Monday, February 28, 2011

How embarrassing WAS Chicago Election Day for African-American voter bloc?

HENDON: Has time passed him by?
Depending on whom one wants to listen to, Rickey Hendon is retiring from the state Senate (and electoral politics altogether, if his “out is out” statement is truthful) because he’s ill, he thinks it will help him avoid an indictment or because he’s embarrassed by “pathetic” vote totals by African-American voters in last week’s municipal elections.

Now I’m not sure which of the three is most accurate, although I can’t help but think that some people who talk about indictments are merely eager to reinforce their own racial hang-ups. But the one that catches my attention is the latter.

MANY GROUPS DIVERSE in ethnicity and religion experienced victories in the election results – the numbers provide evidence of their growing influence in the Chicago of the 21st Century.

Yet influence is like a pie, in that no matter how many different ways one tries to slice it, there’s only so much to go around. So if ethnic politicos experienced gains, it only makes sense that someone had to lose out.

And it sure wasn’t the old order Irish-American politicos who lost anything – even if Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel were to dump 14th Ward Alderman Edward Burke as chairman of the Finance Committee.

Was it the black voter bloc that lost out?

IN HENDON’S CASE, he tried to use his influence as a black politico to tout the campaign of Patricia Horton for city Clerk. It would have been a rise from her post as a board member of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

Instead, she got whomped, barely taking 40 percent of the vote in a head-to-head campaign against state Rep. Susana Mendoza, D-Chicago.

The new clerk becoming the first Latina to hold that particular Chicago citywide office is a gain for Latino political empowerment, and it came about because the Latino voter bloc that was split by about a 2-1 ratio between mayoral hopefuls Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle found common ground for Mendoza.

Thereby giving her a solid base of voter support that Hendon and other black politicos couldn’t overcome on Horton’s behalf.

OF COURSE, THE mayoral campaign itself factors into this.

The official figure that will be recognized is 59 percent – as in the number of black voters who are believed to have voted for Rahm Emanuel to be mayor, rather than Carol Moseley-Braun, the so-called consensus candidate of the African-American activists.

There’s also the fact that Moseley-Braun couldn’t win a single ward, and in fact only one a majority of votes in 1 precinct (out of just over 2,900 precincts in the entire city).

By comparison, Chico’s mayoral campaign actually won the majority of 10 wards, and even got significant votes in places preferred by Emanuel.

IF THERE WAS a racial/ethnic factor at work in this election cycle, it was one of white and Latino, not white and black such as what existed back in those un-glorious days of 1983.

Now I think it would be overly-simplistic to write this off as a growing political feud between Latino and black voters in Chicago, in large part because I think the people most eager to promote THAT view are the ones who want to stir dissent in hopes that it will enable them to maintain control.

But it also is a factor that will have to be accounted for as Chicago takes steps to being a city with equal numbers of Latinos, black and white people. (As it is, we’re pretty close now – the 2010 Census results for Illinois released two weeks ago show Chicago with 33 percent black people, 32 percent white and 29 percent Latino – with Asians of various ethnicities comprising the remaining 6 percent).

If anything, the Census results may provide the biggest clue as to what happened on Election Day – there probably aren’t as many black voters.

THE RESULTS THAT show Chicago as a city with just under 2.7 million people indicate that the bulk of the 200,000-person population “loss” was of black people who moved to the inner south suburbs of Cook County – with many of those municipalities becoming majority African-American.

Which also pares up with the fact that the outer southern suburbs of Will County is the place that had the largest percentage increase (just under 35 percent) in Illinois, and gained about 183,000 people. Now we know where many of the remaining white people went, and that “white flight” remains alive – albeit not quite an urban concept anymore.

Think I’m exaggerating? I covered a criminal trial recently at the courthouse in Joliet and heard the lead defense attorney at one point during a recess talk about his family ties in the Bridgeport neighborhood that he still feels, even though, “We’ve all moved out here now and taken over.”

For the city’s white population in the past decade remained relatively stable in terms of numbers, although it shifted around to different neighborhoods.

WHICH MAY WELL mean that Hendon probably shouldn’t feel embarrassment. Maybe he did the best with the remaining number of African-Americans in the city who are registered to vote.

It means we’re going to have to think in these multi-ethnic terms when it comes to defining our city. Black and white (or white and “other,” the way some people prefer to think of it) just aren’t accurate anymore.

And if Hendon can’t accept that fact, then perhaps we should praise him for resigning his legislative post. At least it means he’s accepting that he’s a part of our city’s past, unlike some other activists who will try to carry their ways of doing things into the future on a quest that bears all too much resemblance to the Chicago Cubs saying each year that they’re really, really, really going to win a National League championship.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

How will we satisfy our “fix” for pro, if not quite Major League, baseball?

