Sunday, May 31, 2015

Who’s to blame? I’d say it’s the people who are too eager to assess blame

Sunday is the day that our state government officials are supposed to have a budget proposal in place; something that legislators vote on by Midnight and which Gov. Bruce Rauner is supposed to sign off on by June 30.

RAUNER: Gov only 1/3 of state structure
Yet it seems that the Midnight deadline is going to be missed.

OUR DEMOCRAT-RUN GENERAL Assembly is likely to vote to approve something that they claim will be a budget for the state’s upcoming fiscal year.

Of course, the people aligned with Rauner will go out of their way to claim that he budget proposal is a sham, a crock, something completely unworkable and undoable.

Which means whatever activity happens on Sunday really isn’t worth the time it took to have legislators in session.

We’re going to get our state’s governor and General Assembly tied up in knots in coming weeks – or months, if the disagreements between Rauner and Legislature become anything as intense as they were between Rod Blagojevich and the General Assembly back in 2007.

WHAT AMUSES ME about the situation is the degree to which some people are trying to justify the current situation by claiming it’s “the other guy’s fault.”

As in if only Dose Damn Dems would shut up with their whining and go along with Rauner’s desires for reform, the state would be just fine.

MADIGAN: Will have to give if he wants to take
Of course, there’s the reverse argument – if only Rauner would realize his “reforms” are really nothing more than anti-labor measures meant to undermine the interests of unions and organized labor, then we’d have no problems either.

I’ve been hearing the argument tossed about by some in recent days about how Dems need to accept the fact that a Republican got elected governor in last year’s election cycle.

MEANING THERE IS some legitimacy to the idea that a majority of voters are sympathetic to what he wants – even all the anti-labor measures.

After all, about the only thing we really knew about Rauner during his campaign cycle was that he was a business executive who thinks the financial bottom line of people like him is irreparably harmed by the expenses they have to pay for their laborers.

CULLERTON: Can he compromise as well?
Of course, there’s also legitimacy to the notion that Rauner was given a General Assembly with veto-proof majorities in both chambers. Voters didn’t exactly feel the need to repudiate the government structure that has dominated state government for more than a decade – particularly those who voted against former Gov. Pat Quinn, but felt the need to keep everything else the same.

Illinois still has a government that leans primarily toward the Democratic Party. We’re not Indiana by a longshot – even if people like Rauner want to fantasize ta we are.

SO WHAT SHOULD we think about the predicament our state officials now face? There’s going to have to be give-and-take on both sides of the partisan aisle in coming weeks if we’re going to have a state with a functional budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Although it seems that the Rauner rhetoric about being willing to settle for worker compensation reforms and property tax freezes (which really is a local issue) may not be enough "give" for Democrats to accept.

The reality of our state’s financial situation is that there is a significant shortfall in revenue compared to the obligations our government has. Any talk of not figuring out some sort of revenue enhancement (even a dreaded tax) is just irresponsible.
 
Problems here can't be resolved 'til state gets act together
It probably was irresponsible for the Legislature last year to so stubbornly refuse to even consider the income tax extension that Quinn wanted. Governing responsibly is often about making decisions that people will hate!

Which is what will have to happen amongst Democrats and Republicans in coming days if we’re to avoid being hit with a financial calamity. It’s time to put the political partisanship aside.

  -30-

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one commentary that I'd love to be proven wrong about. Because that would mean the government officials we elected to do the "people's business" were actually able to resolve this problem sometime between the time you read this and Midnight.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

EXTRA: Thank Gawd da Hawks managed to spare us Estevez’ ego

A part of me wants to write SUCK IT EMILIO, YOU TWITTER BLOWHARD!!! SUCK IT!!!

Does anybody sing, "Here Come the Lightning?"
But I’d rather not drop to the same juvenile level of actor Emilio Estevez’ temperament, who reacted to the fact that the Anaheim Ducks’ hockey franchise managed to drag the NHL playoffs matchup to a seventh-and-final game.

THAT GAME WAS played Saturday night, and the Blackhawks managed to pull off a 5-3 victory, meaning they will advance to the Stanley Cup finals, where they will play the Tampa Bay Lightning for the NHL championship.

Estevez apparently was rooting for the suburban Los Angeles franchise to make it to the Stanley Cup finals, and expressed that viewpoint by being one of those annoying people who express their enthusiasm by forgetting to take their finger off the CAPS key when sending out their e-mails or writing their Twitter tweets.

So we’re spared the thought of what could very easily have been – a Stanley Cup championship for bragging rights for the best hockey team in the world being played by Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., and Anaheim, Calif. Only somebody who thought the “Mighty Ducks” films weren’t totally trite could get excited about that matchup.

