Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Byrne joines Ryan, Ford as transport tributees -- will 'Looie" be next?

Put Jane Byrne on the list of people whom future generations of Chicagoans will regard as a mere road.

Forget the humanity that ever existed. People will forget the fact that Byrne was once mayor of Chicago, or that she was the first (and thus far, only) woman to hold that post.\

BECAUSE HOW MANY people do you really think remember that Dan Ryan, Jr., was once a Cook County Board president. Or that the Bishop L.H. Ford was once a significant leader of the Church of God in Christ?

Instead, we hear the daily traffic reports about how backed up traffic was on the "Ryan" for those people working their way into the heart of the city.

We even hear exotic reports about this "Ford Freeway" that always seems absurdly backed up headed north in the morning, and south in the evening -- but that many people living in the metropolitan area never go anywhere near.

Admittedly, Byrne's name will get more prominence because she's getting the Circle Interchange named after her. That's the point where all the expressways that head downtown converge.

IT'S THAT POINT where many motorists from all over Chicago and surrounding suburbs converge. It is a place with much potential for auto accidents of all sorts.

Which makes me wonder if we're destined to hear of so many people being killed or maimed at the Byrne Interchange that her name will take on an even more negative connotation now than it had for some people back when she was mayor and interfering with their efforts to push yet another concocted scheme through City Hall?

One significant difference; Byrne was still alive last week when ceremonies were held to mark the official renaming of the interchange.

Unlike Ryan and Ford, who had already passed on by the time the expressways that took their identities became a part of the daily commutes that occur in Chicago.

ALTHOUGH CONSIDERING HOW long it took for Byrne to get anything of significance named in her honor, I can't help but wonder if some political people were preferring that she be deceased before they had to get around to doing anything.

Even Harold Washington got his namesake tribute (a public library building) so many years ago that I wonder how many people are losing track of the man.

We now have Ryan, Ford and Byrne, to go along with former Governor and U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson and former presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy as the namesakes of Chicago's major expressways.

Ronald Reagan has his own expressway up in the far northwestern suburbs; which I suspect makes his ideologue backers happy. His road doesn't stretch into the city, because his political programs and ideas often ignored the concerns of urban America.

ALTHOUGH LOOKING AT the non presidential types who get a Chicago expressway, I can't help but notice some odd sense of balance -- although I believe it is unintentional.

A white Irish type in Ryan, an African-American preacher in Ford and a woman in Byrne. Does this mean we're going to someday need a Latino of sorts to provide another sense of balance?

Which makes me wonder if the day is going to come when we're going to get a significant road named for Rep. Luis Gutierrez? I'm not sure which road it will be. For all I know of the "Chicago Way," it's likely that someone will want to build a new road (and get rich off the awarding of the construction contracts) just so that the congressman's name will have a place to go.

And someday, the outspoken congressman will become nothing more than a place where winter icy conditions caused a series of fender-bender accidents.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Contemplating on Labor Day whether “labor” will influence this election

Perhaps it’s appropriate this election season that Monday is the unofficial start of the campaign season leading up to the Nov. 4 Election Day.


Of course, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner has been at it for more than a year, trying to get the attention of the electorate so that he could build up such intense momentum for his campaign that it wouldn’t matter much what happens in coming weeks.


BUT THE THEORY behind paying special attention to Labor Day in election years is that most people have more important things to do than stress over who they will cast a vote for come November.


It is only now that some people will give much thought to the process and whether they really buy into the rhetoric Rauner has spewed for the past year that Gov. Pat Quinn is to blame for the state’s ills, and he must go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Those of us who remember back all those months ago to the primary season remember the Rauner campaign rhetoric that went out of its way to demonize organized labor – particularly those unions that represent the interests of state government workers.


Rauner used such talk to build up enough support that he overcame three GOP primary opponents; all of whom had far more experience being a part of state government than he did.


SINCE THE PRIMARY, Rauner has put a cork in it when it comes to the anti-labor rhetoric. In fact, he seems to get upset whenever anyone reminds potential voters of what he said back then.


