Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Will we be ‘begat’ a Daley & a Simon?

Bill Daley is getting off his electoral behind and kicking his gubernatorial aspirations into gear – he formally filed the paperwork on Tuesday that says he’s a gubernatorial candidate (and not just running an “exploratory” committee).

DALEY: Finally going for gov
As if Daley isn’t enough of a candidate with political family connections, we’ll also have Sheila Simon. Our lieutenant governor who doesn’t want that post anymore plans to rent an airplane and make appearances in Chicago, Springfield and Carbondale on Wednesday.

SHE WON’T SAY officially what she’s running for in next year’s election cycle; but we know her desires to run for state attorney general got dumped on when Lisa Madigan refused to try to move up the political ladder to governor, and she’s likely to run for Illinois comptroller.

A Daley and a Simon; it makes me wonder what the spirits of Richard J. and Paul are thinking as they look down upon us to see how we react to their offspring!

It also will give us a chance to see just how venerated the “Daley” and “Simon” names are these days, as voters in next year’s Democratic Party primary get their chance to determine if they want to continue the trend of political siblings.

For Daley (the son and brother of former Chicago mayors and the uncle to a Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner), he has never held elective office – even though he has the titles of “Commerce secretary” and “White House chief of staff” on his resume.

HE HAS OFTEN hinted at wanting to run for Illinois governor, but has always managed to find reasons to back away from a campaign – until now.
 
DICK & PAUL ...
For Daley seems to be banking his chances on the concept that incumbent Pat Quinn is so weak and ineffectual in his political post that there’s no way anybody votes for him.

He expects that all of Chicago will want to have another “Daley” in office, and that the Chicago vote will dominate the Democratic primary turnout. Hence, he wins. Which is an overly simplistic strategy. Reality is rarely that straightforward.

Because while I’ll be the first to admit that nobody is going to get all excited about voting for Pat Quinn, I suspect that many people will be even more offended at the thought of voting for a Daley.

THEY MIGHT WIND up taking out grudges they held against Richard M. (but were too cowardly to do anything about while he was actually in office) on his brother.

... the 'proud' political papas
There also there will be the “good-government” types who will wind up seeing a vote for Quinn as voting against the whole concept of political families (which would have been Lisa Madigan’s biggest problem had she decided to go for governor).

Or maybe some will wind up backing the political siblings. Because it always amazes me how much many people whine and complain about the concept, but then wind up casting their ballots in support of it. I suspect the people who really have an aversion to voting for a "Daley" will wind up casting their ballots in the Republican primary.

Then, there’s Sheila Simon; who could wind up being the only person on the Democratic ballot for the 2014 general elections who isn’t from Chicago – she’s a Carbondale resident.

THE DAUGHTER OF former Sen. (and Congressman and lieutenant governor and state legislator) Paul Simon got herself into her current position because of the disgust felt by many toward nominee Scott Lee Cohen. This will be Sheila’s first attempt at running an actual campaign to get a nomination.
 
SIMON: Beating Judy in a jam session?
That has some wondering if she’s too inexperienced in the ways of politicking to be running a campaign for a statewide office.
She may well win the primary (I don’t see anybody getting excited over the prospects of Will County Auditor Duffy Blackburn, who wants the comptroller’s post as well).

But can she take on incumbent Illinois comptroller Judy Baar Topinka come the general election? It doesn’t help that the suburban Riverside resident is one of the few Republicans whom the Chicago-area Democrats are willing to accept.

SHE MIGHT BE the lone official who keeps the Democrats from running up a string of victories in 2014 that gives them complete domination of Illinois state government. Of course, we’ve seen how Dems are incapable of “playing nice” with each other, meaning that domination wouldn’t really mean much!

Although there could be a quirk that we’ve never quite had before – a musical campaign. Topinka is the “wacky aunt”-type with the accordion, while Simon plays banjo in a bluegrass band.

I wonder about the younger voters – particularly those 17-year-olds who will now be able to vote come the March primary. Will they think this is intriguing? Or will they view it similar to Simon’s own daughter, who (according to Chicago magazine) once referred to her mother as being in an “old lady band.”

  -30-

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

EXTRA: It’s now in the courts!

A Cook County judge is going to be asked to decide whether or not Gov. Pat Quinn overstepped his bounds when he decided to not pay legislators until they come up with a plan for revamping the way the state covers the cost of pension programs.

MADIGAN: Using his clout against Quinn
The lawsuit filed in our own circuit court system was filed by the legislative leaders (House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton) on Tuesday. They claim that the concept of “separation of powers” means that a governor doesn’t have the right to mess with the Legislature’s compensation.

AS THOUGH HIS authority merely extends to the state agencies. Or perhaps solely to the people who actually work on the governor’s staff.

CULLERTON: A legal sidekick
Which means this whole issue is going to become a legal battle over exactly who has to pay any attention to a governor. If it were up to the legislative leaders, that would be “zero.”

