Saturday, December 3, 2016

Will Rauner be eaten by Chicago “bear” now sleeping in Illinois “woods?”

A large part of the reason why I downplay the rhetoric about the Republicans’ great Election Day victories in Illinois (they took a half dozen seats in the Legislature last month in rural parts of the state formerly occupied by Democrats) is because I don’t see how it impacts the way things get done.
RAUNER: Taking on the bear sleeping in woods

Or don’t get done, within the context of Illinois state government operations.

GOP POLITICAL OPERATIVES argue that the 60 percent Democratic majorities in both legislative chambers have been broken, and that when Gov. Bruce Rauner hands down a veto, now it will be able to stand (unless he manages to offend Republican officials as well).

But as anyone who watched this week’s legislative nonsense with regards to state financial assistance for the Chicago Public Schools realizes, Rauner already had that power. What has he gained?

For those not paying attention, Rauner this week issued a veto to a bill approved back in the summer that would have provided some $215 million in assistance to cover pensions for the Chicago Public Schools – money that District 299 was desperately relying on to balance out their budget for the year.

The Illinois Senate immediately took up the veto override, and gave their support to rejecting Rauner’s rejection – to having the state make the payment.

YET OVER IN the Illinois House, where Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, supposedly (if you listen to Rauner) rules like a warlord of old and deliberately disregards the needs of the public, nothing happened.
MADIGAN: Inaction because he knew he couldn't?

The General Assembly adjourned its fall session on Thursday with no plans to return until their final day in January – which will be followed up by the swearing-in of the newly-elected Legislature.

The one that has six more Republican members and no longer has the illusion of Madigan having a “veto-proof” majority.

There is speculation that legislators could be called into session for a special day of activity to take up the issue. But that’s presuming they could actually get their members all coordinated for such an event.

IF IT WERE possible, I suspect the Illinois House would have acted like the state Senate did – and voted right away to dump all over Rauner’s veto. I'm sure Madigan wishes he could make it so. I suspect his offer to meet Saturday and Sunday with the governor were less than sincere.
LEWIS: Union never expected gov to keep word

Meaning it is most likely that Rauner’s rejection of the school funding measure for Chicago schools stands, and the financial help promise is deader than the Chicago Bears’ dreams of playing in the upcoming Super Bowl! Which is the way things would have wound up before, and will turn out after, the transition on Jan. 11.

As for who is to blame, it’s the usual partisan political rhetoric. Both sides are blaming each other (Rauner didn’t approve the school funding like he promised he would, while Democrats leading the Legislature never came up with a companion bill providing pension funding relief).

It is dreadfully obvious that Rauner intends to use the whole issue to politick in his ongoing effort to use the 2018 election cycle to further decrease the number of Democrats representing rural parts of the state. Chicago Teachers Union officials say they believe Rauner never intended to give the schools anything, and that he was always looking for an excuse to back out of the deal. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Rauner, by supporting a utility company bailout, chose big business over children.

IT IS A move that I could see coming back to bite him in the fanny, for all it means is that he’ll have solid control over the one-third of Illinois’ population that lives outside of the Chicago area.

Because the rhetoric he and political operatives are spewing certainly isn’t going to have a mass appeal to Illinoisans at-large. It’s too Chicago-focused, and may well get Chicago voters all riled up. Think of us as the Chicago “bear” sleeping in the woods who, upon being awoken, will be angered and wind up devouring him.
TRUMP: Did Rauner learn wrong lesson?

Perhaps Rauner spent too much time watching the recently-completed presidential election cycle and thinks he can make the label of “Chicagoans” sound as demonic as the label “Mexicans” was used by President-elect Donald Trump?

Trump may have been able to win the presidency with a minority of voters through the quirks of the Electoral College, but those wouldn’t apply to a statewide election. Rauner could wind up blowing his personal fortune trying to buy up every single rural Illinois vote in existence – only to learn that in singling out Chicago, he was attacking the very place where the overwhelming majority of our state’s residents live and work.


