Thursday, August 31, 2017

Losing yet another tie to Chicago’s past

I must confess to turning a year older today, so perhaps it’s only appropriate that I get all nostalgic over something that I’m sure many people would think totally trivial.
Soon to be history. Photographs by Gregory Tejeda

I can’t help but think there’s a loss to the Chicago Transit Authority’s ‘el’ station downtown at Randolph and Wabash streets, which officially closes to the public following this week.

ALTHOUGH I’M SURE some sarcastic types will quip that we’re lucky the ‘el’ platform didn’t collapse due to age and decay before the wrecking crews could get around to demolishing it.

Now a part of the reason I feel some sort of affinity for this particular downtown transit stop is that it is a mere block from the Metra Electric commuter trains that I have lived significant portions of my life from.

Which means a trip into downtown would put me right at the Millennium Park site (even though back when I was a kid, no one would have conceived of such a grand park in place of the railroad yards that still exist underneath the park grounds.
The outside view that someday will no longer be
The point was that I have made many trips that involved taking a Metra Electric train, then transferring over to an ‘el’ train at Randolph and Wabash. And if you’re in the city already but not on the South Side, the Randolph and Wabash station was a location that put you near the Marshall Fields’ of old (now Macy’s, which just doesn’t feel the same), State Street’s shopping district in general and just another block away from the Daley Center courthouse (with the Picasso), then City Hall and the Thompson Center state government building.
Trump will no longer loom over Randolph

MY POINT IS that the ‘el’ station feels like a fairly prominent spot for people traveling throughout the area.

Now I don’t know exactly how old that particular ‘el’ station is – although it has the feel of many decades approaching a full century. It has the feel of a place that has experienced first-hand the history of Chicago.

I often wonder if the people who now go about speculating ridiculously about the chances they would get shot by gang members on Chicago streets while waiting for an ‘el’ train at the station are the great-grandchildren of people who waited at the exact same ‘el’ stop, wondering if they were going to get caught in the crossfire of violence by the Capone mob?

My point being the station has the feel of being a part of Chicago that has been around that long.
Among the Randolph Street sites nearby

AND IT SHOWS.

CTA officials are closing the station effective Sunday, replacing it with a new downtown ‘el’ station one block to the south at Washington Street – which officially is being billed as the Millennium station. That station officially opens Thursday.

I’ll concede that I have long noticed the grime that has accumulated at the Randolph Street ‘el’ station to the point where I wonder what I could catch if I touch something too long, and have often cynically speculated about how secure the platform’s wooden boards could be after all these decades of use.

So I don’t doubt the station’s time to be replaced has come.
Will street musicians still gather at Randolph/Wabash?

ALTHOUGH IT’S GOING to mean the decades of habit I have developed in my mass transit routines are going to have to be adapted to comply with the fact that the ‘el’ station is now one block further to the south.

I doubt I’m alone, since many of us develop transit routines that we follow reflexively, not giving them much thought. Now, we’re going to have to think a few extra seconds to make sure we don’t screw up and wind up being taken to the Monroe Street or State and Lake street stations while travelling through the Loop. Besides, I couldn't help but admire the video snippet I found Wednesday on YouTube posted by someone whom I suspect feels a sentiment similar to my own about this soon-to-be defunct 'el' platform.
I’m wondering if this station will take on a sentiment similar to what I feel for the old Comiskey Park. I must admit that whenever I travel on the Dan Ryan Expressway, a part of me expects to see the old brick, whitewashed ballpark still standing as I approach 35th Street. Which creates a tinge of disappointment when I see the rose-colored concrete structure that actually is now 27 seasons old.
In my mind, this structure isn't just a decades-old postcard
Am I going to sense the ‘el’ platform that used to exist whenever I travel the Loop and my ‘el’ car passes by Randolph Street?

  -30-

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

EXTRA: Are Mexicans more ‘real American’ in nature than U.S.?

From a version of the “Star-Spangled Banner” sung in English by a full-fledged Mexican mariachi musician to a version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” sung en Espanol, there were times when the “Mexico en el Corazon” program performed Wednesday at Millenium Park seemed intent on portraying the image of people of Mexican ethnic origins being “good Americans.”
Could the Chicago-based Mariachi Herencia de Mexico have put Patsy Cline to shame? Photographs by Gregory Tejeda

The three-hour program in the Pritzker Pavilion provided several acts to perform music and dance native to the state of Jalisco, and more specifically the city of Guadalajara (which by the way is the region where my maternal grandfather was born more than a century ago).

ALTHOUGH I HAVE to admit to getting my kick from seeing the Mariachi Herencia de Mexico – which is actually a Chicago-based act. The Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods, to be exact.

