Showing posts with label Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Voting While Clueless; I wish I could say I was alone in doing so. But I'm not

MORITA: She got my vote by default
Josina Morita got my vote Wednesday when I made my appearance at an Early Voting Center to cast my ballot in next week's primary election.

Not that there's some grand, noble reason for me deciding to give her candidacy for a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

IT WAS MORE like hers was one of the few names I recognized when I was looking at the touch screen and trying to decide who was worthy of my support.

And the only reason I recognized it is because I received one of her full-color campaign mailings that touts her support from people such as county board President Toni Preckwinkle, the Sierra Club and the Chicago Federation of Labor -- to name a few endorsements.

Her name jumped out at me. So I put my electronic checkmark next to her name.

In short, I'm guilty of Voting While Clueless -- as in I cast a ballot for someone I'm not thoroughly sure about.

NOW IF ANYONE thinks they can start seriously lambasting me for doing this, I really don't want to hear about it. Because I know I'm not alone. Not in this election cycle. Not in the whole history of people voting.

Once one gets down the ballot past the top few positions, there are all the so-called lesser offices where people just don't seem to pay much attention. There are many long-time incumbents who keep getting re-elected because nobody's watching too closely.

Then, there are all those judicial posts. All the different circuits. I'm sure many people had no idea who they were voting for.

And yes, I believe it is essential to actually fill out a complete ballot. Particularly for the judicial posts.

NOT VOTING FOR anybody doesn't mean nobody gets the post. Besides, at least I didn't resort to what is supposedly the golden rule of political ballots -- having an Irish-sounding name supposedly means people will vote for you instead of anybody else.

Personally, there are times when I deliberately vote against anyone who sounds too stereotypically Irish -- just to spite the knuckleheads who go by that rule of thumb.

Although more realistically, I feel fortunate enough that as a reporter-type person I occasionally cover courtroom activity and have actually heard of some of the judges seeking retention.

So not all of those names were alien to me. Although there were a few where I didn't know anybody -- and will have to confess that I can't tell you now who exactly I voted for to preside over our coutrooms.

IT WOULD BE one of life's sick little jokes if one of these no-names were to someday wind up presiding over a case in which I was somehow involved. Not that I plan on entering a courthouse anytime soon in any capacity other than a reporter.

I'm not alone. I can wish that there was more information readily available about these lower posts.

Most of what the public gets are all those mailings from judicial candidates that are all so predictable and repetitive in their content. A list of bar associations and other legal-sounding groups that supposedly find them "qualified" (while omiting anybody who might have objections).

Along with a photograph of them with a wife/husband and kids, so as to indicate they're a family-type person. Except for one judicial candidate whose mailing depicts a hockey game, and a caption about the need for, "qualified referees in our courtrooms."

THE REALITY OF our electoral process is that these candidates count on us being clueless when we stand in the Voting Booth. They are the types who think of information as ammunition that we could turn out to use against them.

Between that and the fact that so many candidates can knock off their opposition even before the ballots are prepared is why we get such a lackluster government at times.

And for what it's worth, it amazed me to see the combination of obscure political posts whose candidates were running unopposed. A combination that benefits nobody, but themselves.

It sounds like a lot -- nearly 500 candidates seeking 369 different offices in Cook County. But when you think about it, that means most of them are running unopposed. My vote literally wasn't much of a choice.

NO, PICKING BETWEEN Pat Quinn and Tio Hardiman near the top of the ballot didn't make up for all the non-choices I cast my checkmark next to.

And here's hoping that my vote for Morita doesn't come back to bite me in the culo by having her get elected to office and do something stupid.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Daley for governor? I guess it’s time in the election cycle to spew this tale

DALEY: All talk for governor
I deliberately held off on considering William Daley for a day.

For I’m not swayed by the idea that the one-time Commerce secretary and White House chief of staff is actually going to run for governor of Illinois.

EVEN THOUGH HE told a business gathering this week that he’s “thinking about it seriously,” all I can help but think is that Bill Daley ALWAYS says he’s thinking about running for governor.

He lets the idea fester about for a bit. Then, he backs away. Between the son and brother of long-time Chicago mayors and Chris Kennedy (the JFK nephew who used to run the Merchandise Mart), I’m not sure which one gets his name tossed about more in the rumor mill as a prospective candidate for high political office.

It may well be Daley, since it always seems to be political operatives who drag Kennedy’s name into such discussions – as though we need to have the Kennedy “aura” in our local political scene.

