Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Has ‘gaming’ finally topped ‘gambling’ toward a casino for Chicago?

There are still some steps to follow, which means that things could still go awry – always a safe assumption when dealing with the Springfield set.

But the people who for the past two decades have been eager to have a gambling casino within the city limits (preferably somewhere near the downtown area) were celebrating on Monday for reasons more than it being Memorial Day.

FOR ONE OF the issues that the Illinois House of Representatives chose to address on this holiday was a bill that would allow for a significant expansion of gambling within Illinois.

No longer would casinos be restricted to 10 locations located on rivers outside of Cook County. Illinois is officially giving up on the concept that casinos are quaint cruises on riverboats in the less-urban parts of the state , with a touch of gambling taking place on board.

The bill approved Monday by the Illinois House would allow for a city-based casino – which is the absolute last thing the original proponents of casinos in Illinois would ever have wanted.

That is the reason why the idea of a Chicago casino has been a perennial issue for 20-plus years. It comes up every year, creates a lot of rhetoric, and invariably the General Assembly goes home without taking final action.

THIS YEAR, THE Illinois House did its part. What remains to be seen is if the Illinois Senate will follow through with a similar vote on Tuesday – the final scheduled date for legislative activity in this year’s session.

And if they do, will Gov. Pat Quinn go along with the measure and sign it into law?

Would Quinn be cantankerous enough to be a lone-wolf rejector of an idea that city officials have said they want? Officials as high-ranking as new Mayor Rahm Emanuel have said they want a city-based casino – figuring that it would generate so much income that it could make the big dent in fixing municipal finances.

Then again, selling off the city’s parking meters was supposed to resolve municipal finances – except that city officials managed to blow that wad of cash all too quickly.

IF IT READS like I’m skeptical about the benefits of a Chicago casino, you’d be correct.

A part of me always has thought that casinos are “economic development” for communities that, for whatever reason, are incapable of attracting any other kind of business. Proponents of legal gambling will claim I’m being elitist, but I’d really like to think Chicago can do better than have to balance its budgets by relying on the idea of shaking down people who have borderline addictions to gambling.

But people like Lou Lang, the state representative from Skokie who has been a long-time fan of having more casinos, are swayed by the dollar figures being tossed about -$1.5 billion in licensing fees and maybe about $500 million per year as the state share of the casino gross.

That’s not all from a Chicago casino. For the Illinois House bill buys off the interests of people in the rest of the state who might not want Chicago to have a casino by creating a few more casinos.

ONE EACH IN both the south and north suburbs (the former of which my step-mother likely would enjoy because it would be closer to her home than the gambling boats she currently goes to in Joliet), along with casinos in Rockford and Danville – both of which likely would try to market themselves as appealing to Wisconsin and Indiana residents respectively because of their proximity to their respective state lines.

All of those people who complain that casinos in places like East Chicago and Hammond in Indiana and Davenport in Iowa are taking dollars away from Illinois will now try to arouse the ire of other states by taking dollars away from other Midwestern states.

Actually, this factor could be what kills off this particular bill. For while Quinn has said he is sympathetic to letting Chicago city officials have a casino, he doesn’t like the idea of adding so many more casinos – even though without those additional casinos the non-Chicago state legislators would “gang up” on the idea of a city casino and vote it down.

He has told reporter-types he won’t let Illinois become a, “Las Vegas of the Midwest.” Which is a stretch, although I’m sure the biggest proponents of expanded legal gambling would have no problem with that image coming true.

LANG: Will he finally get his dream?
THERE ARE EVEN measures to allow slot machines to be set up at the airport and at racetracks (including the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield) because it seems that gambling on horseracing by itself can’t survive economically. It’s all in the name of political compromise.

So what’s going to become of this issue? At least we’ll know by the end of tonight (or the early hours of Wednesday if the Legislature can’t wrap up their business by midnight). Will the people who prefer the word “gaming” (because they think “gambling” sounds too ominous) finally get their way on this issue?

Or will the Legislature this fall be talking about casino expansion, along with pension reform and all the other issues they manage to push off for future consideration?


Monday, May 30, 2011

Has Memorial Day holiday become more about the burgers than the soldiers?

I went and got myself a haircut Sunday, and while making sure to trim my sideburns evenly, the hair-stylist hit me with the question about my holiday plans.

