Friday, December 19, 2014

Will Jan. 8 mean anything?

January 8 is the date that’s been picked by soon-to-be former Gov. Pat Quinn for the General Assembly to reconvene for the expressed purpose of creating a special election in 2016 – whose sole purpose will be to deprive Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner of having a four-year appointment to fill for the vacant post of Illinois comptroller.

I have no doubt that the General Assembly will ram something through the legislative process, even though Republican legislative leadership is indicating an unwillingness to cooperate.

THAT’S THE BENEFIT (for Democrats, at least) of having veto-proof margins in both the state Senate and Illinois House of Representatives – they truly can do whatever they want.

And since any action they take will have to be acted upon before Quinn leaves office at noon on Jan. 12, not even Rauner can do anything but whine about the results.

But the Rauner camp made it clear in a statement they issued Thursday that they view the outcome of all of this as a legal battle they’re prepared to wage – they’re getting ready to go to court.

Because Rauner previously made it clear he expects his eventual appointment for a state comptroller to serve the entire four-year term to which Judy Baar Topinka was elected last month, but will not be able to serve due to her death earlier this month.

OF COURSE, RAUNER also said he expects Quinn to follow his lead in filling the post for the next month – which we all realize isn’t going to happen. Perhaps that’s what Rauner gets for going through a vicious campaign cycle in which he repeatedly bad-mouthed the incumbent governor with nonsensical corruption allegations.

In short, we have two men who probably can’t stand each other and will do whatever they can to undermine each other.

Which is why Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and his desires for the executive branch officials to resolve this matter without involving the General Assembly is as ridiculous a fantasy as the idea that the Chicago Cubs are going to win the 2015 World Series.

It is why the Legislature’s special session is probably going to be one of the biggest wastes of per-diem expense money for the cost of having the General Assembly’s 177 members at the Statehouse in Springfield on that date.

THIS ISSUE IS not going to be resolved for quite some time. We’re going to get a long drawn-out court fight that will give Illinois government a massive migraine headache by the time it is through.

Whoever Rauner does wind up appointing to fill the comptroller vacancy isn’t going to have a clue as to how long they’re going to serve in office. They had better not get too comfortable in the post.

Which is a shame, because I can see the logic of not having a special election. Law ought to be consistent, and we shouldn’t have the Legislature constantly reconvened whenever unusual circumstances arise.

Governors have that kind of appointment power. I can comprehend how his pick ought to get to finish out the entire four-year term, because such circumstances are not likely to arise again. This truly is a fluke.

WHICH IS WHAT makes this whole circumstance so pathetic with regards to Rauner.

He may be in the right, but he’s handling the whole situation in such a sorry manner that he’s making Quinn look good by comparison.

Then again, maybe he’s behaving merely like the CEO type that he promised to be during his campaign – one who expects to bark out orders and doesn’t tolerate dissent of any sort. When it comes to government, that’s about as un-American a thought as one can find.

If this is the way Rauner plans to govern for four years, he’s going to find a whole lot of headaches due to legislative opposition. And a whole lot of people inclined to “dump the fool” come 2018!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Baseball ‘kids’ don’t live in Chicago? Why did complaints take so long?

For those people who are spewing accusations that the Jackie Robinson West baseball team that nearly won the Little League World Series this year is tainted because its players don’t all live strictly within the league’s boundaries, I’d have to respond by saying that no one ever tried to keep it a secret.

There were so many people who back in August were eager to let it be known that some of the kids had ties to suburbs such as Dolton, Homewood, Lansing, Lynwood and South Holland (instead of neighborhoods such as Roseland and Morgan Park where the league is based).

SO TO NOW hear complaints from officials with the Evergreen Park Athletic Association that the Jackie Robinson West team that represented the Great Lakes Region at the Little League World Series comes across as little more than whining.

It was a relief to learn that Little League International this week issued a statement saying the league’s team that advanced in the Little League World Series to be U.S. champions (before losing to a team from South Korea) was legitimate when it comes to residency issues.

I don’t doubt that the ball playing kids received so much hype that the reality can’t live up.

But this amounts to petty jealousy from a suburban Little League program that happens to border to Jackie Robinson West program on the city’s Far South Side that was created back in the early 1970s to spur interest in youth baseball in a community whose racial composition had changed radically.

