Monday, April 23, 2018

When do corporate identities for professional sports stadiums go too far?

SeatGeek Stadium.

You just know that name is going to bring about derision amongst Chicago sporting fans for the Chicago Fire professional soccer club.
SeatGeek the stadium off in the distance from the Loop
BUT IT SEEMS the Fire (not the actual blaze from 1871, but the team playing in a stadium built for their use out in suburban Bridgeview) will allow their home pitch to be given that public identity with the coming of the 2019 season.

This is the final year that their stadium will carry the name Toyota Park.

Which as far as I’m concerned isn’t really a loss, since I don’t care for building names that are meant to be nothing more than advertising for somebody else’s product. I’d love it if the building in which the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks had never been given a name promoting the interests of United Airlines.

But at least that was a Chicago-area entity. Unlike Toyota, which sells their products throughout the Chicago area, here but doesn’t really make them here.
Soldier, or Soldiers? Front room, or fronchroom?
COME 2019, IT will be SeatGeek Stadium. And yes, I’m sure there will be some people anal retentive enough to argue about whether there ought to be a space between “Seat” and “Geek,” or whether the company’s desires ought to be respected and the name spelled out as one word.

For the record, I had to look it up, since I had no idea what SeatGeek was. It seems it’s a website (seatgeek.com) where one can go to find tickets to various types of events. Including sports.

And including professional soccer.
A corporate identity of nearly three decades

It seems the company is an official Major League Soccer corporate partner, and the Minnesota United, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City and LAFC (a Los Angeles-area team that competes with the more traditionally-named Los Angeles Galaxy) have partnerships.

I SUPPOSE WE should also include the Chicago Fire on that list, since the company has now bought the right to have their identity on the Fire’s building.

For what it’s worth, Bloomberg Markets reported that the deal could result in payments of up to $4 million annually to the Chicago Fire. Not a bad sum, although I wonder how seriously people will take a name like “SeatGeek.”

It makes me wonder if Chicago Fire fans will go out of their way to refuse to use the name and come up with their own identity for the stadium out in the southwestern suburb (not far from Midway Airport, if you must know).

Although I wonder if SeatGeek could surpass Guaranteed Rate Field in terms of an unpopular identity for sporting fans to use. Yes, there are many Chicago White Sox fans who haven’t come to terms with the latest corporate name the White Sox bought for themselves two years ago.
Is baseball's sporting superiority in large part because "Sox Park" ...
THERE ARE MANY Chicago Cubs fans who go out of their way to deride the stadium name, and for all I know they will refuse to let SeatGeek Stadium somehow become a tackier name than Guaranteed Rate. Just because, in their mini-mindsets, the White Sox have to rank at the bottom.

Although when it comes to Chicago stadium identities, I always thought the most off-beat debate concerned the home of the Chicago Bears and the great number of allegedly hard-core fans who persist in calling the building “Soldiers Field” rather than the proper “Soldier.”
... and "Cubs Park" make sense?

By comparison, I’m sure there will be some sports fans who will show derision for professional soccer (mostly because they don’t comprehend “real” football, which ain't da game da Bears play so badly these days) by refusing to acknowledge the Bridgeview stadium altogether.

It’s a shame that all sports teams can’t be like our baseball clubs – where there are some people who steadfastly call the stadiums “Sox Park” and “Cubs Park” regardless of whatever name appears on the marquee. That would make sporting sense, even if it wouldn’t generate the million-dollar payoffs for the teams themselves.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Degrees of contamination?

Down in the land where Lake Shore Drive becomes South Shore Drive, we have the one-time site of a U.S. Steel plant that used to exist in Chicago.
What will become of the one-time South Works site on the Chicago lakefront?

Go down to 79th Street, and you’ll find a plot of land technically larger than the Loop (a.k.a., downtown) where various real estate developers have proposed projects that – if they were to ever become reality – could seriously revitalize that part of the South Side of Chicago.

