Mayor Betty's Cicero Nothing like It Was with a Guy Named Capone

Article excerpt

Byline: Chuck Goudie

Despite the gallant efforts of a few oily political leftovers, West suburban Cicero is really nothing like it used to be.

Over the years, Cicero had become synonymous with another six- letter word: Capone.

For many, Cicero's reputation is still that of a gangster hideaway where the minions of Al "Scarface" Capone roam the streets in bulky chalk stripe suits concealing tommy guns.

True enough, Capone oversaw his syndicate of Italian toughs and thugs from Cicero in the Roaring 20s. In 1924, he commandeered the local election by brute force.

Certainly for decades the Chicago mob controlled and dominated politics and police in what had become a thriving enclave for predominantly Italian, Lithuanian and Czech Americans.

But this isn't your daddy's Cicero anymore.

The 2000 Census reveals that Cicero is no longer a stronghold of European immigrants. It is now a center for Hispanics.

Of the 85,616 people who currently live in Cicero, 66,299 are Hispanic. The census didn't break down those who consider themselves gangsters, mobsters, hit men or cartage thieves. But suffice to say that Cicero's Hispanic majority is made of decent, working class people who wear pinstripe suits to things like weddings, baptisms and funerals.

Town President Betty Loren-Maltese may have won landslide victories in Cicero, even handily defeating a Hispanic candidate, but she certainly doesn't represent the ethnicity of her constituents.

This is interesting for a place in which blacks and other minorities were literally run out of town years ago, with the blessing (and sometimes the backhand) of the local police department.

Of course, President Betty has continued to rule Cicero just like the old days, according to federal prosecutors who wrapped up their case against her last week.

She claimed to know nothing of the millions of dollars swiped from town coffers and blamed the whole distasteful scandal on an "old boys network."

After closing arguments in her corruption trial, Loren-Maltese displayed that great old Cicero attribute called "deniability."

"Knowing someone and being involved in illegal activity is two different things," she said.

Overlooking the grammar problem with that sentence, President Betty invoked the same do-no-evil, see-no-evil position, as did a great Cicero-connected character some years ago.

"I've never been a boss, sir," said Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo, the late boss of the Chicago Outfit and a reputed beer salesman, when pressed by a U. …