Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wrigley, the protesters and Al Franken

It is hard for me to decide what the most ridiculous spectacle was on Tuesday in the wide world of electoral politics in the United States.

I’m inclined to go with the Chicago City Council, which is preparing to take on an issue of monumental proportions – one where they will confront a force that threatens society as we know it today.

I AM SPEAKING, of course, of all those trashy vendors who try to earn a living by congregating around Wrigley Field and selling you overpriced goods (although not quite as overpriced as the ones sold inside the stadium proper) as you venture your way into the building to watch the women in tube tops who attend Chicago Cubs games.

Alderman Tom Tunney claims his concern is about public safety. He told the Chicago Tribune, “you can’t walk to the park.”

And I will be the first to admit there are instances where vendors get overly pushy in trying to peddle their extra-large bags of peanuts or cheaply-printed scorecards or whatever other item they have concocted to try to make some money.

But then again, I expect there to be something of a crowd around a sports stadium. Isn’t that part of the point of attending an athletic event – to be a part of the spectacle that cheers on the home team (and razzes them beyond belief when they play like trash)?

THAT IS WHY city ordinances have long prevented the unaffiliated street vendors from setting foot on the actual block that Wrigley Field occupies (Clark Street to Addison Street to Sheffield Street to Waveland Avenue back to Clark).

But under the Tunney proposal, which will now be debated with all the seriousness that officials are putting into trying to concoct a state government budget, now vendors would be banned from working within two blocks of the ballpark.

Not that this would affect the people who operate storefronts within a block of the ballpark to sell sports-related stuff. They aren’t affected.

Which makes me wonder if this great public safety concern has a touch of protecting the business interests of the vendors who work inside the stadium and in the storefronts directly across the street.

IF SO, THEN trying to bill it as a public safety concern is a bit of a stretch – even if it also served a local political purpose as well. I couldn’t help but notice that the measure came up the same day the City Council approved a measure requiring city employees to take 15 days off without pay before the end of 2009.

I suppose that’s better than requiring people to work those 15 days without pay. But most people I know with jobs need every penny they can get. Losing three weeks of work isn’t going to help. Better we pay attention to the public safety concern surrounding Wrigley Field.

Or perhaps the City Hall crowd would rather we watch the Statehouse Scene, where officials on Tuesday were treated to the sight of protesters being arrested.

Now keep in mind that protests at a government building, particularly the Statehouse in Springfield, are routine. There’s always somebody who stages a rally of sorts to try to gain attention for their cause.

BUT WHEN WAS the last time you saw protesters chanting, “raise taxes now,” while being carted off by the police?

These particular protesters were organized by the Service Employees International Union, and by their own admission were trying to get arrested to make a point. The union wants Gov. Pat Quinn to get the income tax hike he is calling for to balance the state budget for the fiscal year that begins Wednesday.

Usually, protesters protest against higher taxes. But that is how bizarre the political scene has been twisted due to the budget mess – which shows no sign of ending soon.

If either of those spectacles aren’t bizarre enough for you, how about this? Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.

THE STATE SUPREME Court in Minnesota issued a ruling Tuesday that, for all practical purposes, ends the legal battle over who won that state’s 2008 election. The one-time comedy writer for Saturday Night Live will soon be able to join his colleagues in the U.S. Senate, and will give the Democratic caucus 60 members, which in theory will allow them to run roughshod over the GOP opposition without having to worry about filibusters.

What I find bizarre is the whole idea that Franken is political. He strikes me more as a comedian going for the cheap laugh, and he is willing to use current events as subject material for his humor.

Does anyone really believe that his 1996 book “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot (and other observations)” was a serious political tome that will influence the thoughts and perceptions of government for generations to come? Or was it just a quickie laugh that some people were foolish enough to pay $21.95 (plus tax) for ($29.95 if purchased with Canadian dollars)?

At the very least, Roland Burris will now no longer be the only comic in the Senate, even if Roland, Roland, Roland’s humorous moments will be purely unintentional.



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