Monday, September 30, 2013

Everything takes its sweet ol’ time in world of Ill. government operations

In a quarter-century of watching up-close government in operation, the lasting impression I have gained is that nothing is done in a timely fashion.

Relying on government agencies for something (regardless of what level the agency in question is at) ensures you will ultimately get the benefit in question. As far as how quickly, it will come whenever it comes.

PEOPLE WHO ARE capable of doing things on deadline (such as myself) are often the most frustrated with the endless delays – some of which were due to bureaucratic bumbling while others were due to politically-partisan delays.

Sometimes, people who desperately oppose something count delays in its implementation as being a political victory.

Take the whole matter of health care reform – which is in law and which in theory should start showing benefits next year. But Republicans in the House of Representatives (at least the most ideologically-motivated ones) are engaging in any actions they can to cause delays.

Although their blatantly-partisan efforts will be aided by those efforts by the state governments that will encounter their own delays in helping people enroll in the efforts meant to provide some form of health insurance coverage for all.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS reported this weekend that while Illinois expects to eventually have 1,200 workers in place to help people with questions as they decide exactly what health coverage plan best suits their needs, there are only about 100 such workers currently in place who are fully certified.

Considering that the six-month period in which people have to get themselves some sort of health insurance begins Tuesday, it would appear obvious that many people will have to figure out things on their own.

Perhaps the state figures that many of us are inherently procrastinators, and that the need for all those people trained and certified to help on this issue will not be needed until later in the process – perhaps around March when the sign-up period is coming to an end.

Will we get an ugly rush of people by the end of March seeking health insurance; similar to the ugly rush we get every year around April 15 when the masses decide to finally break down and file their income tax returns?

OR WILL THERE be early applicants who will become so frustrated with the lack of help that some may wind up erroneously deciding that those Republican ideologues may have been on to something with all their rhetoric about how health care reform was some sort of messed-up scam?

All I can say at this point is that I hope people are patient as they work their way through the intricacies of – the site that people are supposed to use to sign up for help with health insurance.

But health insurance isn’t the only issue where the state is lagging behind in offering help. Take “concealed carry,” the matter of people being allowed to carry a pistol on their person in public for self-defense.

People wishing to have their firearm holstered (or tucked away in a purse or duffle bag) will have to gain permits from the Illinois State Police, who will require them to complete 16 hours of training from state-approved instructors. The process for applying to take such training will begin Jan 5.

BUT IT SEEMS that thus far, the state police only have 54 instructors approved to offer such training – and most of them are in the more urban six-counties of the Chicago metro area.

Some downstate Illinois counties don’t have any instructor yet, and it’s not clear when they will.

I’m sure from the perspective of the people who wanted to start carrying a pistol in a shoulder-holster the very day that the General Assembly overrode Gov. Pat Quinn’s amendatory veto of the issue, this is an unconscionable delay. Plus the fact that they won’t be able to go to a local office and may have to make a trip to a distant county to get the permit is scandalous to them!

I’m not as offended by that concept, because I realize it can take time to get people into place – just as it will take time to get all those workers certified to help people gain health insurance.

I ONLY HOPE that the delays for both of those groups of people can be resolved in a timely manner – and not with one significantly taking longer to fix than the other.

Because I’d hate to think that sometime in the near future, someone who could not get some sort of health insurance coverage would wind up dying from gunshot wounds inflicted by someone who was too quick on the draw because they thought their personal safety was being threatened!


Saturday, September 28, 2013

EXTRA: Sorry Cubs fans, Sox won’t lose 100 games! Only 183 days til ‘14

Will Paulie be back?
There’s only one bit of significance to the Chicago White Sox’ 6-5 victory Saturday night against the Kansas City Royals – they won’t lose 100 games.

There’s only one more ballgame to be played in 2013 – Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox needed to lose both Saturday AND Sunday to achieve the “century” mark in defeats!

NOT THAT LOSING 98 or 99 games is all that much better. It’s still a pathetic season – and the total Chicago baseball loss tally for 2013 is now 193. The Cubs got beat 6-2 Saturday by the St. Louis Cardinals.

A season's end is noteworthy
And as we approach the final day of the 2013 regular season, I can’t help but wonder how the 1959 observations of St. Louis Cardinals-turned-Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jim Brosnan apply.

Brosnan is the pitcher-turned-author who wrote a diary of that season, and in his own words wrote that, “On the last day of the season baseball is a game that professionals really do play; it no longer seems like work to them. It is virtually impossible for a ballplayer to convince himself that he will never play the game again. On the last day of the season baseball, truly, is in his blood.”

