Friday, October 31, 2014

EXTRA: The Curse of Rick Renteria?

Don’t get me wrong. I really don’t think that highly of the baseball skills possessed by now-former Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria.

But a part of me wonders if his name is about to go into Cubs lore alongside that ridiculous goat owned by Sam Sianis’ uncle – the one who is supposedly responsible for the fact that the Cubs can’t even get into the World Series.


Call me skeptical that the release of Renteria as manager so that the ball club can now hire former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon to manage the team on-field puts the Cubs any closer to actually winning a championship.

I realize that Maddon took the formerly hopeless Rays and helped make them a team with winning records – along with one that actually won an American League championship and played in the World Series in 2008.

Remember ’08 – the year that both the Chicago White Sox and Cubs managed to finish first place in their respective divisions; only to get knocked out of the running in the first round of playoffs that year?

THE CUBS COULDN’T even win a single ball game in that particular postseason. It started the latest process of deterioration that has saw some dreadful Cubs teams and has Cubs fans pleased that 2014 produced 73 victories – the same as the White Sox, whose fans were thoroughly repulsed by a ball club that could play so badly.

Then again, that’s the difference between the mindset of the two major league organizations that purport to represent Chicago.

In recent years, the Cubs were managed by Dale Sveum, who was openly regarded as an interim managed who would keep things going while the Cubs relied on minor league prospects to develop into worthy ball players.

The cheap way of rebuilding a ball club. It’s also the way that leaves much uncertain because one never knows just how close to full ability a prospect will play up to.

BUT CUBS MANAGEMENT became convinced last winter that the team had developed enough to put in a real manager.

That was when Renteria was hired away from coaching slots (and a stint managing the Mexico national team in the most recent World Baseball Classic) with the San Diego Padres.

Cubs management admitted in a statement issued Friday to announce his dismissal following one season that he actually lived up to expectations for this season. He did nothing wrong.

But the Cubs (who last year thought seriously they could lure a manager away from the New York Yankees) continue to operate under the “Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence” mode.

THEREFORE, A MANAGER who once had led a team to a World Series appearance (let’s not forget the Rays lost that year to the Philadelphia Phillies) was somehow considered all-desirable. The Cubs must have him.

Never mind that they may already have had the guy who was suited to lead them to any improvement the Cubs might achieve in the next few seasons.

So what happens if we wind up learning that a field manager isn’t all that significant in a team’s success if he doesn’t have the ball playing personnel to back him up? What if the Cubs don’t wind up with a batch of superstars on the cheap through their minor leagues? What if the next few seasons produce mere mediocrity – which would be an improvement for the Cubs but far short of all the tough talk we’re hearing from Cubs fans these days?

Will we start hearing about how Renteria’s dismissal laid a new round of bad karma on the Cubs, thereby causing them to fall short of a desired championship? Maybe we should point out that Sveum made it to the World Series (a coach with the Kansas City Royals this year) before the Cubs.

WILL CUBS FANS of a half-century from now be ruing the day that the Cubs were short-sighted enough (which, admittedly, does seem to be the mindset the Cubs have operated under for so many years) to let Renteria go?

Will Renteria’s grandchildren be brought back to a 150-year-old Wrigley Field to symbolically try to lift the hex?

You’ve got to admit that it makes about as much sense as the ways in which Sianis of the Billy Goat Tavern has often said he lifts the hex his uncle placed on the team when they wouldn’t let his goat sit in the stands with people for a 1945 World Series game?

Although I suspect that for Cubs fans, the real misery would be if the White Sox manage to improve in the next few seasons and Cuban slugger/Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu leads them back to the World Series before their favorite ball club gets there.


Will Chuy be the new Karen Lewis?

It will be interesting to see if Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Chicago, can capture the imagination of the electorate – or at least those people who are determined to show up at the polling places come February to vote for Anybody But Rahm.

Garcia is the long-time politico at the city, state and county levels who now wants to try to become mayor come the 2015 municipal elections.

THAT WAS THE campaign that many had hoped would be between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis – who has made her own detestation for Hizzoner publicly known on many an occasion.

But Lewis was hospitalized earlier this month, and it turns out had to undergo serious surgery. She has health issues that make the idea of running a political campaign incredibly unrealistic.

So that leaves the Emanuel detesters in desperate need of somebody, anybody, else they can vote for on Feb. 24 – and again on April 7 if a run-off in the nonpartisan election becomes a necessity.

That is where Garcia – a long-time critic of the Chicago political establishment – comes in. If the Mexican-born politico can rise above the image of being somebody that people from the Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods vote for, he could be a credible opponent.