They’d want to have no one listening to him.

How else to interpret the line from the lawsuit that says, “If the governor’s line item veto is upheld, the independence of each member of the General Assembly will be forever compromised. Any governor will hold a trump card over a co-equal branch of government.”

IT IS INTERESTING that Madigan and Cullerton are the ones putting their names on this lawsuit. I guess it figures that enough people already despise the concept of Mike Madigan that his reputation can’t take a harder hit by being the “bad guy” who files a lawsuit to get paid without resolving the pension funding problem.

So to ensure that officials actually get paid (state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has said she’d cut the checks if a court told her to do so), this now becomes a legal issue. Even though I'm inclined to agree with Quinn when he says, "today's lawsuit ... is just plain wrong,"

QUINN: Another battle to undergo
Although I won’t be surprised if a local judge winds up ruling in Madigan’s favor. As an attorney, he has some serious clout in Chicago. The real trick will be to see how high up the legal ladder this case winds up going. Is the Illinois Supreme Court destined to have to take up this issue later this summer?

Then, there’s the real question; the one that will get lost in all the upcoming legal bickering that we’re going to hear – when will the pension funding problem be resolved? The two sides aren’t anywhere near close to doing that!

  -30-

We’re approaching lack of a payday

Thursday is the day the members of our General Assembly should be getting their pay for the month of August.

But on account of the fact that Gov. Pat Quinn used his amendatory veto powers to delete the money put aside in the budget to cover legislative salaries for the year, they’re not getting paid.


ILLINOIS COMPTROLLER JUDY Baar Topinka went so far last week as to make a formal statement saying she doesn’t have the authority to cut checks for the General Assembly’s 177 members – although she did strongly imply that she’d be more than willing to pay them if a court were to order her to do so.

It’s probably one of the rare occasions when a government officials WANTS to be sued – irregardless of how a lawsuit would wind up making just about everybody look foolish.

Of course, nobody has come up with a lawsuit against the state. Because it’s one of those things that would make somebody look incredibly stupid and selfish!

Quinn’s motivation for not paying the legislators (and himself, technically) is that the public officials don’t deserve compensation for as long as they fail to come up with a plan to reform the way in which the state pays the cost of the pension programs it oversees.

AS OF MONDAY, there still isn’t a plan for covering the pension costs. And no hints as to when a plan could be ready for legislative consideration.

Who wants to be the person who sues to get paid even though significant work has yet to be complete?

Although the Capitol Fax newsletter has indicated that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has had his staff looking into ways that could force legislators to get paid even without a resolution to the pension funding problem.

Regardless, the action that usually would be taking place now to ensure that paychecks that won’t bounce come Thursday is NOT taking place. Legislators are not going to get their monthly compensation.

SOME OF THEM won’t be as impacted because they have other jobs or sources of income – particularly those who are attorneys and are going to have to rely upon their law firm legal fees to cover the cost of the groceries they consume and their mortgage payments for the upcoming month.

But there are those who actually live off the incomes. Some may have financial problems crop up – just like other people who run into unexpected conflicts.

So in that case, the next couple of weeks could turn out to be an educational experience for our legislators.

Not that they’re willing to say so themselves. I have contacted a few legislators in recent days, and NONE of them are willing to comment in any form.

“I’M NOT PUTTING myself in the middle of that,” state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, said. He was the most eloquent. The others I spoke to had less to say – as all are afraid of saying something that could offend the powers-that-be.

None of them want to be the target of political payback once this issue gets resolved, and the legislators wind up getting back pay to cover the cost of the money they are being denied this week.

That’s the flaw in the argument being made by some that Quinn acted in an unconstitutional manner by altering the salaries of the General Assembly. He really didn’t.

The salaries on the books for the individual legislators remain the same. They’ll get their money eventually – just like the state workers whose get gets delayed every time the Legislature and the governor get into a political spat and can’t put together a state budget by the July 1 beginning-of-the state fiscal year.

BESIDES, THERE ALSO have been several occasions where the General Assembly uses the backhanded maneuver of approving something, but then failing to provide funding for it – thereby ensuring it won’t happen.

In a sense, the governor has done the same to the legislators, who apparently can now turn to the Credit Union 1 in Rantoul (just north of Champaign) to get loans of up to half of their salaries to help them pay bills in coming weeks – similar to how they help state employees on strike.

So excuse me for not being too sympathetic to the legislators. Even though some are trying to make the argument that Quinn is behaving irresponsibly – creating a precedent for future governors to “strong-arm” the General Assembly to get them to do anything.

“No pay checks until you pass a measure restricting abortion so heavily that it becomes next-to-impossible to obtain!,” they argue we’re going to hear someday.

THAT MAY BE so. It is possible that some future political nit-wit would try something arrogant like that.