UNTIL RECENTLY, I had a “day job” of sorts in writing stories for one of the daily newspapers in the suburbs that covered the communities where some of these kids lived and went to school.

Which local school and government officials were more than eager to reveal. I personally remember one suburban mayor saying he wanted some credit for the player who lived in his community, saying, “We’re not going to let Rahm Emanuel steal everything.”

Although I personally think Gov. Pat Quinn and the Cook County Board did more to latch their names onto the Jackie Robinson kids for his own self-promotion than Emanuel ever did.

But back to the residency issue. It was known that the kids didn’t strictly live within the city neighborhoods. But the fact that there were split residency facts merely reflect our modern-day reality in society.

I remember specifically one ballplayer had a father who lived in Dolton, but a mother who lived in the Morgan Park neighborhood. Does anybody think that means the kid is supposed to never stay with his father just because he plays baseball?


In other cases, there were players whose families used to live in Chicago proper, but in recent years had moved to the nearby south suburbs. It appears that Little League rules permit such players to continue to play in their old home communities if they wish, rather than being forced to shift to Little League programs in their new homes.

The reality is that many of those suburban Little League programs are run by people who are interested in protecting their own little fiefdoms and aren’t exactly accepting of newcomers.

So the idea that these kids would prefer to keep playing ball in the Jackie Robinson West league – which is unique in the fact that it is composed entirely of African-American people – seems to be an obvious choice.

PERHAPS THE SOUTH suburban Little League programs ought to be giving more thought to how to make themselves more welcoming, rather than being among the forces trying (but failing) to keep the population in their home communities the same as it was four decades ago.

Reading the Chicago Sun-Times, I see that the head of the Evergreen Park program is complaining about people who are calling him an “idiot” and are saying he is a bigot.

I’m willing to give his racial attitudes a break and say what really bothers him is the fact that when a team from his Little League program played a Jackie Robinson West team this year, the end result was a 42-3 loss.

That still has to smart, something fierce!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Do we really need the cost of yet another election come 2016?

One thing we should take into account when walking into a voting booth to pick chief executives for government is that those people do get the authority to fill vacancies for lower posts, as they become available.

If you don’t trust the individual to fill government positions, then perhaps you should consider voting for someone else.

MY POINT BEING that I accept the fact that governors, in Illinois and elsewhere, have the ability to pick individuals for any posts that become vacant due to unexpected circumstances.

So as for those people out there who are now arguing it would be unconscionable for someone to get a full four-year appointment to serve as Illinois comptroller without having been voted into the office, I have to regretfully disagree.

We voted for the governor and gave him the appointment powers. And as for those who will say they didn’t vote for the governor and wanted the “other guy” in office, well “Too bad.” Your guy lost on Election Day.

This is pretty much my stream of thought this past week as Illinois government tries to figure out who the new state comptroller will be.

JUDY BAAR TOPINKA, who in 2010 was elected to a term that runs through noon on Jan. 12 and last month was re-elected to another four year term in the post, isn’t going to be able to fulfill her state constitutional duties.

In fact, the memorial service being held Wednesday at a labor union hall in suburban Countryside (just a couple of towns over from her long-time home in Riverside) will give people their last chance to pay respects to Topinka’s memory.

Then, the hard-core politicking to replace her will be underway. Although it can be argued that that politicking during the past week has been intense in its own weird way.

We can make a serious argument about whether Gov. Pat Quinn or Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner is being more petty and childish, while Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, is coming across as the mature, responsible adult here.

WHILE DAUGHTER LISA, the state’s attorney general, is coming up with the rules by which a Topinka replacement will be picked.

It seems that Quinn is likely to get to pick the person who finishes Topinka’s 2010 term, while Rauner will have say over who gets to take over when he assumes control of state government next month.

Rauner is making it clear that he wants his pick for a comptroller to run through 2019, while there are those who are arguing intensely that there ought to be a special election in 2016 (paired up with the presidential and U.S. Senate from Illinois seats that will be up for grabs) to pick a new comptroller.

As Illinois law and the state constitution is now written, the governor gets to fill the vacancy until a new election is held (in November 2018) and there are NO provisions for special elections.