In fact, it was they who included among their portion of the program a cover in English of the song “Crazy,” written by Willie Nelson and made most famous by country & western singer Patsy Cline.

To which the lady mariachi who sang the song said that it was, “proof that a mariachi band is capable of performing anything.”
A decent crowd at the Pritzker Pavilion
And her most definitely unaccented take on the song, which gained a round of applause from the heavily-Latino crowd with a few Anglo faces mixed in that packed the Pritzker Pavilion, was intense enough that it may well have caused even some hard-hearted cowboy-types in 10-gallon hats to cry into their beers.

ALL OF WHICH made me wonder about the state of relations in this Age of Trump – in which the incumbent president seems determined to use the growing Mexican-American population of this country as his personal punching bag by over-emphasizing their "other world" nature.
A taste of Guadalajara in the shadows of the Chicago skyline
Yet hearing these touches of country and folk mixed into the Mexican ethnic program made me wonder if Trump’s real problem is that his efforts to “Make America Great Again” were focused on the wrong people in our society.

Particularly since the message was often provided throughout of the ties between the two nations and the need to work together. None of the isolationist rant that our president is trying to spew at every turn, and that we're likely to hear kicked into gear in overtime in reaction to the San Antonio, Texas-based federal judge (of Mexican-American origins himself) who issued a ruling Wednesday that stopped state attempts to bring a halt to the concept of sanctuary cities.

Maybe all those Mexican-Americans (whom comedian Cheech Marin once famously sang “don’t like to get into gang fights, they love flowers and music, and white girls named Debbie too”) have a better idea of what a “real” American is – moreso than the nativist element of our society that wants to believe their day has arrived.

  -30-

There have always been people seeking to save a penny or two on pop buys

I can’t help but wonder what my late mother would be saying these days, what with the Cook County tax on sweetened beverages that has boosted the price of pop significantly.
 
Outrage! Really?. Photographs by Gregory Tejeda

There are the people who are getting all hysterical about the fact that some people are choosing to shop at supermarkets and other stores just across the Cook County line – giving a boost to stores in suburban Lake and Will counties and even over in Lake County, Ind. (which is the only surrounding county that actually borders Chicago proper).

BUT THE IDEA of making a trip to stock up on pop was nothing new for my mother. It was an idea she had been doing for decades.

I can remember as a small child having to accompany my mother when she and a friend (who owned a truck) would make special trips to those shops that exist right on the Illinois/Indiana state line.

They’re the ones that boast you can avoid paying Illinois taxes when you stock up on your cheap cigarettes and fireworks, along with assorted carbonated beverages.

For my mother, the latter was always the attraction. We’d stock up on several cases which usually would last several months. My mother always felt the cost savings made the trip worthwhile.

EVEN IF IT meant one had to get used to generic brands of pop to drink. Although when one is a kid and pop is mostly something sweet that gives you gas, it doesn’t really matter too much.

But I suspect if my mother were confronted with the people who now are behaving as though they have discovered a new concept by traveling to a place like Highland Park or Hammond, Ind., in order to buy pop and avoid paying the penny per ounce tax, she’d snicker at them.

They’re merely doing something she (and people like her) had been doing for years.
People have been coming for decades to places like this for cheap pop

About the only difference is that these shops (which still exist) deal in those generic brands. If you want to buy the name brands of carbonated beverages with sugary taste to them, you need to find a full-fledged supermarket. Although even some of them are trying to score points amongst would-be pop shoppers.

PERSONALLY, MY THOUGHT is that some people are determined to claim they saved a few cents on their purchases, no matter how miniscule the savings turn out to be. It might be over-stating it to say they’re just cheap, but there would be truth to that attitude.

The idea that if Cook County were to rescind this pop tax that they’d suddenly stop making such shopping purchases elsewhere is silly. Besides, the county has financial obligations it must meet – the public outcry would be worse if county health services were slashed due to a lack of revenue. We're likely stuck with the pop tax!

If anything, I’d be more interested in seeing if anyone is keeping track of fast-food joints and other restaurant-type places that provide pop as a drink to go along with their meals.

As recently as Tuesday, I stopped off for lunch at a White Castle. Three cheeseburgers and a Coca-Cola – and my receipt indicated that the pop had a $0.21 tax added on to the total bill because of the pop.

SHOW ME EVIDENCE that people are now demanding water or some other non-sweetened beverage to go along with their fast food and maybe I’ll be convinced that this tax is having an impact.
How much would people whine if Cook Co.cut services?

Particularly if it persuades people to eat less last food. Although that might actually be something for their own good, and that of society's public health, to tell you the truth.

But until that occurs, I’m going to be convinced that the people most outspoken about the pop tax are the ones amongst our society who are just inclined to complain about everything – particularly how much more things cost now compared to their childhood.