Friday, December 2, 2016

EXTRA: Madigan spouse, Burke, Sox & Cubs chairs (but no Bears) on state Bicentennial celebration commission

I always manage to get a few kicks whenever government officials make rounds of appointments to otherwise obscure commissions – a chance for them to repay favors or make political statements that we might not otherwise note.

MADIGAN: No partisan grudge
Take the state’s Bicentennial Commission, which on Friday appointed a few dozen members to oversee the efforts to celebrate Illinois’ 200th anniversary of statehood come 2018.

AT A TIME when Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, are feuding over the state’s budget, it seems that one of the voting members of the commission will be Madigan’s spouse.
BURKE: Can play historian at state level?

Then again, Shirley Madigan has been involved with the Illinois Arts Council for years and has long been one of the kinds of people who get appointed to these government-overseen panels that take on special projects.

I also got my chuckle from seeing that former Mayor Richard M. Daley and current 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke both were picked. Particularly with Burke – who likes to view himself as Chicago’s unofficial historian and always tries to liven up his government rhetoric with references to obscure events in Chicago history.

There will be municipal officials from outside of Chicago – the mayors or village presidents of Barrington, Dixon and Springfield were picked for posts, while corporate heads of Ameren, Pepsi and United Airlines also will be included.

SOME OFFICIALS OTHER than Rauner got to make appointments, and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White picked the head of the Illinois State Archives – a logical position to include since it would be nice to have someone who has access to the state’s records when putting together a historic celebration.
McCASKEY: Would better record gain post?

There are many other people who got picked for positions, although I still get a chuckle from seeing the names of Jerry Reinsdorf and Tom Ricketts – the chairmen respectively of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs (Reinsdorf does double-duty by also representing the Chicago Bulls), along with Rocky Wirtz, chairman of the Chicago Blackhawks.

What gives – no George McCaskey, or anybody connected to the Chicago Bears?

Maybe that’s the price one pays for reflecting badly on the city’s public image by operating a team with a 2-9 record this season, with five more games to play?


How long until proposed Red Line extension turns local tempers all “red?”

It is one of those projects that has been discussed for years – extending the Chicago Transit Authority elevated commuter train lines deeper into the city’s South Side than they already go.
Proposed route for Red Line extension

On a certain level, the project makes too much sense. The commuter trains that help city residents get from place to place and are a common fact of everyday life in most of the city only go as far south as 95th Street.

WHILE CHICAGO ITSELF usually considers 119th Street to be its southern boundary and there are parts of the city at the southeastern corner where 138th Street is the end of life as we know it and where suburbia begins.

Now as somebody who actually originates from that part of the city (born in South Chicago and with relatives scattered across the neighborhoods that comprise the 10th Ward), this is a project that I have long followed.

Because for people in the southeast part of the city, there are a few bus lines that pass through that eventually can take you to a place along the Dan Ryan Expressway where you can catch a Red Line train.

But it can be a slow, plodding trip (what with all those bus stops) and it can result in an hour-and-a-half journey to get downtown. There are parts of Will County or Gary, Ind., that have quicker connections to downtown Chicago via suburban commuter trains.

IT’S NO WONDER that those people who live near a Metra Electric line station in the South Chicago or South Shore neighborhoods, or in the Hegewisch neighborhood where the Indiana-based South Shore commuter line keeps its lone Illinois-based station, prefer to use those suburban-influenced services even though they're very much urban residents.

Which is why the idea of extending that Red Line train that now runs down the middle of the Dan Ryan to 95th Street would be a life-altering experience for the Far South Side.
Metra lines more a daily life reality in Far South Chi

A direct CTA el train extension going to 130th Street? Actual stations in the Roseland and Pullman neighborhoods – instead of having to take a bus to the west to catch a Metra Rock Island line commuter train in the Beverly or Morgan Park neighborhoods.