Will this suburban Wrigley replica really sit empty for a season? Will the sheriff be forced to evict a ballclub, leaving their gear out on the streets of Schaumburg? Will the Flyers fly again? For answers to these questions, tune in this spring. Same bat (and ball) time! Same bat (and ball) channel!

It is with bemusement that I have been watching the world of “Independent” baseball this off-season, and I must admit to great confusion about which ballclubs that exist on the fringes of the Chicago metro area are actually going to be in existence this summer.

For the biggest change among professional ballclubs that are not affiliated with the major leagues impacted the Northern League – the eight-team circuit that had ballclubs in Gary, Joliet, Schaumburg and up in Lake County (among others).

FOUR OF THE eight teams in that league announced a few months ago that they were leaving the league to join something called the American Association, which is a conglomeration of several regional independent leagues who think that by sticking together, they can create something substantial.

The Gary Southshore Railcats were among those four teams, which means their on-field fate will be determined in 2011 playing against teams such as the St. Paul Saints and the El Paso Diablos.

Yet the four teams that got left behind – they were given use of the name Northern League, but are so few in number that it would not be worth playing on their own – were the four ballclubs based in Illinois (mostly the Chicago area).

What gives? Do the big-wigs of independent baseball think the Chicago metro area is unworthy of their product?

THOSE TEAMS OFFICIALLY planned to merge with the remnants of the old Golden League in California and the United League to create their own “super-league” of independent ballclubs consisting of ballplayers whom no major league team was interested in having play for any of their own minor league affiliates.
One can literally walk from Joliet Union Station to the ballpark

Fans of the Joliet JackHammers have figured out that is not going to happen for them. The team officially went bankrupt, and a new group is putting together a ballclub (to be called the Slammers) to play in the team’s downtown Joliet stadium to play in the Frontier League – where they will get to be the fierce arch-rivals of the Crestwood-based Windy City Thunderbolts.

The old JackHammers went out of business because of much back rent owed to the city, and many other vendors are looking for their money. Which is the same fate that is befalling the Schaumburg Flyers.

Earlier this week, the Flyers officially were evicted from Alexian Field, the Schaumburg-based stadium located within walking distance of the Metra commuter station where they played their games. They have until the end of next week to get out.

OR MAYBE WE really will be treated to the sight of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police being called in to physically remove the team’s equipment from the ballpark? Would Sheriff Tom Dart have qualms about carrying out that eviction?

Some people speculate that a buyer for the Flyers can be found in the near-enough future that these financial matters can be resolved in time for Opening Day (which for these independent leagues comes in May). Others say there is a chance Schaumburg officials might just prefer to leave their ballpark empty for a year and focus on 2012 and beyond.

To me, the Joliet and Schaumburg franchises (along with any replacement ballclubs that will come in the future) have significant advantages in terms of their potential markets. Schaumburg is in the heart of those northwest suburbs that some think are the only part of the Chicago area that matters, while Joliet is in the heart of the county that (in terms of percentage, nearly 40) had the largest population growth during the past decade and is in the city that is now Illinois’s fourth largest.

They also have stadiums that are elite facilities compared to the buildings that some allegedly professional ballclubs in smaller cities are forced to use.

ALEXIAN FIELD IN Schaumburg is the building whose field dimensions were meant to copy-cat Wrigley Field, while Silver Cross Stadium in Joliet (both are named for area hospitals) is right in the heart of the downtown area – just a block from the county courthouse and Union Station and only a few blocks from the casino/luxury hotel that provides the area with a nightlife.

When those ballclubs were new and professional baseball being played nearby was still a novelty, those teams drew well (by minor league standards) and had potential for being cash cows.

Yet when the economy takes a plunge and people everywhere are cutting back on entertainment expenses (including the number of trips they will take to see a game), these teams still have more significant operating expenses because they’re not playing in places like Shreveport, La., or Wichita, Kan.

It’s also not like the teams themselves use their on-field play as the drawing card. My guess is that most people who would say they like independent baseball like catching a particular atmosphere, and couldn’t tell you how many times the local team won a Northern League championship.

FOR THE RECORD, Gary Southshore won in 2005 and 2007, while neither Joliet nor Schaumburg ever won a league title. It’s not like in smaller cities, where the ballclub is the sporting representative of the city. We may well be spoiled by the competent play of the Chicago White Sox, or the ineptitude of the Cubs that some find endearing (but I find embarrasing to the civic reputation).

Which is why I’ll be watching the situation in Schaumburg to see where, if anywhere, they wind up. And in Joliet, it will be interesting to see if the locals notice anything different about moving to a new league – one that actually has an age limit of 28 in order to preserve the image that the ballplayers are up-and-coming young talent.