Will Sunday be the day that 38-year-old Paul Konerko (a 15-year White Sox player) thinks in his mind that he can go on forever? And will he still feel the same way a month from now – which is when he says he’ll make up his mind as to whether or not he should keep playing baseball professionally for a living?

Will they really repeat?
AND WHILE SOME of us will move on to Chicago Blackhawks hockey or to following the every hiccup emanating from the Chicago Bears, some of us will snatch little tidbits of beisbol played in the winter leagues of Latin America while counting down the days until the “Next year” that we always wait for.

Come Monday, it will be only 183 more days ‘til Opening Day, at U.S. Cellular Field, versus the Minnesota Twins! With the Cubs starting their home games two days later, against the Ryne Sandberg-led Philadelphia Phillies.


Legislators rush to the bank to get their money before a judge changes mind

“An extortionist” was the term used by one member of the Illinois General Assembly to describe Gov. Pat Quinn these days.

QUINN: A loser, for now
Of course, this particular legislator was snickering when he used the term. He could afford to laugh. For just a few hours earlier on Thursday, a Cook County judge issued an order that said Quinn was wrong to take actions that caused legislators to not get paid during the months of August and September.

THAT SAME JUDGE on Friday refused Quinn’s request of a stay that would allow for the governor’s salary ban to remain in place while legal appeals continue before the Illinois Supreme Court. Late in the day, an appellate court panel also rejected the idea of a stay.

Personally, I won’t be surprised if some judge somewhere manages to rule that Associate Judge Neil Cohen missed some esoteric concept of law and that his ruling is flawed. As it is, there are those who say that this was a purely political ruling that shows the high level of influence that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has over the court system in Cook County.

But it won’t matter from a practical standpoint.

Because Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka – who in recent weeks has bad-mouthed Quinn every chance she could get for this issue – was quick on the draw to start issuing checks to the Legislature’s members.

IN THEORY, THE people who received their monthly payments (the 1st of each month) by direct deposit into their bank accounts had their money by Friday morning. Topinka’s staff said that all checks were in the mail by 3 p.m. on Friday.

I could just envision the outburst that would occur if someone gets a check in the mail in coming days, only to learn that a stop-order prevented them from getting their money.

Will Gov. Quinn glare at Daley Center ...
Particularly since it creates a situation where some would get paid and some wouldn’t – because the people with direct deposit already have their money.

And I doubt they’re ever going to be in a mood to give the money back.

IN SHORT, THE Legislature wins this fight in the short-term. The 177 members of the General Assembly to whom Quinn wanted to deny their salaries until a resolution was found to the problem of inadequate pension program funding will get their money.

The best that Quinn could hope for at this point is that he can find a sympathetic judicial panel somewhere that’s willing to re-impose his salary ban on legislators – and do so before Tuesday.

... while asking Supreme Ct to overrule?
Because that’s the beginning of a new month. We could well get legislators all gleeful that they got two months back pay, along with a little bit of interest, only to have them repeat this legal fiasco next week!

Now I don’t know how you feel about this situation, although I am amazed the degree to which many people who don’t follow the inner-workings of government don’t have any objection to the notion that the Legislature didn’t deserve to be paid.

MAYBE WE’RE GOING to see an outcry to the legislators getting all happy about being paid even though we still don’t have a solution to pension program funding problems.

Although the fact that nobody really likes Quinn all that much probably means they’re not going to get too worked up over his legal loss! This issue may well turn out to be a big “yawn” in the minds of the public.

Which is the sad part. Too many people don’t care enough to get involved. Which is why our state’s pension funding problems have lasted for so many years without solution – WITHOUT recriminations against anyone.
That pension problem is the REAL problem. And it is one that we don't seem to be focusing on in all this politically-inspired gibberish about compensation.


Friday, September 27, 2013

EXTRA: 2013 truly historic, in a depressing way, for our baseball fans

We can now forget about 1948 and the incredibly awful professional baseball that was played on both sides of Chicago that season.

The reason Robin is still employed in Chicago
For the record books will officially record 2013 as being even worse.

WITH THE CHICAGO White Sox being defeated Friday 6-1 by the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago Cubs going down to a 7-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, the two teams now have 192 losses combined.

The two teams back in 1948 had 191 losses. So with two games remaining for each club, this is now the worst combined record we fans of Chicago baseball have had to be subjected to.