Although I’d argue that is the arrogance of the future public official, and not the questionability of the tactic itself.

I also have enough faith in the Illinois electorate to think that if a future governor tried something like that, the public would be so repulsed that the official would suffer severely.

Unlike Quinn in this instance, who seems to be gaining tidbits of support for his behavior in recent weeks!

  -30-

Monday, July 29, 2013

Will baseball Hall of Fame “disaster” take down Chicago-ties in 2014?

I’m sure you can find many pundits, baseball fans, and all-around cranks complaining these days because of the fact that the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday inducted a series of dead guys into their ranks.

It’s true. The sportswriters who cast the votes for ballplayers couldn’t agree on anyone this year – what with all the confusion of who was and who wasn’t using steroids to pump themselves (and their stats) up and what (if anything) should be done about it.

THE VETERANS COMMITTEE that gives older ballplayers a second chance, and also considers non-players who made a contribution to the grand game chose ballplayers, umpires and an owner from the first third of the 20th Century.

Personally, I think it’s intriguing that one-time New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert (he owned the ball club back in the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig) is now in the Hall of Fame.

But too many people want to complain because Sunday’s ceremonies saw a series of distant relatives had to be called in to accept the honor on their behalf. It made for a dud of an induction ceremony – which means Cooperstown, N.Y., didn’t get the tourist swarm it usually gets every August.

For that, you need living ballplayers – along with the fans who saw them play who make the trip so they can reminisce about their younger days (when they were a few pounds lighter).

THE COMPLICATION IS the steroids issue. Because theoretically, this should have been the year that the Chicago Cubs’ very own Sammy Sosa, along with Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants and Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees/Toronto Blue Jays/Houston Astros (I still remember his 2005 World Series appearance) should have been inducted.

Except that all three have aroused suspicions that they used assorted substances to bolster their strength and endurance beyond anything that is natural.

The other ballplayers up for grabs have so many detractors that no one could get the minimum 75 percent total of ballots cast to get into the Hall of Fame.
 
Is this going to happen again?

THIS BECOMES A Chicago issue because 2014 is the first year of Hall of Fame eligibility for players such as Chicago White Sox great Frank Thomas, along with Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux.

Remember him? He started, and finished his major league career with the Cubs, and he even managed to get his first Cy Young Award while pitching with a baby blue bear logo on his shoulder.

Although the Cubs, in their short-sightedness, let him get away to Atlanta – where he became the ace pitcher of a starting rotation some fans think is the best-ever. Another pitcher from that rotation, Tom Glavine, also will get his first shot at baseball immortality (which amounts to a bronze plaque hanging in a hall in Cooperstown).

Now I don’t have a ballot. And I also know the sportswriter-types who do have them are an unpredictable lot. Could it be that these three (whom I’d vote for if I had a ballot) will get lost in the same politicking as they desperately try to vote against people they don’t want?

OR WILL THERE be a need felt by people with a ballot to pick somebody (anybody) who is physically capable of showing up for his own induction ceremony?

We’ll have to wait a few months to see, although I think it would be bad if any of these deserving ballplayers get short-changed (although the Cubs-fan grousing we’re going to hear that Maddux ought to be considered a Cub more than a Brave will be annoying).

Although Thomas and Maddux likely will be the only Chicago-tied ballplayers we might hear from next year.

Because looking at the other local ballplayers who will come up for consideration the first time, I don’t see any athletes in need of immortalization. In fact, I’ll be amazed in any get even the 5 percent minimum standard to remain on the ballot for future years.

RAY DURHAM AND Keith Foulke may have been key parts of that division winning White Sox team of 2000, and Esteban Loaiza may be one of the few Mexican-American pitchers to win at least 20 games in a single season – but none of that strikes me as Cooperstown-worthy. Neither does anything about one-time Cub Jon Lieber.

And as for Moises Alou? Maybe his father or uncles (the famed Alou Brothers of the 1960s) ought to get some Hall of Fame consideration.

But the one-time Cubs outfielder got his moment of “glory” when we saw him whine back in 2003 when a Wrigley Field fan may have prevented him from catching a fly ball down the line – which would have averted the rally that ultimately caused the Cubs to (yet again) blow a chance at the World Series!

  -30-

EDITOR'S NOTE: Just think of what Sunday would have been like if people weren't so freaked out about steroid use, and it turned out to be the day that Sammy Sosa (along with Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds) had been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Would Sammy's command of the English language have suddenly improved to the point where he could give a comprehensible speech reminding us of how wonderful he thinks his presence was? Would he have given us that heart-tapping, kiss-blowing schtick that used to nauseate White Sox fans? And will there be some nitwit with a Hall of Fame ballot who will want to believe that since Sosa has to wait on Cooperstown immortalization, Frank Thomas should have to wait as well? We'll find out next year.
 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Soriano no longer the great hope to lead Cubbie-dom to championship level

Alfonso Soriano is no longer the “big star” who’s going to lead the Chicago Cubs to championship glory. Not that anybody should ever have thought such a dream was possible.