WHICH IS WHY I find it interesting to see where Garcia plans to be on Friday – he will be the keynote speaker for the Chicago Teachers Union legislators and educators appreciation dinner to be held at Plummer’s Hall; a particularly popular Near West Side location for just about any kind of organized labor gathering.

Gov. Pat Quinn also is to be there, along with Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill. – both of whom have their own election desires up for grabs come Tuesday.

Yet I’d bet that politically-minded people will be paying more attention to Chuy (for those who are clueless, it’s a common Spanish nickname for people who were named after the Son of God) and anything he says more than anything that comes from the mouth of the “Mighty” Quinn.

For Lewis was planning to use her organization with the teachers union as the base of any campaign she could have run against Emanuel. There also are several other people in the union who are planning to run for aldermanic seats.

IT COULD HAVE become sort of like a political slate that could have created a “Mayor Lewis” some allies in the City Council.

Is Garcia capable of stepping into the vacuum created by Lewis’ departure from the upcoming election cycle to create a campaign momentum for himself? We could get our first clues Friday night!

Now whether it will happen is something we’ll have to see.

I noticed the Capitol Fax newsletter out of Springfield pointed out that Garcia isn’t exactly the most stellar of fundraisers for his political efforts. Lewis herself likely would have been vastly outspent by any Emanuel campaign.

THE SAME IS definitely bound to happen for any political bid that Garcia puts up. He won’t have enough money to be competitive, and could easily get defined by Emanuel as someone not up to the job. Because there are those who will want to believe that no Latino politico truly has the kind of experience to challenge for leadership of the city of Chicago.

I noticed that the Chicago Tribune, in reporting earlier this week on Garcia’s entry into the mayoral campaign, made a point of referring to him in the lede of their story as a “little known” politician.

Despite his political experience dating back to the days of Harold Washington as mayor and his experience in being dumped from the Illinois Senate because then-Mayor Richard M. Daley preferred the idea of a more subservient Latino in a Chicago-based legislative seat.

In the county board, he has been a constant supporter of board President Toni Preckwinkle – who is the person that some people would like to see replace Lewis as a mayoral challenger.

WHAT IF PRECKWINKLE were to wind up giving her backing (even in some discrete form, such as refusing to do anything positive for Emanuel) to a Garcia bid.

Between that and the teachers union backing, it could turn him into a credible challenger. Without it, he could be the guy who gets his butt whomped by 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti!

We’ll see soon enough which scenario is more likely to happen.


EDITOR'S NOTE: I couldn't help but add the notice issued by the teachers union Friday afternoon that Karen Lewis herself will be present at the event. How nice for Garcia if he can get a campaign photograph of himself arm-in-arm with Lewis. It would be worth more than any financial contribution.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Have gift cards replaced turkeys as 21st Century preference for buying a vote?

It’s one of the oldest tactics for political people representing less-than-middle-class voters to try to get their electoral support – an aldermanic “gift” whose appreciation is expected to be repaid in the future with a “vote.”

Oftentimes, that gift was a turkey or something else that could be the main course for an upcoming holiday meal. To this day, there are political people who make a point of getting turkeys they can give away to their constituents – in hopes that they get the public recognition of their “generosity.”

SO HAVE ALL those political people been behaving in a criminal manner?

Perhaps, if we’re to take the outrage being expressed against 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston these days, it is.

For Hairston is the alderman who WFLD-TV reports tried encouraging people to show up to vote for the upcoming Election Day by offering up raffle tickets – the prizes for which included gift cards to area businesses.

For all we know, some of those tickets could have been used at area grocery stores to buy items for the holiday meal (Thanksgiving isn’t that far off in the future).

ALTHOUGH THE RAFFLE is on hold, and probably now won’t happen because of the negative publicity Hairston would get – the exact opposite of her intentions.

She tried using a Facebook page promoting herself to tell people how she’d give them a raffle ticket if they showed up at the polling place. WIN A PRIZE FOR YOUR VOTE!!!!! was the theme she was trying to push.

She seems to have thought it would be perceived as Hairston trying to encourage people to do their civic duty and vote on Election Day.

Instead, it seems that people of a certain mindset took it as something amounting to a bribe – as if the raffle ticket was a bribe (or is that BRIBE!!!?!) in exchange for a vote.

ALTHOUGH IT SHOULD be noted that nowhere in the raffle announcement on Facebook were people being told exactly how they should vote. I’m presuming that Hairston figured people living in the South Side’s fifth ward would have enough sense to disregard any consideration for candidates who have an “R” associated with their names.