“Are you going to barbecue?”

NOW THE STRAIGHTFORWARD answer to that question is, “I don’t know.” It will depend on the weather (if it is as bad Monday as it was Sunday, then I doubt it), and also the mood of my father – I’m likely to spend the bulk of the day checking up to make sure he and my step-mother are okay.

But there’s something about the question that annoyed me somewhat; and not just because it was a part of the mindless chit-chat that barbers feel the need to engage in.

It’s the idea that the reason we’re getting a holiday (one of the six major ones that results in an extra day off from work for many people, no mail delivery and a waiver of the rules requiring that we feed the parking meters) is so that we can drag out the coals and slap a few patties of ground beef (or some meat-like substance) over the heat.

We might as well re-name the holiday “Weber Grill Day.” The all-American vision of a charred hot dog or a bratwurst being stuffed into a bun for our consumption.

BE HONEST. THAT vision will be in more people’s heads than any vision involving military personnel.

Now I’m not about to preach for the military. I never served, and feel fortunate that I was never in a position where I felt forced to serve (which is what I honestly think of those young people now who use the military to come up with the money to pay for a college education in the future).

But I do have cousins and uncles who did stints in the military at various points of time during the past few decades – including some who served in Vietnam and during the first incarnation of an Iraq War (remember 1990?).

So while I happen to think that many military veterans organizations lay it on a little thick with the public ceremonies they conducted both during the weekend and on Monday (I understand Mayor Rahm Emanuel became a bit teary-eyed while attending such a ceremony in Chicago, while my relatives who served don’t go around telling ‘war’ stories), I find the apathetic viewpoint to be even more reprehensible.

INSOFAR AS MY own family, I am fortunate enough to be able to say that all of those members who served came back home and were able to have a life after their military service. We won’t tell tales on Monday of a lost brother or cousin and wonder ‘what might have been’ had he not been lost in combat. We’re fortunate in that regard, and I feel for those who can’t say the same.

But for those people whose biggest concern on Monday is making sure they get the right brand of barbecue sauce for whatever it is they try to cook, I hope I don’t run into many of those people.

Because my level of contempt may well just cause me to have an outburst that I likely will regret in the future. If anything, I believe that Monday shouldn’t be much of a holiday celebration at all.

It ought to be a day of quiet, introspective thought. We should have to contemplate, even if for just a few, brief moments, what our life and our society would be like if certain aspects had gone differently in the past. How much better off are we because of the sacrifices of past military action.

THERE HAVE BEEN times in our history when brute force has had to be used to uphold an ideal. The problem becomes when people think we’re celebrating the acts of brute force, rather than the ideals that our United States is based upon.

Of course, looking around me while I stopped off at a supermarket later in the afternoon on Sunday, it would seem to me that few people had any of this in mind. Finding the best price on pop, or deciding how thin to chop the onions so they don’t dissolve on the grill was the biggest concern.

Me, I’m hoping to have a moment to think about my cousins or uncles (whom I most likely will NOT actually see on Monday) who weren’t as fortunate as I was to have options besides the military. Today’s the day they deserve a moment of my attention.

That is, when I’m not munching on a burger.


Finally time to look at the standings

It is a rule of thumb I have. I don’t bother to look at the standings for professional baseball until Memorial Day.

Any sooner than that, and there simply haven’t been enough games played for any team to say what they have done.

IT IS ONLY on this weekend that the people in Indianapolis want to believe the sporting world is focused on them that I bother to look at how individual teams are doing.

So it is only now that I feel comfortable in saying, “Ugh!”

Unless we get some sort of historically-significant spark in the quality of play, I don’t see any World Series activity coming to Chicago. We won’t be in Heaven in ’11!

Now in the case of the Chicago Cubs, that isn’t any serious surprise. Only the most delusional of people would have expected much from the baby bears. For the White Sox, things are different.There was a period a few weeks ago when it appeared the Sout’ Side’s ballclub could be historically awful.

THEN THEY STARTED playing winning baseball at the clip expected of them so that it seems they will eventually (they were 25-31 on Monday morning) become a .500 ballclub – one that wins as many games as it loses.

In short, mediocrity. So much for Adam Dunn’s big bat pounding out another championship team. I couldn’t help but notice earlier this past week when he was batting seventh in the line-up.