Rather than aging geezers hoping desperately to use a few at-bats to stage their “comeback” to Major League Baseball – most likely with the Chicago Cubs. No wonder the North Siders are hopeless.


Friday, February 25, 2011

EXTRA: Is anybody really surprised?

Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor who has engaged in heavily partisan political tactics to try to turn union-busting measures into state law, should have taken a lesson in hard-ball politics from our soon-to-be former mayor, Richard M. Daley.
WALKER: A political amateur, compared to Daley

Walker got a political victory in the early hours of Friday when the Wisconsin state Assembly’s Republican leadership cut off what had become nearly three full days of debate meant to stall the issue, and forced a sudden vote.

IT WAS LITERALLY so quick (and so staged by the GOP leadership) that roughly two-thirds of the Democratic legislative opposition didn’t realize a vote was being taken until it was over – and too late for them to express their opposition.

So now Walker’s desire to do away with collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin (the oldest trick, blame the financial problems on the workers) has at least one stamp of legislative approval. Whether it can get the approval of the Wisconsin state Senate is another – since many of the Democratic members there remain out-of-state, and the hard-core partisan nature of the Assembly vote is bound to harden them.

Which may be where Walker made his mistake. He had his people play their “drop-dead” card too early. He should have learned from the example of Daley.

Remember Meigs Field?

I DO. ON March 31, 2003, we all woke up to the sight of the runways of Meigs having been bulldozed – with big gouges in the form of giant “X’s” ground into the runway pavement so that it would have been dangerous for any airplane to try to land at the one-time air strip with proximity to downtown Chicago.

In fact, the feeling I experienced upon waking up Friday and learning of the middle-of-the-night antics of the Assembly in Madison, Wis., was similar to the feeling I felt when Daley just took action to do away with Meigs – the air strip he had wanted to do away with for years but had run into repeated political opposition.

Outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley had his own middle-of-the-night political antics that destroyed the former Meigs Field, seen here in this portrayal of the airstrip in the Flight Simulator 2004 game.

The one difference is that with Daley, his action made it impossible for anyone to seriously talk about maintaining Meigs – unless they were willing to come up with the cash necessary to rebuild what he bulldozed.

Walker’s minions pulled their “drop-dead” move when the process was still incomplete.

I HONESTLY BELIEVE that many of those Democratic members of the Wisconsin state Senate are reaching the point where they are tired, homesick, and wondering if their protest act of staying out of state to keep their chamber of the Legislature shuttered (and incapable of acting) was a futile gesture.

The state Assembly’s act may give them the jolt they needed to make them hunker down and stay away indefinitely.

It also ensures that Walker’s rhetoric about all of this hard-core partisanship being necessary to balance the state’s budget will be seen for the cheap talk that it is, and will be among the list of partisan antics that voters will have to contemplate come the 2012 election cycle.

This is going to reflect badly upon the GOP everywhere, particularly since another part of Walker’s rhetoric is to require state employees to pay a larger share of their health insurance benefits – which the unions have said they’re willing to do if the talk of dropping collective bargaining rights disappears.

 TO LISTEN TO the “Tea Party types” who were a significant part of the coalition that got Walker elected governor in last year’s election cycle, Barack Obama is the president who is going to destroy our nation with such schemes as trying to ensure that as many people as possible have something resembling health insurance.
WALKER: Of Illinois

We also have one of their “preferred” politicians thinking that cuts in health insurance benefits are the way to fix a budget hole. In fact, many businesses probably wish they could do away with insurance for their employees to save money.

Which means we’d better hope that Obama prevails on his issue – otherwise we’re going to have a whole lot more uninsured or under-insured individuals in our society.

Thanks, Gov. Walker. You have ensured that political people will remember you for being as erratic and absurd a character as Illinoisans remember our own Gov. Walker (as in Dan) from several decades ago.

Election Day was an ethnic collage

This election cycle is giving us so many “firsts” when it comes to ethnic politics that it is a perfect display of the mish-mash of ethnicities that comprise our city.
PAWAR: The 1st Asian-American alderman

Being “ethnic” in Chicago no longer is limited to identifying oneself as “Irish” or “Polish,” although I’m not saying those groups have withered away in the city.

SOME ARE MAKING much of the fact that Chicago has its first mayor of the Jewish religious persuasion, while we not only got the first female elected to be city clerk, she’s a Latina.

Among the aldermen, there are those political observers who are amazed that Ameya Pawar got himself elected to represent the 47th Ward in the City Council. Many people seemed to think that the retirement of Eugene Schulter from the council would result in nobody getting a majority – and the top two guns going at it in an April 5 run-off election.

