political rivals of Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno first accused him of beating one of his ex-wives and failing to support their child. Citing 1974 divorce files in which a Diana Moreno claims a Joseph Moreno subjected her to repeated mental cruelty.

Woman

We will no longer accept a fallen leader anymore. It is hurting our community. It will hurt our youth. And it will hurt everyone.

Ira Glass

Problem was, they had the wrong guy. As Moreno told reporters at his own press conference later that day--

Joseph Mario Moreno

They're greatly mistaken. That Joseph Moreno in that '74 divorce case is not me.

Alex Kotlowitz

In the hands of the right candidate, such a blatant and botched attempt at character assassination could be spun into political gold. But Moreno hasn't really capitalized on the opportunities handed him. What's more, Moreno is rather soft on specifics about what he'll do for Cicero. He means a lot more on the big general statements about how it's time to elect an Hispanic.

When we asked him why he's campaigning for this job, here's what he said.

Joseph Mario Moreno

Why am I doing it? I guess I'm the chosen one. I have no idea! It needs to be done. And I think Cicero is long overdue for this change.

Frank Aguilera

When they started saying, well, we need a change-- the change is too late. It's too late. The change has been in process. The change happened.

Ira Glass

Frank Aguilera works for Betty Loren-Maltese. And he says compared to when he first moved to Cicero, things have indefinitely improved.

Frank Aguilera

This is nothing. I mean, I was jumped many times 25 years ago. And the police looking at me while I'm getting jumped 25 years ago because I'm Mexican.

Ira Glass

We met Aguilera area back on primary night in February at Betty Loren-Maltese's primary victory party. Yellow balloons everywhere, a buffet of chicken and mashed potatoes. About a third of the room was Hispanic.

At one of the tables were members of the Mexican-American Chamber of Commerce in Cicero. They told me that they debated for a long time who to support in this election, and that it was a close vote between them. But in the end, they decided on Betty. They like the idea of an Hispanic candidate, but they just felt Moreno wasn't up to the job.

[? Luiso ?] [? Heller ?] owns a travel agency and is treasurer of the Chamber. He says sure, the police in Cicero could use some sensitivity training. Sure, some things at hand could still be improved. But he likes that Betty Loren-Maltese keeps a tight rein. He likes the clean streets and the crackdown on gangs.

Chamber Of Commerce Member

You know what? We knew that Cicero was tough, and that is the reason we moved here. When you talk to the Mexican-American homeowners, obviously they like the security that they feel with the current administration, with so many cops. They moved into a town looking for a better way of life, and obviously they moved in because they thought that Cicero, it's more secure than Chicago. You know? I mean I grew up in 26th street, and I know what that is. And I moved into Cicero, because I looked in the area, and it's-- sure, you know, the cops are tough. You know? But really, realistically, that is what I want.

Ira Glass

Betty Loren-Maltese's is campaign slogan is "She's Tough Because She Cares." It's actually this combination of toughness and caring that's new about her politics.

Alex Kotlowitz

At some point in her tenure, it must have become clear that she'd never stay in office if she only responded to the flood of Hispanics with hostile ordinances and punitive policing. To those old-school Cicero tactics, she's added the more modern approach of maintaining power by sharing it, or at least seeming to share it.

And so today in Cicero, there's an odd mix of hostility and accommodation all happening at the same time. She's helped build five schools for the new Hispanic families in town. There are lots of Hispanic faces at town hall. Three of the four town trustees are all Hispanic. Maltese's assistant is Hispanic. And she just announced a minority set-aside program funneling public money to minority-owned businesses. And before she takes the stage at her own victory party, there's this.

Ramiro Gonzalez

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Alex Kotlowitz

Town trustee Ramiro Gonzales gives a speech. He thanks the campaign workers, threatens gangs who supposedly disrupted voting, and concludes with this.

Ramiro Gonzalez

[SPEAKING SPANISH] Betty! Gracias.

Ira Glass

People yell "Betty" and "Viva." And then there she is. We finally see her in person. Betty Loren-Maltese, looking a bit like Elizabeth Taylor during the John Warner years. Middle aged woman in black pantsuit, heavy black mascara, long eyelashes, a crown of teased, swept-up air. Given the ham-handedness of her attacks on Moreno, she handles the crowd and the press-- there are a half dozen TV cameras present-- like a seasoned political pro.

She has a certain charisma. Incredibly, one of the first things she does is actually thank the federal monitors who came to town to keep an eye on her.