The Soriano era in Chicago ended with his trade to the New York Yankees, in exchange for a minor-league Tampa Yankees pitcher who might someday amount to something.

IT’S ALL PART of the concept of looking to the future – engaging in yet another Cubs' rebuilding that is reminiscent of the old 5-year economic growth plans of the Soviet Union of old. They never seemed to amount to anything real.

I know there are Cubs fans who are glad to see Alfonso (I refuse to refer to him as “the Fonz”) gone. They are disgusted that the big-money contract he got from former Cubs ownership prior to the 2007 season did not translate into a Superstar!!! who led the team to on-the-field glory.

I’m also aware that he’s an aging ballplayer. He probably has a season or two left in his career.

Yet I’m not going to be surprised if Soriano winds up being a productive ballplayer with the Yankees the rest of this season – which will be the Yanks’ attempt to recover from the fact that many of their big-name ballplayers have suffered season-long injuries.

WHO KNOWS? IT might not be the most ridiculous thing to think that Soriano can be the guy who helps the Yankees go from a team with a winning record in a tough division to a ball club that can actually qualify for the playoffs.

Wouldn’t that be so in character for the Chicago Cubs? Their star gets good again once he plays for somebody else.

Soriano never lived up to the "lineage"
 
Of course, we also have to consider that Soriano is now forevermore an ex-Cub. Does he bring the stink-eye, so to speak, to any team he now plays for?

Personally, I was not surprised that Soriano did not live up to Cubs fans’ expectations. I thought it was asking a bit much to have him be “the Man!” for the Cubs.

YES, IT’S TRUE he was a Yankee back in those “glory” days of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Soriano was a part of the Yankees teams that won World Series in 1999 and 2000, and won American League championships in 2001 and 2003.

In fact, he was a regular player for those latter two ball clubs. But he was only a role player for those teams. He was a part of the championship team – not THE champion who led the team.

Had the Cubs been able to acquire a Derek Jeter or an Alex Rodriguez, perhaps the fans’ expectations would have been more realistic.

The fact that Soriano could have a positive effect on the Yankees this season will be in the fact that he is being asked to be a part-time outfielder and designated hitter – and nothing more!

THE FACT THAT the Yankees got the Cubs to cough up a significant amount of cash that will pay off the bulk of the Soriano salary under his current contract shows just how disappointing the Chicago results fell from the initial expectations.

So Soriano, who was to join his new/old ball club Friday in New York for a weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays, will get a chance to redeem himself. It will be intriguing to see the reaction he gets on Aug. 5-7 – which is when the Yankees make their one trip to Chicago this season for a three-game series against the White Sox.

MRS. SORIANO?: Ugh!?!
Will Sox fans hold his Cub-dom against him? Or will they find his failure with the Cubs to be an amusing anecdote? It will be an interesting saga to see Soriano back in Yankee pinstripes.

At the very least, he’ll be reunited with wife “Candice.” His spouse is actually named Isis. But the sight of Jeter in drag in a Saturday Night Live sketch is one of those moments that becomes impossible to forget even now, more than a decade later!

  -30-

Friday, July 26, 2013

Is it time to consider Latino political empowerment in NW Side lege district?

We now have 33rd Ward Alderman Deborah Mell, along with a vacancy in the Illinois House of Representatives from the city’s Northwest Side.

MELL: She needs a legislative replacement
And in a sense, the real politicking now takes place.

BECAUSE IT WAS always kind of a done deal that now-retired Alderman Dick Mell’s desire to hand the seat off to his daughter was going to be accomplished (as it was on Wednesday when Mayor Rahm Emanuel made it official).

But Mell’s political “promotion” means her seat from the Illinois House 40th district is now open. For the record, the openly-lesbian Mell has said she’d like it if the legislative post could go to someone who identifies as gay – so that there will be no loss in political influence in the Illinois General Assembly.

But she’s not being openly pushy about that point – which is good in the sense that it avoids a political battle with those who want the retirement of Dick Mell to result in some form of political advancement for Latinos – who comprise a majority of the 33rd Ward’s population these days.

Heck, most of the 12 publicly-named finalists whom Emanuel supposedly considered seriously for the aldermanic post were of Latino ethnic origins. There were those who wanted the new alderman to be a Latino.

NOW, THOSE PEOPLE are going to be pushing for the legislative post, at the very least, to go to a Latino.

It’s not impossible that it could happen. When Dick Mell initially said he was retiring from the City Council, the rumor mill had daughter Deb getting the aldermanic post, and long-time aide Jaime Andrade being picked to replace her in the Legislature.