It’s going to be a long summer, since it seems these days we can’t tell on any given night whether the White Sox will be brawny, or wimpy.

Is this Harry Caray statue among those truly suffering the fate that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen suggested on Sunday? Photograph provided by Wally Gobetz.

Which is why I enjoyed manager Ozzie Guillen’s most recent tirade on Sunday – when he used his colorful temperament to say that he realizes his championship team of 2005 doesn’t mean squat on Monday.

AS HE TOLD reporter-types, “they’ll only remember the 2005 team in 2020 when we come here in a wheelchair. Oh, yeah, thank you. As soon as you leave the ballpark, they don’t care about you any more. They don’t. The monuments, the statues they have for you, they (urinate) on it when they are drunk. That’s what they do. Thank you for coming for 30 minutes for all the suffering you did all your life, day in and day out.”

Now I don’t know of anyone who seriously is pissing all over the bronze figures of Minnie Minoso or Carlton Fisk (although there was a clown a few years ago who broke the ‘bat’ off of a statue inside U.S.Cellular Field). In fact, the worst desecration I am aware of outside a Chicago ballpark is the meatheads who keep trying to put a beer can inside the outstretched hand of the Harry Caray statue at Wrigley Field (when they're not urinating on the Lake View neighborhood lawns).

But it is true that the typical fan, while appreciating past seasons, is most interested in ‘what are you doing today?’

There are only so many times we can replay the sixth inning of Game Three of the first round of the American League playoffs from ’05 (when Orlando Hernandez so thoroughly shut down the Red Sox at a moment when they likely thought they were destined for an athletic comeback) before realizing that El Duque isn’t coming out of the bullpen to save the Medios Blancos.

THE PAST THREE games lost to the Toronto Blue Jays have been particularly pathetic. Not that the recent series against the Texas Rangers was much better.

So why have I not completely written off this season?

It’s because I look at that division they’re in, and see that the second-place Detroit Tigers on Monday are a team with a losing record, and only three games ahead of the White Sox.

Also, I’m not convinced that the Cleveland Indians are as good as their 31-19 record claims them to be (although they’re probably also not as bad as they were in those first two losses of the season to the White Sox and the Minnesota Twins aren’t really as bad as their league-worst 17-34 record indicates).

IN SHORT, I think the Indians will fall in the standings, and somebody has to surge ahead of them.

Possibly even the team with John Danks pitching, who depending on whom you listen to is the best pitcher ever with a record of 0-8 for the season.

All I know is, if Chicago does somehow make it into the playoffs come October, it definitely will be with a ballclub that deserves to be the first team knocked out on American League pennant contention.

And regardless, somebody is bound to wave this commentary in my face come October to show me how incredibly wrong I was about something. Now leave me alone so I can watch some summer baseball.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Somebody took the GOP’s “binky”

I have a hard time maintaining a straight face these days whenever I hear Republican political officials rant and rage about how the General Assembly is preparing political boundaries for the upcoming decade that will screw them up big time.

They happen to be correct. By some observers’ counts, only four members of Congress from Illinois of the GOP persuasion are safe, and the boundaries prepared for the state Legislature definitely will cause many suburban residents to be represented by city legislators (along with many outer suburban people having to turn to Cook County for their political representation).

YET I STILL remember the redistricting process that occurred back in 1991 and that set the boundaries for the 1990s. That was the one time Republican officials managed to win control of the process – and they took full advantage of it.

For two years in that decade, the GOP had control of everything in state government. For the rest of the 1990s, the state was Republican-leaning, with then-Senate President James “Pate” Philip in particular using his authority to make sure Democratic legislators knew their place.

In short, I don’t see that they handled things any more nobly than the current Democratic Party officials are handling things this time.

When I hear Republican legislators complain (“an insult to the state’s voters,” were the words of state GOP Chairman Pat Brady), I can’t help but think what really bothers them is that they aren’t the ones getting to strong-arm the opposition.

BECAUSE I AM convinced that if, this time around, there was some Republican influence in the political map-making process, they’d be behaving in the same manner.

When it comes to drawing political boundaries, there is no noble behavior. Anybody who claims they would do so is lying!