It sounds like nirvana (and I don’t mean the 90’s era rock band).

EXCEPT TO THOSE people who, while complaining about how isolated their part of Chicago often feels, will also be the first to complain about anything that brings about change.

They’ll be the ones who think of el trains as being something associated with “the ghetto” or artsy-fartsy North Side neighborhoods – and something they’ve managed to do without all these years.

I have heard from some of these people already. Although they have been muted largely because of skepticism that the city will ever get its act together and actually build the extension!

But will they get louder, now that talk is progressing to the point of figuring out where exactly new track would have to be built. City officials this week said they would allocate some $75 million for engineering studies. Which means figuring out what structures would need to be torn down.

CRAIN’S CHICAGO BUSINESS reported Thursday about the project – pointing out that 82 single-family homes and 19 multi-family properties are on a list of things that would need to be torn down to make room for 5.3 miles more of train track for the el extension.

The weekly business newspaper already has some comment from people who admit train service would be nice, but not necessary if it means they have to move.

Personally, I became an el proponent back during the stints I lived in North and Northwest Side neighborhoods, and I often wonder how it is that my home base neighborhood, so to speak, has never been willing to demand such equal service.
May someday no longer be distant southern CTA outpost?
Except that too many people living out in the land where Indiana isn’t an esoteric concept but is the place at the other end of the Chicago Skyway have become too used to their sense of isolation from the rest of Chicago – a concept whose time truly ought to come to an end.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

EXTRA: How can anybody consider corn flakes to be “un-American?”

About the time you read this on Thursday, there’s a good chance that I will have had my standard start to the day – a cup of coffee and cereal. Corn flakes is actually a favorite, with a banana chopped up into it.
Political protest? Or just breakfast? Photograph by Gregory Tejeda

Now under typical standards, I would think you could care less just what my breakfast routine is. In fact, I’d like to think that the majority of you will think I’ve gone goofy for sharing this tidbit with you.

BUT I GUESS I’m trying to get the attention of the other tiny percentage – those of you who are motivated by the Brietbart News Network and its claims that Kellogg’s is somehow “un-American.”

A concept I find so utterly ridiculous that I have to say the only people who are misfits to this country’s ideals are the ones who could somehow think that Tony the Tiger (the symbol of sister cereal Frosted Flakes) is un-American. Then again, they’re probably the same people who a generation ago claimed Tinky-Winky was gay – and that Teletubbies were a subversive plot to undermine our society by toying with the youthful mindset.

What has Brietbart, a socially-conservative leaning website that I must confess I pay little attention to (I also haven’t looked at the Drudge Report in years, and can’t say there was ever anything about it that was appealing to me), all up with its knickers in a bunch?

Yes, I’ve been watching too much BBC programming lately. But Brietbart is doing an attack because there are corporate entities that are reluctant to spend their advertising dollars to support the site because it is so over-the-top in its rhetoric in favor of Donald Trump.

SOME GO SO far as to claim the site is egging on those with racial and ethnic hang-ups (and are trying to justify them as legitimate with that “alt-right” label). In the case of Kellogg, they say the copy published these days by the Brietbart site, “aren’t aligned with our values.”

Which Brietbart wants to believe is Kellogg trying to “blacklist” their efforts. Which is such an exaggeration of the truth.

For it seems that Brietbart is peddling a rather subversive concept that says everybody is obligated to support their rhetorical nonsense. When in reality, any publishing entity has to realize that anything they publish has the potential to p-o anyone else – and sometimes those people will react accordingly.

If Brietbart really wants to stand their guns and refuse to alter their editorial policies, that’s their right. But it’s also the right of the public to support who they want. And if it turns out that Brietbart ticks off so many people that they wind up getting hurt financially, well that’s the reality of capitalism.

AND BECAUSE I’M offended by the concept of the schoolyard bully getting upset when everybody else fights back, I’m inclined to want to resist.