Yet Pawar, an Indian-American who is only 30 (and expects to complete work on a second master’s degree from the University of Chicago later this spring), managed to get 51 percent of the vote on Tuesday in that Northwest Side ward that includes the Ravenswood and Lincoln Square neighborhoods.

In short, he will be Rahm Emanuel’s alderman – presuming that the tenant who has leased Emanuel’s house for nearly a year actually leaves when the lease expires (he’s been throwing out some hints lately that he’d like to stay).

I’D SAY THE chances of that happening are extremely fat, except there probably are people who never would have expected a person with India ethnic origins (or anything Asian) to ever get elected to the City Council.
MENDOZA: The 1st city-wide Latina

So the City Council now has its first Asian-American, and he came from a neighborhood that doesn’t have a large ethnic enclave that would be expected to cater to him. But that is an area where many people who can’t quite afford Lincoln Park or Lakeview proper choose to live.

I’m sure for many, the thought of having an “Indian” alderman seemed exotic – although I also understand that some people living in that ward (in a moment of disclosure, I lived there for one summer of my life some 27 years ago) resented Schulter’s efforts to designate a successor to himself.

But if the end result is that the City Council will provide a greater diversity than it did in the days when political people thought ballot diversity consisted of nominating candidates from each of the “three I’s” (Ireland, Italy and Israel) and no one else, then we’re all better off. Although I couldn't help but notice that in the far Southeast corner 10th Ward that has the city's original Spanish-speaking enclave, non-Latino Alderman John Pope got a solid 59 percent of the vote; even though some activists had thought this might be the year that the ward would get a Latino as alderman.

THOSE PEOPLE WITH an interest in Latino political empowerment instead will have to get a kick out of seeing Susana Mendoza rise from the ranks of being a legislative aide to then-state Rep. (later Alderman) Ray Frias (which is what she was when I first met her while covering the Illinois Statehouse scene just over a decade ago) to the post of city Clerk.

I’m not sure what I think of her campaign idea to raise more money for the city by selling advertising space on city stickers to businesses. I can fully appreciate why people would not want to have their personal automobiles turned into billboards for a company that gave the city – and not themselves – some money.

But her youth (she’s not even 40 yet) and energy will make her a worthwhile public servant, while also providing proof that the city’s Latino population (officially, 29 percent, compared to 32 percent white and 33 percent black) does have the ability to provide significant numbers of votes. Her victory may even have been a factor in the resignation of state Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, from his post, as some have reported that Hendon (who backed Mendoza's African-American female opponent) was "embarrassed" by how much she won by.

It was her domination of the Latino voter bloc that gave Mendoza a base of votes that combined with other people to give her that 60 percent victory on Tuesday, and the chance to say that she is the highest-ranking Latina in city government.

FOR THE TIME being, that is.

For any serious look at the maps being published this week about which wards and precincts voted for whom would show that the few areas that did not get on board the Rahm Emanuel bandwagon were the areas that have predominant Latino populations. Many of those wards went for former Chicago Public Schools/City Colleges of Chicago/Chicago Park District boss Gery Chico.

Although when one looks at the Latino voter bloc, it seems the majority wanted either Chico or former city Clerk Miguel del Valle as mayor, with Emanuel taking the votes of the roughly one-third of Latinos who were more interested in having an “in” with the expected mayoral winner, rather than trying to elect “one of our own” on Election Day.
EMANUEL: NOT Illinois' 1st Jewish official

Not that I’m ranting about Rahm, even though I haven’t forgotten his apathy toward immigration reform during his two years as chief of staff to President Barack Obama and will be watching to see if he takes a similar apathetic attitude toward the Latino population. For his own sake, he’d better not.

AS FOR EMANUEL himself, we now have a mayor who is Jewish (although Chico, had he won, had an ex-wife and daughters who also are Jewish). That is a “first.”

But it is one I am less inclined to be impressed by, mainly because Illinois had its first Jewish governor during the 1930s – the honorable Henry Horner, who served until his death in 1940.

It’s about time Chicago caught up to the rest of the state in this regard. Here’s hoping that Emanuel gets a better-lasting legacy than Horner – whom I’d suspect is remembered (if at all) by most Chicagoans these days as being the namesake for the public housing development that used to exist near the United Center arena.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

What a difference two-plus years make

It seems like so long ago that night back in November 2008 when Barack Obama went from being our senator to the nation’s president. One of the aspects of the voter tallies that I found particularly inspiring was the fact that the Midwest seemed united by the idea.

From Detroit through Kansas City and into Iowa, these places with substantial rural communities that often view Chicago as some sort of twisted island in their midst were behind the idea of one of our city’s own as the nation’s chief executive.