Not that losing is unique to Chicago baseball. Both ball clubs have put versions of themselves throughout the past century-plus of play that were dreadful and disgusting and thoroughly besmirched our city’s reputation with their awful play.

But there usually is something of a split. One ball club is usually a bit better than the other. We don’t get subjected to the combined crud all at once.

ALTHOUGH IN THE case of White Sox fans who went into this season thinking there might be a slight chance their favorite ball club could somehow improve on last season’s performance (they almost won a division title), the disgust level is more intense.

Then again, White Sox fans usually get more disgusted than their Cubs fans counterparts – who this year seem more disgusted with the fact that Old Style-brand beer won’t be sold at the ballpark anymore than the godawful play of the Cubs.

Keep this fact in mind. I’m sure some Cubs fans are going to take some perverse pleasure in the fact that the White Sox have a chance to actually lose 100 games this season (if they lose both Saturday AND Sunday to the Royals).

But despite how badly the White Sox played this year, it wasn’t until a couple of days ago that it became definite that the Cubs would have a better record.

We all feel this way these days
THE CUBS ARE a team that could wind up losing 96 games this year – which stinks just as badly as the Delta House collective grade point average in the film "Animal House."

In fact, just as how the Delta GPA was the lowest in Faber College history (think actor John Vernon’s “Dean Wormer” character in a rant), Chicago baseball’s loss total was the worst in Second City baseball history.

Somehow, I suspect many Chicago baseball fans are going to have the same reaction as Delta pledge Flounder when they recall this season! If they recall it at all – it is officially the worst combined effort in my nearly half-century of life.

Soon to be among unemployed?
So now, we’ll spend this weekend seeing if the White Sox actually hit the 100-loss mark (which would be one game better than the Cubs’ 101-loss record of 2012).

NOT THAT I’M taking much pleasure in that fact. Losing stinks, no matter what form it takes!

There’s also the fate of the management. The White Sox let it be known Friday that manager Robin Ventura will be retained to fulfill the final year of his contract in 2014. It seems that near division title of ’12 balances out the disgust of this season. Next year will determine whether Ventura ever gets a managerial post with another team when the day comes that he is finished with the White Sox.

And as for the Cubs, my gut says that manager Dale Sveum is gone come Monday.

He’ll get the blame for the stink of two Cubs seasons that no one in their right mind should have expected anything from. Except that Cubs fans are delusional enough to think that Joe Girardi would ever contemplate leaving a New York Yankees managerial post to be a part of the Cubs.

TEAMS THAT LOSE 101 and (possibly) 95 games are dreadful. And that may be the ultimate commentary about the 2013 version of the Chicago White Sox and however many games they wind up losing – they played themselves down to Chicago Cubs-level baseball.



EDITOR’S NOTE: Am I alone in thinking that Alexi Ramirez’ lost home run in the sixth inning of Friday night’s loss to Kansas City is somehow symbolic of how disgusting the 2013 season was for the fans at U.S. Cellular Field? I still can’t contemplate the catch Alex Gordon made of that home run, or the sound of White Sox broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson having to “take back” his home run call after he had put the run on the board!

It’s about time we get a full-fledged U.S. attorney for Chicago!!!

I realize that government often works at its own pace, particularly in the partisan environment that we now exist. The worthiness of something doesn’t mean it’s going to be completed in an expedited manner.
FARDON: U.S. Atty sooner, than later

Yet there’s something about the way in which the U.S. attorney’s post for northern Illinois (as in the Chicago area and Rockford) has been handled that makes me wonder what the hang-up is.

BECAUSE THE APPOINTMENT of Zachary Fardon does seem to be dragging along. For people who want to think that Chicago is a cesspool of corruption and violent activity, it would seem odd that they wouldn’t consider having a permanent person in charge of the U.S. attorney’s office to be a high-priority.

For the record, it was back in May 2012 that former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald let it be known that he intended to leave the post – and as it turned out, he left the following month.

He has since moved on with his life – having taken a post with a local law firm and is currently serving as a member of a panel that is supposed to figure out how to reform the government agencies that oversee mass transit throughout the Chicago-area.

For Fitzgerald, the federal government post he held for 11 years is a past lifetime.

YET FOR THOSE people in Chicago who take an interest in the various levels of law enforcement, we’re still stuck on Fitzgerald as our idea of the ideal “G-man” because our federal officials can’t just get on with picking a replacement.