But the fact that she didn’t try to specifically sway someone to vote for a particular candidate may be the reason she evades some sort of criminal prosecution – although the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday that the Cook County state’s attorney’s office is looking into the whole matter.

The state election code is going to be up for interpretation in coming weeks.

Personally, I’m not bothered as much by her raffle tickets to encourage voting as I am by her attitude since then. When the matter became public, Hairston took the raffle ticket offer off her Facebook page.

IT SEEMS TO be invalid now. And Hairston is telling reporter-type people that she doesn’t want to talk about the issue any more. As though she can make it go away just because she stopped doing it before any serious damage may, or may not, have been done.

Even though I’m fairly sure that law enforcement types aren’t going to be too concerned about the after-effect. It’s the initial act itself that will get them all worked up.

So we’ll have to see in coming months if the state’s attorney winds up concluding that this matter is worth the time, effort and cost it would take to prosecute someone for the act.

Although I’d wonder if the real “offense” is that an alderman thought she could “buy off” votes for the cost of a Walgreen’s gift card. Which shows as little respect for the voter (how cheaply they can be bought) as the turkey-bearing politicos of old.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How would venture capitalist treat Illinois like a business? Probably by selling us off to surrounding states

I’m among those people who are skeptical of business executives who think they can run for elective office on a promise to run government more efficiently just like they do their business interests.

Hence, I was never inclined to take seriously the talk of Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner, the venture capitalist, whose wife on Tuesday was in a new campaign ad saying her husband, “will make the tough decisions to create jobs and bring back Illinois.”

I DON’T BUY it. Not for a moment. Particularly because Rauner’s fortune (the one that has enabled him to spend more than two dozen millions of dollars on his own campaign to ensure everybody knows who he is) was made in the business of buying up companies, shaving them down to size to bleed off excess assets, then selling the end result to someone else for a profit.

These aren’t the kind of business executives who know a thing about the products their companies produce, or the services they provide.

It is how Rauner can say with a straight face that he’s not really responsible for any of the harm caused to elderly people who resided in the nursing homes his firm once owned – reportedly because the owners were more interested in cutting costs than in caring for their residents.

Now I’m aware that some people could care less about this aspect.

OTHERS ARE IDEOLOGICALLY inclined to want to favor those business executives, figuring that their financial well-being is somehow more important to our society as a whole than those of the individual working stiffs who comprise the bulk of us.

It’s one of those points on which we’ll “agree to disagree,” and come Tuesday evening, we’re going to see whether those people comprise a majority.

At least a majority of those who bother to cast ballots. Because way too many of us are too apathetic to take the time to vote – which I think means they deserve whatever malfeasance falls upon them because of our elected officials.

The rest of us are going to take a stance, and it won’t be limited to just this election cycle.

THERE ALREADY ARE people who are starting to trash 2016 presidential dreamer Hillary R. Clinton, who last week in Massachusetts made a comment that would appear to put her on the opposite side of people like Rauner.

She talked about how business interests are in business to make a profit – and not to create jobs.

“Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs,” Clinton said. “You know that old theory, trickledown economics. That has been tried, that has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly.”

Which is heresy to all those individuals who want to think of the legacy of President Ronald Reagan as being second only to the New Testament in terms of holier-than-thou scripture that must never be questioned by any “right-thinking real American.”

I’M SURE THE people who are now all eager to see Rauner become Illinois’ new governor are the same ones who will find multiple ways to trash Clinton should she decide to run for president come the 2016 election cycle.

Personally, I have always seen business-oriented types as being more interested in controlling costs. Actually having to operate a business, or try to expand one, is something that is too difficult for many of them to comprehend.

Which is why I wonder how would a “Gov. Rauner” truly try to operate Illinois? I suspect open defiance of the legislative branch would be one step – creating something uglier than the Blagojevich/General Assembly ties.

But if he really followed the ‘venture capitalist’ mentality to the letter, we’d get a state government slashed to the bone, with several essential services deleted entirely.

THEN PERHAPS WE’D see the state hacked to pieces – allowing Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky to expand symbolically.

So much for Rauner’s statement in his Tuesday ad spot that he “just want(s) to save our state." Perhaps he should start by teaching his campaign employees to lose the ketchup bottle whenever they're in the presence of a hot dog (or anything else, for that matter).