Except that organized labor still has it in their head that Rauner is the guy they want to crush. But can those unions use their organizing skills to get enough people to turn out to vote come Election Day?


Officially, the labor unions have forgiven Quinn for his support of the measures meant to reform the way the state funds its pension programs – the ones whose expenses have gotten to the point where they’re driving the state broke.


The unions perceived it as though state workers were being blamed for the state’s financial ills, and they don’t feel future state workers should have to be penalized for the state’s past ineptitude.


THOSE OF US who have observed closely have seen how ill-liked Quinn had become by labor interests. Will that displeasure suddenly just melt away just because the labor leadership has now decided they detest Rauner more than they ever did the Mighty Quinn?


There are a lot of political interests out there that theoretically should back Quinn – enough that if they actually turn out to vote that Quinn should win against Rauner. This is still a state that leans to the Democratic Party and will still have a Democrat-dominated government even if Rauner wins.


The Rauner camp is trying to appeal to the rest of Illinois (the one-third of the populace that lives outside the Chicago metropolitan area) that he will look out for their interests, and is taking advantage of the long-simmering sentiment that the Democratic establishment that has controlled state government since 2002 ignores them for more urban concerns.


His people are fired up. As for Quinn’s people? There are times I wonder if I have ever seen a more apathetic group of potential voters.


QUINN LOSES IF the unions are unable to convince their voters that they don’t have something better to do with their time come Nov. 4 than stand in lines at polling places to cast ballots. If they don’t buy into the Quinn rhetoric that Rauner, “would cut billions from education, lower the minimum wage and send property taxes through the roof.”


Although admittedly, the unions seem more united behind Quinn than they do with regards to the next election cycle – the Feb. 24 municipal elections for mayor where unions representing educators are firmly behind the movement to vote for Anybody But Rahm.


But those unions representing construction workers seem more than content with the amount of work they’re getting under Emanuel


So whose interests are going to prevail on Election Day – the people who gathered Sunday in places like the Candlelight Inn in Sterling and the Mt. Carroll Café and General Store? Or those workers who will turn out to rally Monday at the Pullman neighborhood’s Wal-mart store seeking an increase in the minimum wage?



Saturday, August 30, 2014

A 30-year reunion only one year late

My 30-year high school class reunion is Saturday night, yet I'm not among the people eager to see how my one-time colleagues (many of whom I haven't seen since I walked across the stage and accepted my high school diploma) turned out in life.

Did they go bald? Wind up rather unsuccessful in life? Perhaps turn out to have larger pot bellies than the one I have managed to develop during the past three decades?

SOMEHOW, I THINK the results would be more depressing than anything else. Particularly because they'd relate to a stage of my life that hasn't been particularly relevant to me since the days that I moved on from Thornwood High School in suburban South Holland.

Our reunion is tonight at a restaurant/bar right on the Chicago River. Which has potential for an urban scenic view of some spectacular-ness, I suppose.

Then again, I can go to downtown Chicago anytime I want. The idea of seeing many masses of long-forgotten individuals just isn't strong enough to make me want to do it this particular Saturday night.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those people who detested my high school years. I have enough pleasant memories that on the occasions I think about that era (1979-83), I don't shudder in disgust.

EXCEPT FOR THE times I have to recall the horrid pop music and pseudo-fashions of that era. How could we have ever have listened to that dreck. Aerosmith is a lingering memory, along with forgotten bands such as REO Speedwagon, Journey and the Go-Gos.


My recollection of high school was that it was an experience that I had to go through before I could consider college -- which is where life truly became interesting.

I do have regrets over past college Homecomings I have missed. Not so for Saturday night with the high school crowd.

AND FOR ANYBODY who's going to reminisce about some long-ago high school Homecoming event, I'll have to say it was all rather pointless compared to what happens at a university setting when decades of alumni return to reminisce about their glory days at ol' State U. (or wherever they went).

Part of the reason, however, that I don't think I'm missing much is that I noticed the class reunion event has become a group affair.

It is being billed as a 30-year reunion for the classes of 1981 through 1985. Is that the only way they could get enough people to show up to make an event worth while?