One of the points being brought up by Republican-types is that there was next to no time for review of the legislative maps that were voted on Friday by the Illinois House of Representatives AND the state Senate. (Surprise, surprise! They got a votes of 64-52 and 35-22, purely on politically partisan lines).

Hearings were held in recent months to let people express their views, but actual maps didn’t come forward until about one week ago. Even then, those boundaries were altered in the past few days.

“YOU SAID TO the public, ‘here’s your chance, take it or leave it,’ and we’re gonna ram it out whether you like it or not,” state Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville, said during the legislative debate on Friday.

Give that man a Binky-brand pacifier, along with all the other legislators who dare to make a similar complaint. Because I don’t recall the GOP back in ’91 behaving any differently.

There might have been a late-afternoon release of maps, with the final vote that made them official coming the next morning. Which means a few political obsessives may have had a chance to review them. The majority of us had no clue until it was a done deal. We didn’t have anything resembling those “Google Earth” maps that exist this time around.

There even are complaints about the large number of incumbent Republicans who have to run against each other, if they wish to remain in electoral office. Among those are state Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, and freshman U.S. Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill.

THE LATTER, WHO had hoped to be a long-time replacement for Mark Kirk representing the North Shore in Congress, is going to have to take on Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., in a district that most definitely leans her way.
DOLD: The new Marty Russo?

Sorry Bob, but that’s the way electoral politics goes at times. Don’t forget the wise (and truthful) words of Finley Peter Dunne’s “Mr. Dooley” – “Politics ain’t beanbag.”

Or have GOP-types forgotten the 1990s congressional map that brought an end to the nearly two-decade-long stint of Marty Russo – forcing him to run unsuccessfully in 1992 against then-Rep. William Lipinski (whose own son, Dan, got a congressional district out of this new map that protects his interests – even though his own voting record often screws up the desires of Democratic Party leadership).

So what should we think of these new boundaries – which still need the approval of Gov. Pat Quinn before they can become official? I don’t know that I want to go as far as Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, who said to reporter-types at the Statehouse, “I think this has been the most transparent, most accountable, most open redistricting process in the history of the state of Illinois, and I’d put it right up against any other state.”

IT DOES MAINTAIN roughly the same number of districts for African-American people – even though the official black population of Chicago declined by about 200,000, and the Latino population across Illinois now outnumbers the total of black people by about 200,000.

It does provide for a few districts where an Asian ethnic majority could result in the first Indian-American or Chinese-American being elected during this decade; which when you think about it is a long-overdue feat.

It even provides for more Latino-majority legislative districts, although some of those will have to have particularly strong Latino voter turnouts to overcome the Anglo voters who likely will act as a bloc to keep “one of our own” in charge.

I base that presumption off another memory from the ’91 reapportionment, where Republican officials argued they were protecting African-American voters by drawing their districts in Chicago first, then crafting the rest of the map around it.

YET I REMEMBER that those districts didn’t do much for respecting the actual communities that existed in the city; and in some cases pitted city voters in ways meant to stir up discontent. Which meant there were cases where a district that technically was a “black” district wound up falling into the hands of a non-African-American legislator.

Think I’m kidding. Take our current county sheriff.

Tom Dart served over a decade in the Illinois House representing such a district on the far South Side. He got elected in 1992 (the first year of that GOP-drawn map) by being the lone white guy running against a half-dozen black would-be legislators who split up the vote sufficiently for Dart to win. The benefits of incumbency kept him in power thereafter.

I can’t help but think that Republican leadership, if they had been given control of the redistricting process this time around, would have tried similar tactics to reign in the growing ethnic populations that comprise the bulk of our city and metropolitan area.


Friday, May 27, 2011

We just love our “sex” stories

Sex. Breasts. Contraceptives. Teenage fornication.

I probably just guaranteed that this commentary will catch the attention of all the Internet “preverts” by having all those words in the lede.

BECAUSE IT SEEMS that any story that manages to mention these concepts gives us our titillation factor. They get read, even if they are downright trivial.

A pair of stories managed to catch my attention on Thursday – one involving the courts and the other our beloved cast of characters otherwise known as the Illinois General Assembly.

I can already hear all the people who will grumble that our society has turned to a sinkhole because of these incidents. Although I can’t help but think the acts are trivial enough to not really be worth mention – other than the fact it lets us put “sex” in the newspaper.