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

10, 9, 8, 7 …

We have one week go to before Election Day, and yes, I do feel like I’m sitting in a seat atop a rocket of old, with the countdown going into the final seconds before blastoff that will signal the beginning of a new era of government.

So to speak!

THESE FINAL SEVEN days will literally be a countdown for many of us who would like to see this election cycle with all its inherent nonsense come to an end.

But I’m wondering if we’re really going to see a sudden end to the silliness come Nov. 4. We’ve been hearing the reports of tales of voting machines that somehow are malfunctioning in ways that turn all ballots cast into votes for Democratic Party candidates.

There also have been reports of how Republican operatives and their attorneys already are preparing for the areas where they suspect there might be grounds for legal challenges – so they can swoop in first thing Nov. 5 to file lawsuits challenging the elections results.

Are we going to get an Illinois encore to the electoral nonsense of the 2000 campaign cycle?

NONE OF US will ever forget how we didn’t learn until early December that George W. Bush had managed to hold on to an electoral college lead in Florida that gave him a presidential victory – even though it was undisputable that a majority of voters nationwide wanted Al Gore to be president.

It wouldn’t be exactly the same in Illinois since we pick governors and other statewide office holders by popular vote. But based on the temperament he has displayed thus far, I would fully expect Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner to be the kind of guy who would refuse to concede no matter what the facts are.

And to challenge in court to the bitter end, no matter what the public sentiment will be.

Now I’m not claiming Democratic government officials aren’t capable of the same thing. Let’s note that Gov. Pat Quinn himself in 2010 went out of his way to declare victory in both the primary and general elections – so as to create the early impression that he was the winner and that any late-night changes were some sort of plot to deprive him of office.

BUT IT’S SOMETHING about the tone with which Rauner used to constantly tell Quinn face-to-face during debates that he was going to lose. I believe Rauner will find it beyond belief that someone willing to spend so many millions of his own money could possibly come in second place on Election Day.

I couldn’t help but notice the Illinois Republican Party statement issued Monday concerning problems with absentee ballots cast in Rock Island County.

“The Illinois GOP will continue to monitor this process to ensure full transparency and fairness in absentee voting,” said party Chairman Tim Schneider “We remain deeply concerned by reports of early voting machines calibrated in a way that switches people’s votes from Republican to Democrat – similar to reports out of Cook County just last week.”

Already trying to plant thoughts in our heads that somehow, the election tallies we’ll learn a week from Tuesday are not to be believed.

ALTHOUGH I WONDER if part of the motivation is the fact that the Cook County clerk’s office said Monday that nearly 50,000 people had used early voting centers last week to cast ballots.

At that rate, suburban Cook County will far exceed the 83,871 votes cast at early voting centers in the 2010 general election cycle – the one where suburban Cook and Chicago proper put together so many votes for Quinn that he beat Republican challenger (and rural Illinois preference) William Brady.

And yes, two of the top five early voting centers in terms of the number of ballots cast (in Orland Park and in Matteson) are likely to produce overwhelming majorities of votes for Democratic candidates.

That may well explain why it took Rauner until Monday afternoon before he made his first south suburban campaign appearance – at the Metra commuter train station in Flossmoor.

HE NEEDS TO spend his time building up large vote margins in other parts of Illinois so he can be close enough that a post-Election Day legal operation could be enough to put him over the top; if need be.

While Quinn engages in e-mail binges – such as his Monday message letting us know we need to be on “the right side of history” when it comes to support for a minimum-wage increase.

So that the governor would have such a large voter margin that a lawsuit challenging election results would be seen as an act of desperation.

And the rest of us can parachute down from atop that electoral rocket and return peacefully to our usual routines.


Monday, October 27, 2014

EXTRA: Will Jesus get chance to save Chicago? How about Mayor Kane?

Mayor Jesus “Chuy” Garcia?

I’m not sure it’s really feasible to think of the former alderman, state senator and current Cook County Board member as a serious candidate for mayor in the 2015 municipal elections. But both WTTW-TV and the Chicago Sun-Times reported Monday about how Garcia is contemplating a run for mayor come February.

WE’RE PROBABLY GOING to get a lot of people putting themselves forward for mayor between now and the date just before Thanksgiving when candidates must submit their nominating petitions to get themselves on the ballot come Feb. 24.

For those who don’t pay attention, Garcia was an ally to Harold Washington back when he was mayor, and the Mexico-born politico became the first Mexican-American in the Illinois Legislature.

Only to lose out when operatives for then-Mayor Richard M. Daley managed to beat him out of his Statehouse post. He became a part of electoral politics again in 2010 when he won election to the county board.