It may still wind up working out this way. Although I wonder if one of the other Latinos who tried to become alderman will express interest in being a state legislator. Some of them who envisioned spending time at City Hall downtown may not like the idea of making the four-hour drive back and forth to Springfield every spring.

Personally, I hope it works out this way. Because I think the General Assembly (representing the entire state) needs a boost in its Latino ethnic composition; if just to show those people in the rest of Illinois who are either in denial or are clueless as to the growing potential influence of the Latino population.

ANYBODY IN CHICAGO proper who doesn’t realize the Latino significance is probably beyond redemption. Whereas I haven’t written off the rest of the state.

Besides, I believe it is possible for any Latino public official to work with the various interests that comprise the modern-day Democratic Party – including those who have as their top concern the rights of gay people in Illinois.

Picking a Latino official shouldn’t be exclusionary to the concept of picking a gay-sympathetic legislator. As it seems to have become this spring between the gay rights interests and the Black Caucus when it came to the issue of gay marriage being legitimized in Illinois.

Besides, every legislator (and alderman, for that matter) has so many differing individuals that they’d better be capable of representing different interests. Even though some legislators like to pretend they can ignore anyone who isn’t exactly like them!

THE POLITICAL FUTURE is now in the hands of Dick Mell, who in all this shifting is the one constant – he hasn’t given up his post as Democratic committeeman for the 33rd Ward.

Which means he gets to be the predominant voice in picking a new legislator – since his ward dominates the 40th Illinois House district and the committeemen (NOT the mayor) make this pick.

So in the end, we can talk all we want about political change and the idea that there is potential for Latino influence to grow at the state government level.

The bottom line is that the new state representative will be the person who most pleases the Democratic committeeman; who’s about as “old school” as our current lot of officials gets.

  -30-

Thursday, July 25, 2013

EXTRA: A present for everybody! Or, Christmas comes to Ill. 5 months early

To Gov. Pat Quinn, his big accomplishment was in giving approval to a measure that will allow Illinois government to move forward in developing the long-discussed new airport near rural Peotone.

The Statehouse? Or Santa's workshop?
Which is true enough.

BUT I’M SURE there are others who are going to want to ignore the airport process.

They’re going to view it as the day the state kicked in some money for construction of a new arena near the McCormick Place convention center – the arena that is meant to be the new distant-from-campus home of the DePaul Blue Demons basketball programs.

Others will want to view Thursdays’ action as the permitting of fertilizer plants in Tuscola (not far from Champaign) to be eligible for job-creation incentives. And some will prefer to see this as the bill that helps develop the Mississippi River’s Port of East St. Louis.

For the bill that Quinn signed into law during morning ceremonies at Governors State University was the ultimate in “Christmas tree” bills – so-named by Springpatch denizens because they provide a little something for everybody.

IT WAS A bill that got its final approval from the General Assembly on the final day of the legislative session back in May. Back when everybody else was preoccupied by the passage of a concealed carry measure – and the failure of the Illinois House to do anything with legitimizing gay marriage.

It was a bill that most people managed to miss in the last-minute swath of legislation that did get voted on!

Christmas comes 5 months early
And it is a bill that will now have the potential to irritate so many different interests – from the people who hate the idea of a new Chicago-area airport being built on farmland to those who think it’s a dumpy idea to build a new basketball arena on the Sout’ Side when the school that would play there is up north.

Although at least this particular bill has issues that all sort of relate to construction or economic development – even if you believe that development is a mere fantasy.

IT’S NOWHERE NEAR as much of a mish-mash as a measure the Legislature approved in the mid-1990s to alter the state’s Leaking Underground Storage Tank fund AND implement measures for registering people convicted of sex crimes.

Legislators argued that both measures related to “public safety.” Although the tacky jokes about sex offenders and the “LUST Fund” being combined into one bill did nothing except create tacky puns that still make me groan some two decades later!

  -30-

We love him, we love him not; what do we really think of Rahm Emanuel?

It was quite a way to start the working portion of my day Wednesday – stepping off a Metra commuter train at the LaSalle Street station to hear a chant echoing off in the distance.

Chicago was kept safe Wednesday from angry schoolteachers. Photograph by Gregory Tejeda

And as I walked up Clark Street (headed to the Daley Center courthouse for an unrelated event), their chant became clearer and clearer – Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Rahm Emanuel’s got to go!

YES, IT WAS the lovely batch of individuals from the Chicago Teachers Union, picketing the Chicago Public Schools offices before marching to the Thompson Center state government building (passing City Hall in the process) to let it be known they think it stinks that some 3,000 people (including more than 1,000 teachers) are about to be laid off.

The public schools system has financial problems, just like many other governmental units these days. The raw numbers for the Chicago system sound larger because the system itself is bigger.

More kids than any other school system. So they need more teachers.

So 1,000 Chicago teachers is probably the equivalent of some rural school district having to let a dozen people go.