Which leads to it getting on television news and on the Internet.

THE ONE THAT really bothers me is the actions of an attorney in Cook County court who currently is arguing a small-claims case. He doesn’t like the fact that the attorney for the opposition has a paralegal sitting at his side.

For it appears she is a busty woman, and the one attorney thinks his opposition is using her as “eye candy” of sorts to distract the jury from what I’m sure he thinks is the wisdom and logic of his legal argument.

If she were some sort of less-endowed woman, nobody would pay attention to her and they’d be swayed by his argument.

I can’t help but think this is an attorney who is feeling desperate, and is now looking for excuses to justify in his mind if his client loses this particular case.

IT’S NOT EVERY day that an attorney gets quoted (credit the Chicago Sun-Times for getting this thought on the record) as saying, “Personally, I like large breasts.” Because such a statement would usually be irrelevant to a court case.

In this one, it also is an attempt to trivialize it.

Even if the paralegal’s bosom were a relevant factor, I’d argue that if this particular attorney worked harder, he’d keep the court’s attention. It’s not her fault that his argumentative style might be boring.

Here’s hoping that Judge Anita Rivkin-Carothers has enough sense to disregard this non-issue.

THE OTHER “SEX” story is not a non-issue, which is why it is sad that some serious dispute arose in the Illinois Senate. Then again, some people just seem to get worked up at the thought of sex education.

For it seems that Illinois is flexing its progressive muscles again. The state that did away with the death penalty and which will – as of Wednesday – recognize civil unions is moving away from those people who think that sex education programs can focus solely on abstinence.

They think teenage hormones can be ignored.

Sex education programs in public schools would be required to teach use of contraceptive devices, in addition to abstinence, as a way of avoiding sexually-transmitted diseases.

OF COURSE, PARENTS would be able to review the materials used in any course AND would be allowed to exempt their children from taking such courses if their moral qualms are truly so intense.

Which means the Illinois Senate ultimately is placing this issue in the hands of parents. I’d argue the children of parents who feel this way are probably the ones who most need an intense sex-ed course.

But I accept the Legislature does not feel strongly enough to want to fight this issue – as evidenced by the fact that even this attempt at compromise got the bare minimum of 30 votes required to pass something in the state Senate.

State Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Lake Barrington, went so far as to tell his colleagues the old fallacy that such courses puts sexual thoughts into the heads of young people. That way of thinking ignores reality on so many levels.

IT’S ALL BECAUSE some people are determined to think of this as a “sex” story, when they ought to be regarding it as a health issue. Such sexually-transmitted diseases are a serious problem that should not be ignored.

Even if they are unpleasant for some people to think about  (I’ll be the first to admit I’m not comfortable thinking about other people having sex, because I don’t consider it my business), we can’t make it “go away” by ignoring it.

Which makes this an incident where we need to pay more attention. Perhaps just as much as that attorney thinks we’re paying to the cleavage of his opposition attorney’s paralegal.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Political payback? Or a lot of nothin’

Political speculation these days had both Rahm Emanuel and Jesse Jackson, Jr., being forced to testify in the criminal trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich as part of his desire to take down a couple of politicos whom he felt had been less than respectful to him in the past.
BLAGOJEVICH: Down for the count?

Make both of them have to admit to less-than-pristine moments in their political careers, and maybe Milorod could feel like someone else suffered besides himself.

WHICH MOST DEFINITELY did not happen on Wednesday.

In fact, the thought process going through many observers’ minds is that Blagojevich is the one who got dumped upon.

For while Emanuel barely got the seat warm during his couple of minutes of testimony and said nothing of note, Jackson managed to come up with another sordid tidbit that plays perfectly into the image of Blagojevich as a political person looking out for himself and trying to extort whatever he could get.

For the record, Jackson testified that back when Blagojevich first became governor, he was willing to make Jackson spouse Sandi the director of the Illinois Department of the Lottery, IF the Congressman from the far South Side were willing to make a $25,000 donation to the then-governor’s campaign fund.

JACKSON TESTIFIED UNDER oath that he never made any such contribution. Which is why we never got the sight of Sandi Jackson hosting those press conferences where state officials announce the new lottery winners and make other pronouncements meant to make the legal version of the old numbers racket seem like a fun experience – rather than just wasting one’s money on scratch-off cards, most of which wind up being worthless. Of course, she later became alderman; a much more significant post.
JACKSON: Revenge?