Following one term in that post, it seems he now wants to consider moving to the other side of the City Hall/County Building – the big post on the fifth floor just down the hall from the floor where county President Toni Preckwinkle and the board itself does its business.

IT DOESN’T SURPRISE me that Garcia thinks he has a chance to be the opposition candidate to Mayor Rahm Emanuel – who has many people hoping they can defeat him come next year when he seeks re-election. He probably dreams that the Latino vote can be a large-enough base to kick off a campaign with.

Consider that in the 2011 municipal elections, Emanuel only got about 30 percent of the Latino vote. A majority preferred the idea of a Latino running City Hall back then.

The only problem, insofar as those with an interest in increased Latino political empowerment is concerned, is that there were two Latino candidates. Former school board head Gery Chico took about two-thirds of the Latino vote, while former city Clerk Miguel del Valle took the other third.

Together, a majority of Latinos voted for a Latino.

AND THIS TIME around, at least thus far, there isn’t two serious Latino officials seeking to run for mayor.

I’m just not sure as of yet that the Latino electorate (Latinos account for just over one quarter of Chicago’s population) is enough by itself to propel Chuy to Hizzoner’s office.

Although maybe he could beat out 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti to finish second and possibly be in a runoff election to be held April 7 – if no one can win a clear-cut majority for mayor in February.

We’ll have to wait to see what happens with Garcia. He certainly wouldn’t be the most incompetent person who ever ran for political office on the Chicago or Illinois scenes?

ALTHOUGH IF WE’RE going to fantasize, I couldn’t help but notice on Monday that actor Kelsey Grammer released a broadcast spot touting the Crime Victims Bill of Rights amendment that is on the ballot for Nov. 4.

Many remember Gramner for his “Frasier Crane” role in “Cheers” and “Frasier.” Although a part of me is going to forever remember him as the cold-hearted bastard of a political official who ran our very government in “Boss.”

“Mayor Tom Kane” taking on “Mayor Rahm Emanuel” for the right to head what’s left of the Chicago political “machine.” That would put the fright into just about anybody with sense.

At least with a “Mayor Kane,” we could honestly admit our mayor was losing his mind. Who knows what Emanuel’s excuse is for some of his most offensive actions?


Who’s having the last laugh?

We’re possibly only a day away from the end of the World Series, and yet the focus of the baseball world (at least those who are narrow-centric enough to believe the Chicago Cubs are all that matters) already has shifted from who will become the professional baseball champions for 2014.

For the speculation already has gone to who will wind up managing the Cubs for the next few seasons – the ones that the die-hards are convinced will produce the long-awaited championship that everybody EXCEPT the Cubs seems capable of winning.

ALL OF THIS talk started up when Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon used an escape clause to get out of his contract. Maddon has led the previously-feeble Rays to winning records in recent years AND an American League championship in 2007.

Which has the baseball world thinking he can probably pick whichever ball club he wants to work for as a next job. Cubs-oriented people are convinced he’s going to want to come to Chicago.

Even though the Cubs went out of their way to fire their former manager and hire someone new just a year ago. Anybody remember Rick Renteria – who supposedly was a wisened baseball man with the ability to relate to young talent in a way that he’d develop the Cubs prospects into a championship team?!?

He might as well be just another interim manager; just waiting for the players to develop so the Cubs can bring in someone experienced for the possible Cubs championship in 2016 or 2017.

WHICH IS A line of thought that makes me all the more skeptical that the Cubs will ever amount to anything in the next few seasons.

Impulse shopping when it comes to personnel is a large part of what can bring down a professional sports franchise. Heck, the New York Yankees have some convinced they’re not going to win a thing in the near future because they’re still stuck with past-their-prime ball players who are making big-name money so that they can’t easily be unloaded.

I’m not convinced Maddon is actually coming to Chicago. Even if he does wind up working in the Lake View neighborhood, I’m not convinced he is enough to ensure that a Cubs team would actually win something of significance.

I’m Cubskeptical because I have seen throughout the decades that I have followed baseball that prospects don’t always pan out the way their minor league statistics and scouting reports hint they ought to.

CUBS FANS OUGHT to feel lucky if one of their so-called blue chip prospects turns into a long-term regular ballplayer for the ball club. The fact that Cubs management is putting so much emphasis on prospects makes me think nothing will happen.

Particularly since the major league level activity we have seen thus far hasn’t been that outstanding. Let’s be honest. The best rookie ballplayer for a Chicago team in this decade likely is to be Jose Abreu – the Cuban defector whose 2014 season with the Chicago White Sox was good enough to win him Rookie of the Year honors.