Betty Loren

I want to thank the outside agencies, especially the federal monitors who came in. Because I know it was a tedious task for them, and I'm sure they did not want to be here. And I hope they continue to remain with us, because I think they'll see that the problem is not with the Republicans, but--

Ira Glass

Not long after, she reads the day's lopsided voting results to her fellow Republicans.

Betty Loren

Republican ballots cast were 7,499. Democrats were 3,798. Well, come on. I mean, it is a democracy!

Ira Glass

In the end, twice as many people voted for Maltese in this primary as for all the other candidates in both parties combined. The measure of what a long shot this race is for Moreno will be her Democratic opponent in the general election in April.

Betty Loren

Well, if the media wants to leave, we can party. And I'll tell you again, I was never afraid against Mario running. I was afraid of him driving.

Ira Glass

Moreno's only chance is if he could bring thousands of new voters out to the polls, something no one in Cicero has ever done. Meanwhile, Betty Loren-Maltese has amassed a million dollars to spend on the campaign. A huge amount. A crazy amount by any standards for an election in a town that you can drive from end to end in just ten minutes.

Betty Loren

Thank you. And viva Cicero!

Act Four. They Say Our Love Is Here To Stay.

Ira Glass

Act Four. They Say Our Love is Here to Stay.

A town like Cicero, what it produces is insiders and outsiders. And just as some people can become addicted to being on the inside of a system, you can get addicted to the rush of trying to bring the system down. This next story is the story of somebody who got stuck doing that, inadvertently, for a long, long time. Then he tried to get away, but that turned out not to be so easy.

Alex tells the whole story. A warning to our listeners that there is a possibly questionable word hidden somewhere in this story.

Alex Kotlowitz

This past October, Dave Boyle and his wife Nadine moved back to Cicero after being away for 10 years. "I have unfinished business," he told me.

Let me first, though, fill you in on Dave's first tenure in Cicero. He moved here in 1983 and accidentally stumbled into town politics. Early one morning on his way to a contracting job, Dave drove past Mr. C's, a bikers' bar on the corner. Some guys were standing around outside drinking, and there on the sidewalk lay a biker who had been stabbed to death.

It was shocking. Dave wanted the bar shut down. So he went to see the town's deputy liquor commissioner, who was also a police officer. He was told to back off. Many of the taverns were connected to the mob.

Dave Boyle

And he told me that not only is there nothing I can do about it, but if I did anything about it, not only would they kill you, Boyle, but they might kill me. And that's not going to happen. So you just go away. And even say it that nice.

Alex Kotlowitz

So you go to this assistant liquor commissioner, and tells you, if it were me, I probably would say, OK, fine.

Dave Boyle

[INAUDIBLE] or else I'm gone. I just thought-- well, basically, I thought [BLEEP] you. You're not going to-- I'm Dave Boyle. I walk upright and I ask the police officer to the right thing. And he told me, the mob won't let you do it. And I thought, what kind of pussy are you?

Alex Kotlowitz

A word here about Dave Boyle. He's a Vietnam vet and is built like a rugby player. Under different circumstances, Dave might have been a barroom brawler. He's loud, curses lots, likes to brag about what a good fighter he is. In short, the perfect person to take on Cicero. In fact, it's hard to imagine any other kind of person being willing to take on the town.

At the time, Cicero still had a whole thriving district full of strip joints and prostitutes and bars that stayed open until 6 AM. Dave fought to get Mr. C's shut down, and then went to the police department, and in his typically belligerent way, ordered them to close down five other bars.

Dave Boyle

12 hours later, my garage blew up with my cars and all my tools.

Alex Kotlowitz

You say that it blew up.

Dave Boyle

Yeah. They blew it up.

Alex Kotlowitz

You mean it caught fire?

Dave Boyle

Yeah. Caught fire. That's what it did. Yeah. It caught fire. It was just a fire. It was a coincidence. It took about 10 minutes to burn the whole thing to the ground, cars and all.

Alex Kotlowitz

As you've probably observed about Cicero by this point, it doesn't like to be told what to do. Especially by outsiders. So you can imagine then how angry the town leaders were when Dave and his wife collected enough signatures for a referendum to shut the bars at 2 AM. Then the referendum passed by three to one margin. But nothing happened. The then-town president ignored the vote, which transformed Dave into a kind of minor celebrity, with stories about him in the newspapers and on TV. He was talking with the FBI.

So what might otherwise have been a fairly small matter, the time bars should close, suddenly became quite big. Dave and Nadine soon found a dead snake slung over their front porch railing, and the police harassed Dave, arresting him or threatening to arrest him, some 11 times. It all took over their lives. And it all got to Nadine.