That, in fact, is why the Class of '83 is having its big event 31 years after we graduated. Although I suppose that is better than the 20-year reunion that was held in 1984 at a rather tiny restaurant banquet facility that actually was about three blocks from where I happened to live at the time.

ONLY I NEVER got the invitation, and didn't find out about it until the day AFTER the event was held.

This time, I got notice in advance (they found me through Facebook). So I'm not snubbed (although I didn't feel snubbed 10 years ago).

There's also the fact that my life has sort of turned out into something I wanted. I'm writing for a living (albeit, not being as well-compensated financially as I would have hoped some 16 years ago).

Unlike a couple of our bigger-name classmates -- our star athlete died in an auto accident many years ago, and the girl whose ambition in life would have envisioned great things for her became a little too aggressive, and is now serving a prison stint.

I'M NOT GOING to be the intriguing story of the Class of '83 by any means. For all I know, my absence may not even be noted.

But I will go so far as to wish those of my former classmates who do show up at the reunion, I hope they have a wonderful time and find the experience redeeming.

And if anybody is curious, I'm the classmate who now has a head of hair gone almost fully grey (that image of me to the right is a 22-year-old press card image). So you baldies can feel a little bit better about yourselves while we all move a year closer to a half-century of existence on this planet.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Can JRW kids become a factor if Quinn achieves political victory on Nov. 4?

I'm not sure what to be more repulsed by -- the fact that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner blew off the elaborate ceremonies meant to offer praise earlier this week to the youthful ballplayers from the Far South Side and surrounding suburbs who participated in the Little League World Series?

Or that Gov. Pat Quinn is so eager to let us know he showed up at that Millennium Park rally (how many people whined when White Sox announcer Ken Harrelson hosted the event)!

I WASN'T SURPRISED to learn that Rauner chose to go on another of his rural Illinois bus tours, and was at a restaurant in Braidwood (out past Joliet) at the time when the kids of the Jackie Robinson West Little League program were getting their moment in the sun (literally).

Perhaps he thinks that making his rounds on the "Shake Up Express" tour (he was in Greenville, Carlyle, Lebanon, Waterloo, DuQuoin and Edwardsville on Friday) will get him more voter support than the urban crowd would have attracted to his campaign on Wednesday.

But then I got the e-mail message from the Quinn campaign letting me know how proud the governor was of those kids -- who admittedly are getting praise from politicos all over.

There are many suburban communities with the weakest of links to the team that are desperate to now issue proclamations honoring their efforts. Perhaps they find drafting such a resolution more interesting than the process of purchasing a new lawnmower for their Public Works department?

QUINN MANAGED TO include so many photographs of himself with the kids, while wearing a yellow t-shirt with the team's logo on it. Along with video snippets.

It came across as Quinn trying to use the Jackie Robinson West kids as an excuse to give his campaign yet another jolt to try to close the gap that various polls have shown exists for the Nov. 4 election cycle.

Now I expect political people to pander for votes. They'll use whatever they can to try to find themselves favorable attention. So we shouldn't be shocked by the actions of either Rauner or Quinn.

I just want to know that if Quinn winds up giving a victory speech on Election Night, will he acknowledge these kids -- and everybody else whom he has glommed onto -- as the reason people voted for him?


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gay marriage holdouts? Or, where can one get a reliable ride home?

Officials from Indiana and Wisconsin were in Chicago this week to try to defend their states’ refusal to accept the idea of marriages for gay couples being legitimate, only to find the Court of Appeals panel not so acceptant.


This shouldn’t come as a surprise. State after state is getting on board with the concept that there isn’t a legitimate reason to deny the perk of marriage for those gay couples so inclined, but there are also those whose attitudes are so engraved in stone they will never come around.


I DON’T DOUBT when a federal appeals judge in Chicago pointed out the change in our society’s attitude toward interracial marriage, there were those people who wanted to say that such marriages also are wrong.


That is what popped into my head when I read a Chicago Tribune report about a lawsuit filed against a taxicab company which has a driver who kicked a couple out of his cab because he objected to their kiss in his vehicle.