I’m not saying the White Sox are anywhere near to winning a championship. But I’d have to think they’re closer than the Cubs – even though both of them had mediocre 73-win seasons this year.

I’d hate to be in Renteria’s position these days, where his fate depends on factors and whims that are so far beyond his control.

BUT IT MAKES me wonder if the last laugh is now going to the man who once was the Cubs manager until the team decided that Renteria was the real long-term choice.

That would be Dale Sveum – who led Cubs teams to truly dreadful losing seasons in 2012 and 2013 before being fired.

He’s now the hitting coach with the Kansas City Royals, whose staff also includes one-time White Sox player Rusty Kuntz (middle-age White Sox fans are now giggling) as first base coach – who if circumstances go right could both be with a World Series-winning team by week’s end.

The so-called loser who was too inept to work for the Cubs could have a World Series ring (if the Royals prevail on Tuesday and Wednesday) long before anybody wearing the baby blue of Cubdom does.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

For people who believe that bipartisan politics means, “Do it my way!’

There are those people who watched the debate earlier this week between Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Republican challenger James Oberweis who think the key moment related to Oberweis saying he’d support gay marriage.

He didn’t actually say that (he said he realizes the political fight is over, and that his side lost). But to me, the key moment came at several points during the event when Oberweis stressed the significance of political bipartisanship.

WHICH BY HIS definition means people should cast their ballots for him against Durbin, and should also shift control of the U.S. Senate to the Republicans, while keeping control of the House of Representatives with the GOP as well.

Because, he explained, Republicans would then be able to push their ideological agenda without Democratic resistance. Then, President Barack Obama would have to legitimately negotiate with Republican interests on issues of significance, instead of being able to ignore issues because a Republican House passed something and a Democratic Senate rejected it before it could get to a president for consideration.

I find it interesting to hear someone say that bipartisanship means putting Republicans entirely in control of Congress.

Because it really reinforces in my mind the concept that the modern-day Republican isn’t capable of governing a thing unless the process is rigged in their favor. “Bipartisan” is the ultimate dirty word (or maybe just as filthy-minded as “progressive” or “liberal”) to these people.

I ALWAYS THOUGHT the ideal situation was to have a legislative branch of government that is split between the political parties, with the head of the executive branch being the tie-breaker, of sorts, for the balance of power.

Which is what makes “president” or “governor” to be the ultimate political prize.

Oberweis, obviously, disagrees. Then again, the only political office he’s ever been able to win is a state senate seat from his Sugar Grove home town where he is in the minority party. It doesn’t exactly give him much in the way of influence.

So this is all about Oberweis wanting to be a part of a political caucus that actually has influence. There’s nothing more insignificant than a freshman member of the minority party – which Oberweis has been in Springfield, Ill., for the past two years.

MY OWN IDEOLOGICAL leanings were heavily influenced two decades ago – the November 1994 election cycle saw Republicans take just about everything in state and federal government.

Chicago the city proper kept its Democratic officials, but everybody else went for Republicans that year. It resulted in Springfield in a two-year period (1995-96) where the GOP ran everything – and Madigan was reduced to “minority leader” who was blatantly ignored.

During that time, Chicago interests were made so secondary. The city was blatantly snubbed on so many occasions. It’s no wonder to me that city voters cast ballots for Democratic candidates so overwhelmingly. The current election cycle really is urban versus rural more than Democrat versus Republican.

It was the large part of why, when I cast my ballot Friday at an early voting center, I wound up backing Gov. Pat Quinn for re-election. And even Sheila Simon for state Comptroller – even though I’m not convinced she can beat incumbent Judy Baar Topinka of suburban North Riverside.

BUT BACK TO Oberweis, who has dreams of going to Washington, D.C., as part of a majority caucus of GOPers who will push their ideological agenda through the nation.

Instead, we’re likely to keep Durbin (whom I’ll admit I also cast a ballot for on Friday), with the real question being whether enough other states will feel compelled to dump Democratic incumbents for Republican insurgents to make Capitol Hill a GOP bastion – and give Obama serious headaches for the two remaining years of his presidency.

And Oberweis can remain on the Springfield scene for two more years in the minority party!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Do celebrity backings mean much to pols? Or just to their wallets?

Long-time women’s activist Gloria Steinem plans to be in Chicago on Friday to throw her backing to Gov. Pat Quinn in his bid to get one more term in elective office.