Nadine Boyle

I didn't talk to my friends anymore because I felt so weird. I felt different than they did. They were having babies and, you know, decorating their houses with Laura Ashley things, and building a--

Dave Boyle

[INAUDIBLE] burglar bars.

Nadine Boyle

Yeah, cleaning up burglar bars and cleaning up ashes from the garage. It was a completely different life, and the only people who seemed to understand us were reporters, and people from the crime commission and the FBI. And other people from Cicero.

Alex Kotlowitz

Here's how far it went. Dave made not one, but two bids for local office. But his bluntness and go-it-alone style didn't exactly win him votes. At one point, he posted a sign in the town president's office saying "Future Office of Dave Boyle." He lost both elections.

After seven years of fighting town hall, Dave and Nadine decided it was time to go. Friends felt they were run out of town. And though Dave says it wasn't the case, it was. They were beaten down, drained, both emotionally and financially. And Nadine, quite frankly, just wanted to get the hell out of there. So they moved to Houston, Texas in 1990.

Fast forward 10 years later. Dave's now a lawyer. He suggests to Nadine that hey, maybe they move back. Nadine balks. So Dave promises Nadine, look. I won't get so involved this time around. They buy a brick bungalow this past October and Dave soon wanders into town hall and sees some old faces.

Dave Boyle

I was at the town hall. I can't remember the exact date, but I was at the legal department a month, month and a half ago. And I was handing some papers in. And I look to my right, and there I see Tony Accardo. And he looked at me like he'd just seen a ghost. And I said, Mr. Accardo, good morning. And I approached him. I went to shake his hand.

Alex Kotlowitz

And he was the head of the buildings--?

Dave Boyle

He was the head of the building department. And many of those guys have fallen on hard times here recently. He made the sign of the cross in front of me. You're back! Oh my god! And he made a quick side of the cross. He says, thank god I'm retired. You can't get to me.

Alex Kotlowitz

Dave notices changes in the town. The strip joints are gone. The bars finally close at 2 AM. Lots of people everywhere speaking Spanish, which he likes.

But the town, he learns, is still up to its old tricks. When he and Nadine settled on their house, they were asked to sign a document which would give the town the right to search their home for housing code violations any time it wanted.

Dave Boyle

They do that every Mexican that buys a house in this town. And well, just look around who's buying a house in this town. They're Mexican people. They don't read English. They got three earners to pay off one mortgage, and they're all going to live in a house. And they're all signing these affidavits that give the police, anybody from town hall, the right to enter their house without notice and without a warrant.

Alex Kotlowitz

Dave insisted the town change the wording of this document, which they did that same day. And that got the ball rolling. Soon he got involved in the upcoming elections, working for a candidate who's opposing Betty Loren-Maltese. For Nadine, as you might imagine, it all began to feel familiar.

Nadine Boyle

He said it's going to be different this time. I'm a lawyer. None of those same things are going to happen. Don't worry. I won't get involved in politics. I won't run for office, and I certainly won't use our money to do it. And--

Dave Boyle

I haven't used any of our money! Except what I gave away.

Nadine Boyle

So I caved. I did.

Alex Kotlowitz

Well, you've been back now for three months. Has he kept his word?

Nadine Boyle

Since October. About not getting--?

Alex Kotlowitz

About not getting back involved.

Nadine Boyle

He hasn't quite kept--

Dave Boyle

He's a lying mother [BLEEP], isn't he?

Nadine Boyle

I told him once, when he was starting to get involved with this recent campaign, I said, Dave, I see you going down that whirlpool. It's taking you down again. And he actually pulled back a little bit. He did. Not much, but he did.

Alex Kotlowitz

I asked Dave what his next move is. "I'm going to build an attached garage," he tells me. "No, how about in terms of the town?" I ask. He smiles and says, "That's part of it. I have to apply for a permit," he says. That's his plan. Say bad things about the town president in public and then apply for a permit.

Ira Glass

These days one of the most interesting things about Cicero, despite everything we've told you this hour, about town hall antagonizing its own citizens, is this. If you actually walk the neighborhoods and talk to people about how they're getting along with their neighbors, most people seem to be getting along just fine. You hear lots of stories of older white residents who were wary at first, but then warmed up. There's still rough moments, but things seem way more civil, way more friendly than you would expect, given the town's history. Alex put together this story about three neighbors.

Alex Kotlowitz

Here's another way to measure the changes in Cicero. We met a woman named Loretta Rivera who moved to town back in the mid-'80s. She found it to be so hostile to Hispanics that she and her family moved out. Five years later, after more Hispanics had settled in Cicero, she tried again. This time it was easier.