So despite the fact that Blagojevich promptly made his own denials that he ever requested a campaign contribution from Jackson in order to get something for his wife, you just know that the political observers are going to add this story to the litany of wrongdoings for which they want Milorod to go to prison.

And you just know that the people who remain fans of Jesse Jackson, Jr., are feeling today a sense of vengeance achieved.

They think their guy is the one who should have been appointed by Blagojevich as U.S. senator from Illinois to replace Barack Obama, except that Blagojevich let his own personal bitterness toward the congressman refuse to take his bid seriously.

NOW, JACKSON GETS to stick a shiv, so to speak, into the back of Blagojevich’s legal case, telling us that he had a “frosty, at best” relationship with the former governor.

Now I know some people are going to say that this is an exaggeration of what Jackson had to say. They didn’t think it was all that meaningful.

But anyone who thought there would be anything significant said by a politically powerful person under oath is seriously delusional.

Because the fact of the matter is that whenever a criminal trial involves the calling of government officials, the intent usually is for the person testifying that he (or she) did absolutely nothing wrong.

WHICH THEN ALLOWS the defense attorneys to try arguing that since the official in question did nothing wrong, that somehow means the defendant didn’t do anything illegal either.

The fact that Jackson made statements saying he never raised money for Blagojevich in any form will be used by the former governor to claim no wrong-doing occurred.

The same goes for Emanuel’s testimony, where he admitted he tried talking to the Blagojevich people to see if he would consider giving the U.S. Senate appointment to Valerie Jarrett – who ultimately wound up becoming a senior adviser to Obama at the White House.

But he helped bolster Blagojevich’s credibility by saying that Blagojevich and his aides never asked him for anything in exchange for the Jarrett appointment that never happened.

NOT THAT ANYONE will care. The people following this case blow-by-blow are the ones who want Blagojevich to go down for the count. I’m sure Jackson’s tidbit will be remembered much longer than Emanuel’s roughly three minutes Wednesday on the witness stand.
EMANUEL: I didn't do nothin' wrong

In fact, Emanuel’s testimony is all-too-reminiscent of the day back in 1997 when then-Gov. Jim Edgar had to take the stand in U.S. District Court for central Illinois during the criminal trial of Management Services of Illinois – a company that got overpaid for its work because it had clout through its ties to prominent government officials; including Edgar himself.

Edgar admitted to doing nothing wrong. But the jurors in that case didn’t believe that his innocence extended to the M.S.I. executives. The company was found to be a criminal enterprise, and its executives all wound up doing a bit of time in prison.

Which more and more is appearing to be the eventual fate of Blagojevich. Which means his attorneys are probably focusing their attention these days on setting things up for the legal motions they will file someday with the Court of Appeals.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

EXTRA: A compromise, but not much, to bolster Latino political representation

Burke, Lipinski, Madigan.
MADIGAN: A Latino legislator?

Those are three of the biggest names of the Chicago political scene. Those officials also come from Southwest Side communities whose populations have changed significantly enough that they ought to be the heart of the growing Latino political power.

BUT THEY’RE NOT, because the political powers-that-be are interested not only in ensuring that Republican Party officials remain in the minority for the upcoming decade, they also want to protect their most prominent members.

So a large part of what is keeping the Latino population across Illinois from achieving its full potential is the fact that the leadership is interested in keeping itself in office.

I found it interesting that state officials on Wednesday said they were willing to make a few changes in the legislative districts approved by an Illinois House committee earlier this week so as to increase the potential for Latino legislators.

That map called for a slight increase in the number of Latino legislators, compared to what exists in the boundaries drawn in 2001. This one may add even another legislator or two.

TO DO THAT, they even messed with the legislative district that sends Michael Madigan to the Illinois House of Representatives every other year, where the legislators then pick him to be the House speaker.

Madigan’s district, according to the Chicago Tribune, will have a 60 percent Latino population. Which means Madigan is going to have to learn to be understanding, even sympathetic, to the needs and wants of the growing Latino population.

LIPINSKI: He'll have to adapt his style

It will be interesting to see if the political people who put together boundaries for congressional districts and wards for the City Council will be willing to do the same thing.