Either that, or we want to cover up the fact that Rod Blagojevich came close to starting up a familial political dynasty of sorts. Ugh!!!

THE BOTTOM LINE is that I have lost count of the number of times that I have heard Bill Daley’s name tossed into the mix for Illinois governor. I remember hearing it back when I was a part of the Illinois Statehouse scene – and I made my return from “Springpatch” more than a decade ago.

At the time, the idea had an intriguing twist. Richard M. was Chicago mayor, and John had just returned to Chicago from an Illinois Senate stint of his own to serve on the Cook County Board.

What if John were to run for county board President, and William were to become governor? We’d have Daleys all over the place.
Patrick Daley Thompson (left) is more likely to be the next "Daley" to rise to high political office. Photograph provided by Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

More direct political control than old man Richard J. could ever have dreamed of having! It would be the ultimate fantasy for political geeks whose view of the world doesn’t venture any further south than Beverly.

ALTHOUGH I’M SURE there would have been those politically active people in other parts of the state who would have found the concept of a Daley-fest to be atrocious.

Heck, I’m sure Michael J. Madigan would have been equally repulsed. Because the long-time Illinois House speaker’s role in the Chicago political universe is to be the guy who keeps state government in line with the city’s needs.

And having so many Daleys would have interfered with the dreams of daughter Lisa to rise to a new level of political status. Although I have to admit the idea of a Daley versus Madigan primary for governor (if both of them actually went for it in 2014 would be intriguing.

A lot of political people would be forced to take sides in a way they never envisioned. The idea of having to pick between Obama and Hillary (like they had to in 2008) would be minor by comparison.

BUT IT’S NOT going to come to that. I’m pretty sure of it. Those of you who are desperate to have a “Daley” in a position of political authority probably should be following the governmental life of Patrick Daley Thompson – he of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District who may well rise to unheard of heights.

For the key is that we’re just a month past the 2012 election cycle. We’re as far away from 2014 as we can get. Which is why it is appropriate for Bill Daley to talk this fantasy. It’s the right time.

Once things get to the point where he’d have to actually do something real to achieve the goal, he’ll come to the same realization he always does – that he has bigger priorities than hustling for a political post that may come with a mansion.

But a nice house to live in just isn’t enough to entice him into the minutia of Illinois state government. I honestly believe Lisa Madigan is a more likely person to challenge Pat Quinn for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination come the ’14 election cycle – and even she may not want to tackle a primary fight that would definitely get ugly.

SO WHERE WILL Bill Daley be come Election Day 2014?

Probably tossing out hints about how he’s “seriously considering” a run for governor in 2018!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Patrick “Daley” Thompson – the start of something bigger than water district?

I must confess. When I covered a candidate forum a couple of weeks ago on behalf of a suburban daily newspaper, I filed a story about the people who wanted to be a local legislator even though I was more interested in one of the candidates for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
THOMPSON: The next 'Mayor Daley?'

My attention kept wandering over to the five of the nine people on the ballot for three seats on the board that oversees wastewater and storm water treatment who were at that forum.

INCLUDING PATRICK THOMPSON, a 42-year-old who has never held political office and has never even ran in an election before. He’s a political rookie – although not really, which is why much of the night I was focusing on him.

For Thompson is the guy whose uncle, Rich, is the former Chicago mayor. Of course, he also has an uncle, Bill, who is a former presidential chief of staff and cabinet member. Then, there’s also his grandpa, Dick, whose stint as Chicago mayor made him internationally reknowned.

Which is why it amuses me that on forms he filled out for the Chicago Tribune, the only political ties he acknowledges is his uncle, John – who is on the Cook County Board.

Yes, we’re talking about a Daley. We’re talking about potentially the first person in the next generation of that family to get into the business of running for elective office.

WHICH HAS MANY people wondering privately, “Is this the ‘next’ Mayor Daley?”

Although technically, he’d be “Mayor Thompson.” Or, “Daley Thompson,” depending on your sensibilities. And also, perhaps, where you are.

Because I have noticed campaign signs for Thompson’s water district campaign that declare him to be “Patrick Daley Thompson” if they are erected in Chicago proper.

Get out in the suburbs, and he suddenly becomes “Patrick D. Thompson.” Trying to cover up, so to speak, for those suburbanites who might think that Daleys belong in Chicago – and not the suburban areas that are nearly as large as the city proper?


But I was curious to know if that night in suburban Glenwood (where the village government sponsored a candidate forum) was going to be one I would long remember as the first time I personally saw someone who could become a political bigwig in future years.