HIS DESIRES OF “hope” and “change,” while hokey, were admirable. Certainly more admirable than the rhetoric we hear these days that seem to have returned us in the Midwest to a status where Chicago stands out among the farm fields.

I’d like to think that the poisonous sea of rhetoric that is drowning out the rest of the Midwest is not taking us down in Chicago because we have a high-ground, of sorts.

At least that’s what it looks like to me when I see all these political people from surrounding states fleeing to Chicago or other parts of Illinois as a last-ditch effort to thwart measures that are so blatantly ideological – and being rammed through their respective Legislatures by people who want their opposition to “bleed” profusely from the political wounds.

I wrote last week how appalled I was by political activity in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker is pushing for the same kind of legislation that exists in many Southern states to undermine the concept of labor unions.

“RIGHT TO WORK” means that people don’t have to join the union local that represents the workers of their employer, if they choose not to. Which is all good and fine, until one considers the intimidation that workers who have an interest in joining the union will suffer as a result.

Republican legislators in Wisconsin were prepared to ram this through until Democratic opposition managed to come up with a way to prevent the state Legislature from acting upon anything.

The result is that Wisconsin has become an epicenter for political activity and labor law. It also has become a role model, of sorts. Indiana state officials who were opposed to their Republican leadership trying an equally ideological political grab have done the same thing.

Because both of these states are in proximity to Illinois and because we still have the overwhelming Democratic leadership of our state government that wouldn’t collude with Wisconsin or Indiana officials, we’re getting the brunt of these out-of-state legislators who are in political exile.

IN INDIANA, THE right-to-work measure went down to defeat because it had a specific deadline for passage, and the Legislature was ground to a halt because of a lack of Democrats. Both parties must have members present for any activity to take place, which makes all the sense in the world.

Just think of what Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, could achieve in our state if he could just lock out the Republican opposition from the chambers. So I don’t want to hear from Republican partisans (actually, the conservative ideologues) about how wrong the law is for allowing this maneuver to exist.

In Indiana, officials say that up to 46 bills will die if the state Legislature remains shuttered for the week.

Meanwhile, we have these legislators spending their time in Illinois so as to avoid the chance that their local police go overboard and try to haul someone in handcuffs to the Legislature to force them to vote.

AT LEAST INDIANA Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he has no intention of getting his state police involved in this mess, on the very legitimate claim that they have real law enforcement business to tend to.

Which is more than one can say for Walker in Wisconsin, who has tried using police for intimidation practices – even though by law they can’t arrest legislators during the scheduled session.

I guess our state has become the beacon for the people who don’t want to play games with the people in order to advance purely conservative ideological agendas. Which actually is enough to make me proud these days (although I also got a kick out of Gov. Pat Quinn recently saying he would not pay up on his bet with Walker related to the Chicago Bears’ 21-14 loss last month to the Green Bay Packers because of this political activity).

Particularly since our voters this week rejected the purely ideological claims of those individuals who were eager to see former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel go down to defeat politically because of his past ties to Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

THERE MAY WELL be people in this country who are looking at Chicago and Illinois these days and are gnashing their teeth in anger because we’re “harboring” (they would say) Democratic legislators who are refusing to be battered about by Republican ideologues, AND picked “MareRahm-bo” to lead us for the next four years.

I can’t help but think it is merely because we have enough sense not to fall for the same political games that too much of the rest of the country is vulnerable to.

And the reason we are housing (for the time being) those legislators whose absence has ground their states to a half is because we in Chicago can appreciate hard-ball political tactics at work – particularly if they undermine someone whose own use of political hardball was meant to harm real people.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Get used to it!

EMANUEL: MareRahm?
Listening to Rahm Emanuel declare victory Tuesday night in his electoral bid to become the replacement for Mayor Richard M. Daley, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Emanuel went into a nasally ramble about divisions within our city, and how he saw his campaign for mayor as an effort meant to unite the people of this city. In short, he is the candidate who brought Chicago together as one.


The simple fact about why Emanuel was able to take roughly 55 percent of the vote in a six-candidate field was because of the fact that many Chicagoans are more than comfortable with the status quo in the city.

Either that, or we’re just so clueless about how anything could ever change.

Many people were looking for a new mayoral candidate who would behave in a manner similar to the old. In short, we want Mayor Daley Lite, at least until we can get a third-generation Daley to run for the political post some day.

IF IT READS like I’m writing that Gery Chico, Miguel del Valle, Carol Moseley-Braun, Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins and William “Dock” Walls scared off too many people by talking about change, you’d be correct.