This particular couple of men caught a Sun Taxi Association cab at O’Hare International Airport and wanted a ride back to their apartment in the Lakeview neighborhood.


When the driver saw them kiss in the back seat, he began flashing the internal car lights on and off, and initially tried to kick them out of his vehicle alongside the Kennedy Expressway.


WHETHER IT WAS a sense of compassion, or the realization that stopping his cab alongside the Kennedy Expressway was as dangerous to himself as it was to the passengers he was abandoning, the cab driver ultimately went to the nearest exit before kicking the couple out at a supermarket parking lot.


The couple is working with Lambda Legal in their lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court. They’re asking for notices about the Illinois Human Rights Act to be posted in all taxicabs in Chicago, and for the cab company to get stuck with paying the legal fees connected to this lawsuit, the Tribune reported.


Which I’m sure will infuriate the critics who side with the cab company – who would probably rather have the company pay some large settlement to the two men if they didn’t have to admit to doing anything wrong in this particular case.


Because I’m sure they’re going to want to believe that cab drivers have a right to selectively pick whom they offer transportation to – even though such an attitude is so absurd it is almost laughable.


EXCEPT FOR THOSE moments when a driver is trying to dump someone off alongside an interstate highway. That moment alone ought to be the one that kills the cab company’s chances of success in court.


It may well be because of attitudes like this that many people in need of a ride prefer to use the ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft. I literally have heard people say that such services offer cleaner, less-offensive vehicles than many taxicabs offer.


Just like I’m wondering how much Indiana’s marketing attempts to steal businesses from Illinois are going to get knocked to the ground because of the perception being created that the Hoosier state is determined to be the last in the nation – or at the very least, in the Great Lakes states region – to permit gay couples the same legal rights as other couples who choose to live their lives as one.


Of course, there’s no guarantee how the Court of Appeals will choose to rule. The kinds of hostile questions they asked to Indiana and Wisconsin officials offer hints, but no one can say how a court will rule until they do so in writing.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Balcer not standing in way of next generation of political Daleys

The political retirement of James Balcer, a long-time alderman from the 11th Ward, is so typical of the way electoral politics works in this city.

I'll take Balcer's word for it that he's not being pushed out of his post so that a member of the Daley family can be in the City Council -- which is going to be the likely end result of this come the February 2015 elections.

FOR PATRICK THOMPSON, a member of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District board whose grandfather was the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and whose uncle is the retired Mayor Richard M. Daley, wants to move up to a more prominent post.

Going from the board that oversees water sanitation plants to being on the City Council is a significant step up -- particularly since it would mean Thompson could bypass the usual "first step" for an aspiring political person. Which is a seat in the state Legislature.

So to avoid a political fight, incumbent Alderman Balcer is stepping aside. He's not seeking re-election. He's saying that 17 years in the council is long enough.

Particularly since Balcer has always made an issue of the fact that he served in the Marine Corps back during the Vietnam War.

SO THE FACT that he says he wants to focus his time on getting treatment for vertigo and post-traumatic stress disorder that date back to his late 1960s military service is sort of believable.

Although I suspect that if he wanted to, Balcer could have figured out a way to get treatment and remain in the City Council.

But there were other interests that wanted the post, and Balcer has always been a loyal enough soldier (politically, as well as militarily) to not want to engage in a fight.

In fact, it is the way most government officials wind up getting elected. The blatant, public political infighting that takes place between Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican opponent Bruce Rauner is rare.

MOST CANDIDATES FOR public office have the political organizations they are aligned with use their power to crush anyone who dares think of challenging them. The idea of an actual fight in the streets to sway voters to back them is the last thing they want -- particularly for those who have been around awhile like Balcer.

So Balcer can easily decide it's time to retire. No one had to come right out and tell him to get lost. Because I do think that if it had come down to a fight between the two, Thompson could have won.

The "Daley" connection still carries some pull; even if we're currently in a lull between Daleys similar to the period of the 1980s between the two Mayors Daley. Rahm Emanuel's legacy could wind up being that he kept the office warm in between the Daleys -- just like former mayors Bilandic, Byrne or Washington (be honest, that is part of Harold's legacy).