IT HURTS! PARTICULARLY since many of those who teach in the Chicago Public Schools system have some sort of special dedication to education as a profession. Otherwise, they wouldn’t put up with the constant grief they are subjected to – and which they expressed publicly on Wednesday.

EMANUEL: Not the 'man of the hour'
Personally, the part of Wednesday’s protests that caught my attention was the police presence. That block was likely the safest place in Chicago in the morning hours.

I can’t help but think those officers could have been put to better use had they not been sent to a morning assignment that basically amounted to them standing around watching while school teachers picketed and chanted extremely off-key.

Then again, those officers probably felt a bit safer. Would they really have to venture off to assignments where they’d have to encounter real criminals? Or does someone really think that schoolteachers expressing their discontent with their treatment are criminal in nature?

NOT THAT ANY of this is new in nature. It was just this weekend that I picked up a copy of The Nation magazine – which featured on its cover an essay about the level of outrage that exists in Chicago toward “Rahm Emanuel’s austerity agenda.”

Which really is nothing more than Emanuel bringing his hard-headed tactics from his days in Congress and as White House chief of staff to City Hall.

This is the man who had organized labor and Latino ethnic groups suspicious of him because of the perception he didn’t really care about their issues, and wasn’t about to let their concerns hijack his own priorities.

Now, we can add the Chicago Teachers Union to the list of people who don’t have much use for Emanuel. Although I suspect Rahm himself prefers to look at it as gaining the support of people who’d prefer that the teachers union would just “Drop Dead!”

SO WHERE DOES Emanuel turn for some lovin’, or at the very least, someone who won’t publicly detest him?

About the only place that was willing to respect him on Wednesday was at City Hall. For the mayor on Wednesday made public his choice of a replacement for retiring 33rd Ward Alderman Dick Mell.

Emanuel, after using a process he created to accept applications and review the qualifications of a dozen finalists, went along with Mell’s desire that his daughter, Deborah, get the post.

No one who pays attention to City Hall on a regular basis was shocked by the choice. In fact, the only real surprise would have been if anybody BUT Deb Mell had got the post.

BECAUSE THAT WOULD have been a sure-fire way to trigger a political brawl, since Dick Mell remains the Democratic ward committeeman and would have made life uncomfortable for any Emanuel-chosen alderman not named “Deb Mell.”

Along with the alderman himself.

And Emanuel has enough enemies these days without needing to accumulate any more.

  -30-

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Who’s the third Democratic gov candidate for Illinois '14 cycle?

It has been in the rumor mill for the past few days, and now WLS-TV is reporting it as well. State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, is contemplating a run for Illinois governor in next year’s election cycle.

RAOUL: The next governor?
I suspect that the reaction from many people who happen to stumble across this commentary is something along the line of “Who?!?”

THEN AGAIN, I’M fairly sure that was the reaction of many people back in 2004 when then state-Sen. Barack Obama was first speculated as a possible presidential candidate.

Personally, I’m not sure that Raoul is the next Obama. Even though some people are quick to point out that both were from the Hyde Park neighborhood, have general progressive political credentials and are black men whose names don’t exactly comply with the ideals of those who see this as a WASP-y nation.

But aside from being a black man (which could make him the candidate who takes the bulk of the African-American segment of the vote), I’m not convinced he will get into this particular election. If anything, a Raoul campaign succeeding would overcome odds bigger than anything Obama managed to do.

Admittedly, the current candidate field almost begs for a third person to get involved.

WE HAVE CURRENT Gov. Pat Quinn seeking re-election, and former Commerce Secretary/White House chief of staff William Daley also seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

QUINN: Front-runner? Or long-shot?
There are those people who can’t stand the idea of Quinn, and others who can’t stand the concept of a Daley having any political influence outside of Chicago.

Both men have potential drawbacks, and the right third candidate could manage to succeed – particularly since in a three-way race, you don’t need a majority to win. It could only take 36 percent.

Although I wonder if Raoul’s biggest drawback is a characteristic he has in common with both Quinn and Daley – he lives in Chicago.

DALEY: The BIG name
FOR I SUSPECT that the people who are most eager to not vote for either Daley or Quinn are those who live in the “other” third of Illinois – the part that isn’t Chicago, or its suburbs. The part known commonly by the epithet “downstate.”

Those people want a candidate from outside of the Chicago area, and probably one who isn’t going to have much more appeal to the African-American voter bloc than either Daley or Quinn – the latter of whom is most likely to take the black vote if it remains just the two candidates in the March primary.

The big problem, of course, is that there aren’t any downstate officials who are in a position to run a serious campaign for governor as a Democrat. I wonder if a Quinn vs. Daley vs. Raoul field would seriously depress the voter turnout in the Democratic primary outside of the Chicago metro area.

I suspect the bulk of the “rural” vote will wind up working its way to the Republican primary – although I’m not convinced that state Sen. William Brady, R-Bloomington, will be any more successful than he was three years ago when he ran for governor.