In all honesty, I can’t remember a thing he said. And when I look back on my notes from that night, none of it seems particularly repeatable.

The one impression I did get was that Thompson has obviously done some reading up on what the water district does. He didn’t seem as clueless as many first-time candidates for public office appear to be – because the truth of the matter is that they really can’t appreciate what they’re getting themselves in to.

THEN AGAIN, I got a bigger impression from water district candidate Stella Black – who seems like the “crazy granny” type who will say or do anything, and who also was handing out emery boards with her name and campaign slogan (“Stellaaaaaaaaa!!!!”) printed on them.

I also can’t help but notice the fact that Thompson isn’t following the typical route for someone who has aspirations to hold a major political office – in fact, the same routes that were followed by his uncle Rich and grandpa Dick.

He’s NOT running for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly!

How many generations of Chicago pols got themselves elected to a term or two in the Illinois House of Representatives or state Senate before coming back home to do the “important” stuff? Way too many.

I’M SURE THERE are those who will think Thompson is condemning himself to a career of sludge. Then again, there have been many state legislators who waited an eternity in Springfield for a Chicago political opportunity that wound up never occurring.

But Thompson does have the party’s backing for Tuesday’s primary election. With the amount of publicity he has been getting, his name may be one of the few that people actually recognize when they go to their polling place.

Although I must make another confession. I cast my ballot at an early voting center, and I didn’t vote for Thompson.

Stella Black (emery boards and all) got my support, along with incumbent member Debra Shore and Patricia Young, a former board member who wants to make a political comeback.

SO PERHAPS SOMEDAY, if Thompson ever does become the next-generation “Mayor Daley,” I’ll be telling the story about how I didn’t vote for him. Similar to the stories I now tell about how on the first occasion I met Barack Obama (back in ’97 on his first day as a state senator), I decided I didn’t really have time for him and just engaged in a few seconds of mindless chit-chat.

How little I knew!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

EXTRA: Some people just like to make things more complex than they truly are

For a routine maneuver that should be fairly straightforward, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District managed on Thursday to come up with a way of complicating a deal.

Among the many acts of business the water district’s commissioners had to deal with when they met was to approve the process by which they seek bids to buy new kitchen equipment for the cafeteria located in their Near North Side offices, at 100 E. Erie St.

 NOTE THAT WE’RE not talking about awarding a contract. Merely seeking bids.

In short, getting a price from anyone interested in selling the kitchen equipment to the water district so that officials can figure out who will give them the best deal.

It should be a routine matter of advertising for bids for items that include an oven, a grill, a deep fryer and a steam table.

Yet when it comes to political people, they just have a knack for complicating things – which is why the water district ultimately decided to defer any action on seeking a price.

NOT APPROVING A contract. But trying to shop.

The confusion got amped up in part by water district Commissioner Cynthia Santos, who said she wants assurances that whatever kitchen equipment the district buys for their cafeteria will be capable of preparing “healthier meals.”

Which to my sensibility is a new excuse. It’s the stove’s fault that all the food being served is, as the old cliché goes, “deep fried and dipped in chocolate.” The kitchen staff, or types of food being bought, have nothing to do with it! (Heavy sarcasm most definitely intended here).

Although I think water district Commissioner Frank Avila put the issue in proper perspective when he mockingly said that purchasing new kitchen equipment was going to force the politicos who oversee the sewage treatment plants for the Chicago area to go on “vegan diets” and “eliminate deep fried food” they may be eating too much of these days.

AND FOR THOSE of you good-government geeky types who get into contractual numbers, this particular project is to replace cafeteria equipment that was installed in 1985.

Water district officials hope that purchasing new kitchen equipment won’t cost them more than $42,500, and they’re hoping that the project will be complete by year’s end.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Will TV be O’Brien’s equalizer?

It has been nearly one month since the Chicago Tribune came out with the poll that showed Terrance O’Brien’s campaign for Cook County Board president was so low that even beleagured incumbent Todd Stroger ranks above him.

Yet O’Brien, whose political resume relies heavily on his term as head of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, has the chance to make up significant ground. Who’s to say that the next round of polls won’t show him running close to the lead.

WHAT GIVES O’BRIEN a boost is the fact that his campaign became the first of the four Democrats wishing to run Cook County government to purchase that all-valuable airtime on local television. We’re soon going to start seeing some heavy rotation of spots promoting O’Brien, including one where he claims to have used his current post to clean up Chicago-area pollution and says he’ll do the same thing with the county.