Blackhawks can now get all the more worked up as they try beginning Wednesday for their sixth Stanley Cup victory ever, and their third in the past six seasons. So, Here Come the Hawks!

   -30-

A sex scandal? How will it stick! How unfortunate that it will do so

The Los Angeles Times is a lot bolder than I am – reporting Friday that the activity former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert was willing to pay so much to cover up was sexual in nature.

HASTERT: How quickly his life changed
The rumor-mongers had been trying to get me to believe this earlier. Although not with the level of detail that the Times offered up, nor from as high-level of sources as the newspaper seems to have.

ACCORDING TO THE Times, they have two federal law enforcement officials who say the person who was receiving money from Hastert was a man who was once a student back when Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach.

“It was sex,” was the explanation given by that source as to why Hastert would have given the man some $1.7 million in recent years to not talk about what supposedly happened several decades ago. Although it is interesting to see the Chicago Tribune report that officials at Yorkville High School say they had no clue there was anything inappropriate about the way Hastert conducted himself while working there. But the Chicago Sun-Times hinted Friday there may be a second person involved in the case.

Most likely, the conduct was so long ago that any statute of limitations on such charges would have passed. So this is going to be a criminal case that focuses on financial details related to the payoff. Just like Al Capone getting busted on income tax evasion – rather than any of the illicit activity that made Chicago so vicious in the 1920s.

We’re probably never going to get total titillation about Hastert and one of his students – which may be for the best! I have trouble thinking of the possible student as a victim if his reaction was to resort to extortion.

WHAT ALL THIS actually reminds me of is the 2004 election cycle when Jack Ryan had his dreams of becoming a political persona squashed when details of his divorce from actress Jeri Ryan came out.

We wound up getting tales of Ryan trying to take his voluptuous semi-celebrity bride to sex clubs and try to get her to engage in acts some might call kinky.

RYAN: His political reputation died just as quick
We never got the concept of “U.S. Sen. Jack Ryan, R-Ill.” because he dropped out of the campaign. His career ended before it could begin.

Hastert is just the opposite. None of this came out until after he left office and became a high-priced D.C. lobbyist. Although I suspect the effect on his public reputation will be just as dramatic.

SO WHAT SHOULD we think about all of this?

I found it interesting that people were digging up and sending Internet links to me of pieces published on the Daily Kos website back in 2006 under the headlines Is Dennis Hastert gay? and Is Hastert gay?

These pieces were motivated by the activity back then when Florida congressman Mark Foley was sending e-mails and instant messages to teenage boys he had known when they worked as pages in Congress. A lot of Republican officials got smeared by similar innuendo; including "Mr. Speaker" himself.

Although I’m not saying to have any knowledge of Hastert’s personal life or activity. IN fact, I’m inclined to think that the pieces are a bit of a stretch for the facts that purport to support them.

BUT I’M SURE others are going to feel compelled to spread the smut level – even if they don’t have any true titillation to back it up. We’re going to get a sex scandal that some will think just won’t amount to much.

But I’m sure others just won’t care. That may wind up being the biggest tragedy of this whole situation.

  -30-

DURKIN: Hastert's judge
EDITOR’S NOTE: Perhaps “All In the Family” is an appropriate title for government. Hastert’s criminal case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin – a Barack Obama appointee but also the brother of Illinois House Minority Leader James Durkin, R-Western Springs. Durkin (the judge) used to be a partner in the law firm of Mayer Brown – where Hastert’s son, Ethan, is now an attorney.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Killing off Illiana, once and for all?

Gov. Bruce Rauner put the kibosh on efforts earlier this year to create a toll road connecting I-65 in Indiana to I-55 south of Joliet, claiming the state’s financial problems are so intense that now is not the time for Illinois to move forward.

Integral part of transportation future? Or environmental disaster?

Yet it seems the people who despise the concept of the Illiana Tollway aren’t willing to accept that as fact.

A LAWSUIT WAS filed this month in U.S. District Court in Chicago, hoping to get a judge to issue an order that would prevent the road from ever being built.

The lawsuit was filed by assorted environmental activist groups. They want to claim that the path for the road from Lowell, Ind., west across the state line, passing right by the proposed site for a new airport near Peotone (another project that has lingered for far too long), and winding up near Wilmington would wreck havoc with the local land – causing particular harm to the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

Which is a slightly different tactic from the usual arguments made against the Illiana – that the land is agricultural in nature and should not be permitted for any other type of use.

It usually comes across as the kind of argument made by a rural crank who is upset that metro Chicago is growing, and that some of that growth is going to be south of places like Crete and Monee, which currently are the southernmost edge of urban Chicago.