Loretta told me about two of her neighbors, Annie and Nancy. Both of them white, both of them longtime Cicero residents. She considered one of them to be very accepting, and one not accepting it all. But the reality may be more complicated than that.

Here's Loretta with one of the women, Annie Ryder, in Annie's kitchen. They're close friends, even though Loretta, now a a second grade teacher, is 40, and Annie, a widow, is 74. Loretta is explaining to Annie what it was like the first time she and her husband Conrado moved to Cicero.

Loretta

I told you about when we used to rent on 53rd Court, the Polish guy that almost got into a fight with Conrado. His big problem was that we were parking in front of his house.

Annie

No, you never told me.

Loretta

I never told you that? It was Christmas Eve and he was a little tipsy. And he came out screaming at us, telling us, you know, you should go back to your country, why the hell are you here? You shouldn't park in front of my yard. I pay taxes. You don't pay anything. And I remember Conrado, because being so angry-- I mean, I had to literally grab him, because he was going to hit the guy. And I remember Conrado, out of frustration-- he didn't even know what he said. His English was very broken. And I remember him telling him, you Poland, go back to Polish, or something. He said, you even said it wrong! You don't say it that way.

And he also, again, blamed us, you know. That that's why Cicero was in such a bad rut, because ever since Mexicans started moving here, we were ruining the town, and blah blah blah.

Annie

This town has been ruined so many times! It's like oh, forget it.

Alex Kotlowitz

We usually talk about how the newcomers assimilate to their new environment. But as I listen to Annie and Loretta, I was struck by how it was Annie who assimilated to the newcomers.

Annie

Did she tell you we used to walk every morning at 6 o'clock in the morning?

Loretta

5:30. There were [UNINTELLIGIBLE] 5:30.

Alex Kotlowitz

Did you learn any Spanish?

Annie

Yo no se.

Loretta

She learns it and then she forgets it. I remember when we first started walking, remember, we made a deal? Every week I was going to teach you a new word. And then the next day I would ask her and she would go, huh? Ah, forget it! And then we would come and have coffee.

Alex Kotlowitz

Of the 12 homes on Annie's and Loretta's street, seven are owned by Hispanics, five by whites. It wasn't that the white homeowners who stayed were necessarily more tolerant than those who left. But some of the older folks have lived here all their lives and just didn't want to go, despite frequent appeals from realtors.

Loretta

I remember getting something in the mail. Something about, if you're not comfortable where you live, if you fear for your safety, call this number. We'll sell your house.

Annie

Oh, I called up that time. I called up the realtor. It was blockbusting.

Alex Kotlowitz

And you called the realtor? And what did you tell him?

Annie

I yelled. I said, you're doing the same thing as the blockbusters that did it on the West Side. Exactly the same thing. That stuff really-- to my mind, it's goofiness. You know, it's just somebody's out to make a buck, is what it is.

Alex Kotlowitz

When I first met Loretta, and I asked her about her Anglo neighbors, she volunteered a story that happened when she first moved in 12 years ago that clearly still bothers her. And it involves the other older white woman on the block, Nancy Chauvlin. Nancy is 70 and has lived in Cicero her entire life. Nancy has actually been friends with Annie since she was 18. In fact, Nancy found Annie her house.

Loretta remembers Nancy making comments to the effect that the quality of life in Cicero had declined since Mexican-Americans moved in, that there was more of a gang problem.

Loretta

And she would look at me like if it was my fault. And I would tell her, Nancy, we're not all the same. Just like in every race, there's good apples and bad apples. Do you see my kids in gangs? You know? But I don't think I ever really-- how can I put it-- made her understand.

Alex Kotlowitz

So I went to visit Nancy, whose home is just three doors down from Loretta's. And I was kind of surprised by what I found.

Nancy

I'm perfectly content here. And I have to say this. We see a lot more flowers getting planned around here than what we do with the old timers. We [? see, too, ?] they're planting gardens and fixing houses up. And a lot of the homes were let go by the older people. They weren't caused by the Hispanics moving in and destroying them. They were already unkempt buildings, and now the Hispanic people have come in, and many of them are really trying to fix things up.

Alex Kotlowitz

It turns out that Nancy helped Dave Boyle close down Mr. C's, the bikers' bar, going door-to-door with petitions, and she raised $600 from neighbors to rebuild Boyle's charred garage. For Nancy, like Annie, this was her home, and so it never occurred to her to move.

Alex Kotlowitz

Have you learned Spanish at all?

Nancy

I took one course of Conversational Spanish at Morton College. Went back for the second course, they didn't have enough students, so they didn't have the course.

