Tuesday, March 31, 2015

EXTRA: Are gangs a worthy question?

Mayoral hopeful Jesus Garcia got hit with a question during the final debate held Tuesday that I’m sure he thinks was a personal attack – is his son, Samuel, still a member of a street gang?

WTTW-TV news person (and debate moderator) Phil Ponce came up with the question for Garcia, citing Chicago Sun-Times reports indicating his repeated arrests (although Garcia says his son’s criminal record amounts to two misdemeanor convictions).

FOR HIS PART, Mayor Rahm Emanuel quickly came in and said he thought such questions were inappropriate – although I suspect it was less about Emanuel feeling sympathy for Chuy and more about realizing the damage was done by the question. Rahm didn’t need to “pile on,” so to speak.

I actually found part of Garcia’s answer to be intriguing; and could be an issue that people debate for many years – the part where he said the reason he remained devoted to the Little Village neighborhood where he has lived for the bulk of his life is because of the problems caused by gangs.

He said he and his wife are so devoted to making Little Village (and neighboring Pilsen) better that they weren’t going to flee to somewhere else, just because of the gang influence.

Does that make the bulk of us who deliberately seek out places where we can ignore such problems (or pretend that they only exist somewhere else, and never near us) some sort of wimp?

AS THOUGH WE are the cause of the problem refusing to go away because we try to ignore it?

There was one part of Garcia’s answer that comes across as so true – the fact that the gang influence can be so strong that many young people feel they have no choice BUT to pick a side, so to speak.

As though trying to remain above it all merely means that everybody in the community would single them out for abuse – rather than having somebody who might watch their back.

I’m not defending gang life, by any means. But I’m also aware that many of us try to think of it in such an overly simplistic way (“The Warriors” isn’t a documentary by any means) because we really don’t want to have to think about it at all.

SO IS GARCIA nothing more than the father of a “gangbanger” who couldn’t even control his own son, let alone be capable of doing anything to resolve the problem city-wide?

Or is he someone who may have a more realistic view of the problem, and for what it seems has a son who appears to have got away from the gang life (and now works as a chef, according to his father).

It certainly is a more interesting issue than Emanuel’s repeated claims during the debate (the final one prior to Election Day seven days away) that, “I didn’t cause the recession.”

A claim that was barely amusing the first time Rahm said it, yet which he kept getting laughs from the debate audience every time he opened his mouth.


Wounded war vet; or “Rod Blagojevich protégé?” It’s gonna be ever so ugly!

One thing is for sure – the 2016 campaign for U.S. Senate from Illinois is going to be an ugly campaign from Day One.

Which literally was Monday; Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., wants to go from representing the far west suburbs in Congress to representing the entirety of Illinois in the Senate.

SHE MADE THE announcement that she will take on Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who is seeking re-election to a second term following a lengthy stint representing the North Shore suburbs in the House of Representatives.

I was aware that she had an announcement stunt planned, yet still have to admit to being caught up by the spin being put on the event by the various sides in this upcoming election cycle.

We haven’t even chosen a new mayor (or a sequel to the old mayor) yet, but already we’re being asked to get into the heat of things for 2016 in what could turn out to be the nastiest campaign that will take place in Illinois (we’re just not going to care as much about president this time around since we won’t have a ‘favorite son’ to root for, or against).

As expected, Duckworth kicked off her campaign by reminding us of her military service and the fact that she was a helicopter pilot who suffered severe injuries that cost her a leg. “Ten years ago, I nearly lost my life when an RPG tore through the cockpit of my Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq,” was how her campaign statement begins.

NOTHING NEGATIVE TO say yet about Kirk (who suffered a stroke shortly after getting elected to his current term in the Senate).

Although Duckworth did say in her introductory statement, “We deserve elected officials who will do for our fellow Americans what my crew did for me in Iraq; look out for our hardest hit and most vulnerable, work together for the sake of our mission and refuse to give up until the job is done.”

I’m not sure if she’s just saying that she’s a tough broad, or that Kirk is somehow less than capable. I’m sure there will be countless future statements and actions that will further elaborate on what we’re supposed to think of Kirk – who served for many years himself in the Naval Reserve.

Yet the Republican opposition that is determined to keep the Illinois post in the GOP column for partisan purposes has its own share of shots it will take at Duckworth, starting with the first three words of the statement issued by Illinois Republican Chairman Timothy Schneider in response to Tammy.


Literally, we’re told that Duckworth, “is not the kind of partisan politician Illinois families want to represent them in the United States Senate.” For she’s allegedly the, “extreme wing of the Democratic Party,” according to the party hacks.

Aside from reminding us of the Blagojevich tie – which was that she served as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs for three years back when Rod responded to the title of “governor” rather than “inmate” – we’re also told that Tammy voted “92 percent” in line with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Although considering how often rank-and-file members of Congress vote along with their respective party leaders, I’d wonder if the truth is more that she differed from Pelosi some 8 percent of the time!

IT’S ALL POLITICAL trash talk. None of it should be taken too literally.

Particularly since in my case, the statement from Schneider showed up in my e-mail box some 40 minutes before I got the Duckworth statement telling me she was running. Tammy was slow on the draw, it seems.