Fardon, a Kansas City native who worked in Nashville before coming to Chicago in 1997 for a stint in the U.S. attorney’s office before going into private practice, was made public many months ago – going through a process that saw him beat out a woman who could have been the first ever African-American U.S. attorney in Chicago.

Yet our political process that has become hung up on partisan ways of considering issues such as health care and immigration policy also is capable of letting things drag on way too long.

FITZGERALD: Some think he's still U.S. Atty
If anything, I wonder if the fact that the ideologues are too obsessed with those hot-button issues is to blame – they get so hung up on dominating the public perception on their pet issues that they can’t be bothered to do anything with the issues that relate to daily governance.

THEN AGAIN, CONSIDERING that some Republican officials are willing to see a federal government shut-down to emphasize their opposition to health care reforms desired by President Barack Obama, maybe they don’t really care that the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago has been “leaderless” for the past 15 months.

I write that sentence knowing full well that there have been people calling the shots for the federal prosecutors. The Dirksen Building hasn’t come grinding to a halt just because there’s an empty office where Fitzgerald used to work – and Fardon likely will someday.

The key to government agencies at all levels is the fact that there is a certain bureaucracy that lasts through several political administrations. They are the ones who keep things moving on a day-to-day basis.

They are the ones who kept things going on to the point where former alderman and Cook County Commissioner William Beavers could be found guilty and sentenced to six months in a federal prison – even though the prosecutor’s office was leaderless.

STILL, AN OFFICE gains some sense of direction from its leadership. The Beavers conviction was most likely just past momentum carrying it forward a little while longer -- just as a boat doesn't come to a halt when its motor is turned off.

It was a sense of direction provided by Fitzgerald that caused the U.S. attorney’s office in the past decade to be ambitious enough to go after now-former governors George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich.

I don’t know how Fardon’s direction, whenever it becomes reality, will compare – will he try to take a lead on the issue related to Chicago’s murder rate (not a record high, but still high enough to be depressing to the city’s image)?

Or is the fact that it took this long before a Senate committee to make a recommendation, and we’re not sure when a final vote will come about, a part of our overall problem?


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Losing the self-checkout not much of loss; it slowed things up too often

Will this Jewel self-checkout device ...
I happen to live within one block of a Jewel-Osco supermarket, although not one of the ones that has had its self-checkout lanes taken away.

Which is a move that can’t come soon enough, as far as I’m concerned.

JEWEL OFFICIALS (THE chain is owned these days by Cerberus Capital Management) let it be known Wednesday that they’re going to gradually remove those self-checkout lines that – in theory – allow people to ring up the cost of their own grocery items.

It could be a time-saving move. I’ll be the first to admit to using the self-checkout lanes when all I have is a couple of items to buy. Which is often, because I tend to use the Jewel as a convenience store of sorts. It’s right by where I live.

If I have significant purchases, I often find myself going to other grocery stores (although I’m not of the sort who thinks it essential to make a trip to the nearby Whole Foods store).

But it’s not always a time-saving move.

BECAUSE THE PROBLEM with the self-checkout is that the devices are so overly sensitive.

I have lost count of the number of occasions on which I scanned an item, put it in the plastic bag, and then had my purchase come to a crashing halt!!! All because the scale thought it detected something “off” about the weight.

Which involves then having a real live human being come over to look at the order, figure out that I wasn’t trying to pull a scam on my neighborhood Jewel supermarket, and punch in a special code to allow things to proceed.

... someday be as obsolete as this store décor?
That process usually takes enough time to complete that I could have finished the checkout process if I had just gone to one of the checkout lines staffed by a real-live human being.

THERE’S ALSO THE other potential problem – one where an item refuses to scan, which makes the computerized checkout system think that I’m trying to buy an item that the store doesn’t sell.

Even though I picked the item in question right off the store shelves just moments ago.

That always manages to frustrate the real-live human beings who work at Jewel, because they don’t want to have to think much about the items in stock. It’s just supposed to be about scanning the item and letting the computers do the work of calculating prices.

Then, invariably, there are the times when I get stuck behind a person who has enough of a technological mental block that they can’t comprehend how to scan something properly.

THEY WIND UP clogging up the checkout procedures to the point where everybody gets delayed, AND we have to put up with their rants because of their inability to comprehend what it is they are trying to do!

Soon, we will not have these sights. Although it isn’t clear how long it will take to get self-checkout out of the roughly 180 Jewel-Osco stores that exist in the Midwestern U.S.