My mother was doing this years ago, and she didn’t have a pop tax to complain about.

  -30-

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Pols seeing Houston as a blessing – Harvey detracts from their problems

President Donald J. Trump is scheduled to be in Houston on Tuesday, getting a first-hand glance at the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey and the severe floods it brought to parts of Texas.
 
Sun-Times more interested in '19 mayor's race

I suspect that if he could any reason to justify his presence, Gov. Bruce Rauner would eagerly catch a flight for the Lone Star State so that he could express his concerns, while also detracting attention from the many messes that exist in Illinois.

AT LEAST THAT’S how I interpreted the verbose statement that Rauner issued on Monday expressing his concern for the people whose lives have been disrupted by the severe flooding that will take years to recover from – and which some may never do so.

Rauner made a point of saying he’s praying for those who suffered from Hurricane Harvey and how the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is prepared to assist other entities in providing relief to Texans.

Of course, I’ve read news reports indicating that relief could come from some 37 different states, and may well wind up including the entirety of the nation.

So for what Rauner needed 158 words to say was a message I could have summarized in three – “We care too.” Or perhaps “Don’t forget me.”
Heart of the disaster

IT’S ALMOST AS though if there was a political god, he would have caused this disaster so as to give political people a chance to have a distraction from the issues that otherwise would make them look foolish.

For Rauner, I’m sure he’d rather talk about what Illinois could do to help Texans in their time of need, rather than the two issues that wound up dominating his share of the news cycle on Monday – signing into law the Trust Act and also the creation of an automatic voter registration program.
Trump-ite perspective?

Both of which are issues that will gain Rauner some praise from urban interests, but will be perceived by the rural Illinois voters whom Rauner thus far has been banking his re-election chances on as him selling them out.

Too many of them are interested in having a governor who will deliberately harm urban and Chicago interests. Particularly since many of them are going to want to believe that making it easier to be registered to vote is bad because you don’t want too many urban voters to be able to vote.

IN SHORT, RAUNER is going to have to cope with many political headaches and there will be speculation over to what degree Rauner’s followers will want to dump on him for what he did on Monday.

Easier for the governor to talk about how he gave Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director James Joseph the order to personally contact Texas officials and let them know we in Illinois care.

Much more pleasant than having to take abuse over immigration policy and wonder if the governor is “selling out” to foreigners – which is the way that conservative ideologues will want to perceive the issue.
How quickly will feds react to Harvey?

It may also be a similar situation for Trump – who has some people believing the reason he issued his pardon for former Maricopa Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio late Friday was because that was when Hurricane Harvey was headed ashore, doing its devastation to Corpus Cristi, Texas, before moving on to Houston.

WHO, IN TRUMP’S mindset, would possibly care about Arpaio when there was a vicious hurricane striking?

Of course, the fact that Trump could focus attention on Arpaio at a time of the first significant natural disaster of his presidency has many people wondering how depraved he could be to do something so repulsive to many at a time when people were about to suffer.

Which is why Trump feels the need to be in Texas on Tuesday. He’s going to want to appear to be presidential. Or as presidential as he is capable of being – which might not be very much.

“The impacts of this disaster will be long-lasting. (We’re) committed to assisting Texas and other states in the Gulf region through the response and recovery process.” A canned quote from Rauner, but one where Trump is very likely to say the same thing later Tuesday.

  -30-

Monday, August 28, 2017

EXTRA: Illinois state officials (Finally!!!) back education funding bill

It almost has the feel of a pickup game of baseball played by a batch of kids; right down to the do-over.

The Illinois House of Representatives fell short of voting Monday to override the veto of the education funding bill that Gov. Bruce Rauner used his amendatory veto power to alter. But following a closed-door session, the Illinois House came back for a second try – and managed to pass something that finally ensures state funding for public education programs will be provided, as it’s supposed to.

A WHOLE LOT of whining and bickering on both sides of the politically partisan aisle, just as kids are often wont to do when they get stubborn. But this game seems finally at an end.

At least until the two sides decide how they can spin the facts of what happened to try to achieve the most positive result for themselves come the 2018 general elections to be held next November.

For what it’s worth, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, issued his statement at 7:09 p.m., while Rauner’s statement was issued at 7:43 p.m. At least according to the clock on my laptop computer.

Here are the full, unedited, attempts at both Madigan, then Rauner, in trying to claim they didn’t lose the political blather that has been spewed about so much in recent years.

  -0-

MADIGAN:  Today we saw compromise. Instead of pitting children and communities against each other, Democrats and Republicans came to an agreement on much of what’s in this bill. And even where we don’t fully agree, we’re willing to work together in good faith and meet each other half way.