Which might seem to be a bigger deal, except that Quinn has been going hog-wild in recent days on the appearances by celebrity pols and activists to try to draw attention to his campaign.

WE GOT TO see President Barack Obama earlier this week in town for Quinn, although the president seemed to have got more attention for the incident at an early polling place when some guy told him to keep his hands off his girlfriend – who happened to be in the voting booth right next to the president.

Both former President Bill Clinton and possible future president Hillary R. Clinton have been in town to tell us we should vote for Pat come Nov. 4.

Vice President Joe Biden (who deep down has to be miffed that he’s NOT regarded as the automatic front-runner for president come the 2016 election cycle) was in Chicago to be seen with the “Mighty” Quinn.

And now Steinem, who according to the Chicago Sun-Times will be hosting a rally to sway female voters and a fundraiser to collect campaign cash for Quinn.

ALTHOUGH I’M WONDERING if she’s going to get more attention for the fact if she actually shows up for this event.

Let’s not forget that she was supposed to be in Chicago in late September to tout Pat Quinn – only it turned out to be the same day of the incident at the FAA facility in suburban Aurora that knocked both O’Hare International and Midway airports out of commission.

If Gloria Steinem can’t get a flight to Chicago on Friday for some yet-to-be-known reason, should we take it as a sign from the heavens above that she is not meant to be as a backer of the Quinn campaign?

That’s a lot of heavy-duty names to show up in Chicago in such a short time span. Perhaps actor Martin Sheen should have held off a bit longer so he could have been squeezed into this week.

JUST THINK OF how much of a hissy fit Republican gubernatorial challenger Bruce Rauner could have if all those people had touted Pat Quinn during a seven-day span of time? Then again, he’s managed to throw enough hissy fits about Quinn just the way things are.

Perhaps Rauner wishes he could get his share of “names” to come out and say how wonderful he is. Unless he’s satisfied that newspaper publishers, a usually GOP-leaning group, are all uniting in support of him. Ho-hum!

What has me wondering about these appearances is that I question how much they really work? And I don’t mean just these particular individuals. Do any “celebrity” offerings really make much of an impression on the electorate?

I’ll be the first to admit that they enable the candidates to justify charging ridiculous sums of money for people to attend the fund-raising events that all of these stunts were.

WHICH MEANS THEY have helped Pat Quinn come up with the kind of cash that almost lets him keep up with the tens of millions of dollars of his own financial wealth that Rauner has been able to spend on his attempt to gain a political office.

Be honest. Do you know anyone who seriously would pay the thousands of dollars per plate to attend one of these events? Insofar as the average voter is concerned, what matters is the television footage of the candidate with the so-called “name.”

It creates a trivial impression that perhaps these people really have some contacts with each other. Even though I have found in my own contact with political people that they usually detest each other privately and will say some of the most mean-spirited things about each other when they think no one else is listening!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dozen more days of anti-Quinn rhetoric

You know we’re coming close to an Election Day when the hostile rhetoric gets stepped up; I was swamped in all the cheap talk being spewed these days to make Gov. Pat Quinn into the most corrupt of political individuals imaginable.

I lost track of the number of e-mail messages I got before noon Wednesday taking pot shots at Quinn and trying to make it appear as though Republican challenger Bruce Rauner is our state’s savior.

NOW THE FACTUAL basis that inspired most of this trash talk is that U.S. Magistrate judge Sidney Schenkier issued an order that provides for a monitor to oversee the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Political partisans are claiming that the hiring process for that state agency has been politically motivated by the opposition – as in people getting jobs there because they’re owed a political favor, rather than being actually qualified for whatever position they’re applying for.

The judge’s order provides for someone who will study the hiring practices and who eventually will determine whether there’s any legitimacy to the claim, while also imposing any changes that might be required if problems are found.

That conclusion won’t come until well after the Nov. 4 date for Election Day. But for political purposes, it doesn’t matter – not that there’s no hard fact, nor that it may be concluded that nothing inappropriate is taking place.

PERSONALLY, I RECEIVED two e-mail messages from the Rauner campaign – one giving a statement from the candidate to be quoted in news copy. That line about, “A federal judge just confirmed what we’ve known all along – Pat Quinn is corrupt …” and so on.

Then, when the Chicago Tribune managed to quickly piece together a news story Wednesday morning for their web site about the Schenkier ruling (which included Rauner’s ‘response’ at the very end), the Rauner campaign made sure to send a statement pointing out the news story.

Which I had already read on my own. I read the newspapers myself, rather than let others read them for me.