YET THESE DAYS, the one-time South Works plant that has been shut down for 26 years doesn’t seem any closer to having something new built on the site than it was on that January day in 1992 when U.S. Steel decided it was no longer financially practical to manufacture steel there.

The fact that steel mills and other industrial uses were on the site back to 1857 means that decades of contamination accumulated there. It had become a very seriously polluted part of Chicago.

And THAT, it seems, is the big hang-up keeping anyone from seriously turning the site into something new.

There was the Chicago-area developer who spent more than a decade talking about developing an entirely new upscale neighborhood on the site between the South Shore and South Chicago neighborhoods.

MOCK THE IDEA, if you will. But its location right on Lake Michigan makes such an idea possible, since there are limits to the amount of addresses in Chicago right on the lakefront.

But even that developer got tired of the bureaucratic nightmares that stretched the project out so long. Most recently, companies based in Barcelona and Dublin had their own plan for a residential development on the site – with the construction of modular homes along with some retail and office space.

But the Chicago Tribune reported their plans to buy the 440-acre site are, “currently on hold because of soil contamination problems that need to be cleared.”

Will this proposed development with the downtown skyline off in the distance ever become a reality?
Not that they’re being more specific. Just more environmental cleanup before anything can happen.

WHAT MAKES IT offbeat is that U.S. Steel, which still owns the land, insists they worked with the Environmental Protection Agency to do cleanup of the site.

They say they’ve been issued “No Further Remediation” notices, which would indicate the federal government is convinced the site is clean enough for a developer to come in and begin putting the site at 79th Street into its 21st Century life after steel.

Which is something I hope is true.

Because there are people who like to use the now-vacant site as a sort of expansive hiking or biking path. Heck, I’ve had occasions when I walked around the site – and checked out for myself the huge concrete break wall that is so big it isn’t financially practical to think about tearing it down.

IF IT REMAINS a contaminated site, it could mean I’ve tainted myself, and many other people also are walking around with the slime of slag and other contaminants on themselves.

Could it really mean that the Spanish and Irish developers wishing to build along South Shore Drive are really seeking some sort of buyout, or other financial perk, so as to make any project they do along our lakefront all-the-more profitable?

Or could it be that somebody is trying to cheap out, so to speak, on the environmental cleanup needed to turn the lakefront south of 79th Street to the mouth of the Calumet River into a viable site.
How much of the steel mill residue remains? Image provided by Chuckman Chicago collection

The sad part of this story is this is a part of Chicago – the one where my own immigrant grandparents originally settled in this city, and where my parents were born and raised and I myself was born – that is oft overlooked by the rest of the city. To those of us with ties to the area, either explanation is completely believable.

  -30-la

Friday, April 20, 2018

EXTRA: Does Lipinski owe Trump?

The D.C.-based Brookings Institution says it may well be the kind of people in full agreement with this Age of Trump in which we’re now in to whom Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., owes his re-election in last month’s Democratic primary.

LIPINSKI: Got some GOP crossovers
The institution’s Primaries Project did its own analysis of the voter tallies from the March 20 primary in the Illinois 3rd Congressional District (Chicago’s Southwest Side and surrounding suburbs).

THAT’S THE ONE where the socially-conservative Lipinski managed to fend off a challenge by Marie Newman, a political newby who tried campaigning on the notion that Lipinski’s political leanings don’t fit in with modern-day Democrats.

Not that it worked. The city portions of the district that remember back to the days when Lipinski’s father, Bill, was their Congressman (and their alderman at City Hall before that) gave Dan a large-enough support to overcome the small lead Newman had in the suburban parts.

That has many people thinking Lipinski’s victory was evidence of the Chicago “Machine” of old being able to turn out the vote for a candidate.

But Brookings researchers found that amongst people in the congressional district who voted in the 2016 presidential cycle for Donald Trump, those people were solidly in favor of keeping Lipinski.