In theory, these self-checkout lines will be converted into more express lines – thereby making it possible for more people like me who are only purchasing a few items at a time to get through quickly without getting stuck behind the person with the shopping carts full of items; and coupons calling for discounts on virtually every item.

I don’t begrudge people who clip coupons, although there are times when I think these people take their desire to save money to a ridiculous extreme.

SO AS I write this particular commentary, I think about the fact that I soon will have to make a trip to my neighborhood Jewel to pick up a couple of items. I may have to give that self-checkout line at the store a last look.

Although it won’t be something I’ll miss. At least in a checkout lane staffed with a cashier, I can glare at that person when they get slow on the job.

If I try to glare at the self-checkout machine, I just have a lot of people surrounding me suddenly pull their kids a little closer to themselves – warning them to stay away from that “crazy” man trying to buy a loaf of bread or a container of orange juice!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Being tough on crime? Or just overzealous with desire to punish?

BEAVERS: Wants to be free
Former Cook County Commissioner William Beavers will be in court on Wednesday to learn just how long a time he will have to serve in prison as punishment for his income tax evasion offenses, and we’re going to see just how hard-core the prosecution will be in getting its way.

For what it’s worth, Beavers’ attorneys have filed documents in court saying they really believe the one-time cop turned alderman turned county board member ought not to do any prison time.

THEY HAVE SAID he ought to get probation. It also seems, if reports from WLS-TV newscasts are accurate, that Beavers is still persisting with his train of thought that he is being persecuted (as well as prosecuted) by the federal government.

He claims he was only prosecuted on the income tax evasion charges (connected to how he used money from his campaign funds for personal use) because he would not provide federal investigators with information about former county board President Todd Stroger and Commissioner John Daley, D-Chicago.

Perhaps the self-described “hog” thinks he’s about to become a political prisoner along the lines of Martin Luther King, Jr., or Gandhi? A bit self-righteous, we all must admit. I doubt Beavers is capable of writing anything as eloquent as King's letter from the Birmingham jail.

Yet the U.S. Attorney’s office for Chicago has suggested that Beavers serve just under two years (which they will persist in describing as 21 months because it sounds more imposing that way) in a prison facility.

NO MATTER HOW much one thinks that Beavers is full of himself and trying to spin his story to make himself the hero, we must also remember that the federal government is just as capable of doing the same.

They’re going to present the most onerous account possible to ensure the longest prison term possible. Because that will allow for a prosecutor to put another notch on his record (and yes, I have known prosecutors at the federal and state level who think in such terms – like they’re fighter pilots counting down the number of enemy planes shot down).

It is why I’m always willing to give a criminal defendant a bit of a break when hearing the rhetoric being spun against him by prosecutors at any level.

MEDRANO: Headed back, but for how long?
That’s certainly the case involving former Alderman Ambrosio Medrano, who on Tuesday entered a “guilty” plea to a wire fraud charge related to his involvement in negotiations on a contract for bandages used at Stroger Hospital.

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE reported that when Medrano comes up for sentencing in January, prosecutors may ask for something resembling a 20-year prison term for the 59-year-old man.

Medrano’s attorneys, however, told the newspaper that something along the line of two years (about what Beavers could receive on Wednesday) is more appropriate.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman told Medrano he needed to consider the great difference in opinion before deciding whether he should enter a “guilty” plea, saying, “You understand there is a dramatically different view of what the guidelines will be?”

Somehow, I suspect Medrano is going to get slammed in a way worse than anything that befalls Beavers. For Medrano is also the one who holds a unique niche in the world of government corruption – the repeat offender.

HE DID A prison term following his conviction in the “Operation Silver Shovel” federal investigation of City Hall in the 1990s. Now, he’s likely to go back to prison for this and for another conviction earlier this year for allegedly being involved in paying off an official for a mail-order pharmaceutical contract with the Cook County hospital system.

Because even though he couldn’t get himself re-elected to office after his first conviction and prison term, he was still involved in the inner-workings of government at the county level.

If anything, it perhaps is evidence that the people in politics we ought most being paying attention to are those whose names don’t appear on the ballot and rely on their relative anonymity to have people ignore their actions.

Although, still, a 20-year to 2-year difference in opinion isn’t all that different from the notion of Beavers thinking he should still be free, while the feds thinking he’s entitled to an “Oxford education” – as in a prison term served at the federal facility in Oxford, Wis.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Can we keep a major business here, or will Ill. lose to Mo. or Minn.?

Call it one of the unique characteristics of Decatur, Ill. – the smell.