There also was the Illinois Republican Party-issued statement meant to make sure that reporter-type people found out about this particular news happening, and perceived it in the GOP way of the world. Even the Republican Governor's Association felt compelled to e-mail me to make sure I "knew" what was happening.

THAT WAS ON top of the other state Republican statement I got Wednesday morning, letting me know that Quinn would not be present at a Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., campaign event that will highlight Vice President Joe Biden.

Under the headline Brad Schneider to Pat Quinn, Stay Away!, it is meant to give us the impression that nobody wants to be seen in the incumbent governor’s

presence. Just like national Republicans want to believe that Barack Obama is the perennial pariah who takes down everything he touches.

Now I don’t doubt that some people really do feel that way. But whether they’re a majority of the electorate remains to be seen. Let’s not forget that Obama handily won two election cycles for president, despite some of the most hostile rhetoric any candidate has ever faced.

I’m also aware that it is naïve to presume there hasn’t been any political influence in the hiring practices that relate to the state Transportation Department. It probably is to our benefit that we will have a monitor.

BUT I AM influenced by the fact that governments routinely get lawsuits filed against them, are constantly the butt of complaints and have legal entities doing investigations of sorts on any number of issues.

It doesn’t mean they’re all legitimate. In fact, many number of them are politically motivated in-and-of themselves to stir up reactions that people can use to their own advantage.

Truth is usually the last thing that anybody really cares about in these instances – particularly when the claims are being made just 12 days prior to Election Day.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rauner’s Neely talk not as first seems

Thinking back to college, I recall a Spanish class where we had to read a novel en Espanol – a murder mystery entitled Rosaura a las Diez.

As I recall, the story is of a murder that took place in a boardinghouse, and the police are present interviewing everyone who happened to be in the building at the time.

IT STARTED OUT with the account of a long-time resident who talked of how the love of his life had been brutally murdered. But later accounts revealed that the deceased woman barely knew the man – and was far from being his lover.

The man wound up being cleared of the crime, but in a way that made him seem cheap and petty and far from the romantic he described himself to be.

I couldn’t help but sense the same about Bruce Rauner, the Republican running for Illinois governor in the Nov. 4 elections. He’s the man who seems to want us to think that African-American voters just love him. Or at least that they absolutely despise Gov. Pat Quinn so much that they’ll vote for him 13 days from now.

Rauner is the guy who recycled the old news footage of former Mayor Harold Washington explaining why he fired Quinn from a post with the city revenue department some three decades ago.

NOW, HE’S GOING on and on talking about how he plans to make Stephanie Neely a significant part of his administration – should he happen to prevail in the upcoming state government elections.

He threw that barb in against Quinn during the Monday night debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters, along with an allegation that Quinn snubbed African-American voters when he passed on Neely for lieutenant governor and chose one-time Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas instead.

Excuse the chuckle I had to suppress Tuesday when I saw the Chicago Tribune report that Neely says she barely knows Rauner, and certainly hasn’t been offered any kind of job or appointed position within state government.

Should we start calling Neely “Rosaura?”

WHAT GAVE THIS particular tale some sense of truthfulness is the stories that have appeared in recent days about how Neely is resigning her elected office as of the end of November. She wants to take a position in the private sector, or so she says.

It’s not likely that Neely would be able to afford the pay cut she would have to take to go back into government at the state level. Unless Rauner thinks everyone in government ought to be independently wealthy enough to afford to comply with the promise he has made for himself – that he won’t take a state salary or pension benefits.

He’s not likely to be able to claim Neely as a trophy to gain votes from the African-American segment of the electorate. Just as I don’t think his use of old quotes from Harold Washington are going to mean much.

Way too many adult voters now weren’t alive back in those Council Wars days, or they weren’t paying much attention to what was happening at City Hall.

NOW I DON’T doubt there are some black people who will vote for Rauner (actually, against Quinn). There’s always a few.

I have spoken with a few African-American Republican-types who contend there is some anger among black people that the whole gay marriage issue was pursued in Illinois by Democrats, and that black legislators wound up being forced to go along with the party rather than the views of their local pastors who were opposed to the idea.

But considering that even Rauner during Monday night’s debate was forced to admit there’s nothing that seriously can be done to repeal marriage for gay couples in Illinois, are those few voters really going to be enough to bolster Bruce’s vote totals?

The end result is either going to be that Rauner gets elected with homophobic-leaning votes (although he’ll never admit it), or that he’s going to wind up being like the boardinghouse resident who was forced to admit his “love” wasn’t legitimate.