For the reality is that the Latino population in this state is large enough to warrant two congressional districts. The easiest way to achieve that is to make the current district of Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., into a Northwest Side-based district, and alter the district of Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., into a Southwest Side-based district. It would become one district largely of Puerto Rican neighborhoods represented by Gutierrez, and another largely of Mexican-American neighborhoods represented by Lipinski (if he can adapt himself to the new reality) or someone new.
BURKE: Will council challenge status quo?

THE WARD OF long-time Alderman Edward Burke (and the state legislative district of his brother, state Rep. Dan Burke, D-Chicago) could face the same fate – IF aldermen are willing to look at the population realistically when they get around to municipal redistricting in coming months.

Instead, they may wind up being more interested in trying to preserve the status quo.


A Daley at Chicago (as in the U. of)?

DALEY: He's now a Maroon
When Milton Rakove wrote his reknowned book about Chicago politics entitled, “We Don’t Want Nobody Nobody Sent,” the title was a direct takeoff on the attitude that political Chicago had toward the University of Chicago.

It referred to the way his attempt to volunteer his time to work on behalf of local government was rebuffed because he was from the Hyde Park neighborhood, the University of Chicago AND had no political sponsor.

MEANING, HE OWED nothing to nobody, and therefore wouldn’t be inclined to follow orders because he’d have nothing to lose.

In many senses, the Hyde Park-based university has always been an island on the South Side, and from the city. The Maroons may tout our city’s name. But many a Chicagoan considers it an alien land.

So it is in that context that the appointment of Richard M. Daley to a part-time position on the faculty at the University of Chicago may well be the ultimate sign that the “old” ways of doing things politically are dead.

The last thing that any old-school Chicago machine politico would ever want to do is have a tie to the University of Chicago. A part of me envisions cemeteries all across the city feeling the rumblings of politicos of the past turning over in their graves at the thought of a mayor, let alone one named “Daley,” taking on a role.

OF COURSE, THERE always was a sense that the university itself wanted little to do with the city proper, other than use it for a home address.

This was a place that, throughout the years, has rebuffed my own reporter-type requests for information on various issues related to the city, usually on some variation of the grounds that the issues I was bringing up were “too parochial” for the university’s academics.

You want to know about Chicago? Call DePaul or Loyola, or maybe Northwestern.

My point being that I’m not sure which thought is more unusual. Daley going to the University of Chicago? Or the university wanting him around to begin with?

MAYBE THE SIGNIFICANCE of this appointment is that it means the University of Chicago plans to take a greater interest in its home city – and not just in making sure that urban grime from the rest of the South Side doesn’t spill over into Hyde Park (which at times really feels like a nice place to visit, but a land alien from the rest of Chicago).

Not that Daley is going to be a real professor – as in teaching courses and putting together a syllabus and lecturing on a regular basis and being someone who maintains office hours and is accessible to students.

Anybody who thinks the university is about to offer a course entitled “Political Science 380: Machine politics” needs to get a grip on themselves. Either that, or come up with a more original punch line for their joke.

Officially, he’s getting the title of “distinguished senior fellow.” He’s going to be a part of the university’s Harris School of Public Policy Studies. For the next five years, he will be expected to organize up to 10 guest lectures to be held on campus, or at locations where the university can take credit for sponsoring the events.

IN SHORT, DALEY being on the faculty of the University of Chicago is the university’s attempt to feed off his political connections – hoping that he can help them put on more interesting programs that relate to politics and urban affairs. Considering that Daley’s connections extended to several White Houses, that’s a lot of clout they’re hoping to get.
EDGAR: Reviving a rivalry?

But it also means in many ways that Daley’s post-mayoral outcome will be similar to that of his one-time political rival – Jim Edgar. The former Illinois governor became a “distinguished fellow” at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign upon leaving office early in 1999.

Perhaps the two men can revive their competitive streak, as we see which university puts on the more prestigious programs about public policy issues. In short, which man has the better connections?

Unlike Edgar, Daley isn’t relying solely on this. He’s rumored to be seeking spots on the speaking circuit – offering up his opinions to any group that will pay him for his time. He may even give us a book. There’s even the speculation that President Barack Obama (now a fellow politico with U. of C. ties) will give him some sort of appointment to a federal post.