SOMETHING IS GOING to wind up filling in that rural space that now is unincorporated Will County (the far eastern part of the county that officials in Joliet and other west Will municipalities often forget is also part of the county).

Which means some sort of road through the area is going to have to be built.

Unless this environmental argument winds up sticking. A prairie could wind up having a more lasting effect than a soybean farm – or any of those people who built homes surrounded by empty land because living out in the middle of nowhere is their fantasy-come-true.

This could be a scenario that brings agricultural interests in line with the Sierra Club or the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

MY OWN VIEW about the Illiana is to realize the day is coming when Kankakee will be the southern edge of the Chicago metropolitan area. There will be growth and development in the area, and these resistance efforts seem so futile.

Besides, I’m also someone who has used I-80 to get from Illinois into the Gary, Ind., metro area and to come back to civilization – which means I know how ridiculous the truck traffic shipping goods to and through the Chicago area can get on that road. Particularly when there’s an auto accident or inclement weather that causes the backup.

I-80 is the current road that connects I-65 (the road from Gary to Indianapolis) and I-55 (Chicago to St. Louis). Which means the I-80 bottleneck is a drag on shipment of goods. Illiana is an alternate route for those many trucks passing through the area that don’t actually have to stop in Chicago.

Those people who argue against Illiana on the grounds that its route doesn’t enter Chicago are missing the point – it could help improve traffic flow in Cook County by reducing the number of trucks that need to come through here.

YET THAT ARGUMENT doesn’t seem to sway the political people. I’m sure Rauner’s own move that put the halt on Illiana development (Indiana officials made a similar move to cut the project right after Rauner took his action) was in large part because of the fact that former Gov. Pat Quinn was such a strong supporter of Illiana.

That could mean a future could reinstate Illiana. Considering how long this project has already dragged on, four more years wouldn’t be that big a deal.

Which means the Illiana opponents may now be placing their faith that a federal judge will put an end to this particular vision of how the southern end of metro Chicago will develop.

  -30-

Thursday, May 28, 2015

EXTRA: Could Hastert make a trio of people convicted post-politically?

Politically-aware people got their shock Thursday when federal prosecutors let it be known that former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert now faces criminal charges.

HASTERT: Not in line for peaceful retirement
If he winds up cutting a plea deal, or going to trial and being found guilty, the “Hastert” name will wind up going on the list many people rattle off of Illinois political officials who ended up with criminal records.

ALTHOUGH IT SHOULD be noted that the indictment, which is written in legalese meant to be even more vague than usual as to what exactly the wrongdoing was, indicates the alleged illegal activity took place AFTER Hastert retired from political office.

It also seems to indicate the actions that inspired the allegedly illegal activity may have took place back before Hastert became a government official. Back in the days when he was a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville – which used to be much more rural in character than the over-glorified Chicago suburb it has become.

Does this mean that Hastert was not a corrupt politician of any type? That he operated honestly in government, but did improper things in his life before and after his public service?

I’m hearing some sleazy stories about what that activity could have been, but I don’t quite trust the people I’m hearing from. I suspect they’re too eager to make this worse than it really is, and are hoping that some reporter-type will be too eager for a salacious story rather than what really happened.

SO ALL I have to go by is the indictment, which says that back in 2010, Hastert met with someone he has known for many years, “discussed past misconduct… that had occurred years earlier,” and then began making payments to the person.

WALKER: Technically NOT a corrupt pol
Hastert faces charges of structuring currency transactions to evade reports, along with making false statements to the FBI, because the indictment says the former speaker deliberately made bank withdrawals of under $10,000 – the amount at which banks are required to inform the government!

Some $952,000 was withdrawn in such a manner, and some $1.7 million was paid by the congressman (it was supposed to be $3.5 million in total), according to investigators. It seems like someone was blackmailing the former House speaker, but we don’t quite know yet what for.

Like I already wrote, it seems this was outside of his government activity. Which makes me think he belongs in a category with people like former Gov. Dan Walker and former 10th Ward Alderman Edward R. Vrdolyak.

Vrdolyak also prosecuted after his era
VRDOLYAK was long out of the City Council and was reduced to the level of being a political consultant in select suburbs when he was prosecuted and wound up serving a 10-month prison term for supposedly handling real estate transactions and receiving part of the sales price as his fee.

While Walker, who popped back into our public consciousness when he died earlier this month, was prosecuted a decade after he left office. He became a business executive found guilty of bank fraud for trying to cut corners in the way he tried to accumulate personal wealth.

Of course, we think of them as “corrupt” politicians and play up the stories of their legal predicaments because that adds a jolt of “juice” to their tales.

