Don't ask mayor to discuss 'Secrets'

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As Outfit killer Nick Calabrese was testifying Wednesday about murders, about the killings of gangsters Tony and Michael Spilotro, about Tony asking to say a prayer before dying and about holy pictures burning in Nick's cupped hands during an Outfit "making" ceremony, someone else was burning, too.

The mayor of Chicago was burning. Not literally. It was more like fuming. He was upset with reporters daring to ask questions about his friend, campaign donor, fashionista, multimillionaire city contractor and neighborhood guy Fred Barbara."I think it's ridiculous," Daley said. "That's all I gotta say."

And that's all he said, basically. Ridiculous. Ridiculous. Next question. Next question. Print reporters Gary Washburn of the Tribune, Fran Spielman of the Sun-Times and one radio reporter had the audacity to ask the mayor some questions.

They asked Daley about Calabrese's testimony from the day before, from the federal witness stand in the Operation Family Secrets trial. Calabrese testified that Fred Barbara went on a bombing run with Chinatown crew boss Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra in Elmwood Park in the early 1980s.

Barbara was not charged with a crime. But the Calabrese testimony resurrects old questions about Barbara's relationship with the mayor and the mayor's political brain, Tim Degnan, who has been heating up all on his own over the controversial Bridgeport Village development run by another Bridgeport heavyweight, developer Tommy DiPiazza.

We called Barbara yesterday, and I'm still waiting for him to call me back and have a sit-down interview at Tavern on Rush or Stefani's. Dinner's on me, Fred.

In the meantime, it was nice to know that print reporters ask questions. The 30-second mayoral fumefest was as hot as a Chinatown wok frying up some veal cutlets.

Fran Spielman: It doesn't jibe with the Freddie Barbara, you know?

Daley: I said it's ridiculous. Just another headline you provide. Any other questions?

Gary Washburn: Mayor, this came out in federal court, though, in testimony, do you discount the possibility that it is true?

Daley: But I said, it's ridiculous to basicky [sic] place me in that position. That's how you do it, so I understand that. Any other questions?

Fran: Isn't he a friend of yours?

Daley: Any other questions?

Radio reporter in the back of the room: Is Barbara a mobster?

Daley: Any other questions?

Fran: But what is your relationship?

Daley: I said [voice raising] any other questions?

He never answered, but at least they asked. That's how you get an education. By asking.

Daley is the green mayor, growing grass on rooftops, adding bike lanes, praised by artists and designers. But when he needed political cash for a last-minute election push for his aldermanic candidates a few months ago, who came running? Al Gore? Michael Moore? Lord Wedgwood?

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