This bill provides the same promise of permanent funding for our schools as Senate Bill 1, with some additional items included at the request of Republicans. Even if all members did not agree with 100 percent of what is in the final bill, this bill still delivers 100 percent of what schools throughout Illinois need. This bill is a permanent promise of more funding for schools statewide. Every district in Illinois wins under this plan.

Through compromise, we’ve included some provisions that many members would not have supported on their own. But a package that permanently provides more money for Illinois schools and puts us closer than ever to fixing Illinois’ broken school funding system is too important to let partisan differences get in the way.

RAUNER:  Today, members of the Illinois House of Representatives voted to bring historic education reform to Illinois children and their families. I want to thank Speaker Madigan, Leader Durkin and their staff members for finding common ground that will reverse the inequities of our current school funding system.

Aligned with the framework provided by the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission – a bipartisan, bicameral working group chaired by the Secretary of Education – this bill has much to celebrate. First, every district in Illinois will have an adequacy target based on 27 elements brought forth through an “evidence-based model” of school funding. Second, new state funds will be distributed to ensure that those districts with the largest gap between current spending and adequacy will be funded first. Third, no district will lose state funding as compared to last year.  

The compromise includes the much-needed flexibility for school districts through mandate relief, while providing avenues for property tax relief. It increases transparency related to how districts are funded through local, state and federal resources. 

It protects the rights of parents to choose the school that best meets the needs of their children – providing more school choice for children from low-income families. By setting yearly minimum funding targets, this bill also ensures that Illinois will continue to invest in our most important resource – our children’s education.

I encourage members of the Senate to also pass this bill, which I will sign quickly in order to ensure that our schools – many of which have already opened for the 2017-2018 school year – receive their much-needed resources. 

  -30-

EXTRA: Will immigration issue provoke 'civil war' amongst GOPers

Gov. Bruce Rauner followed through on his rhetoric of last week, using Monday to sign into law the Trust Act – a measure limiting the ability of local police across the state to get involved in the enforcement of federal immigration law.
KELLY: Rauner 'betrays' Illinoisans?

Rauner even went so far as to venture into the Little Village neighborhood for a bill-signing ceremony; which ensured he was surrounded by many Mexican-American activist types who have long been anxious for such legal protections from police harassment.

BUT THE CONSERVATIVE ideologue-types are upset. They’re the kind who want government officials who are eager to harass so-called “foreigners” who “don’t belong” in this country. Many of them aren’t too concerned about the niceties of the law or the details of a person’s ethnic origins.
Party regulars willing to defend Rauner

Such as William Kelly, a Chicago Republican (Yes, they exist) who is talking up himself as a gubernatorial challenger in the GOP primary come March. He claims Rauner has “betrayed” Illinois residents and “has made Illinois a sanctuary for criminals, drug dealers and gang members.” Kelly also said Rauner, “has turned the state of Illinois into Chicago, America’s murder capital.”

That latter statement is so over-the-top as to be absurd. Particularly for those people who take the homicide rate literally – Chicago isn’t even the worst in the Midwest (St. Louis and Detroit have higher rates, while other cities such as Baltimore and New Orleans also exceed the Second City).

Not that it really matters much what Kelly says. He wants attention (I suspect most would-be voters don’t have a clue who he is, and would say that even if he gets on the primary ballot, Rauner is still running unopposed because it is difficult to call Kelly a credible candidate). He’s desperate for it!

BUT SOME WITHIN the Republican political structure must be concerned. Because the party managed to issue their own statement, quoting all kinds of law enforcement officials who claim that the Trust Act isn’t a big deal to them. In fact, the party got their statement to me through e-mail about a half hour before the governor’s statement confirming he actually signed the bill into law.
RAUNER: Will issue be key in '18 campaign?

The political party wants us to believe only the Democrats have a mess of candidates to pick from, while the GOP is solidly behind Bruce. Which may or may not be true. We’ll have to wait and see if Rauner can successfully portray a pol who cares one whit about urban issues.

Particularly after spending the past two years bashing the city about every chance he gets. “It breaks my heart to see the senseless violence going on in our streets, especially when that violence is inflicted on innocent children,” the governor said. “We need to prioritize our resources for the prevention of violent crime.”

Are you buying it?

  -30-

Pardoned Arpaio cheats ‘justice,’ yet someone must pay. Will it be Trump?

It wasn’t surprising to learn that President Donald J. Trump would feel compelled to grant a pardon (his first act of clemency) toward one of the most repulsive characters ever to wear a law enforcement badge.
 
TRUMP: President of the xenophobes?

Offensive? Yes. Immoral? Of course!