That could become the same for Hastert – who had quite a stint in Congress and was one of only three Illinoisans ever to rise through the ranks to become House speaker back in the days of George W. Bush as president.

SINCE I DOUBT we’d care one bit if an ordinary schmoe were to make payments to try to cover up something that may have happened three or more decades earlier.

How many of us have actions from our younger days that we wish we hadn’t done, and where our initial reaction to being confronted with the past might be to try to cover things up?

  -30-

All Private parking when out in public?

One of the drawbacks of being a reporter-type person is having to venture into neighborhoods where I’m not familiar with the local quirks.
Are these worth potential $130 penalty in Wilmette?

Which always has me wondering if I’m going to inadvertently park the automobile in a spot considered private by the locals; and wind up having the vehicle either towed away or booted.

NOT EXACTLY SOMETHING I want to have to explain to an editor as to why I’m not going to make a deadline. I still remember a time some several decades ago when I got into a fender-bender collision while on assignment with the now-defunct City News Bureau of Chicago.

My managing editor definitely held it against me for some time thereafter. How long would the grudge have lasted if my car had been impounded?

Because some people seem to think they can view space around their property as somehow sacred. Or if they’re out to get a neighboring business and follow the letter of the law in taking down any cars belonging to that business’ patrons IF they happen to venture into parking on their own property.

That seems to be the case in north suburban Wilmette (a place I must confess I haven’t set foot in for more than two decades).

THE WILMETTE LIFE newspaper reported how there have been several incidents in recent weeks of people who wanted ice cream from a Dairy Queen franchise and parked their cars in a nearby lot.

But the lot was part of the property of a neighboring strip mall, and the property owners have hired a company to keep a vigil on who parks in the lot and where they go.

The newspaper reported that the company admits it can have someone’s car booted within five seconds of noticing that the owner is engaging in business anywhere except the strip mall proper.

There even have been instances where someone who had business within the strip mall then decided to walk over next door to the Dairy Queen to get some ice cream before leaving the area.

THAT WAS ENOUGH to get them a boot that the company will only remove if paid $130 in cash (or $140, if charged on a credit card).

I’d like to think this is some sort of isolated incident – perhaps an example of a North Shore quirk that real people living in the rest of metro Chicago could never engage in.

Sadly enough, it isn’t.

I happen to know of a Mexican restaurant in suburban Lansing whose property is directly adjacent to a strip mall with a large parking lot – compared to the four parking spaces that are within the restaurant’s plot of land.

BUT I ALSO know of a convenience store owner within the strip mall who watches the parking – convinced it is meant exclusively for the people who venture into his store to pick up a pack of cigarettes or whatever other puny purchase they need to make at that moment.

I remember once venturing into that restaurant; only to be warned by the cashier that I had to move my car in order to eat there – or else the neighbor would have my car towed.

It would seem that this Wilmette Dairy Queen franchise is in a similar predicament. For the Wilmette Life reported that the ice cream shop has taken to posting signs warning their customers that their cars will be booted if they venture too far away from the place where they purchase their soft-serve cones.

All of which has me hoping I don’t have to venture into Wilmette for newsgathering purposes anytime soon. Because if my car got booted and I had to explain to an editor why there’d be a delay in copy, I’m pretty sure that a promise of a Blizzard would not be enough to calm him down.

  -30-

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Some people determined to move us all backward; it's the only way they gain

We used to regard certain individuals in our society as being worth only three-fifths of a person. We used to think it natural that certain-gendered people didn’t have full citizenship – including the right to register to cast ballots in elections.

But we have moved forward in ways meant to include as many people as possible in our society. Which is a concept that offends some ideologically-minded people who want everybody who isn’t exactly like them to be excluded.

Will the high court take us back in time?
NOW THEY’RE TURNING to the Supreme Court of the United States, which this week said it would hear a case later this year that seeks to alter the way that determines the number of people included in political districts.

Currently, we undergo the redistricting process every decade, when local government officials take into consideration changes in population – then redraw political boundaries to try to make districts as equal in population as is possible.

Of course, the fact that political people are involved means a sense of self-interest gets worked into the process. Illinois has Democratic Party-leaning government because da Dems ruled in 2011 – and still have huge influence now, as Gov. Bruce Rauner is learning first-hand.

Just as a place like Texas had its boundaries drawn to maintain as much political influence as possible in the old white establishment of the state because Republicans dominate the state.

THERE PROBABLY IS no perfect way to draw boundaries – not even for those people who have fantasies about computers drawing arbitrary and neutral boundaries that ignore partisan political considerations. I’d wonder about the political leanings of the people programming the computers.