So if Brietbart is really going to call for a #DumpKellogs (yes, I know it’s spelled wrong) campaign on Twitter, I’m going to feel compelled to resist. I’m not about to urge people to eat more cold cereal – that’s their own business to decide.

But it will be with a touch of pride that I’ll make my political statement (as lame a gesture as it truly is) in eating up my corn flakes with vim and vigor.

Although it means I’m probably lucky, because I bought the above-purchased box when I went to the local supermarket Wednesday night. What kind of political statement would I have made if I – which I nearly did – bought a box of Corn Chex instead?


Trump likely more interested in putting on a show than he is in governing

Learning Wednesday that President-elect Donald Trump plans to tell us in two weeks about the details of how he will avoid conflict of interest between his new governmental duties and those of his business interests reminds me a bit too much of Dennis Rodman.
We'd respect him more if daughter put in charge

Remember the one-time professional basketball star whom we used to think was a tacky jerk, until he became an integral part of the Chicago Bulls’ second streak of three championships in the 1990s?

I REMEMBER THE day in a Chicago newsroom that we got a “tip” – Dennis was going to be married! We were even given a time and place where something would happen. One of those “Be there, or be square” moments.

Sure enough, at the appropriate moment, a limousine showed up. Several voluptuous women dressed in tuxedoes and top hats climbed out – then came the bride. Which turned out to be Dennis himself!

Dressed in a bridal gown (you can make the appropriately tacky joke now about the inappropriateness of Rodman wearing white), the actual “happening” was the publishing of a ghost-written book of Rodman’s memoirs.

Rodman did go on a couple of years later to briefly marry actress Carmen Electra. But the whole thing was a stunt orchestrated by Rodman (who in his own goofy way was a Trump supporter – he also once sang “Happy Birthday” to North Korea leader Kim Jong Un) to gain attention to himself. Nothing more!

WHICH IS WHAT I seriously expect to happen on Dec. 15 when Trump, according to the messages he posts about himself on Twitter, holds a press conference in New York to discuss his business interests.
It was all about selling the books -- which now can be bought at used book stores for $0.50.
If we believe Trump, he has attorneys drafting up “legal documents…which take me completely out of business operations.” He also claims he is “not mandated to do this under the law…” but says he wants to focus on his new presidential title.

“The Presidency is a far more important task!,” Trump writes.

Which, to me, sounds like the early tips we got all those years ago saying that Rodman was about to get married.

NOW IT IS not unheard of for presidents to be people of some significant financial means. The usual method for dealing with this is for the newly-elected public officials to put their assets into a blind trust – by which they surrender control of them for the duration of their time in the White House.

But Trump is an egomaniac (would a sane person feel compelled to name so many projects around the globe after himself) who would never want to surrender control. Which is why I wonder what the scheme will be that he will unveil on Dec. 15 to create the illusion of shifting control over Trump Enterprises.

The early speculation was that Trump’s grown children would wind up assuming greater control – with daughter Ivanka perhaps becoming the new big boss while her father tries not to make a complete mess out of the country.

But does Trump think his kids wouldn’t give him back control of the company once his presidency is complete (a moment that a large share of our society will be anxiously awaiting)? Or is he really more interested in putting on some sort of stunt to assuage his ego – rather than focus on the task at hand.
RICKETTS: Now 'our' man in D.C.?

BECAUSE IF IT were really just about Trump wanting to eliminate the appearance of a conflict of interest, he could issue the statement today. He could take the action, then go about picking the rest of his cabinet officials (with Todd Ricketts of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs now being named as deputy Commerce secretary, is he now the highest-ranking Chicago contact within the White House?) who will advise him in the ways and means of governing.

The delay seems more about staging, just like any agreement he ultimately signs may be something intended to create the appearance of separation while also ensuring he’ll still have control. This is the man, after all, who initially tried arguing that a president cannot have conflicts of interest.
He's back, as an actor. Will Trump return to real estate?