Literally, there’s an aroma in the air that comes from the plants that process soybeans at the major companies based in that central Illinois municipality.

ONE OF THOSE companies is now throwing out big hints that it plans to leave Decatur, and it seems that Illinois is now going to be in a fight to try to keep such a major global company that happens to be based within its boundaries.

I’m referring to Archer Daniels Midland, Co., which came out with a statement letting it be known that they plan to move their “world” headquarters to a new city. It seems that the people in charge of that company think they need to be in a more easily accessible location.

Instead of one where you take the Interstate to Springfield, then make a left and drive about a half-hour until you get to the “Welcome to Decatur” sign that lets you know the city is the one-time home of the team now known as the Chicago Bears.

“To continue to succeed, we need a global center in a location that allows us to travel and work efficiently,” the company said, in a prepared statement. “We also need an environment where we can attract and retain employees with diverse skills.”

CRAIN’S CHICAGO BUSINESS reported Monday that ADM isn’t necessarily a loss of a business from Illinois. Because it seems that one of the places under consideration for the new world headquarters is Chicago.

What if A.E. Staley joined the Bears in Chicago?
Which for all the rants and rages we get from rural Illinois people about how nobody in their right mind wants anything to do with the urban clutter of Chicago (let's not forget that it was a Decatur-area state legislator who came up with a nonsense bill to "kick" Chicago out of Illinois) must be a real blow! Although it also can be perceived as, “Yea for us!”
If we can keep it. Because while Chicago has a major international airport, several railroad lines and interstate highways that run in all directions, it might not be enough.
Because St. Louis and Minneapolis also are under consideration, according to Crain’s.

THEY MIGHT NOT have O’Hare International, but Lambert or Minneapolis-St. Paul airports would probably do the company just as well.

We’re going to get a test of how credible a job our state can do in terms of keeping a major corporate interest. Certainly more of a test of how it appeals to business interests than that attempt by Gov. Pat Quinn a couple of weeks ago to boast that Mike’s Hard Lemonade brought its corporate headquarters to Chicago.

This has a potential to create many jobs. Because it’s not just corporate offices and executives who will move, the company says it plans to develop a technology center in conjunction with its new offices.

It could be a significant coup for Chicago if this company winds up here. It would be a blow for the city and for Illinois if we wind up losing Archer Daniels Midland to a surrounding state in the Midwest.

I SUPPOSE WE could claim that if it went to St. Louis, it wouldn’t be much of a loss – since part of the St. Louis metro area does spill over into Illinois. So we might be able to claim there’s a chance that Illinoisans could get some of those jobs.

Although why should we hope for a partial benefit, when we could claim the whole thing if our elected officials are capable of drawing Archer Daniels Midland to the Second City.

How is this destined to play out? Will it be like when the original Decatur Staleys football team ditched the “Pride of the Prairie” to come to Chicago and become the Bears?

Or will it be like when Chicago’s original National Football League team, the Cardinals, ditched the Sout’ Side for St. Louis?


Monday, September 23, 2013

Don’t send in the troopers or Guard

We may have seen a bit of evidence as to the potential harm we could face from having Gov. Pat Quinn as the only credible candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor in next year’s election cycle.

He has too much time on his hands, and we may wind up getting a lot of potentially hair-brained schemes inflicted upon us as a result!

I’M REFERRING TO the news accounts circulating this weekend that are being interpreted by some as evidence that Quinn is considering sending in the Illinois State Police, and potentially calling out the National Guard, to treat Chicago as a combat zone in trying to address the problem of urban violence.

I’m skeptical such an effort would accomplish anything of significance. It might turn out to be a complete failure! It probably would do little of anything, except allowing Quinn to claim he tried to act to resolve a problem that is ongoing and is beyond any simple solution.

It seems that Quinn, while making an appearance on Saturday in the Little Village neighborhood, talked about ways in which the state police could offer assistance to the Chicago Police Department.

“It has to be done in a coordinated fashion with the local law enforcement, with their full cooperation,” Quinn told reporter-type people.

WHICH IS TRUTHFUL enough. Sending in the state police with Chicago P.D. opposition would likely do little more than create a whole lot of stupid jokes about “Mount-me” hats.

If anything, it might just put more uniformed officers in the crossfire that all-too-often occurs.

I honestly believe it would do nothing but exacerbate the problem by putting more of a uniformed presence in the city. You might very well anger up those idiots with their high-powered weapons even more, and make them want to shoot at even more targets – as though they’d get a trophy if they could claim they “bagged” a cop!