The nation’s high court is going to be asked to consider another means – the Austin, Texas-based Project on Fair Representation (which is most certainly unfair) wants only people registered to vote to be counted.

Which in a nation whose population is growing due to immigration means many people with a fully-legitimate reason to be here means there would be significant numbers of people who wouldn’t be counted.

That would wind up altering the composition of our government officials, reducing the numbers of non-Anglo officials in places like Texas and California – which is the very point that these people are pushing for, and which they’re hoping the Supreme Court will uphold sometime early next year.

I’LL BE HONEST – I could almost understand giving non-registered (to vote) people less say, but only if it were those native-born people who voluntarily choose not to cast votes. Except those aren’t the people being targeted by such an initiative!

Besides, the fact is that all people living here are covered by this nation’s laws. We’re all expected to follow them. We can’t be exempted from them by the fact that we don’t bother to vote, or that we’re not yet a U.S. citizen.

Nor should we be.

Which means we all ought to have some sense that our views are being represented in this government. Unless we really are determined to head backwards to the days when women couldn’t vote. Or when those of African origins were considered less than a full human being for census purposes.

NOBODY WOULD SERIOUSLY try to undo those changes in our society. At least not so bluntly. Although I wonder how much of an impact this particular measure would have on such people.

Also, I can’t help but think that this measure would merely slow down political progress. Because many of those non-citizen residents will eventually become U.S. citizens and take part in the electoral process – unless the ideologues plan to follow this up with measures restricting voting only to those who will cast ballots for their preferred candidates!

I believe that we as a society are better off taking measures that try to include more individuals. This particular measure is one headed in the absolute wrong direction – and one that the Supreme Court ought to reject out-of-hand.

But the court didn’t do that. They decided to hear the case, some time during the autumn months. Which means there’s always the chance that the ideologues of our high court will manage to get a majority ruling in their favor.

  -30-

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Holiday ‘blues’ leaves many for dead; but not in a way we’d honor and respect

It was Memorial Day on Monday, and we were supposed to be paying tribute to those people who served in the military and wound up making the “ultimate sacrifice,” as some people like to phrase it.

Yet I wonder if we’d have been better off paying some sort of tribute to those of us Chicagoans who wound up getting caught in the crossfire, so to speak, and being shot – if not outright killed.

FOR WHILE MANY people wanted to talk about long-ago casualties in places like Khe Sahn, Normandy Beach (we’re only a couple of weeks shy of the 71st anniversary of D-Day) or Fallujah, certain of our own streets seem to be just as deadly.

For it seems that during the holiday weekend, there were nine people killed by gunfire and at least 34 others wounded. Unless you prefer to believe the Chicago Tribune, in which case, it was 41 people.

There’s always the chance that the figures could go higher by the time you actually read this, since one of those wounded may wind up becoming a fatality.

Now I’m not implying there’s something special about these holiday weekends that causes more people to become fatalities. I recall my own days of full-time police reporting back when I was with the now-defunct City News Bureau. It was back then that I learned to dread holiday weekends.

NOT BECAUSE I cared about the fact that one year, I worked every single major holiday that “real people” were given off as paid holidays.

But it was because of the tendency to pay extra close attention to every single incident of mayhem that occurs at such times. Not only running totals of every single auto accident, but of just about any incident that occurs in someone’s death.

Sometimes, I wonder if such attention somehow causes higher numbers of incidents. Or maybe we’re just made more aware of how deadly conditions can be in certain parts of Chicago.

Because it becomes way too easy to ignore for those of us who don’t live in certain parts of Chicago – which a Tribune story on Monday managed to define as being from the north end of the Bronzeville neighborhood south into the Englewood neighborhood.

THE PLACES WHERE the “Chiraq” label isn’t all that much of an exaggeration, and where our city officials wish they didn’t have to devote so much time and attention.

The image many of us want of Chicago
Better for them if they could think the seedy side of Chicago is the so-called “Bundy Fountain” that foreign tourists ask to see, and which the rest of us know as Buckingham Fountain.

It would be sad if it turned out that Memorial Day went into the mindset of a significant number of Chicagoans as a bloodbath. Since it seems several of the shootings and at least two of the fatalities were on Monday proper.

The day that some people are devoting to trying out a special sauce to go with their holiday barbecues will be the day that some families remember as the one where a loved one died.

ALTHOUGH I’M SURE it won’t be thought of that way. In fact, I’m sure some people will want to think of such a thought as being overly morbid. Perhaps even subversive.

They’d rather think of death on this holiday weekend in the abstract – as in something that occurred on a battlefield overseas and where noble words about “honor” and “duty” can be tossed about.
 