RUTHERFORD: The eventual challenger
SOME MAY THINK that he had his chance in 2010, and it’s time to find someone new. That may be the reaction to state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, as well. As for state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, he may be too obscure, while business executive Bruce Rauner may come off as “too Chicago” for that rural-type vote.

Raoul’s chances of becoming governor may center on the concept that the electorate finds ALL of the candidates so unbecoming that he stands out in a crowded field.

It could happen. Or maybe not!

For the senator from the Hyde Park neighborhood has shown himself to be a serious legislator who has more ambition in life than to be the next alderman of the 5th ward. It’s not always the highly-qualified person who manages to get themselves elected to office.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

EXTRA: Wrigley up for Wed. vote

Wrigley looking less and less like Wrigley should

The City Council is likely to give its approval to a renovation plan that supposedly would bring Wrigley Field into the 21st Century – structurally and technologically, ensuring that the Chicago Cubs will remain in the Lake View neighborhood for decades to come.

The aldermen meet Wednesday, and negotiations literally kept going through Tuesday.

FOR WHAT IT’S worth, 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney is now a supporter of the project – although I suspect the council would have voted for the ballpark project even if he had maintained his objections.

For the record, Tunney can claim to have persuaded the Cubs to back away from one feature of the renovation – construction of a pedestrian bridge over Clark Street. He seems to think the structure would have been garish-looking.

Although personally, I think it might have been practical – similar to that bridge that takes people over 35th Street and directly into U.S. Cellular Field. It keeps all those Chicago White Sox fans from clogging up 35th Street traffic while trying to cross the streets to get to the parking lots.

Including the “sacred” lot upon which people park their cars on what was once the playing field of Comiskey Park.

A BRIDGE PROBABLY would have made some sense. But it isn’t going to happen. For the Cubs, I’m sure they think this is a minor concession – since they’re getting so much else of what they want.

Most sacred of parking lots
Those video boards (the tackily-named “jumbotrons”) and advertising signs that will block the views of some of the rooftops across the street from which some people pay about $150 per person to watch a ballgame from outside the stadium.

Which means they’re getting a crummier view of baseball than you get from the uppermost seats of the upper deck at U.S. Cellular – but then again, some people have money to burn, I guess.

At least we can stop wondering if a suburb is going to get to claim to have Major League Baseball within their boundaries. It was always a long-shot within the Chicago area (even though ball clubs like the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers are suburban-based in their metropolitan areas).

ALTHOUGH THEY MIGHT have another chance in about a decade or so.

Keep in mind that U.S. Cellular is in its 23rd season of baseball, and it seems that modern-day stadiums are expected to last 40 or so seasons before being replaced.

Considering that the White Sox wanted to move to a suburban location back in the 1980s, they may get another chance. Unless our political people maintain their current mindsets – in which case the Sox will play at 35th and Shields and the Cubs will be at Clark and Addison until the day Planet Earth comes to a fiery end.

The real question is will either ball club have made it back to the World Series before then?

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What attorney who’s worth anything doesn’t have a conflict of interest?

As I write this, I can hear the moans and groans of those individuals who as recently as a few days ago were convinced that they finally had that crook, otherwise known as “Mr. Speaker,” just where they wanted him.

MADIGAN: Breathing easier
Seriously, I came across several comments on the Internet (all anonymous) Thursday and Friday that had as their theme the idea that former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins was going to be the guy who – after all these decades – would catch Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, D-Chicago, in some sort of act that would send him off to a federal prison.

NOT THAT ANY of these people had a clue what this illegal act would turn out to be. In fact, I sense for them what ought to be “illegal” about Madigan is that he has the “D” after his name, instead of an “R.”

But they want him, by any means necessary. And Collins is the guy who gets credit for putting former Gov. George Ryan in prison for all those years.

So how disappointed the ideologues likely are because Collins on Monday said he’s not available to do any investigation of Metra and its former CEO – who allegedly engaged in assorted political hiring and other inappropriate behavior; some of which was supposedly done at the request of Madigan.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t know anything specifically about this particular investigation – other than that Collins was supposedly going to be involved.

BUT COLLINS’ LAW firm, Perkins Coie, let it be known Sunday that it has a “potential conflict” in being involved with this case, and that Collins himself is not available to be involved in this matter.

The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that an initial check on Collins showed no problems, but that the law firm later learned of “additional conflict issues.” Which is purposefully vague.

COLLINS: Stepping aside voluntarily
The fact that Collins won’t be involved in the case, after all, means he will be able to get away without telling us what the potential problem was.

But it does mean that the “investigation” into Metra and former CEO Alex Clifford is going to have to wait until an attorney can be found who is capable of conducting an investigation without there being some perception that he (or she) is biased in favor of Madigan or Metra.