OR MORE LIKELY, making sure that somebody like Newman never got anywhere near Capitol Hill.

TRUMP: Can he count on Dan's votes?
Most people in the Illinois 3rd voted for Hillary Clinton to be president, as did all of Cook County and the Chicago metro area.

But amongst those who went along with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” rhetoric, one in every five voted for Lipinski this time around. That compares to only one in 20 of Trump backers who sided with Newman.

Brookings types wouldn’t say definitively why that sentiment occurred, although they did point out that many would-be Republicans cast Democratic Party ballots in the March primary because the GOP only offered the white supremacist Art Jones as their choice for the seat.

NEWMAN: Definitely not the 'deplorable' choice
EVEN THOUGH THE Republican election cycle last month included a feisty fight by Jeanne Ives to try to knock Gov. Bruce Rauner out of the running for the Nov. 6 general election, Ives wasn’t enough to keep 3rd District GOPers with the party’s ballot.

Some 61 percent of people who cast ballots said they considered the congressional choice more significant than that of governor.

“Our data demonstrates Lipinski enjoyed a great advantage among, and likely a victory because of, self-identified Trump voters,” Brookings researchers wrote.

So is the next two years of Lipinski in Congress (nobody seriously thinks Jones can beat him come November) going to see Dan as one of Trump’s few allies amongst the Illinois congressional delegation. Or will he turn on the president, at the risk of some of his political backers deciding to turn on him come 2020?

  -30-

Brown wants to be mayor; can she win 2019 election before being indicted?

It’s not unheard of for someone under criminal suspicion by federal investigators to run for government office. Heck, the taint of a possible indictment doesn’t even always scare voters off from casting a ballot in support of someone.
Is this for real?

Yet I suspect that Dorothy Brown, the Cook County Circuit Court clerk who now has visions of running for mayor come the 2019 election cycle, may well go into the political history books for an over-bloated sense of self-importance.

FEDERAL INVESTIGATORS HAVE long focused their attention on Brown’s behavior as a court clerk and political official, even though as of yet she has not been indicted for anything.

Yet the reports have been intense enough that her name always gets tossed about whenever political corruption is the topic of discussion.

So should Brown, who has been a part of the local government for nearly two decades, seriously be thinking of herself as a challenger to Mayor Rahm Emanuel when he seeks re-election come the Feb. 26 municipal elections?

My guess is she figures there’s so many other challengers (it could be as many as one dozen in the non-partisan election format) that she has as good a chance as anybody else in finishing in second place – which would put her up against Emanuel in an April 2 run-off election (provided that Rahm doesn’t get a clear majority in February).
Just a couple of past politicos who ran ...

BUT COULD BROWN, who some say solicited cash and gifts from her employees – in exchange for promotions, actually overcome the political stink of suspicion and win anything? For her part, Brown says people are lying to federal investigators about her. Or is this a way of bloating her ego in the months prior to the federal government handing down an indictment?

Would this ultimately be the “achievement” for which Brown will be remembered on political scene – the candidate who got indicted in mid-election cycle!

Of course, there have been many names in our political past who wound up having to deal with the suspicion of criminal allegations being floated against them.
... for office with taint of indictment

Rod Blagojevich, whose name cropped up in the news recently when the Supreme Court of the United States rejected a final attempt at appealing his conviction, had suspicion and the FBI against him when he sought re-election in 2006.

YET HE MANAGED to win a second term in office by dumping so much rhetorical crud (including some outright slander) against the reputation of Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka. It wasn’t until more than two years later that the U.S. Attorney’s office came down with the indictment (which actually was motivated by his actions in the days following the 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama).

Blagojevich was in position to pick Obama’s replacement from Illinois in the U.S. Senate, and prosecutors claim he blatantly solicited payoffs from people interested in getting the appointment.

There are some who think that if Blagojevich hadn’t been so arrogant in his behavior while under investigation, federal investigators might not have been able to get anything on Rod – and the resulting years of criminal proceedings and his incarceration wouldn’t have occurred.