The great shame of the bloodshed that occurred in Chicago this past weekend is that many of these were young people – the fatalities were as young as 15 and the wounded included a 4-year-old girl.

The way some view holiday's death
People whose lives were cut off prior to reaching their prime; before they could even have a chance to serve their country and possibly make that “ultimate sacrifice” that would probably be the only way that would cause some in our society to recognize their worth as human beings.

  -30-

Monday, May 25, 2015

EXTRA: May I have my 2 ½ hrs back?

I’m not sure what to think of the new Decades network (Channel 338 on my television set) that purports to give us programming that will fulfill our sense of nostalgia.

The effort seems to be led by the personality of one-time WBBM-TV news anchor Bill Kurtis, with former WMAQ-TV reporter-type Ellee Pai Hong and former WBBM-TV persona Kerry Sayers also along. It’s good to see them continue to be employed on television in some form.

YET THE IDEA of another channel loaded with re-runs of old television programming just doesn’t seem to be a need in need of fulfillment. Doesn’t ME-TV and its sister stations (which I must admit to watching to see “All In The Family” and “Sanford and Son” reruns) give us plenty of that?

Being able to spend my Memorial Day watching the first two episodes ever of “Hogan Heroes” was amusing – to a degree. Yet seeing the film adaptation of “Hair” for the first time ever definitely qualifies as two-and-a-half hours of my life that I wish I could get back.

It definitely doesn’t make me want to tune in later this week to see the film “Rio Lobo” or old Doris Day or Beverly Hillbillies reruns – no matter how lovely the late Donna Douglas’ “Ellie Mae” character looked while lounging around the “cement pond.”

  -30-

Memorial Day “Massacre” a bad memory of how ugly labor tensions once were, and don't need to go back to

Perhaps it’s all appropriate that this Memorial Day holiday weekend comes right as tensions between organized labor and Illinois’ new Republican governor have reached a height that we don’t have a clue when our state officials will be able to put together a balanced budget for Illinois government.


Police attack? Or self-defense? Photo provided by AFL-CIO
We have a governor who seems determined to undermine the influence of labor unions (even if he realizes that “right to work” legislation is mere fantasy) to the point that the Democratic majority in the General Assembly is digging in politically on so many
issues.

SO MANY POLITICAL hotheads. The only thing I feel safe in saying is that there won’t be a state budget enacted by the Legislature by the Sunday deadline.

But how hostile are our labor/management relations these days?

This seems like a time to remember the Memorial Day holiday of 1937. On that day some 78 years ago (the actual holiday that year came on May 30), labor/management relations reached a low point; one that we ought to feel fortunate we haven’t sunk to this far.

That was the day that labor union members picketed outside the Republic Steel plant that used to exist at 119th Street and Avenue O in the East Side neighborhood.

Who doubted this account 78 years ago?
REPUBLIC STEEL OFFICIALS were adamant about not letting their employees have labor union representation – even though U.S. Steel had given in.

When protesters refused the steel mill management’s orders to go away, they called the police. Who eventually opened fire, then chased away and beat many of the protesters. In all, 10 mill workers were killed and more than 60 people wound up in area hospitals.

If not for the 1968 police activity against protesters of the Democratic National Convention, we’d probably still be talking about this act of police brutality every time a cop does something silly.

Does this poster pay tribute to workers? Or subversives?
It’s fortunate that the Illinois Labor History Society has managed to get ahold of and preserve the newsreel footage that was shot that day. Or else some of us might be inclined to believe the management line that claimed the union-sympathizing protesters were attacking the police – who were merely trying to defend themselves from an unruly mob!

BECAUSE MANAGEMENT WAS merely trying to protect their ability to make the highest profit possible – and ought to be entitled to think of anything that cuts into their bottom line as something subversive that needs to be eradicated.

Some of the nonsense rhetoric we hear these days bears a resemblance to the anti-labor rhetoric of old. It would be overly simplistic to say that nothing has really changed, and that this is merely management trying to get government to give back its old authority over its workers.

Although I’m honest enough to concede that it is highly unlikely that Gov. Bruce Rauner has the Illinois State Police all lined up and prepared to attack anybody who speaks out against his negative labor union talk.

Even though I’m sure there are some ideologue-types who fantasize about such actions, wishing they could “get medieval” on all that organized labor talk.

I SAY THAT because I have noticed in the past how people try to discount the violent activity of that “Memorial Day Massacre” whenever the local neighborhood residents hold their annual service to pay tribute to those workers who were killed.

I have covered the East Side event a couple of times as a reporter-type person (although I didn’t go to this year’s event held two weeks ago), and people from outside the neighborhood always want to think there was something subversive at work on that day.