So when Trump, the twit who Tweets, says he’s leaving his businesses “in total,” we shouldn’t presume that he’s backing away from his financial interests any more than Rodman became a happily-married man on that day some two decades ago.

Or any more than one-time California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger when he said upon his election in 2007 that he’d never appear in a Hollywood film again. Did we really need “Escape Plan” (‘The Terminator’ paired up with ‘Rambo’) or multiple versions of “The Expendables” that have been released since then?


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Is Illinois ready for Pawar? Are Dems ready for ’18 governor campaign?

Chicago-area Democrats have one thing going for them when it comes to the 2018 election cycle when Illinois picks a new governor – incumbent Bruce Rauner who likes to let us know how much we’re supposed to hate Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is despised almost as much.
PAWAR: Illinois' first Indian-American gov?

Rauner may have a personal fortune from his time as a venture capitalist, but no one out there is really going to be enthused about wanting him back for another term in office.

IF THE ’16 presidential cycle devolved into the campaign about “Who Do We Hate the Most?,” the ’18 battle for Illinois governor will be even worse.

I don’t doubt that the other 96 counties of Illinois will lean against anything having to do with Chicago or the local Democratic organization. But the level of contempt that Rauner has aroused within the six-county Chicago area is strong, too.

And let’s not forget that those six counties do account for about two-thirds of the state’s population – with Cook County alone being nearly half the state’s people.

But whether that will be sufficient that people should think Rauner’s re-election bid has the stink of death over it similar to how soon-to-be former Sen. Mark Kirk’s campaign did this year has yet to be determined.

THE ONE THING that Rauner’s re-election bid has going for it is that we don’t have a clue who the Democrats will find to run for governor. Particularly since veteran Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., has decided he wants to remain as a part of the Illinois political establishment in D.C. – rather than be the so-called CEO of state government.

Will governor learn people like him less...

The lack of a credible challenger is to the point where the Politico newspaper took seriously the talk that 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar wants to run for governor.

Pawar, the suburban Evanston-born son of immigrants from India, is now in his second term in the City Council, and apparently thinks he can replicate his initial electoral victory of 2011 – back when he beat long-time Alderman Eugene Schulter on a puny campaign fund.

In part, he had the appeal of being the first Asian (let alone Indian) elected to the City Council. He has been able to maintain a bit of a progressive image as he has served as alderman. He has been among the most interesting of public officials to serve in the council in recent years.
... than they do the Ill. House speaker?

YET I ALSO don’t doubt that all the things that are his strengths as a Chicago alderman will be turned into negatives if he tries to run an Illinois statewide campaign.

Particularly since I don’t doubt that the masses of Southern Illinois who helped remove most of the remaining rural Democrats serving in the General Assembly will be willing to hold Pawar’s ethnicity against him. After all, this is the new Era of Trump in which we no longer give much credence to such considerations!

I don’t think the “Little India” community along Devon Avenue is enough to propel a statewide campaign for public office. And if Pawar seriously thinks he can go knocking on doors all across Illinois to introduce himself, he’ll find out just how big (500 miles long, 350 miles wide) the state is.

There’s also the inevitable tie that Rauner will try to make (and that rural residents will be gullible enough to believe) that Pawar is nothing more than a political lackey to Mayor Rahm Emanuel (who lives in Pawar’s ward) and, by extension, Madigan.

THE REALITY IS that people in Chicago Democratic politics tolerate each other, at best. They don’t really know how to play nice. I remember back when Susana Mendoza was a state legislator whom Madigan thought of as a bit of an annoyance and he was glad to see her leave state government for the city clerk’s post.
KENNEDY: Will he ever campaign?

Yet Rauner spewed the nonsense that she was a Madigan puppet to the point where it was obvious Mendoza didn’t get the same Democratic coat-tails from Hillary Clinton’s presence on the ballot that Senate candidate Tammy Duckworth did.

