Smitty says, ‘This thumb’s for you’
SouthtownStar editorial May 29, 2012 11:20PM
Updated: July 3, 2012 12:43PM
You’ve got to hand it to state Rep. Derrick Smith. We’ve rarely seen someone so determined to ensure his spot in the Illinois Legislature’s Hall of Shame.
Facing a federal felony charge, Smith has resisted Democratic Party officials’ pressure to resign his seat, skipped much of the current legislative session and now has awarded about $185,000 worth of college tuition waivers — even though lawmakers have voted to kill the controversial program as of Sept. 1.
Smith (D-Chicago) was charged in March, a week before the primary election, with taking a $7,000 cash bribe to help what he thought was a day care center trying to obtain a state grant. The nonexistent center was part of a federal sting operation, and agents recorded an informant counting out the cash to Smith.
Democratic Party officials, including Smith’s political mentor, Secretary of State Jesse White, supported Smith in the primary to make sure his Republican opponent would not win (fat chance of that happening in the West Side district). But after getting 77 percent of the vote, Smith suddenly found his Democratic “friends” treating him as if he were radioactive.
White, who had arranged Smith’s appointment to the House last year, and other party poobahs pressured Smith to quit, but he resisted, maintaining his innocence of the criminal charge. So they created a third party in which another Democratic candidate will run against Smith in the Nov. 6 election. Meanwhile, a House special committee is investigating Smith to determine whether he should be expelled.
Amid all this, an apparently unfazed Smith on May 18, one business day before the House agreed with the Senate to end the tainted program, granted his tuition waivers to students for next school year — a move Gov. Pat Quinn described as “very disappointing” and “one more blot” on the program. We would use stronger language.
So, Smith, having thumbed his nose at fellow House members, now has done so to taxpayers as well. It’s what we get when party bosses appoint lackeys rather than leaders.