ALTHOUGH THERE ARE clauses that are being interpreted by some to say that the General Assembly has the ability to amend the law to create a special election.

Which I think is a waste of time and financial resources that could be better spent elsewhere. Even with other government posts up for grabs two years from now, it still adds to the bureaucracy to add another post into the mix.

It’s true that governors filling vacancies usually get to do so for shorter time periods. Perhaps a year or so. Or, like Quinn, one month for comptroller.

But I don’t like the idea of rewriting state law every time unique circumstances occur. We need to have consistency in logic in the way our government operates, and this very unusual circumstance shouldn’t create a change that seems motivated more by the political partisanship of people whose preferred candidate lost in last month’s election.

A PART OF me still thinks it was silly to have a special election in 2010 to pick a replacement for the final six weeks of Barack Obama’s six-year U.S. Senate term, just because they despised the idea of a Rod Blagojevich-connected appointment getting any time on Capitol Hill.

If you hate the idea that Rauner will get a four-year appointment for a state constitutional officer, then perhaps you should work harder to defeat him should he decide to seek re-election in 2018.

Trying to create special elections sounds too much to me like trying to get a “Do Over,” which is an idea that real people grow out of on the playground roughly about the time they turn six.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

EXTRA: What should we think of 'Chuy' and Twitter site that mocks it?

I’m sure there are some people who are pondering the upcoming mayoral elections and are trying to figure out, “What’s up with the name ‘Chuy’?”

As in former alderman and state senator, and current county Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who is hoping that a dominant share of the Latino ethnic vote, combined with some support from the rest of Chicago, will be enough to make him Mayor come next May.

THOSE PEOPLE WHO are addicted to Twitter and reading all the 140-character phrases they can find now have a new site that plays along with their confusion. (This sentence, for example, is about 156 characters long).

It’s “Chewies for Chuy,” which I have to admit to never having heard of until I read a story about it Tuesday on the website. It seems like the perfect site for those individuals who don’t realize “The Daily Show” is (in the words of host Jon Stewart), a “fake news show.”

Meaning it goes for laughs as it purports to give us the thoughts of the Star Wars character Chewbacca (you know, the big fuzzy thing that looks like a walking shag carpet) with regards to the Chicago mayoral race.

Humor, not information, is its purpose. For example, the most recent post as I write this commentary suggests that, “@garcia4chicago should also be @ChicagoBears new quarterback.”

FOR THOSE PEOPLE who don’t have a clue, Chuy Garcia (which is how people who know him personally refer to him) isn’t some sort of freak who named himself for the “Star Wars” films.

Nor does it make him a big fan of the “Chuy’s” restaurant chain across various parts of the United States that provides Mexican-style food for people who think the real thing has too much flavor.

It’s actually a common nickname in Spanish for people named “Jesus.” Similar to how we can think of mayoral hopeful Robert Fioretti as “Bob.” It’s no more complex than that. Or did you believe there are a mass of people walking around Spanish-speaking neighborhoods demanding to be referred to by the full name of the "son of God?"

Although I’m sure it will create more opportunities for silly jokes, such as whenever people named “Ignacio” (common nickname “Nacho”) have to hear lame gags about tortilla chips from clueless Anglos.


We’re looking for leadership. Will anyone rise to presidential challenge?

This past weekend, I stumbled across a question posted by a Facebook “friend” asking people who they would choose for president – IF the choice is a matter of Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., or Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Personally, I said I would sooner lead a write-in campaign for the “friend,” who is a former competitor from my days as a Springfield reporter-type person.

BECAUSE THE IDEA of an Indianapolis-based radio personality as president makes about as much sense as any of the other scenarios being pitched out to the public.

For I don’t have a clue as to who will wind up actually running for president in the 2016 election cycle to replace Barack Obama. There isn’t anybody coming forth who is going to capture the spirit and emotions of the public (at least the portion that isn’t ideologically-inclined to still view Obama as some sort of “socialist”).

Former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state Hillary R. Clinton has been lingering for so long as the presumptive presidential candidate for the Democratic Party that I can’t help but think most people are sick and tired of hearing about her possible campaign.