A NICE TITLE. But it likely will be the Hyde Park campus that will provide Daley with a place to set up an office.

With the Chicago Police Department continuing to provide him something resembling a security detail, Hizzoner, Jr., isn’t about to lose the trappings of being a prominent person anytime soon.

All he has to do is arrange for a car service, and he may be able to delude himself into thinking he’s still a public official – only one without the pressure of having to make decisions about government issues.

Let Rahm-bo have those headaches!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pipe down, ya Miami moron!

“This ticket doesn’t just give me a seat. It gives me the right, NO, the DUTY, to make a complete ass of myself” – Homer Simpson, on the subject of sports fan behavior.


It seems way too many people who go to ballgames are taking the words of “wisdom” of Homer Simpson to heart these days. And not all of them are sitting in the stands.

How else should we regard the latest controversial incident to occur at a sports event – that of Joakim Noah’s behavior toward some loser from Miami who decided that he wanted to spend his evening at Game 3 of the NBA eastern conference finals by heckling the uniquely coiffed center for the Chicago Bulls.

WHICH IS NOT at all surprising. Some people seem to think that their attendance at a ballgame isn’t complete if they aren’t shooting their mouths off at a ballplayer. Perhaps it is their way of feeling like they participated in the event.

Because those overly-baggy jerseys they tend to wear don’t even come close to covering up the fact that they usually are way out of shape and incapable of playing the games that they’re watching – and likely think they’re experts in.

The only thing that makes Sunday’s game unique is that Noah felt compelled to respond to the nitwit who passes himself off as a sports fan.

Noah now faces a $50,000 fine from the National Basketball Association (imposed on Monday) along with some public denigration, all because he felt compelled to shout back an insult – and one that implied the  fan in question was homosexual.

FOR ALL I know, it is likely that every time somebody feels compelled to recount the Joakim Noah record as an athlete, this incident WILL be recalled.

No matter how apologetic or contrite he will be (and he did offer up an apology to the “fan” right after the game), Noah likely is going to have to deal with the perception that on some level, he hates gay people.

Which is a shame. Because in all likelihood, the “fan” in question deserved to be put in his place.

Based on the reports I have read of the incident, the fan crossed over the line from legitimate criticism to crude behavior and was going at it for hours on end. This was an idiot who likely used his connections enabling him to get a seat so close to the basketball court for a playoff game, JUST so he could behave like a boob.

OR, AS HOMER Simpson would put it, “a complete ass.”

A little bit of self-control on Noah’s part and this incident would never have happened.

Then again, perhaps that is what happens when professional athletes start thinking of themselves as an elite class – rather than just some guys who have enough of a particular sporting skill that they’ll be able to make some huge money for a few years of their lives before sinking back into anonymity like the rest of us.

Everybody is going to think the “ass” comes from Chicago, rather than from Miami or somewhere in south Florida (unless this particular “fan” made a special trip to be in Miami just for the purpose of crudely hecking Noah, in which case he’s an even more pathetic individual).

AS YOU CAN tell, I don’t think much of people who can’t figure out how to sit back and shut up at some sort of public event. Not that I expect a sports arena to be as quiet as a library should be (but often these days isn’t).

The roar of a crowd at some particularly spectacular moment, or a loud, harsh ring of “boo!!” is just as much a part of a stadium atmosphere as the “crack!” of a bat at a baseball game or the sight of the Luvabulls jiggling about at the United Center.

But whenever I go to a sports event and wind up finding myself seated near the nitwit who persists in doing his own round of heckling always makes me wonder why I have to sit near the idiots.

Because that is what such people truly are. I always figure that it’s a waste of time to be trying to get a ballplayer’s attention while he (or she) is on the playing field. If the athlete truly has a clue, they’re so focused in on what they’re doing that they don’t know we exist.

IF THEY ARE aware of our presence, then we’re interfering with the game on the field.

Which likely was the intent of the Miami meathead who took it upon himself to distract Noah. He probably is going about these days telling everybody who will listen about how HE singlehandedly influenced the outcome of Sunday’s game.

Which, by the way, Miami won, 96-85. More people are talking these days about what punishment they think Noah should receive, rather than the fact that Miami now has a two games to one lead in the best-of-seven playoffs.

Any time a nitwit provokes more attention than the athletes themselves, then that is the sad commentary on our society.