BUT IT IS totally in character when one considers Trump would not want to be a guy who would want one-time Maricopa, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio punished. He probably thinks it wrong that a law enforcement officer would wind up having to do jail time – even the miniscule sentence that Arpaio was facing.

So the president went ahead and used his power of clemency to undermine the federal prosecutors who got a criminal conviction earlier this year against Arpaio, and were seeking his sentencing come October – when he was likely to face up to six months in jail (probably at a minimum-security facility where extra effort would be made to ensure he was not attacked by other inmates).

Arpaio will never have to face that moment of standing before a judge and hearing that he’s now just another convict. He’ll never have to sit in a cell as punishment for his crimes.

Which, in all honesty, was a moment that a segment of our society was eager to see happen. I suspect that Trump feeling nothing but spite for those people most repulsed by Arpaio were his strongest motivations for issuing a pardon.

FOR ALL I know, Trump may not even truly comprehend what it was that Arpaio did wrong that brought his time as the Phoenix area’s sheriff before prosecutors to begin with.

Arpaio is the guy who likes to think he’s the rough-and-tough lawman who cracks down on criminals. He’s the guy who ran his jail under overly harsh conditions, and he was the one whose deputies often conducted raids of Latino neighborhoods in search of people without valid visas to live in this country.

I’m sure some nitwits will claim that Arpaio is merely the guy who made jail inmates wear pink underwear. But he was the guy who was calling for harassment of people with no real probable cause. Unless you believe being Latino is criminal?
ARPAIO: Won't do the time for his crime

What ultimately got Arpaio into legal trouble is when the courts ruled that the sheriff’s tactics exceeded the limits of the law, yet he persisted with them anyway.

BECAUSE HARASSING PEOPLE whose ethnic origins lie within Mexico was more important to him than actually following the letter of the law to which he was supposed to uphold. Particularly ironic considering that Arizona’s origins lie within Mexico and the Spanish colonies, and one could argue that the people Arpaio was protecting were the real “foreigners.”

But with Trump’s desire to rely solely on the xenophobes with particularly irrational hang-ups with regards to Mexico, it’s no wonder he’d seek to protect Arpaio.

Particularly since his campaign promise of erecting a wall along the U.S./Mexico border is one likely never to come true, he has to be able to claim to have done something that the nativist element of our society. Does protecting Arpaio from having to do laundry detail while serving time in a minimum-security prison facility make up for it? I’m sure Trump is hoping so.

What is going to make this particular pardon stand it is that Arpaio really didn’t fit the usual guidelines for clemency. Usually, someone has to wait a few years before they can even apply for a pardon.

THE POINT BEING that the person in question must actually serve the time. The point of a pardon being to ease the level of shame they must go through during the rest of their lives because of their actions that put them in prison for a stint.
Wonder what he thinks of pink shorts now?

In that regard, Arpaio is likely to go through his life as an unapologetic ass who will “get away” with his actions that brought great harm to people. He’ll probably die thinking he did nothing wrong – even though the Supreme Court of the United States itself has said that accepting a pardon IS an admission of guilt.

But karma has a way of biting back; someone is going to have to suffer for this act of clemency being issued.

Which could wind up being Trump himself, since he has now besmirched his legacy in ways that he likely will never fully appreciate as the xenophobic president, but which the Trump name will have a hard time living down for generations to come.

  -30-

EDITOR’S NOTE: A poll last week by OH Predictive Insights said only 21 percent of Arizona residents wanted the president to offer clemency to Joe Arpaio – who ceased being sheriff last year after losing a re-election bid. It will be interesting to see how big a plummet Trump takes in his own approval ratings; as he had only 35 percent support in the Gallup Organization’s presidential approval poll taken just before he issued his clemency Friday night – likely hoping people would be focused on Hurricane Harvey’s devastation in Texas to pay any attention to Arpaio.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Is our long Ill. nightmare finally over?

The word came out Thursday, first from Republican leaders of the Illinois General Assembly, then from the Democrats who hold the majority power – we have an agreement on the way the state will fund public education.
RAUNER: Has he lost?

That issue has been tied up for nearly the past two months – ever since state government passed a budget for the current fiscal year despite Gov. Rauner’s objections. Rauner, feeling the need for a political victory over urban Democratic interests, continued to fight on with this issue – even though it created a potential situation where schools might not have the money on hand to open on time.

PERSONALLY, WHEN I first heard the Republican legislative talk, my suspicion is that this was some sort of political talk by which GOP interests claimed a deal that didn’t really exist – then would try to blame Democrats for failure when nothing wound up happening.

You might think I’m being politically paranoid, but I’m not alone in being suspicious.

Several education administrators I have spoken to have said they’re equally suspicious – saying they’re not going to believe a deal is in place until they actually see the governor sign something into law.

