After descent into alcoholism cost him a city council seat, Proco Joe Moreno aims for comeback – NBC Chicago

Former Chicago Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) is open about the booze-fueled downward spiral that cost him his seat on city council and nearly denied him his freedom.

Moreno, 50, is trying to get back the job he lost to Ald. Daniel LaSpata after a series of self-destructing scandals derailed his once bright future.

Those headlines included flashing his alderman’s star to intimidate a woman during a parking dispute and being charged with insurance fraud and obstruction of justice for falsely reporting that his 2017 Audi was stolen in his garage in Wicker Park when, in fact, he had lent it to a girlfriend.

The tailspin continued after his political demise, when Moreno was charged with drunk and reckless driving after crashing his Audi into eight parked cars on Astor Street on the Gold Coast.

In January 2021, Moreno spent a week in jail for drunk driving on the orders of a judge who called him an “extreme danger to the community.”

Six months later, he pleaded guilty to two counts stemming from the insurance fraud case and received ‘second chance probation’, allowing him to clear his record once probation ended. . That’s what happened in August, paving the way for him to at least attempt a political resurrection.

But Moreno doesn’t stand a chance unless he can persuade 1st Ward voters to forgive and forget.

Now Moreno is taking another step on his comeback tour.

In an intriguing interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Moreno opened up about his own downfall after failing to dissuade a beloved friend and precinct captain from taking his own life.

He spoke of being forever haunted by the gunshot he heard during that phone call with Joe Muntaner on Mother’s Day 2017.

“He told me he had a gun. He was going to do it. That I was the only one who liked him. I said, ‘That’s not true.’ He asked me to take care of his family I said I would but “I can’t take care of your family as well as you” I was trying hard not to do and tell me where he was, what he wouldn’t do,” Moreno recalled in Thursday’s interview.

“Then finally the gun went off and I screamed into the phone, yelling, ‘Joe!’ And there was no response. »

Moreno said he was not using Muntaner’s suicide to explain his own inexcusable and illegal actions. But if you’re talking about “triggers” for a descent into alcoholism, that was it.

” I did not sleep. I had nightmares. And I blamed myself. … [I was] take care of it by abusing alcohol so that I can forget about it every night,” the former councilman said.

“That was the unhealthy, wrong, wrong way to handle it. But that’s what I did. »

The seven weeks Moreno spent in the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s rehabilitation program changed his life.

“The first meeting or two, I was pessimistic that it would go anywhere. And I met some of the greatest people I’ve met in my life… going through similar challenges that I met,” Moreno said.

But towards the end, he added, “they give you a nice little goodbye,” where he spoke.

“And I said… ‘I’m one of the most stubborn people there is. And when I started this program, if someone had told me that I would miss this program when I finished it, and that it would change my life, I would have said that you are crazy.

After rehab, “almost all” of the guilt Moreno had felt since his friend’s suicide was lifted from his shoulders.

“I still think of Joe Muntaner all the time. But I think of him more as a way of celebrating him, rather than a way of blaming myself and replaying that terrible day in my head. … I remember him in a more beautiful way for the beautiful person he was,” he said.

During his nearly decade-long career as an alderman, Moreno championed the cause of private booters patrolling the grounds of private companies. He was the main instigator of Chicago’s 7-cent plastic bag tax. He lobbied for affordable housing amid accusations he was too comfortable with developers whose contributions filled his campaign fund.

Before launching his comeback bid, Moreno funded a poll in the 1st Ward, which includes parts of Logan Square, Humboldt Park and West Town. He said 66% of those polled wanted him to focus on tackling violent crime.

“If I hadn’t been approached by important neighborhood stakeholders over the past year and a half to come back, I wouldn’t be running again,” he said.

“But to see all the things the community and I have accomplished — especially on the public safety front — are wasted? See the service stagnating at best, going backwards in many ways? I can’t just sit on the sidelines and not come back.

LaSpata could not be reached for comment.

The state’s attorney’s office said Moreno’s probation was “satisfactorily completed” on Aug. 17, a year ahead of schedule, despite his objections.

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