Is that what could happen with Brown? Her having the nerve to run for mayor while under suspicion will motivate prosecutorial-types to find something on her? I’m sure there are some who will fantasize about Brown being carted away in handcuffs by FBI agents just before she could take the mayoral oath of office.

THE OTHER “BIG name” politico who pops into my head is Dan Rostenkowski, the Northwest Side member of Congress who used to be the all-powerful House Ways & Means chairman before he got busted for what some considered a petty offense – purchasing some $22,000 in stamps from the House Post Office, then converting them to cash for his personal use.
EMANUEL: Trying to laugh off his challengers

This came up during his re-election bid of 1994, and the 36-year member of Congress ultimately lost to Republican Mike Flanagan, who lasted but one two-year term before being replaced by none-other-than Blagojevich in his days before becoming governor.

Can Brown be more successful than Rostenkowski was in overcoming suspicion in swaying voters to back her bid for higher office?

Or will her scheduled announcement Sunday that she’s running for mayor merely be the beginning of an absurd election cycle, one which Emanuel himself on Thursday described as a, “political improv show … audition(ing) more cast members.”

  -30-

Thursday, April 19, 2018

How far are Ill. ideologues out-of-touch

It’s official. Toni Preckwinkle is now the Democratic chairman for Cook County; despite the fact that – not long ago – people were speculating she was “history” and a cancer on her political party.
PRECKWINKLE: New 'firsts' for her resume

How much you want to bet that come next week, Michael Madigan will remain in place as the Democratic chairman for all of Illinois?

IT’S VERY LIKELY that the people who go about clamoring for the demise of Madigan from positions of authority will find their hostile views rather irrelevant. About as much as those who wanted to believe that Preckwinkle was doomed because of the “pop tax.”

Remember that? The penny-per-ounce fee that was charged every time you bought a bottle of a sweetened drink (about $0.64 added to the price of a two-liter bottle of pop).

People were supposedly so offended by the charge (which used to add about 21 cents to the cost of whenever I picked up a can of Coca-Cola) that they were going to vote Preckwinkle out of her post as Cook County Board president.

Actually, it was the lobbyists for the carbonated beverage industry who were p.o.’ed about the tax, and it was their lobbying effort that ultimately swayed the county board to repeal the tax despite Preckwinkle’s continued support of the need for the revenues it generated.

MADIGAN: 3rd decade as Dem chair?
BUT THAT DIDN’T happen. Preckwinkle won her re-nomination in the March primary and doesn’t even have a Republican opponent come the Nov. 6 general election. She enhanced her political power on Wednesday when the Cook County committeemen convened and picked her the party chairman.

She’s now the first woman and first black person to ever hold the position and can now put her name in the same category as Richard J. Daley – who himself was the county Democratic chairman who used that position to make himself all-powerful.

Rather than just another “joe schmo” mayor.

Not that I expect Preckwinkle to become the next Daley who single-handedly picks the candidate who beats up on Donald J. Trump come the 2020 presidential election.

FIORETTI: Reduced to defending Harvey
BUT SHE’S NOWHERE near the level of political death that her partisan detractors wanted to believe. Although if she had faced a more credible opponent than Robert Fioretti in the Democratic primary, things might have been different.

Not that Fioretti hasn’t been in the news in recent days. He’s the attorney defending suburban Harvey – the community whose share of state revenues were being garnished by the Comptroller’s office for failing to make payments toward the pension benefits they’re supposed to provide to retired police officers and firefighters.

Not exactly a high-minded cause, to be sure.

Although at least Preckwinkle had a couple of challengers for the party chairman post. Which is much more than the opposition Madigan will face when the state central committee meets on Monday in Springfield.

ALL THE PEOPLE who privately rant and rage about Madigan being all-too-powerful don’t have the nerve to come forth and challenge him. He’s been state Democratic chairman for 20 years and is likely to continue that reign (along with being Illinois House speaker) for the time being.