Consider that if Pawar has his weaknesses, he gets taken seriously at this point because there’s no one else. Billionaire J.B. Pritzker (as in the Hyatt Hotels chain) has never run for office before. And as for Christopher Kennedy (nephew of JFK and son of Bobby), the one-time manager of the then-family-owned Merchandise Mart likes the idea of being thought of as a candidate for office – but has never shown the willingness to put in the work of an actual campaign.

All of which means that if Democrats are to put up a credible candidate for governor two years from now, it probably will be somebody whose name hasn’t cropped up yet. Let’s not forget that we didn’t hear of Rauner until March of the year before he managed to defeat Pat Quinn for the political post.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Does Trump think he can keep up the racial/ethnic hostilities for 4 years?

I’m seeing a lot of a video snippet these days that it seems everybody feels compelled to put on the Internet – that bit of the woman shopping at the Michael’s crafts store in the Lakeview neighborhood who goes on a profane diatribe because she thinks she’s being abused by the store’s black employees.
TRUMP: Used intolerant label, now must live w/ it

Of course, watching the video, it seems the only person who’s being abusive is this lady, who happens to be white and probably doesn’t deserve to be thought of as a lady. But during her diatribe, she comes out and says she’s being picked on by black people because she supported the presidential aspirations of Donald J. Trump.

MANY OF THE people who felt the need to post this video did so out of a sense of wanting to show how outrageous and over-the-top the Donald Trump people are capable of being in their behavior.

They seem to side with the store’s management, which it seems remained calm in the face of a hysterical customer.

It kind of reminds me of my old days working in retail when bosses would pass on to me the old Marshall Fields’ slogan “The Customer is Always Right.” Which in my mind always translated to, “The Customer is Usually a Pompous Buffoon.”

Even if I always managed to keep this to myself during the stints I worked in retail many years ago at a suburban Carson, Pirie, Scott location and also in stores at the Water Tower mall on North Michigan Avenue.

THIS WOMAN SURELY showed herself capable of behaving poorly. Although I suspect in her own mind, she will forevermore remember the incident as the time she “told off” the incompetent pygmies who worked at that store and stood up for herself in the face of victimization.

Which may well be the scariest part of the whole Trump political phenomenon – the people who banded together into a group large enough to give Trump a victory even though a majority of voters wanted Hillary Clinton really want to think of themselves as the victims!

Which also means they want to use their newfound political influence to be punitive. It’s not an exaggeration to say their interpretation of “Make America Great Again” probably means elimination of many of the measures that civil rights activists fought decades to obtain.

I’m sure even Trump should be thought of in that way. This was the man who started out his campaign activity with vicious slanders against people in this country from Mexico, and now seems to want to continue that line of attack.

BECAUSE I KNOW there are many nitwits in our society who are desperate to use the label “illegal” to the existence of people from Latin American nations (and “no,” I don’t think those ideological twits are capable of distinguishing the 23 different countries of the Americas).

So when Trump spewed his nonsense this weekend that the only reason he didn’t win the popular vote is because of, “millions of people who voted illegally,” I have no doubt he’s trying to appeal to people such as our woman in the Michael’s video who want to believe that a just society is one that regards their existence as superior to that of all others.

Even though I’d argue that this nation probably would go up a notch or two if we were to deport her back to whatever nation her grandparents (or maybe great-grandparents) came from.

Not that anybody is seriously proposing that. It would be as absurd as just about everything that comes out of Trump’s mouth, or off his computer keys when he feels compelled to type out a pithy (in his mind) one-liner on Twitter.

THIS KIND OF hostility and ugliness is something we’re going to encounter quite a bit in coming years – at least until we can do the next election cycle and replace Trump with someone more credible.

Not that we’re going to give in to this kind of nonsense. If anything, I’m motivated by the numbers of people who are offended. It makes me realize that the so-called “silent majority” is really neither.

They’re at least 2 million people fewer than those who’d rather be preparing for the Hillary Clinton administration. And after watching this woman’s diatribe, silent is the last thing you’d ever call them!