Now I don’t mean to demean the significance of the violent outbursts we have experienced in Chicago in recent times (although it should be noted that we’re not close to setting any kind of records for this, and it really does go in cycles).

FOR ALL THE outcry about the late Thursday shooting incident in the Back of the Yards neighborhood that left 13 wounded, it should be noted that another eight individuals suffered assorted gunshot wounds Saturday night and early Sunday.

Those incidents were actually more typical of the violent weekends we occasionally experience in Chicago – they were seven different shootings scattered all about the South and West sides of Chicago.

A whole lot of senseless incidents that will soon be forgotten.

Which may be the real tragedy of the violence that is afflicting us. Too much of it occurs in select parts of Chicago that many of us would just as soon forget; if we even pay attention to those parts of the city to begin with.

IF WE WERE serious about wanting to resolve the problem, we’d be trying to figure out ways to break the culture that allows for life to be so cheap in those neighborhoods.

Instead, we get talk about sending in the National Guard – as though we could declare those parts of Chicago to be “the enemy!” As though we ought to be isolating those parts of Chicago even more. The real problem is that they have become too isolated from the mainstream of the city.

QUINN: Will his better half prevail?
But ideas like these may be the harm of letting Quinn run unopposed in the primary election cycle. He’s going to have time to play “governor” and come up with ideas and schemes that will make it look as though he is effectively governing on behalf of the people of Illinois.

So while four Republicans fight it out amongst themselves for the right to take on Quinn come November 2014, we’re going to have a governor with the potential for too much free time to come up with schemes. Let’s just hope his better half keeps himself from carrying them out.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

What should we think – 13 shot, 0 dead

Should we be outraged about the gang-related shooting incident in the Back of the Yards neighborhood that managed to see 13 individuals get hit by gunfire?

Back of Yards, Englewood ignored too often
Or should we feel blessed that this outburst doesn’t add a single digit to the Chicago murder tally for 2013 – it seems that no one has died, and doctors say they expect all to survive.

SHOULD WE THINK of this as an outrage and evidence of the depravity of urban life – literally the worst violent outburst in Chicago since the St. Valentine’s Day massacre (I literally stumbled across someone on Facebook who made that comment)?

Or should we view this as the fluke incident that it would appear to be – usually when we get a dozen or so people shot in a single day, it’s because there were 10 or so incidents that were all completely unrelated. Except for the fact that they all occurred on the same day?

Is this incident going to provoke another outburst of people urging their political people to push for tougher restrictions related to firearms? Which will tick off the firearms fanatics and create another burst of partisan nonsense!

Or is this incident, combined with the shooting incident earlier this week at the U.S. Naval Yard, going to be the motivation that kills off the “gun control” movement once and for all.

YES, I HAVE read that theory put forth on the Internet as well. There’s a whole lot of nonsense that gets written up by people with too much time on their hands.

And now, we get to take into account the latest incident that put Chicago in the national news Friday morning – to the point where it was detracting from the partisan rhetoric emanating from Capitol Hill to try to kill off health care reform by holding the rest of the federal government hostage.

I’ll bet the guy who pulled out a high-powered rifle at a pickup basketball game at Cornell Park on 51st Street and opened fire – hitting a 3-year-old boy and 12 others – never realized he could have such an impact upon our society.

If it weren’t for all the bloodshed, a part of me would be inclined to thank the guy for taking attention away from the conservative ideologues who probably will defend, to their deaths, the right of that guy to have a military-type weapon with him on the playground!

PERSONALLY, I’M INCLINED to think that Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy hit the right tone when he described the late Thursday incident as a “miracle,” as in no one was killed (although as I write this commentary, that 3-year-old remained in critical condition at Mount Sinai Hospital).

Put this incident into perspective – an auto accident at 56th and Morgan streets (just over a mile from the park early Friday in the Englewood neighborhood) killed a 2-year-old girl, giving it a higher death tally!

But the fact that the Chicago Sun-Times found people who said it is not uncommon for people to show up around the park and fire off gunshots (“Just gang-banging stuff. It’s what they do,” is how one person described it to the newspaper) is a sad comment on where we have gone as a society.

As for those who want to believe that, somehow, we’d be better off if more people would be armed, I’d think this incident shows the nonsense level of that line of thought. Would we be better off if someone in the park had been able to pull out a pistol and fire back? Or would we merely be talking about 16 or 17 people shot, instead of just 13?