RAUNER: Covering up own unpopularity?
Not even a token challenger, like Preckwinkle had for county board president in the primary earlier this year.

Republicans may want to believe the nonsense-talk that Gov. Bruce Rauner is going to spew for the next few months that Madigan is all-evil and everything that is wrong with electoral politics. But I’d have to say that we make a mistake if we presume that he speaks for the majority of Illinoisans – just the people who are so desperate for an Election Day victory that they’ll keep engaging in the same “Dump Madigan” rhetoric that hasn’t succeeded for the last few election cycles.

For the reality may well be that many of us have real lives to live and know better than to get wrapped up in partisan political trash talk.

  -30-

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Is Gorsuch in the Trump dog house?

Neil Gorsuch is the man who sits on the Supreme Court of the United States because of the ideologue gamesmanship that denied former President Barack Obama a third pick to the high court; thereby allowing Donald Trump the ability to fill the vacancy in the early days of his presidency.
GORSUCH: Confounds ideologues?

Meaning I’m sure that Trump expects Gorsuch to be his reliable vote to take his stance on all issues that come before the court, and also to sway a majority of the rest of the court to do so as well.

WHICH IS WHY I’m finding some humor in the Supreme Court’s ruling Tuesday that struck down a law meant to make it easier (and quicker) to deport non-citizens who are found guilty of violent crimes while in this country.

The nine-member court voted 5-4 to rule in favor of striking down the law, agreeing with a federal appeals court in San Francisco that said it was too vague to be enforceable.

Gorsuch wound up siding with the four members of the court who usually are of a more progressive leaning on issues, even though Gorsuch is supposed to be the swing vote that gives the conservative-leaning justices the numerical advantage.

When considering that Trump is trying to base his political strength from having the support of those people whose idea of immigration reform is to deport as many people as possible, I don’t doubt that Trump felt a bit of disgust when he was informed of the court’s decision.

NOT THAT IT’S a surprise to see a judge place the law above political partisanship. It’s the way things are supposed to be, even though in this Age of Trump we have people who think that their partisanship is meant to prevail over all.
SOUTER: Often offended GOP pols

Anybody who pays attention to the Supreme Court knows there have been many justices who ruled on various cases in ways that went against the political desires of the presidents who appointed them.

Although I’m not ready to put Gorsuch in the same ranks as now-retired Justice David Souter. Remember the man appointed by former President George H.W. Bush whom his chief of staff, John Sununu, initially described as a “home run” for conservatism?

Souter wound up being a justice who aligned himself in his votes with the justices who were appointed to the court by former President Bill Clinton. He also was a justice who, in a case concerning abortion, wrote that doing anything to outlaw it would be, “a surrender to political pressure” and was amongst the court minority in 2000 who wanted to continue the recount of the presidential election ballots in Florida – when the act halting it is what gave us “President George W. Bush” instead of the man who nationally got more votes, Democrat Al Gore.
KAGAN: Wrote for the Ct majority

I’M SURE GORSUCH will come up with several votes on court cases that will appease the ideologues and Trump.

But like I wrote earlier, it is somewhat humorous to see Trump’s appointee be the guy who votes in a way that won’t appease the ideologues on immigration. Which is particularly odd in that this case originally came before the high court during the year that Republicans were thwarting Obama’s attempt to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia with Merrick Garland.

This same immigration case (based off the situation of a man from the Philippines who was found guilty of burglary in California) got a 4-4 vote then, which caused officials to want to re-argue the case with a full court – figuring that now they’d get a 5-4 vote in their favor.

Instead, they got a 5-4 vote against them, on the grounds that calling burglary a “crime of violence” was a bit of a stretch and that the law didn't really specify what a "crime of violence" was.