Ideally, we probably wanted Daley himself to seek another term in office – thereby extending his already-record-setting stint as Chicago mayor. For those people who have been saying that Daley decided to retire because he realized his time had passed and that he was vulnerable, I’d argue Emanuel’s overwhelming electoral victory is evidence they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.

Which is why Emanuel went out of his way to let people know he’s not going to take a radically different tack from Richard M. He’s going to tout the city establishment and be sympathetic to the business interests, regardless of who complains.

For all I know, he may start recycling the famed rhetoric of the original Mayor Daley, whose stock line to activists who complained was to inquire, “What trees did they plant? What have they built?”

WHEN SPEAKING OF the son, Emanuel said Tuesday, “Nobody has ever loved Chicago more or served it with greater passion or commitment. This city bears his imprint and he has earned a special place in our hearts and our history.”

Of course, the election of Emanuel also cements the ties between Chicago and the current administration in Washington. Barack Obama, whom all the other candidates seriously believed should have been on their sides in this campaign cycle, issued his own congratulations upon learning of Rahm’s electoral victory.

This had better mean that our city has some special clout within the halls of the District of Columbia – particularly since Emanuel’s replacement as chief of staff to the president is Daley brother William.

Another sign that this election cycle was about maintaining the status quo may well be the horrid Election Day performance of Moseley-Braun, who reportedly got 8.7 percent of the vote – finishing fourth.

SHE GOT BEAT by del Valle, who was the candidate that many political observers were convinced was kidding himself and wasting everybody’s time with his presence on the ballot, while Moseley-Braun was supposed to be the candidate who would turn a run-off election (which we will not have to endure, and for that we should be eternally grateful) into a racial brawl a la 1983.

So much for the idea that we’re going to see an African-American official as mayor any time soon. Although I must admit to getting some kicks out of the solid performance of Chico, the Mexican/Lithuanian/Greek-American who put up a campaign that was competitive with the juggernaut amassed by Emanuel that prevailed on Tuesday.

Then again, that Latino population has been growing (statewide, there are more Latinos than black people ) to the point where it can no longer be viewed as an automatic disqualifier that a candidate’s family has ethnic origins in a Latin American nation. A united Latino front certainly helped state Rep. Susana Mendoza, D-Chicago, in her gaining of 60 percent of the vote to become city clerk.

Why do I suspect we’ll see a Latino candidate elected as mayor of Chicago before we see another African-American person win that political post.

I MUST CONFESS one other thought, although I will be the first to admit that it is somewhat juvenile for me to feel this way.

When I heard Tuesday night that Emanuel had done so well at the ballot box that we weren’t going to need a runoff election on April 5 to pick a replacement for Richard M. Daley, I felt joy.

Not because I was really that enthused about Emanuel.

If anything, the sentiment I felt toward Rahm was similar to what I felt toward the 2008 presidential aspirations of Hillary R. Clinton. Had she been able to win the Democratic nomination that year, I would not have been upset because I know her presence on the ballot (and the very notion of Bill Clinton returning to the White House in any capacity) would offend so many conservative ideologues.

THOSE SAME PEOPLE were among the hardest-core ABRs, voting for Anybody But Rahm in numbers too inadequate to boost any campaign to victory over Emanuel.

The idea that those ideologues are now in a serious funk over the fact that Emanuel continues to have a political life despite being affiliated with Obama and the Clintons makes me think that all is right with our society.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday is here. Now go vote!

Although I started out this particular election cycle wishing it were possible for Miguel del Valle to run a competitive campaign, I have become comfortable with the concept of “Mayor Rahm Emanuel.”
NEELY: The only safe prediction

So if it turns out in the final hours of Tuesday that the former White House chief of staff has managed to get the sufficient percentage of votes so he can automatically become mayor in May (rather than endure an April 5 run-off election), I’m not going to be among those wishing to slit my wrists in reaction.

FOR THE ONLY real question at stake in terms of the city-wide positions in Tuesday’s municipal elections is whether Emanuel’s significant lead over each of the other candidates wishing to become mayor is a majority overall – or just 49 percent.

Not that I think a run-off would automatically result in all of the rest of Chicago uniting against Emanuel. I honestly think the ABRs of the world won’t be enough people to vote for Anybody But Rahm.

If I had to predict now, I think the people who backed former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun out of a desire to have an African-American person as mayor will be so disgusted that they couldn’t even finish in second place that most will sit out a run-off. That would turn Emanuel's current backers into a run-off majority.

Even if the backers of Gery Chico and del Valle come together, I can’t help but notice that Emanuel in various polls seems to get a sizable (if not overwhelming) chunk of the Latino voter bloc (some Latinos want to be on the winning side so that they have a chance to gain the “goodies” of government).