All the other candidates challenging Stroger in the Democratic primary next month say they will soon be on television as well, although they won’t say how soon, for how long or with what content.

For their campaign’s sake, they had better not wait too long.

Because while O’Brien literally was the fourth place candidate in that Tribune poll whose results were published last month, there was significant evidence that it was all a matter of name recognition. Seriously, who pays attention to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District?

IF O’BRIEN’S CAMPAIGN advertisements manage to catch the public eye, he could very easily become the best known of the four Democratic candidates.. Then, we may have to go back to wondering if O’Brien will be the white guy who gets a significant vote while all the other African-American candidates wind up splittting the city’s black vote.

In a four-way race, it probably only takes about 26-30 percent of the primary vote to win – and that Tribune poll had 26 percent of would-be Democratic Party primary voters undecided (nobody asked me, but I’d be among the undecided too).

The simple fact is that there are few people who take the time to seriously learn about a candidate’s positions on issues. His “platform” might as well be irrelevant.

Too many base their views of the candidates way too heavily on these television spots and the impression they can give. O’Brien could give himself a serious boost of credibility in the minds of people who are only now starting to remotely think about who they want to vote for – and whose priority on Election Day may very well be the U.S. Senate campaign.

I WOULD GUESS that the few would-be voters who are making the county board presidency a priority are the ones who are determined to vote against Stroger. Not that they have a clue who they really want. For them, it’s all about ABT.

Voting for “Anybody But Todd” could mean they merely have been bitter for the past four years that Stroger won the ’06 general election, or they really want to blame someone for sales taxes and can’t figure out a way to blame the state government (which receives the largest share of money collected from the sales tax).

I’ll repeat myself from past commentaries published here – Todd Stroger probably is being blamed irrationally for the things that have “gone wrong,” but he’s still getting the blame. His only chance of success on Feb. 2 is if none of the other three candidates can get a strong grasp of the bulk of the remaining vote.

These new campaign spots are O’Brien’s attempt to make that grasp of what will probably be (my guess) the 20 percent of the electorate that will vote for Stroger.

SO IT WILL be cute to see those spots on television that try to put the O’Brien brand in the voter mindset prior to the primary election. Will would-be voters think it cute, or silly, that O’Brien straightens out a “Cook County” sign that is hanging crooked – symbolic of what he claims he will do if he is elected to what is one of the most significant political posts in local government.

Even with the expense of the Chicago television market, his expenditure of several hundred thousands of dollars with of advertising time means that O’Brien is going to be a player for Election Day. It will definitely be more significant than his appearance greeting people Monday at the Metra commuter train station in Franklin Park.

I only hope that Alderman Toni Preckwinkle and circuit court Clerk Dorothy Brown don’t wait too long to join in the overpriced television “fun,” or else they’re going to find that their campaigns will become the political “afterthoughts” whose niche some people were eager to assign to O’Brien last month.

It also means that the next round of polls for this particular campaign will be interesting to see just how much movement up or down there will be by each of the campaigns. Anybody who says they “know” for sure who will win the Democratic primary for county board president on Feb. 2 is being foolish.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Fishing in the Chicago River may be enough to get my vote

The other day while paying a visit to my father’s house, I happened to be near the telephone when it rang. Out of courtesy, I answered.

The next thing I know, I was hearing the nasally tone of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s voice. No, it wasn’t my “political dream girl” calling me up for a personal chat.

It wasn’t even Madigan herself.

I was listening to a recorded message she did on behalf of the Democrat who has the party’s blessing to run for an Illinois House seat in Chicago’s southern suburbs.

I got to hear the attorney general tell me just how wonderful a public official the candidate in question would be, just before hearing a gravelly male voice (think “Fat Tony” from 'The Simpsons') tell me that the AFL-CIO sponsored the telephone call.

Sure enough, it is the “silly season.”

We have only 12 days to go – a perfect dozen – until we residents of Illinois can trudge to our neighborhood polling places (Mine is in a Lutheran church rec room. Where’s yours?) to cast ballots for presidential primary candidates and a whole host of lower electoral offices.

It seems like forever, largely because the campaign focus is on the presidential dreamers who are still days/eons away from paying much attention to Illinois. Democrats today are readying themselves for the South Carolina primary, while Republicans are focused on Florida.

Even with the Illinois primary elections approaching, we’re not going to get a lot of face time with the presidential candidates, as they also are going to have to cope with elections taking place in 21 other states. Chicago, New York and Los Angeles residents all will be casting ballots Feb. 5. They’re going to be spread out. Most of us won’t have a chance to see Barack or Hillary or Rudy or Mitt.