One school board president I know went so far as to say that while he was convinced Republican and Democratic legislators were in agreement, there still is the issue of Bruce Rauner.

“WE’LL SEE IF his people (Republican legislators) can talk him into going along with this,” that official said.

For the record, legislators aren’t really willing to say what their deal is – other than that much of the funding that was to be provided to Chicago Public Schools to cover pensions for retired teachers will be restored. That despite Rauner’s efforts to use his amendatory veto powers to remove it from the education funding bill that was passed by the Legislature back during the spring.

For what it’s worth, Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he is pleased with the deal, as it provides the city school system with what it desired. “That, and more,” he told reporter-type people.
MADIGAN: Can he complete deal this weekend?

Whereas Rauner said in his prepared statement he “applauds” legislators for working together. Although the Chicago Sun-Times wrote in its report that the legislative agreement did not include any of the collective bargaining changes that are supposedly the reason why the governor has been so ridiculously stubborn with regards to the budget and education funding.

SO IS IT possible that Rauner, who has never made a secret of the fact that he desires changes in state government structure to undermine the influence of labor unions, really will wind up coming out the big loser – with legislators feeling the need to keep state government functioning and the public schools open more than they need the financial support he’ll be providing to GOP officials in next year’s election cycle.

The key will be to see what happens on Sunday. For while legislators have met just about every day this week to discuss the issue, we’re now at the point where their staffers (the government geeks who actually know how to write legislation) are taking the grand concepts of the agreement and turning them into the legal language of a bill.

Things could still fall apart between now and then. But officials say that if a bill is crafted without anyone feeling like the other side is trying to pull a last-minute, double-cross (that’s really the way political people think!), then a vote could come Monday.

Our long state nightmare could finally be over. Or maybe?

BECAUSE WE’LL STILL have to go through the upcoming 15 months before the 2018 general election, and I don’t doubt that at this point, Rauner is desperately searching for a publicity team to replace the ideologue twits he recently fired to help him figure out the proper spin for his actions.
Nixon 'nightmare' over, is Ill. budget one too?

Rauner is likely to go into a re-election campaign being unable to say he accomplished much of anything, and was actually the cause of much of the “state nightmare” that may well be an Illinois equivalent of the “long national nightmare” that then-President Gerald Ford alluded to upon the resignation of Richard Nixon.

We’re likely to see a governor who overplays the regionalism card (urban vs. rural voters) and who banks his re-election chances on one gamble.

That the Democratic Party gubernatorial candidates wind up bungling their efforts so badly that they hand a second term at the Statehouse to Rauner, all gift-wrapped. Which isn’t completely out of the question, if you want to be honest.

  -30-

Friday, August 25, 2017

Blows against fascism and slavery; or just attacking Italian legacy in Chicago?

It is an authentic pillar some 2,000 years old that came from a building in an ancient port town just outside of Rome, and this legitimate piece of Italian history was presented as a gift to Chicago back in 1934.
A postcard image from back in the day when both Balbo and Columbus could be regarded as heroic. Image provided by Chuckman's Photos.
It was given to the city as a gesture of goodwill, on account of the fact that one year earlier during the Century of Progress World’s Fair held one year earlier, one of the prime attractions was the air show put on by Italian General Italo Balbo – who had flown from Italy to Chicago to get to the show.

THE EVENT WAS even so significant that 7th Street in the South Loop was renamed, and remains known as, Balbo Drive.

It was no secret at the time that Italy’s government was the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, although no one thought enough of the symbolism of such a gift back then to think of refusing it. That would have been rude.

The days when Italy was officially part of the Axis powers of whom the United States were opposed to during the Second World War were still seven years in the future.

So it’s only now that activist-types in other parts of the nation are getting worked up over all those damned statues of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and other leaders of the traitorous movement for a Confederacy that our local people are treating the Balbo monument as being our local equivalent of an offensive tribute.

THEY’RE PUTTING ON enough pressure that City Council officials are scheduled to consider renaming Balbo Drive, and also taking down the column – which admittedly never tried to hide the message its gift was trying to present.

The base upon which it is displayed has an Italian language message that says, in part when translated into English: “Fascist Italy, by command of Benito Mussolini presents to Chicago exaltation symbol memorial of the Atlantic Squadron led by Balbo that with Roman daring flew across the ocean in the 11th year of the Fascist era.
The offending column

It’s probably a wonder that such a blunt message wasn’t taken down years ago. It probably would have been a priority if it had been something Japanese.

Yet I can’t help but think that the column itself, which originally was erected on the beach of Ostia that was a Rome port, has a legitimate historic value. Probably something that would fit in perfectly as an exhibit in the Field Museum.