I used to go in one little store over here when I was taking the course. And a greeting in Spanish is "Hola!" Like "hello." Every day I'd go in the store, and before I walked in I thought, I got this right this time. And I go in and I go, "Halo!" And they just cracked up. No, that's wrong. It's like, here she comes again, you know?

Alex Kotlowitz

Have you acquired a taste for Mexican food at all?

Nancy

Oh yeah, sure. I make my family stuff. My son-in-law is Mexican. I couldn't ask for a better son-in-law. And his family's wonderful.

Alex Kotlowitz

Do you speak any Spanish with him?

Nancy

No, and he doesn't. And I told him, when the kids were little, I said Al, teach your kids Spanish! But he didn't want to do that.

Alex Kotlowitz

Can I be real straight with you for a moment? It was curious to me, but I talked to Loretta--

Finally I got up the courage to tell Nancy that Loretta thought she had some hostility towards Hispanics.

Nancy

I don't know why she'd even think that. The only thing I can think of is they have a dog, a chow dog, and when he was a puppy, they used to let him run wild all the time, and my daughter picked up twice, he almost got hit by a car. We heard the car screech, and there was Jenny picking the dog up. And she yelled at Loretta. And she said, keep the dog in! He's going to die. Because we had a chow and we loved it. But that's only incident I can think of.

Alex Kotlowitz

Nancy doesn't recall making the kinds of remarks that Loretta complained about, though she does remember telling Loretta that there was a gang problem, and a lot of the Hispanic people don't keep tabs on their children.

This is where we get into the area where she and Loretta may never see eye-to-eye. Nancy doesn't see statements like these as offensive. She just thought they were statements of fact. Before the gang kids weren't here, now they were. And there were young kids hanging on the street corners late at night. From Loretta's point of view, it was clearly offensive.

Though it's not as if Loretta is angry at Nancy. Wary is more like it. And maybe, they both said to me, when the weather warms, and they're hanging out in the backyard, they'll have a chance to talk. Or maybe they'll run into each other at Mary Queen of Heaven, the church on the corner.

Annie

And this is Virginia Diaz--

Alex Kotlowitz

Which brings me back to Annie. One Sunday I attended Mary Queen of Heaven with her. We walked form the sacristy to the choir loft-- but not very far, but a 20 minute journey with Annie, who stops to say hello to everyone in our path.

Annie

This is Armando Herrera, and he can't sing--

Armando Herrera

The best good-looking guy--

Annie

You can't sing.

Armando Herrera

Well, you don't want me to, that's why.

Alex Kotlowitz

There's something remarkably easy about Annie, and it's what I think, in the end, so drew Loretta to her. Annie has for 30 years been a musical director at the church. The organ is located in the balcony, at the rear of the church. And from there, Annie, perched on a wooden piano bench, has watched this row change. On Sunday, she plays organ for the English mass at 8:30, and then for the Spanish mass that starts right after.

Alex Kotlowitz

Annie, can you understand the sermon?

Annie

I can get the gist of it. Want to know what the gist of it is? The basic gist of it is, I give you a new commandment. Love one another as I have loved you. That's the basis.

Alex Kotlowitz

This church's congregation once was all white. On the morning I was there, at the English mass, there were maybe 150 worshippers spread out in the pews, all, as Annie joked, over the age of 90. At the Spanish mass, the pews filled with a thousand people, mostly families. Some couldn't find seats, and so stood along the walls of the church. Over the years, Annie has learned the Spanish hymns.

Annie

[SINGING IN SPANISH]

Alex Kotlowitz

The changes in Cicero, as Annie will tell you, haven't made the town better or worse. They just are what they are. Annie now has her hair done by a Mexican-American, because quite simply, it's the closest hair salon. It's just around the corner.

The last time I saw her, she was talking about going to the traditional Quinceanera celebration for Loretta's younger daughter. It's being held at a place in Cicero called the European-American Hall. Some things change more slowly than others.

Annie

[SINGING IN SPANISH]

Credits.

Ira Glass

Well, our program was produced today but Blue Chevigny, Alex Kotlowitz, and me, with Alex Blumberg, Jonathan Goldstein, and Starlee Kine. Senior producer Julie Snyder. Production help form Todd Bachmann and Annie Baxter.

[ACKNOWLEDGMENTS]

This American Life is distributed by Public Radio International.

[FUNDING CREDITS]

WBEZ management oversight by Torey Malatia, you know, who used to visit Cicero and say things like,

Rico

You won't be sorry for letting me in, Mr. Vettori. I'll shoot square with you. I'll do anything you say. I ain't afraid of nothing.

Ira Glass

No, he isn't. I'm Ira Glass. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.

Announcer

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