GORSUCH WOUND UP siding with the majority that let Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan (the old University of Chicago law school professor and an Obama appointee) write the opinion that will all up in arms in the near future about “too many foreigners” in this country.
TRUMP: Temper tantrum in Oval Office?

Personally, I think we have too many ideologues in this country. I also wonder if Kagan will be another reason for Trump to go on a "hate Chicago" diatribe. But those are issues for us to ponder another day.

Because you just know the ideologues will find something else to get all hot-and-bothered about. They usually always find something to get ticked off about, no matter what happens in "real" life.

  -30-

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Is it now in Donald, he Trusts, for Rod?

What a surprise – the Supreme Court of the United States on Monday let it be known it was not inclined to do anything with regards to the case of former governor Rod Blagojevich.

BLAGOJEVICH: Hair color long gone
The governor (a.k.a., inmate no. 40892-424), who is roughly half-way through the prison sentence he’s now serving at a federal facility in Colorado, had hoped the Supreme Court would consider his legal argument that federal judges in Chicago judged him too harshly.

IN HIS WILDEST fantasies, I’m sure they would have given him a prison term so short that it could be said he had already served his time. He’d be going back home to his wife and daughters immediately.

But no, the Supreme Court seems to believe there are no great legal questions that need to be decided in the Blagojevich Affair. Meaning there’s no reason for them to do anything at all.

Which also means that Blagojevich’s 14-year prison term remains in place. That’s the one that (if he qualifies for all the good behavior provisions for early release) would have him out in May 2024.

Just over six years from now. Blagojevich (the governor whose criminal behavior seems to be that he expected to be rewarded for his actions – particularly for the appointment he was entitled to make when Barack Obama gave up his U.S. Senate seat in 2008 to become president) will be free.

CONSIDERING THAT HE’S already served just over six years in prison, it could be said it’s just a matter of time – that the worst of things is over.

Although during those past six years, Blagojevich was clinging to hope that the courts would “see the error of their ways,” so to speak, and give him some ruling that he’d claim to be vindication. Now, he’s going to have to go through the next six years thinking of himself as “just another criminal.”

For it seems the number of legal appeals possible for Blagojevich have run out. Unless he could come up with some new, and previously unknown, evidence, there’s no reason for a judge to consider his case again.

TRUMP: Rod's last-ditch hope for sympathy
And even if he did, the argument most likely would be made that it’s too late; he should have said something earlier in the process.

LITERALLY, ABOUT THE only option for Blagojevich is some form of federal clemency from none other than the president himself.

Considering how erratic the behavior and thought process of Donald J. Trump is on so many issues, there’s certainly no guarantee that he’d be inclined to even consider acting on any measure related to Blagojevich.

I’m also sure that even if Trump were to think of any kind of pardon, it probably would be used to discredit the president. It would be regarded as being amongst his most stupid of actions – and this is a man who during first 16 months of his presidency has made many lunatic decisions. Bottom line? Anybody who needs to rely on Trump for a favor is truly desperate.

Now it’s always possible that a future president could grant some sort of action favorable to Blagojevich. Although that likely would come someday after his release from prison. There’s likely nothing left to be done to get him out of prison early.

DESPITE THIS ATTITUDE, I have to admit it disgusts me the level to which certain people seem compelled to demonize Blagojevich – who during his time as a public official in Illinois was more a goofball than a truly corrupt figure.

Disgusting? Or ha ha-type funny?
In particular, I can’t help but agree with one-time First Lady Patti Blagojevich, who called “disgusting” what I’m sure Gov. Bruce Rauner thinks is a joke (as in, funny, “ha ha”) the filter he paid to have created on SnapChat.

One that allows people to put a comical version of Blagojevich’s now-history coif of hair on a picture of themselves – along with a placard depicting Rod’s federal inmate number.

Maybe the people inclined to rant and rage that Rod Blagojevich was shown too much mercy by the courts will think it funny. Perhaps they’d also like to see an image with a dunce cap superimposed on the current governor?

rod  -30-