ALONG WITH ALL the other worldly artifacts that are on public display. I would hope that nobody is seriously thinking of reducing the 13-foot-tall column of breccia into rubble. That would just be petty.

As for the base with the Fascist message, that is not of an ancient origin. That could go. Although I’m sure that thought will offend those of Italian ethnic origins who want to insist that the current display is merely a cultural tribute – and nothing more.

Because I’m also sure those same people are prepared to take great offense to the latest pronouncement from Ameya Pawar, the 47th Ward alderman who wants to be elected as Illinois governor. Pawar says that if elected, he’ll use his powers to eliminate Columbus Day as an official state government holiday.

Not that he’s expecting state workers to work an extra day, or for schoolchildren to have to go to class. He wants to replace a holiday for the Spanish-paid explorer with one honoring the indigenous peoples who already lived in the Americas at the time of Columbus’ arrival.

WHICH WOULD PUT Illinois in the same class as Vermont, or cities such as Denver and Phoenix. For what it’s worth, the same City Council that now wants to erase Gen. Balbo passed an indigenous peoples’ resolution for Chicago, but that was a one-year thing. Efforts to make such a holiday an annual event in the Second City have stalled.
PAWAR: Getting votes by doing away w/ Columbus

I don’t know that I get as worked up about Columbus and whether or not he was a slave trader as some people do. Although I’m not about to plant altruistic motives to Columbus’ life as some people are determined to do.

Personally, I find the irony in the notion that the potentially first Indian-American to be chosen as governor would be the one to dump Columbus Day, since Columbus’ so-called discovery was an attempt at finding new trade routes to India.

Only to get distracted by arriving in what is now the Dominican Republic, and later Puerto Rico. One could sarcastically argue that at least Balbo managed to reach his intended destination.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: So what do we do with the very prime location in the middle of Grant Park where Balbo Drive and Columbus Drive intersect?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Will Gov. Rauner commit political suicide w/ immigration-related move?

To listen to the ideologues of Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner is going to do some serious
RAUNER: On the outs w/ ideologues
harm to his political reputation next week, if he follows through with his talk that implies he’s going to sign into law a measure meant to restrict law enforcement across the state from meddling into immigration enforcement.

Most famously, Chicago and Cook County, have declared themselves to be sanctuary cities – where people who might not have legal residency status to be in this country don’t have to worry every time they come into contact with local police for a traffic ticket or other matter.
 
TRUMP: Most definitely in good standing

EVEN SOME SUBURBS such as Evanston and Oak Park, along with nearby cities such as Gary, Ind., have declared themselves welcoming cities, which is a status meant to ensure that local police don’t get involved in federal immigration enforcement unless essential for local interests.

Now, the General Assembly this spring approved a measure it calls the Trust Act, which would prevent Illinois law enforcement entities – including local cops across the state – from arresting or detaining anyone based on suspicion of illegitimate immigration status.

Local police would only be allowed to detain a person who is not a .U.S. citizen or legal resident if there is an arrest warrant for that particular individual.

To many people, it is merely common sense that local police are busy enough enforcing local laws and that federal authorities are the ones with jurisdiction to handle the nuances of immigration law – which go farther than the notion of deporting everybody who isn’t like themselves.

BUT TO THE ideologues who support these kinds of ridiculous crackdowns (and likely idolize all of Donald Trump’s stupid-talk on the issue), the fact that Rauner has called the Trust Act “very reasonable” is offensive. The fact that both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune reported that he is inclined to sign the bill on Monday is a major negative action.
WALSH: Rauner is 'done'

One Republican legislator from the part of Illinois near St. Louis said that Rauner approving this measure would be the “last straw” that would tick off rural Illinoisans who have been solid Rauner backers.

The Sun-Times quoted Republican activist-types, including former Rep. Joe Walsh of the northwest suburbs, as saying that Rauner approval for this measure as dooming him politically. “Governor Rauner is done,” Walsh said in Trump’s favorite medium – the 140 characters of Twitter.

Now as one who has followed the political debate over immigration policy and the need for reform for years, it doesn’t shock me to learn that the ideologues are taking a hard line that bears no tie to rationality.

IT WOULD SEEM the fact that Rauner has gone through his two-plus years as governor openly hostile to much of Chicago’s interests to try to garner the rural support isn’t sufficient.

Showing quarter on this issue is one that would undo everything else. Just as it was no accident that the Trump presidential campaign’s initial inanity was to criticize Mexicans and much has focused on non-Anglo people with strong ethnic ties to other parts of the world, they want the governor to behave in the same manner.
Would a Trump pardon for Arpaio be viewed ...