WHICH MEANS THAT whether it is on Tuesday or on April 5, I see Rahm Emanuel becoming the next mayor of Chicago.

I have the same concerns about Emanuel that some of the ABRs have – he’s a political operative with such a strong business orientation that I wonder if he can appreciate those individuals who have to work for a living.
MENDOZA: The next clerk?

Although I must admit the image out of Washington of a foul-mouthed, tough-spoken politico doesn’t bother me. Perhaps we need someone in charge who is willing to stand up to people, and knows there are times when the appropriate reaction is to tell someone where to go.

Also, I must admit to despising the sentiments of those people who are ABR because they’re desperately looking for something they can twist into a political defeat for President Barack Obama. A part of me wants an Emanuel victory just because I realize how much it would thoroughly upset the crowd of ideologues who want Rahm to lose because of his Obama (and Bill Clinton) ties.

BUT SINCE I see the election of Emanuel as being inevitable, a part of me is hoping that he manages to get the bare majority on Tuesday. Let’s get this campaigning over with. A run-off election cycle would turn into childish chatter that we’d all be better off without.

It’s not like the other city-wide offices are going to carry on after Tuesday. Stephanie Neely will continue to be the city Treasurer (she’s unopposed), while we WILL pick a new city clerk – and for the first time in city history, it will be a woman.

It’s just a question of whether it will be state Rep. Susana Mendoza, D-Chicago, who gets to come back home from Springfield to be a politico, or whether Patricia Horton gets to move up from the obscurity of her seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to be the person that runs the office that sells you the city sticker that you’re supposed to buy every year and put on your car.

The one thing I do believe (we’ll find out for sure if I know what I’m talking about by day’s end) is that the Latino voter bloc that seems to be split by a 2-1 ratio for Chico over del Valle likely will unite and give a large-enough base of voter support that I think the end result of this election will be that Mendoza can give up her part-time Springfield residence to return to the city and run the clerk’s office.
EMANUEL: Is resistance truly futile?

I SUSPECT THE aldermanic races in the 50 wards will provide the true excitement that will drive voter turnout in the wards where the incumbent has decided to follow the lead of Richard M. Daley and leave voluntarily.

In particular, I am curious to see how the 20th Ward turns out. I don’t live there, nor do I know anyone who does, but it will be a sight to see if rapper “Rhymefest” becomes 20th Ward Alderman Che Smith, deposing ex-cop and incumbent alderman Willie Cochran.

I also have an inquiring mind, so to speak, about the 10th Ward (which is my birthplace, and where I still have some relatives living), which had the city’s original Spanish-speaking enclave nearly a century ago and may elect its first Latino alderman (although Richard Martinez is actually a Mexican/Polish-American, to be technical).

Or, it may keep incumbent 10th Ward Alderman John Pope, who has represented the far southeast corner of Chicago since 1999 and has managed to have significant Latino voter support in past election cycles.

I ALSO WANT to see who gets to replace 45th Ward Alderman Pat Levar, since five of the seven candidates who will be on Tuesday’s ballot have taken to sending me unsolicited copies of all their press statements.

I haven’t written about that particular Northwest Side ward during this election cycle, but the feistiness of these candidates came through in what they were sending me. I can only envision if I had made it up to “Six Corners” sometime in the past couple of months (it has been about a year since I have been to the point where Milwaukee Avenue cuts through Irving Park Road and Cicero Avenue) how outrageous the scene must really be.

A true political “brawl” worthy of Chicago’s political reputation.


For the suburbs, the “big day” is April 5

It has been a point of confusion for many people who live in the 128 other municipalities that comprise Cook County, or the roughly 140 cities, towns and villages that comprise the collar county suburbs.
Suburban officials Cynthia Doorn and ...

For most of those people, Tuesday is just Tuesday. There’s nothing electoral about it.

MOST OF THOSE places operate under electoral laws by which they need a surplus of candidates to have any need for initial and run-off elections for this particular municipal cycle. There are also many suburban towns that had their elections  in 2009 – which means they’re not due for a chance for another two years.

So most of those local government posts in the Chicago suburbs that are up for grabs this year won’t come up for another month. Which means that we’re in a situation where the city will vote for its officials on one day, and the suburbs will pick their local leaders on another date.

There are the lone exceptions in Cook County, where the clerk’s office is going to have to maintain polling places in two south suburban villages.

In both Dolton and South Holland, four people are running for seats on the village board. It was because of those two elections that the county clerk’s office had to maintain an early voting center through last week in the latter village.