His poor play that day caused the 'massacre'
Instead of accepting the fact that these were neighborhood residents whose bottom line was to work at their jobs to try to earn a living! Anybody who finds that to be subversive is really ever-so-un-American themselves; and definitely not espousing ideals that those soldiers who made the "ultimate sacrifice" actually fought and died for.
 
Either that, or they’re clueless enough to think that “Memorial Day Massacre” merely means Game One of the 1985 NBA Championship Series when the Boston Celtics beat the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers 148-114.

  -30-
 
EDITOR'S NOTE: Hilding Anderson, Alfred Causey, Leo Francisco, Earl Handley, Otis Jones, Sam Popovich, Kenneth Reed, Joseph Rothmund, Anthony Taglioni and Lee Tisdale. Working stiffs, or criminals? Depends on who you talk to.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

How bad does behavior have to get before ball club becomes responsible?

It has been 36 years since I first attended a ball game in Chicago, and the closest I ever came to having an incident was one White Sox game I went to with my brother and cousin when I was in high school.

Sometimes, the beatings come outside the ball park
It was the end of the game and the three of us were waiting outside Comiskey Park for our pre-arranged ride home to show up. We became aware of the fact that a couple of guys appeared to be eyeing us a little too closely.

BEFORE ANYTHING COULD happen, the three of us decided to walk around and mix in with the crowd that was leaving the stadium. We literally took a lap around the ballpark – which put us right back in the same spot.

By then, our potential attackers had moved on. Our ride wound up arriving a couple of minutes later, and the night ended without incident.

It stands out in my mind solely because it reinforces the fact that the stadium crowds usually are harmless. Some people overserve themselves. But, by and large, they are a hazard solely to themselves.

So what should we make of an incident that occurred at U.S. Cellular Field last season that has resulted in a lawsuit recently being filed.

FOR IT SEEMS that a couple attending a ball game last year left the ballpark, only to find that a trio of men were publicly urinating in the parking lot – and chose their car as the place to spray their piss.

When the couple tried telling the men to get lost, the men allegedly took offense and started beating up the couple.

As it turned out, the three men were arrested a couple of days later. They all now face criminal charges in Cook County court. Those cases are still pending.

Where the legal fight is now taking place
But the couple has now filed their lawsuit against the White Sox and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority – the state agency that owns the stadium. Admittedly, they’re also suing the men who allegedly did the beating – claiming they incurred medical expenses because of the incident.

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE reported that the couple said in their lawsuit that the ball club’s security did absolutely nothing to try to intervene to prevent the beating from taking place. They argue that since it was ballpark property, the ball club is responsible.

Now aside from those whiny losers who look for any excuse to take a White Sox pot shot, what amazes me is to read some of the (anonymous, of course) Internet commentary that implies the couple themselves should have known better.

As though they should have let the trio finish their public urination and go staggering away, then drive their vehicle to the nearest car wash to have the stink of piss removed.

There are those who think the couple got what they deserved.

OF COURSE, THERE also were those who felt the need of the multiple stories of public urination that has taken place throughout the decades outside of Wrigley Field. Which is about as irrelevant to this incident as is possible.

Personally, I’m inclined to think of anyone who can’t control where they piss as something of a loser. Particularly at U.S. Cellular, where there are actually public restrooms accessible from outside the stadium.

I can see where a couple would be upset to see nothing being done about such a scene being made all over their automobile. Why security would deliberately ignore such actions is beyond me. But it will be intriguing to see how the courts ultimately rule with regards to this lawsuit.

Do we need to have the Piss Police patrolling the areas outside of both of our ballparks? Or is an occasional coating of urine on our automobiles now an occupational hazard, so to speak, of attending a ball game and watching our hometown teams get their butts whomped once again?

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Friday, May 22, 2015

EXTRA: Blagojevich inactivity on clemency lingers into Rauner years

One of the quirks of the time that Rod Blagojevich was governor of Illinois was that, while he had the perk of being able to grant clemency as he saw fit, he chose not to use it that often.

BLAGOJEVICH: Slacked off on clemency
Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday granted clemency to seven people with criminal records, while also rejecting the requests for another 144 people. The seven who had their requests approved can now file legal actions that could have their criminal records expunged.

A CHANCE AT a clean slate.

It is one of the powers that governors get.

Yet it was one that Blagojevich didn’t think much of using. Rauner says there are some 3,000 clemency petitions pending from previous administrations, and some of them date back to Blagojevich’s final year in office.

I suppose with all the legal hassles that Blagojevich endured during the end of his gubernatorial stint, it could be excused. Then again, maybe he was just someone who didn’t care about fulfilling his full duties – which included being a final check in the legal system.

