James T. Harris is wondering the same thing that I am. Why has the conviction of Michael McGee resulted in thumbsucking over the city's licensing system? He suggests that this may be about Mayor Barrett's rivalry with Common Council President Hines. That could be, but I wonder, too, if this isn't an attempt to obscure the Theresa Estness Effect.
McGee held up more than aspiring licensees. He (and his father before him) intimidated a fair chunk of the area's officialdom and commentariat by portraying themselves as spokeman for a righteous racial anger that, however much we might disagree with his methods, must be respected. This worked for him in two ways. He attracted enough support in the black community that he cowed responsible black leaders into silence or restraint. What you heard in private was rarely repeated in public and, at least in part, for understandable reasons. Picking a fight with McGee would be politically dangerous.
For white leaders, the effect worked in a different way. Embracing (in Estness' case, literally) or at least gesturing in the direction of the legitimate grievance that the McGees were thought to represent was a way to establish one's racial good faith or at least help to avoid allegations of racism. However much we wring our hands over it and pretend to be engaged, we still have had little serious discussion, as opposed to a series of lectures, about race and poverty in this town.
So the McGees had along run. Junior ended it through his criminal victimization of license aspirants and other, but the real victims were McGee's consituents who, however much they may have enjoyed the frisson of an alderman poking the Man in the eye, were denied leadership that might have changed something for them.
If we want to look at the larger lesson of the McGee affair, I'd suggest we look at this and not liquor licenses.