Did she do herself in by waiting so long to state her intentions that nobody cares anymore what she does?

WHAT MAKES THIS particular election cycle for president intriguing is not just that Chicago will lose its personal tie to the White House, it is that Vice President Joe Biden isn’t the automatic choice of Democrats to succeed Obama.

I expect Biden will run for the post. But can he win? Would anybody get excited at the thought of a President Biden? Or would he create the kind of electoral excitement amongst would-be Democratic voters that led to the overwhelming Republican victories in this year’s election cycle. A Monmouth University poll shows Biden with only 2 percent support (compared to 48 percent for Hillary).

On the Republican side, I have heard the names of “Jeb Bush,” “Haley Barbour,” “Newt Gingrich,” “Bobby Jindal,” “Rick Perry” and “Marco Rubio,” along with former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels – who might well attract the attention of what’s left of the Illinois Republican establishment, which often acts as though it wishes they could be Hoosiers.

The Republican National Committee is doing a straw poll trying to gauge support for presidential dreamers, and has 34 different names on its ballot, according to the Washington Times newspaper.

MY POINT BEING that in such a large sea, the ideological rants of Cruz could easily catch on with just enough Republican people that he winds up becoming the front-runner.

Cruz vs. Warren isn’t the biggest fantasy in the world, except for the fact that Warren herself said Monday during an interview with NPR that, “I’m not running for president.”

That is, unless the lack of a clear candidate arouses her ego to the point where she decides to change her mind. It wouldn't be a political first!

Because you also know that the moment Hillary does make it public what her intentions are, all the goodwill her name brings up now will dissipate, and the ideologues’ rants and memories of the Clinton presidential administration (“Hide the girls, Bill Clinton’s back in the White House,” is the image they will repeat over and over) will predominate the public debate.

PERSONALLY, IT’S ALL going to make me reminisce more fondly for the days of Obama. That’s how stupid the rhetoric is going to get between the presidential dreamers.

Which is why I can joke about the notion of “Abdul-Hakim Shabazz” as president. Anybody who knew him when he was a broadcaster in Springfield, or who now listens to him in Indianapolis, knows he has the over-bloated ego to be a public official.

Along with a sense of decency as a human being that many in our society – including those who actually will run for president – are totally lacking.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Not a surprise that Chico now for Rahm

I don’t doubt that mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia will take a majority of the Latino vote in the upcoming municipal elections. But it shouldn’t be a shock that some Latinos will feel more than willing to back Mayor Rahm Emanuel for re-election.

As evidenced by the fact that Gery Chico, currently head of the Illinois State Board of Education who ran for mayor against Emanuel back in 2011, says he is supporting Rahm come the Feb. 24 elections.

BOTH THE CHICAGO Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune reported this weekend that Chico, who is of both Mexican and Lithuanian ethnic origins, plans to publicly back Emanuel for mayor.

It is part of the effort by Emanuel to try to ensure that Garcia doesn’t completely dominate the votes of Latinos – who account for about 30 percent of the city’s population.

If anything, it means that Emanuel wants to repeat his level of Latino support that he achieved in the 2011 election cycle that he managed to win without the need for a run-off election.

Amongst Latinos in 2011, Chico won the vote with about 40 percent, and another 20 percent preferring the mayoral aspirations of then-city Clerk Miguel del Valle. Emanuel took about 30 percent of the Latino vote, with the three remaining candidates (all African-American) splitting the remaining vote of under 10 percent.

THIS TIME AROUND, there aren’t two mayoral candidates counting on Latino votes (del Valle is of Puerto Rican origins) to bolster their overall totals.

So perhaps Garcia manages to get about two-thirds of the Latino vote. So long as Emanuel gets the other third, he’s likely to think he has “enough” of the Latino vote to combine for an overall total large enough to win.

Which could mean that if he keeps the same Latinos who voted for him in ’11, he doesn’t have to do reach out to anybody new!

The key to comprehending Latino political empowerment in Chicago is to keep one thing in mind – there are those who think that Latinos benefit in the long run by taking on the political establishment and replacing its members with “one of our own,” while there are others who merely want to be a part of the establishment.