So we’re going to have to focus on the lower level races if we want to see actual campaign activity here. My mailbox is starting to fill with the glossy leaflets and flyers meant to promote the notion that a person I’ve never really paid much attention to is worthy of my vote.

I’m sure some people throw the flyers away without much of a glance. But it must be worth the printing costs if a few people bother to remember a name.

I’ll have to admit that Dean Maragos’ campaign for a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District caught my attention. Depending on my whim come Election Day, he may even get my vote.

It’s not like I can tell you much about anyone else running for the sanitary district. What is particularly shameful is that I used to cover the agency when I was a reporter for the now-defunct City News Bureau of Chicago. Moreso than anybody else, I should know something about it.

But much of that agency's trivial information is buried deep in the recesses of my brain. So the sight of someone trying to fish in the Chicago River is probably as legitimate a reason to cast a ballot as anybody else’s reason for voting for someone on the water reclamation district.

Maragos’ four-page flyer includes a full-page color photograph of Dean along the shore of what looks to be the north branch of the river where the city turns into northern suburb, using a net to try to scoop a fish out of the water.

It’s not quite the vision that Mayor Daley the elder had of people some day bringing fishing poles with them to work downtown, and catching their lunch out of the Chicago River while on a break. But I’ll take it.

I like looking at the literature to see what kind of gaffes candidates will make. Thus far, the closest I have come to personally seeing one this electoral season is a glossy card telling me to vote for Sharon Johnson Coleman for a seat on an Illinois Appellate court.

Her card includes a photograph of her standing beside U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill. The only problem is that where I live, the congressman is Bobby Rush. Jesse Jr. doesn’t mean a whole lot to me, or my neighbors.

It strikes me as interesting to see what trite tricks the campaigns will use in their mailings to try to get my attention. After all, for a candidate running for a Chicago-area seat in the Illinois House of Representatives or state Senate, or for a judicial post, these mailings are the campaign’s activity IN ITS ENTIRETY.

It’s not like this is central Illinois, where candidates for the General Assembly and lower offices run vicious television commercials that smear their opponents just as viciously as any Chicago mayoral or Illinois gubernatorial candidate does in the Second City.

For the most part, candidates for these lower profile positions are counting on local political party organizations in each city ward and suburban township to get potential voters to blindly support candidates of specific parties or slates.

I doubt that anyone beyond Dean Maragos’ mother, and maybe his wife, will actually vote for him because they think he’s best qualified for a seat on the government board that oversees the Chicago area’s sewage treatment plants.

I once had an editor whose political observations as a reporter went back to the days of the 1968 convention in Chicago (mine go back to the days of Harold Washington) who said he believed that anyone could run for a seat in the state Legislature or on a low-profile county government panel – if they could get about 200 people (no more) who sincerely believed in their ability to be a public official.

His theory was that the bulk of the few thousand people who cast votes for any particular candidate were doing so out of habit of being told who to vote for by someone else. Most voters, he believed, did not really know anything about anyone they were voting for – outside of the top two positions up for grabs in each election.

As far as the political party hacks who set the agenda by strongly hinting to people who they should vote for, most of them would be seriously impressed if a couple hundred people sincerely showed interest in a person as a candidate.

There’s also the political theory that people like to vote for candidates with “Irish-sounding” last names. Something about the Scottish-Irish sound of MacDougal or Kenney sounds like it should belong to a Chicago politico. Maybe it did 50 years ago. But times have changed.

Personally, I will often vote for someone WITHOUT an Irish sounding name if I don’t know anything about either candidate in a lower-level electoral race. I figure that if it is true that most people will vote for the Irish-sounding name, then someone should vote for the other guy.

And if it sounds like I’m biased against the Irish, well, that’s no more ridiculous than those people who push the theory because they’re biased in favor of the Irish.

My action is my personal little protest against those people who would just as soon turn Election Day into a civics class version of St. Patrick’s Day, complete with kegs filled with green-dyed beer served to people as they left their polling place.

Then again, a glass of green beer would serve one useful purpose. We could fling it at any would-be exit pollsters who are trying to make it possible to know who won the election before any votes are actually counted.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Want to learn more about my new second-favorite expert on sewage and sludge? Check here ( As far as I’m concerned, Ed Norton will always rank Number 1.

In case Lisa Madigan’s recorded voice is too busy to give you a call, here’s a list ( of whom the AFL-CIO wants you to vote for.

A quickie summary of the history of Chicago’s electoral politics can be found here (