Festival turf wars aren’t always fair fights

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A tussle over who gets to operate a neighborhood festival in Douglas Park opened a window Tuesday into one of the more obscure sources of influence for Chicago aldermen.

It all started when Hector Escobar, president of the Cermak Road Chamber of Commerce, accused Ald. George Cardenas (12th) of “nepotism, favoritism and corruption” for blocking his group’s application to hold a Cinco de Mayo Festival as it has done for more than three decades.

To Escobar’s way of thinking, Cardenas committed these sins when he gave his blessing to another festival on the same site this week hosted by a charitable group in which the alderman’s brother and sister have been involved.

Let me state right up front that Escobar was unable to offer any evidence Cardenas’ family members will benefit financially from the festival, proceeds from which are supposed to support the nonprofit Excellence in Education.

The alderman insists his brother is an unpaid volunteer on the project and says his sister, who signed some paperwork, really isn’t involved at all.

I don’t think that’s enough reason to turn my back on the dispute, some version of which plays out every summer in one city neighborhood or another.


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