ALTHOUGH JUST A little bit more legalese written into the law concerning firearms isn’t going to change things all by itself. It’s going to take serious attention paid to these urban neighborhoods to try to raise their overall expectations from life.

Instead of our current status, which is that most of us ignore such neighborhoods. Seriously, when was the last time you were anywhere near 51st Street and Western Avenue (just two blocks west of the park)? When was the last time you even thought about going out there?

That sense of being ignored by the “other” Chicago is what creates an atmosphere where some people think it’s no big deal to shoot up a park. They probably figure that no one who gets wounded or killed would be missed.

That’s the tragedy!


Friday, September 20, 2013

Boehner ain’t no “Fast Eddie,” who wouldn’t have apologized for actions

I’ve always thought of the opposition to the Barack Obama presidency as being a national equivalent of the “Council Wars” of old.

BOEHNER: Fast Eddie wouldn't apologize
The Republican opposition that wants to oppose everything on ideological grounds (they don’t want Obama having any accomplishments to claim, and would impeach him in an instant if they could come up with anything resembling grounds to do so) looks, and sounds, a lot like the Vrdolyak 29 of old.

THAT MAJORITY IN the City Council in the mid-1980s, after all, was willing to create some short-term harm in city government if it meant taking down Harold Washington as mayor.

A lot like the way the ideologue Republicans in Congress, particularly the House of Representatives majority, plans to vote on Friday for a measure that continues to fund the federal government ONLY IF it also includes measures that dump all over the Obama version of health care reform!

It comes across as cheap and petty and whiny and obnoxious and short-sighted and harmful an act as anything that the City Council did when it had a majority opposition leadership of Edward R. Vrdolyak.

Except, …

I COULDN’T HELP but be astounded at the news coverage this week when House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, let it be known he was going to let the ideologue-minded segment of his caucus dominate this issue.

There was speculation early on that Boehner might try to keep federal government working without turning the whole affair into a politically partisan battle.

Envision a similar Obama/Boehner moment
Instead, Boehner is letting his caucus tell him what to do, and he is trying to make it appear as though he has little to no choice in the matter (although it should be noted that some of the members of Congress in his caucus have hinted they would be more than willing to dump Boehner as House speaker if he DIDN’T go along with them on this issue).

“The key to any leadership job is to listen,” Boehner told the New York Times.


The “Fast Eddie” of old would never have tried to sound apologetic for an action that was openly hostile to the interests of Mayor Harold Washington. Even if he disagreed with the actions of his allied aldermen, he’d try to make it appear as though it was the aldermen who were following his lead.

Heck, they probably would be following his lead. For it was Vrdolyak who came to the realization that he could get away with open defiance of Washington because of the number of people who didn’t want to perceive it as any kind of historic moment that Chicago had elected its first African-American as mayor.

Just as there are some amongst us who resent the idea that it’s at all special that Obama was chosen as president in the 2008 election cycle, and that their most hostile mood didn’t sway the true majority of the electorate in 2012.

I’M NOT ABOUT to predict how this particular Congressional mess will play out. It won’t surprise me if they manage to create a procedural mess that impacts the federal government operations in some form.

Although I suspect the only people who will look upon this approvingly will be the individuals who live in those isolated congressional districts that actually elect these yahoos and put them in positions where they can impact all of us!

A part of me wonders if actions like this will wind up backfiring upon the GOP desires for increased control of the federal government because it will make many of us appalled enough to want to have leadership that can contain their harmful desires.

OBAMA: Does he compare to Harold?
In short, we’ll get tired of these political tactics – just as we eventually tired of “Council Wars” and future elections ate away at the “29,” turning it into an aldermanic minority.

I EVEN WONDER if these people in Washington could have an impact upon our state government election cycle in 2014.

I know Republicans are counting on the fact that the apathy surrounding Pat Quinn at the top of the Democratic ticket will be a drag on all Dems. But will enough of these ideological acts in Washington be enough to scare the Democrat-leaning Chicago-area voters into turning out in such large numbers for state elections that GOP candidates wind up losing anyway?

Not that I expect anyone in Congress to engage in last-minute reflection upon their actions before they take a Friday vote. Because, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told the Washington Post, “Bipartisanship is a thing of the past. Now, all we do is ‘gotcha’ legislation.”

That’s why little gets done by our government. And history will wind up recording our current era as being especially touched upside the head by the stupid stick, just like we now remember much of the nonsense that occurred in the City Council some three decades ago.