There will be those Bridgeport residents who will vote for Thompson because of his family connection. Balcer might have had his home neighborhood's respect, but the whole idea of Daleys in government does sway some voters -- no matter how irrational the concept is.

BALCER MUST REALIZE how much it would hurt his image if he had tried to come between that. Even if he had managed to win against Thompson, it would have created resentment.

Now, people can go about speculating how long it will be until Thompson tries running for mayor -- although considering he's 45, he has plenty of time to have a political life. His biggest mistake would be to try to rush the process (which is one his uncle Rich made back in 1983 when he ran unsuccessfully for mayor).

He will have to bide his time and wait for the right moment, just as how Balcer had enough sense to realize his "right" moment to retire has come and that he had little to gain from provoking a political civil war in the 11th Ward.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Will anyone serious dare challenge Emanuel for mayoral post in '15

I have seen the assorted polls that claim Mayor Rahm Emanuel is vulnerable come the February municipal elections, and could be beat by Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

I don't doubt the fact that the African-American segment of Chicago's population (not quite one-third of the city's people) has its gripes. And that the officials in the Chicago Public Schools system also wouldn't mind seeing someone else in charge at City Hall.

YET I FIND it hard to believe that anybody is going to be able to dump Rahm come next year.

Perhaps it's because it just seems so incredibly impossible for anyone being willing to come forth and take on Emanuel as a political opponent.

It just seems like political people with any real ambition perceive a mayoral campaign as the equivalent of a kamikaze mission resulting in the same fate that befell those Japanese fighter pilots who may have taken several lives with their crashes into the hulls of ships when they also blew themselves up.

Somehow, I don't think anyone will build shrines to the memory of a political challenger the way Japan has memorials to the pilots who literally gave up their lives for their country.

I REALLY BELIEVE the viewpoint of one political opponent I saw on television a few weeks ago who said he was convinced Lewis herself desperately wanted Anybody but Rahm to be mayor.

But does she really have it in herself to run for the office? I'm not sure.

As far as the other people who have talked about running for office, I believe Robert Shaw will be on the ballot and give a worse political performance than did Carol Moseley Braun when she was the African-American candidate in the 2011 mayoral campaign.

And what about Robert Fioretti, the second ward alderman who has hinted he will run and is making a point of appearing all over the city (just last week, he was in the Pullman neighborhood, familiarizing himself with the talk of turning the remains of the one-time rail car factory into a national park)?

I'M NOT CONVINCED he's well-enough known to gain much more than a 1 percent voter tally come Election Day. Although considering that the redistricting process has taken away his ward and made him a lame-duck alderman, I don't doubt he will run.

He'll get a few months of public attention for saying nasty things about the incumbent mayor -- even though it won't translate into votes.

But I do wonder if Fioretti and Shaw could wind up taking just enough votes that they could take from the concept of a Lewis campaign -- if she decides to seek electoral office.

Perhaps I'd think more of her campaign if she had solid labor support.

BUT IT APPEARS she has the backing of teachers' unions, while the unions that represent construction workers and other trades (according to the Chicago Tribune) are implying they will stick with Emanuel.

Heck, they are getting their work. They don't have the same objections that the teachers' unions and other educators do with the ham-handed way in which Rahm has tried to impose his will upon the city's public school system.

It's not like in the November election cycle for governor where Republican Bruce Rauner really does have organized labor united in anger against him to the point where they're willing to forgive (for now) all of the things that Gov. Pat Quinn did to them the past four years that they hated at the time.

Which may be the reason that Quinn ultimately closes the gap that early polls show with Rauner in a significant lead.

BUT BACK TO the city elections, where various polls showing Emanuel in trouble generally ask people about head-to-head candidate matchups. When it's not likely this will be a two-candidate campaign.

Someone will be bound to come forth to challenge Emanuel because they have nothing better to do with themselves for the next few months. Whether it will be anyone who can seriously stir the spirit of the electorate is questionable.

I don't know if Karen Lewis will be amongst them. Will ego get the best of her? We'll have to see.