WHICH COULD TURN out to be difficult.

One of the issues involved is that Madigan has been involved in the Springfield political and Chicago legal communities for so long that it is hard to envision anybody who would be absolutely neutral whenever his name comes up. The idea of a completely-nonpartisan investigator may not be possible.

Take into account the case involving Richard “R.J.” Vanecko; the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and also of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful William Daley.

Remember how his criminal case was originally assigned to Judge Arthur Hill – who voluntarily backed away because he admitted his legal career owed significant ties to Richard M. back when he was the Cook County state’s attorney?

OFFICIALS SOUGHT OUT a judge from outside of Cook County, and Maureen McIntyre of McHenry County ultimately got assigned to the case. She remains on it, even though the Chicago Sun-Times came up with a batch of allegations concerning she and her ex-husband that makes her appear to be less-than-ideal.

If anything, we tend to have a legal system that gives us “justice” despite the characteristics of the individuals who work in the system.

Which is why Madigan may be able to breathe a bit easier these days concerning this Metra stuff. It may well turn out that any future attorney who gets dragged into conducting this investigation is going to be scrutinized so intensely (that’s “scrootened,” in former Mayor Daley speak) that they may decide the duties aren’t worth the hassle.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Are the times a changin’ for aldermen, or is da Boss becoming more almighty?

It’s one of the basic tenants of the Chicago political scene – the alderman is all-powerful, within the boundaries of his (or her) ward.


TUNNEY: Losing to the Cubs?
When the full City Council considers an issue, the viewpoint of the alderman whose ward is directly impacted is given great consideration. It isn’t often that an alderman can’t get his (or her) colleagues to sympathize.

WHICH IS WHY it is unusual to see a pair of happenings now occurring at City Hall – the political squabbling concerning the renovation (long needed) of Wrigley Field AND the replacement of retiring 33rd Ward Alderman Dick Mell.

In the case of Wrigley, one of the political opponents has been 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney – who has tried to present himself as the man who is looking out for the interests of the people who actually live in the Lake View neighborhood and would have to cope with the additional foot traffic that a renovated ballpark is meant to create.

But Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is the self-admitted not-much-of-a baseball fan, has taken the lead on this issue – arguing that the presence of the Chicago Cubs impacts the entire city.

Although I’m sure he also realizes that if the Cubs were to wind up taking one of those suburban offers for a new stadium, Emanuel would be the one who would wind up looking weak and ineffectual.

SO ANY THOUGHTS that Tunney had that he’d be the tough guy who’d stand up to the Cubs and the Ricketts family that owns them has pretty much shriveled up.


DEB MELL: Her father's pick? Or Hizzoner's?
Many of Tunney’s objections to advertising signs being erected along with video boards (the oft-mentioned Jumbotron) have been resolved in favor of the ball club. Although when the City Council meets Wednesday (likely to give final approval), Tunney may still have “demands” for his support.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Tunney wants a walkway over Clark Street eliminated, along with reductions in the impact of a proposed hotel where the McDonalds’ franchise is and a 10-year ban on outfield advertising signs.

I’m not going to be surprised if the council winds up ignoring those demands. Because Emanuel wants to get this issue resolved NOW rather than LATER.

THE COUNCIL TAKES the month of August off from public business. The last thing officials want is for this issue to linger for another month of speculation.

DICK MELL: Remaining the boss of his ward
But this isn’t the only issue in which the alderman’s thoughts aren’t being treated with knee-jerk reverence. Although when it comes to replacing Dick Mell, his views may wind up becoming the official stance of Emanuel.

Because Mell has made it known he wants his daughter, Deb (the current state representative for the legislative district that includes the 33rd Ward) to replace him as alderman.

Emanuel has gone through his self-created process of accepting applications to make it appear as though anybody could have come forth and become the alderman.

BUT EMANUEL HAS made comments implying that he’s not opposed to the idea of a new “Alderman Mell.” He just seems determined to stage the process in a way so it seems that she was HIS choice for the post, and NOT Dick Mell’s pick.

For those who are saying that it is somehow “good government” not to let the departing alderman pick his replacement, keep in mind that former Mayor Richard M. Daley was around for so long and got to make so many aldermanic appointments that he wound up controlling more than half of the City Council.

Do we really think it better than Emanuel gets to reinforce the notion of the City Council as his rubber stamp?


EMANUEL: Showing his authority
Although in the case of the Mells, Dick won’t be irrelevant. For he kept the position of Democratic committeeman for the 33rd Ward – the political party post that has the authority influence the alderman’s thinking and ensure their future re-election.

WHICH IS WHY it is reality that the most powerful government officials are the ones who double their influence by being committeeman AND holding a political post.

Those are the kind of officials who have the influence to tell the mayor what he ought to do. Which is something I suspect Emanuel isn’t terribly interested in having to deal with.

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