Even though amongst law enforcement officials, the concept of jurisdiction is a strong one, and cops usually are aware of when they have no authority to take on a particular incident. So why they’re expected to run roughshod over jurisdiction in immigration cases really makes little to no sense.

Of course, what these ideologues want is for someone to reinforce their own irrational hang-ups about our society. Trying to apply logic won’t work for Rauner in this case.

I WASN’T KIDDING when I wrote that they want more nonsense-talk like that of Trump – who just this week while in Phoenix hinted he’s inclined to give a pardon to former Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He’s the cop who throughout the years was so vociferous in his efforts to crack down on immigration that he violated federal court orders that were meant to restrict him from harassment.
... similar to when President Ford pardoned Nixon?

Arpaio faces sentencing in October for his contempt of court conviction, and he could get some jail time – a thought that would please many people who have been harassed by him throughout the years. Yet Trump says he’s inclined to offer a pardon – which would pre-empt the possibility of incarceration.

A move that would be perceived by some as more despicable than when then-President Gerald R. Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for his Watergate-era offenses.

I have no doubt that some will lionize Trump if he does that, just as they will lambast Rauner if he follows through with his talk on the Trust Act. Stances that actually say more about the depraved ideals those people have, more than anything about the governor or president themselves.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Let the (political) games resume

I’m feeling little more than a sense of sluggishness as I write this particular commentary, because it feels like the same old story being told over and over again.
 
DURKIN: GOP likely to back Rauner on edfund

I’m referring to our state’s General Assembly, which continues to haggle with Gov. Bruce Rauner over the way public education will be funded in Illinois, which itself is nothing more than a sequel to the two-year time period during which Illinois operated without an official budget in place.

THAT POLITICAL SQUABBLE eventually ended just over a month ago when just enough members of the Republican caucus broke with the governor to side with the idea of approving a budget. Which now has the governor doubling down his efforts for a political victory.

Which he seems determined to get with the education funding measure that he used his amendatory veto powers to alter in ways that Chicago Public Schools officials see as detrimental to their interests.

Rauner, however, continues to insist the Chicago schools were getting too much under the education funding bill that had been approved earlier this year by the Democratic-led General Assembly.

This fight was to resume Wednesday when the state Legislature was scheduled to reconvene, with the Illinois House having on its agenda the education funding measure. Although Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, made a last-minute decision Tuesday to postpone the vote indefinitely.
RAUNER: Desperate for political victory

THE STATE SENATE previously voted to override the Rauner amendatory veto – which would reinstate the measure as approved by the General Assembly and restore funding for the Chicago schools pension program that Rauner is determined to see as an unfair city perk.

But the Senate has a large-enough Democratic caucus that it could override the governor all by itself. It didn’t need the one Republican who switched sites.

Yet the Illinois House, while Democratic controlled, doesn’t have a caucus large enough to spit in the governor’s face, so to speak, on vetoes. Republicans are making it very clear they’re not about to switch sides on this issue in order to back the Dem-desired education funding bill.
MADIGAN: Eager to deprive GOP a victory

“It is unfair for Chicago to continue to receive excess advantages that are not afforded to any other school district in the state,” Illinois House Republican Leader James Durkin said earlier this week in a prepared statement.

EVEN THOUGH THERE are people who insist the changes being made for the Chicago pension funding are merely meant to balance out the fact that the Chicago Public Schools was funding its own program without outside help – which does differ from other school districts in Illinois.

Democrats already have made clear they have created another bill that is identical to their education funding bill so that the general concepts will remain alive even if Rauner winds up prevailing in his amendatory veto. Theoretically, the issue could come alive once again at a later date.

Which makes the results of Wednesday’s legislative activity fairly pointless in terms of actual public policy.

Would the measure have gone down to defeat, thereby giving Rauner a win – only to have that political victory undermined at some point in the future? Or would Wednesday have been some sort of procedural move meant to stall a legislative defeat and keep the measure alive for a little while longer?

TECHNICALLY, DEMOCRATS AND Republicans in the Illinois Legislature have spent the past few days (as recently as Tuesday) meeting privately to try to work out some sort of compromise plan with regards to the issue.
Ill. CAPITOL: Complicated manner for nothing to occur

But those meetings haven’t exactly been productive. Unless you want to literally believe the official legislative statements where leaders say the sessions were “productive” and refuse to elaborate.

Personally, I’m not expecting to learn a whole heck of a lot following Wednesday’s legislative activity. I expect we’ll continue to be in the same stalemate – with everybody taking actions that they believe will bolster their re-election chances come the 2018 election cycle.

It makes me wonder if our pols behaved like President Donald J. Trump did when he stared directly at the sun during the eclipse without special viewing glasses -- perhaps frying out a portion of their brain cells in the process.

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