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Mihalopoulos: Challenger seeks 1 of D’Amico’s 2 government jobs

Jac Charlier, Illinois House 15th District Democratic primary candidate. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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As he campaigns against “the last political family standing on the Northwest Side,” Jac Charlier passes out a business card that bestows a one-word job title: “Citizen.”

Best known for his role in the grassroots battle against O’Hare jet noise, Citizen Jac is making his first run for elected office this year, seeking the more formal title of state representative.

Charlier’s foe in the March 15 primary is Democratic state Rep. John D’Amico, a member of the extended Laurino/D’Amico clan that has enjoyed a near-monopoly on Far Northwest Side power for 52 years.

“This is the real face of the Chicago machine — they get theirs and we pay for it,” Charlier says at a coffee shop in the business district of Edgebrook, one of the quiet city neighborhoods in the 15th Illinois House District, which stretches into the northwest suburbs.

D’Amico serves in city government as well as Springfield, taking home two taxpayer-funded salaries worth a total of well into six figures each year.

OPINION

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D’Amico’s pay as a state lawmaker last year topped $78,000. And the city budgets more than $103,000 for his job as an assistant district superintendent in the Department of Water Management, though records show he actually was paid about $81,000 by the city in 2014. (A department spokesman said Tuesday he could not immediately tell what the city paid D’Amico last year).

Assuming D’Amico works diligently at his two public jobs, the taxpayers are getting a lot better deal from him than they received from his elders.

Both D’Amico’s parents and a grandmother were convicted in a ghost-payrolling scheme in the 1990s. His grandfather, longtime 39th Ward Ald. Anthony Laurino, died before his federal corruption trial could begin.

I also have written recently about the state rep’s brother, James D’Amico. He landed softly at the Chicago Transit Authority after being forced out of Cook County government, where the inspector general accused him of directing aides to solicit county workers for campaign contributions.

James D’Amico also was sentenced in 1996 to six months court supervision for telling a rival of the family’s organization that he would “beat the s— out of” him.

Through it all, the D’Amicos and Laurinos have sat snug in their power base. Aunt Marge Laurino has been 39th Ward alderman since succeeding her father in 1994, while John D’Amico has held his post in the state House since 2004.

But Charlier says voters are at last ready to end one-family rule. Charlier says John D’Amico — who did not return my calls — cast votes for policies that drastically worsened Springfield’s financial problems.

“When things are going well, people aren’t paying attention to what’s going on politically, but the bottom dropped out of the city and the state,” Charlier says. “The D’Amico/Laurino family, while enriching themselves, sold us down the river.”

Charlier must overcome more than the D’Amico/Laurino clan and five decades of local history. The incumbent also is getting heavy support in his re-election bid from Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Party leader Mike Madigan, according to campaign-finance records.

Charlier’s proposals for dealing with the state’s fiscal crisis appear to involve more and more taxes. Still, we’d all save at least some money if voters decide to replace D’Amico with Charlier.

Citizen Jac says, if elected, he would quit his day job as a criminal justice policy expert — and decline to take a pension from the state.

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