WHEN ALL ELSE fails, there’s always the chance that a governor can fix a mistake. It’s the reason that clemency is a legitimate power for a governor to have.

RAUNER: Still working on Blagojevich mess
For the record, Pat Quinn had to work his way through the Blagojevich inactivity. He made decisions on 3,358 cases, approving pardons for 1,239 people.

But there’s still quite a few cases that still need to be addressed.

It will be interesting to see how frequently Rauner chooses to act on closing the backlog. This is the second time in his five months as governor that Rauner has made a decision, and his office says it has developed a process to ensure the issue does not continue to linger.

QUINN: Worked his way thru backlog
IT WILL BE nice when there isn’t any backlog to process.

Although the ultimate sense of justice may come if Blagojevich himself has to wind up seeking clemency – although his case being in the federal court system, he has to rely on the president himself to decide whether there’s a need for sympathy.

Which could mean that Barack Obama winds up having to decide whether to bother deciding on the case, or just deciding to pass it off to a future president while Blagojevich continues to rot in that federal correctional center in Colorado.

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A political cockfight?!?

It almost feels like we’re in some dingy, hidden-away structure where a batch of grungy men are gathered around, ready to plunk down their cash as bets on which of two wild roosters are about to win the fight they’re being thrown into.

The mood is gloomy once again at the Illinois Statehouse
The cocks themselves are snarling and squawking, readying themselves for the attack – which is about to occur any second.

NOW IF OUR cocks were named “Bruce Rauner” and “Michael Madigan,” we’d have a sense of what we’re about to experience in coming weeks – if not months.

It’s going to be a partisan political battle to the death, so to speak. And the people of Illinois are the ones who will inadvertently be thrown into the middle because there’s always the chance that the political battle will draw the state into the shutdown status IF they can’t agree on a budget for the upcoming fiscal year by July 1.

We’re at the point now where we’re one week away from the end of the 2015 spring legislative session. In typical years, there might still be some significant disagreements about what the state budget should be.

But there ought to be hope, and even some signs, that the sides will come together and hammer out some sort of agreement.

NOT THIS YEAR!

Rauner is making it clear he has his ideological agenda in mind, and he’s not about to take any guff from legislators who want to oppose him. Likewise, legislators want to make it clear they’re not about to let the new governor who got elected because of his anti-organized labor leanings just ram his desires down their throats.

RAUNER: The new guy?!?
And Illinois House Speaker Madigan wants it to be known that HE is the long-time, almighty boss of state government, not Rauner.

That sentiment is what has been behind the various bills the Legislature has rejected in recent days that theoretically advance the Rauner agenda – Madigan is letting it be known that a majority of legislators don’t approve of the “right to work” rhetoric that Rauner is fond of spewing.

RAUNER’S DESIRE TO fight back is what was behind his own statement, which his aides likely wrote for him and was published Thursday in the State Journal-Register newspaper of Springfield.

After ranting that political interests at the Statehouse are more entrenched than he ever envisioned during the 2014 campaign cycle, he made it clear he’s not about to compromise anything.

MADIGAN: The ol' pro!?!
“I might be new around here, but I understand what I was sent to do,” he said, adding that legislators ought to, “expect a very long extra session.” His aides were so eager to make sure I saw this statement that they e-mailed me a message Thursday morning to point it out.

So will our state’s General Assembly finish up its business by the end of next week, thereby sparing us a mass of political drama during the summer months?

FAT CHANCE. WE’D have a better chance of expecting the Chicago White Sox to rise from fourth place to first by season’s end.

All of this is so reminiscent of the 1991 legislative session – which was the first one in which Jim Edgar was governor. He wanted to run a sparse government in hopes of building up reserves for the future, while Madigan had his own vision.

The legislative session, which back then ran through the end of June, ended without a budget, and we reached a point where some government agencies had to shut down until a budget was in place. It became an Edgar/Madigan stalemate; where Edgar prevailed in the short-term by showing he wouldn't meekly back down.
 
EDGAR: Could he advise Rauner?
I still remember the matter not being resolved until the early hours of July 19 – which was a record back then. Although there have been other stalemates since then, including some of the ones brought about by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s desire to show Madigan who was boss.

ONE CAN ARGUE that Madigan is the ultimate winner; Edgar is long retired and Blagojevich remains incarcerated. Now, it seems that Rauner will be the latest person who works his way onto the list.

It seems that Rauner has the will for such a political battle. Madigan has long shown us his ability to be pig-headed and stubborn for political reasons. I don’t know who will win.

But I’m pretty sure that such a battle will catch all of us in the middle, and make us the ultimate losers!

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