ALDERMANIC AND LEGISLATIVE elections often turn into political fights between people of those two groups. Emanuel is likely to want Latinos who are willing to keep the basic structure in place in exchange for a piece of the overall political pie.

Having someone like Chico, who once was president of the Chicago Board of Education and who is a prominent attorney whose firm does business with city government, is likely to appeal to those individuals.

As is the fact that even Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., is willing to publicly back Emanuel’s re-election bid. The mayor may well have two of the most prominent Spanish names on the local political scene backing him.

It’s not likely that those two would be sticking their necks out publicly if they didn’t think there was a chance that Emanuel could overcome the hostility he faces in some quarters of the city and get himself re-elected.

THAT COULD BE the key to comprehending the mayoral election we’re going to have in Chicago.

There are those who are greatly offended that Emanuel was willing to close down so many schools in the Chicago Public Schools system contained in non-white neighborhoods of the city. There are those who have their grudges who will be very outspoken in coming months about how much they detest Emanuel.

But there are others who will want to think that those people are just interested in shouting and screaming about something, anything! They’re going to be more than willing to maintain the status quo.

And if it winds up prevailing into a new term come May, the Latino political powers could be the people who are now willing to put themselves out there on Rahm’s behalf now.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Will South vs. West sides equal NYC?

The great divide amongst Chicago’s African-American population is the rivalry that exists between residents of South Side neighborhoods, and those who live on the West Side of the city.

Sout’ vs. West. I have heard countless diatribes from black people who live in those parts of Chicago who will insist that their part of the city is the reality that tells you what Chicago is truly all about.

IT IS A dispute that can get more intense than the South vs. North arguments that crop up during baseball season. It also is one that has developed its character into the debate over where a future library and museum for President Barack Obama should be located.

Two of the four sites under consideration are in Chicago, although I wonder if the inability of the city to get behind one site is what will make the New York City proposal the ultimate winner.

Will the South and West side interests wind up dumping all over each other and make it easier for Columbia University to achieve its desire of housing the Obama presidential legacy for decades to come?

Now I know some people are convinced there’s no way Obama, an adopted Chicagoan, and first lady Michelle, a South Shore neighborhood native, could possibly consider a place other than Chicago for his legacy. I’d like to believe that’s true.

BUT THERE ARE those who would like the appeal of New York, and would argue the fact that Obama actually attended Columbia (he transferred from Occidental College in Los Angeles to earn his bachelor’s degree) ought to put that school on top of the heap.

Considering that the Obamas have already indicated they’re not going to hustle back to Chicago immediately once his presidential term ends in January 2017, our city may well be just the place they came from.

For the record, it was the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago that put together the competing bids that were submitted Thursday, and that will be studied between now and mid-January, when the Obamas have indicated a site will be chosen.

Illinois-Chicago says a museum sponsored with their assistance could be at either Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue or Harrison and Halsted streets. A CTA “el” stop on Kostner closed decades ago could be reopened, IF the Roosevelt site is chosen.

WHILE CHICAGO (AS in the university) says a museum could go near the South Shore Cultural Center, near Washington Park on King Drive or on Stony Island Avenue in Jackson Park.

Chicago’s sites would be near (as in a short drive away) the University of Chicago campus, where Obama once served as an instructor in the law school. It would be a boost to the neighborhoods surrounding Hyde Park, and theoretically would make the university less of a racial island on the black South Side.

While Illinois-Chicago’s sites could help bolster the North Lawndale neighborhood that many outsiders still think of as incurable ghetto. College officials also stress the fact that, as a public university, they are more likely to get the kinds of students who don’t fit into some academic and cultural elite.

As though implying that Flames students are less elitist than the Maroons who hang out around the Midway!

IT’S AS THOUGH people will be asked to recognize Chicago South or Chicago West as being what the Obama legacy is all about. It could make some think that New York is less of a hassle than the Second City. The ultimate neutral site!

Although I honestly think that if it didn’t wind up in Chicago, the best spot for an Obama museum and library might well be the future president’s birthplace in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The University of Hawaii (of which his parents were alumni) could literally wind up having a beachfront site that might make it a place people make the extra trip to attend.

It certainly would be a more appealing destination than Grand Rapids, Mich., which houses the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.