IT IS BECAUSE of those two elections that Clerk David Orr will have a miniscule role to play, keeping track of the votes counted in the 48 precincts in those two suburbs combined, before he can call it a night and go home.
... Willie Lowe will be the few with Tuesday  jitters

Rev. Willie Lowe of Dolton (one of Assessor Joe Berrios’ backers in last year’s countywide election cycle) and Cynthia Doorn of South Holland are the two suburban officials trying to get re-elected who will experience Election Night jitters on Tuesday.

Everybody else will be waiting for Tuesday to end so they can start their serious campaigning for the April elections.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Why are we submitting to this ordeal waiting in line, just for cheap(er) books?

MATTESON, Ill. – A part of me thinks back to what I did Saturday and believes I should have sought out a Giordano’s restaurant for dinner that night.

Personally, I can’t remember the last time I had one of their pizzas. But it would have made for a more complete day of dealing with companies that are going bankrupt.

BOTH GIORDANO’S AND Border’s Books made announcements last week about the way they’re going to cope with their struggling financial bottom lines. The restauarant that some three decades ago was the first to make the concept of “deep dish” pizza available in every neighborhood or suburb (instead of having to make a special trip into the city for Uno’s or Due’s) is declaring bankruptcy – albeit the kind that allows them to restructure so they can pay off their debts.

The book chain that started in Ann Arbor, Mich., and in the past decade has put its big-box bookstores (with requisite coffee shop included) in or near every neighborhood or suburb is also making changes – although in their case, 15 of the 31 Chicago-area stores they operated are closing.

Which is why, after attending a family function involving my father on Saturday morning, my brother and I wound up spending a good chunk of the afternoon at the Border’s Books located within sight of the Lincoln Mall shopping center in south suburban Matteson.

For the record, my brother and I spent about 20 minutes looking through the shelves that were being rapidly depleted by people desperate and eager to find some book they have long desired for a price considerably less than they would have had to pay had the store not been eager to dispose of its inventory as quickly as possible.

BUT LIKE I wrote earlier, we spent a good chunk of the afternoon in the store, waiting in a line that creeped along at the same pace that White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko chugs at when he goes from second base to third on a single – incapable of making it to home plate and scoring like most ballplayers would because he’s just THAT slow.

So was our line. We literally waited for just over an hour in a line that worked its way all the way back to the rear of the store, then looped around and headed to the front of the store – concluding about halfway back to the main entrance.

I can’t remember the last time I felt a moment of relief as intense as what I felt at the point at which I actually reached a cashier and was able to hand her the books and compact discs that I chose to buy.

I literally have two sore spots on my body as I write this late Sunday that still flare up from the tension I put on them from standing erect for that hour-plus – incapable of sitting or walking around a few steps, because it would have resulted in my losing that place in line and having to go to the rear and extend my wait even further.

UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES, I would say this is not worth sharing – except for the fact that I have heard nearly identical Borders stories from other people I know, either first-hand or reading accounts they are posting on Facebook or any of the other Internet sites that supposedly bring us together as a society but really give us the opportunity to share our trivial and act as though it is all important.

So apparently, this was a shared experience, and it wasn’t just at the one suburban Borders’ location that I happened to choose because it was near where I happened to be that day.

We all apparently felt the  need to get a financial break, although I must admit to overhearing a woman just a few spots ahead of me in line who was talking on her cellular telephone to someone saying, “I don’t know why we’re all this stupid. It’s not that much of a discount.”

Actually, she was right. My guess is that the real big savings will be put on when the inventory is down to the crud that nobody wants. My Saturday “savings” was a 20 percent markdown on everything I bought (which means a $25 book is still $20).

BUT IT WAS nice to pick up copies of a couple of books I had had my eye on, but had been reluctant to buy because I really didn’t feel like shelling out $28.50 for it. My brother, who raided their DVD selection for those classic films (“The Seven Samurai” and “Vertigo,” to name a couple) put onto multi-disc sets with so many special features that they’re usually out of his price range, had the same attitude – which I’m guessing was a common sentiment this weekend throughout the Chicago area.

Among other titles, I’ll be reading “Scorpions” (about the Supreme Court of the United States back in the days of FDR) and “Murder City” (about how violent the drug-related action along the U.S./Mexico border has become in recent years), while also listening to jazz trumpet player Thad Jones’ intro album on compact disc (which is what I happen to be listening to while writing this commentary).

As for the Giordano’s pizza, I’m not sorry I chose to eat something else – particularly because of the fact that ever since a Lou Malnati franchise opened that includes my residence in its delivery area, it has become the pizza of choice for my brother and I.

Sorry, Giordano's. Your time in the Chicago limelight was back in the day when the Chicago Sting were playing soccer, and winning championships, for the city, just like Borders seems to have been at its peak back in the day when Michael Jordan ruled supreme over this town.