It wouldn’t have mattered what she said or did; the key was to get the names “Blagojevich” and “Pelosi” into the political discourse. Just as Duckworth wanted to remind us of her personal tale – which offends the conservative ideologues who want to believe anyone with military experience is naturally a Republican.

“How dare she be a Democrat!?!,” is what the GOPers think. Just as da Dem partisans are sputtering with disgust at the mention yet again of Blagojevich. And the rest of us will stock up on Tylenol for the statewide headache we’re going to experience between now and Nov. 8, 2016.


Monday, March 30, 2015

EXTRA: And people wonder why I’m skeptical in thinking the Chicago Cubs are going to win anything anytime soon

From a baseball business perspective, the demotion of Kris Bryant from the Chicago Cubs to a minor league roster isn’t a surprise.

Despite the fact that he’s having a terrific spring (.425 batting average and nine home runs during March), Bryant was reassigned to minor league camp, and likely will play the bulk of this season with the Iowa Cubs.

CUBS MANAGEMENT HAD been forthright in saying that it didn’t matter how good a spring training Bryant had – he wasn’t going to be with the Cubs when they start the season against the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend.

It’s about the fact that major league rules allow ball clubs to have control over players for six full seasons before they can try to become free agents (which gives them the chance at the big-money contracts they dream of).

By not having their top minor league prospect on the major league team at season’s start, it will mean Bryant’s six-year countdown won’t begin until next year. From a business perspective, the ball clubs view it as essential. Heck, the Chicago White Sox routinely pull such moves so as to delay the amount of time that must pass (two seasons) before a ballplayer can be eligible for salary arbitration.

So the fact that the Major League Baseball Player’s Association is upset and is threatening legal action to force Bryant into the major leagues isn’t going to mean much.

IT’S THE CUBS putting business ahead of the on-field product. Which is something they have done for so many decades that it’s no wonder the team hasn’t won a championship of any kind since, in the words of troubadour Steve Goodman, “the year we dropped the bomb on Japan.”

But this is an era in which we have been hearing countless rhetoric about how talented the Cubs franchise is because of all the top baseball prospects the organization has. The most insufferable of Cubs fans would have you think the team is already of championship caliber.

Maybe Bryant is destined to be the star who leads the team to the championship that eluded Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg and Sammy Sosa – to name just a few.

Or maybe he’s the guy who will give Des Moines baseball fans a few kicks because the (alleged) major league-level Cubs are more interested in denying Bryant a financial payday that – if he really is as good a ball player as is claimed – he will get someday.

PERHAPS FROM ANOTHER ball club that he chooses to go to after seeing the Cubs organization for the third-rate outfit they historically have been.

Which could make the big baseball story for 2015 whether or not Jose Abreu (the American League rookie of the year) is capable of having another season resembling his star-studded effort of ’14.


Kentucky vs. Rahm – whose “victory” was likely more predictable?

Which storyline is more likely to be remembered for time to come – the near victory of Notre Dame over Kentucky in the NCAA men’s basketball tourney or the possibility that next week, mayoral challenger Jesus Garcia will come close to beating up on Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Election Day.

I say possibility because we don’t know for sure at this time how Emanuel will do come April 7. Will his political operation turn so many people off to the concept of “Mayor Chuy” that they turn out to vote for Rahm?

OR CAN GARCIA pull off a political upset that would likely be a bigger story than when Harold Washington managed to win the mayoral elections back in 1983?

My gut feeling says it won’t happen, and we’re likely to get “Four more years!” of “Mayor Emanuel,” just like in the end it was totally predictable that Kentucky (the number 1-ranked school in the tourney) beat the Fighting Irish squad that some people want to believe had no business being on the court Saturday night against the Wildcats.

But if Notre Dame had managed to hold on to the lead they had in the second half, or for that matter had not managed to let Kentucky take the lead with just a few seconds left (it was 66-66) – you just know there are Fighting Irish sports fans who will dream forevermore about “What could have been” if Notre Dame had won, and advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Division I tournament.

Somehow, I suspect that following next week’s Election Day, Garcia will slink back to his post on the Cook County Board (his current term runs through 2018) and only the hardest-core of political geeks will bother to remember his mayoral bid.

PART OF WHAT discourages me about the idea of a Garcia bid succeeding – even though I don’t doubt the sincerity of the segment of Chicago’s population that absolutely detests Emanuel – is the sight of 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti feeling the need to endorse Hizzoner.

This comes following four years of Fioretti being the most outspoken critic of Emanuel on the City Council. This man spent the past four years finding just about every excuse he could think of to trash Emanuel’s professional reputation.

But the thought of Garcia as mayor supposedly is what it takes to make Fioretti think twice about Rahm and come to the conclusion that maybe he’s “ready and able to take on the tough financial challenges this city faces.”

It plays off the idea that, somehow, Garcia just isn’t capable of overseeing municipal government. Even though he is a former alderman (just like Fioretti) and, state senator, along with current county board member, none of those three decades of public service have taught him much of anything.

NOW I’M NOT going to come out and say this is some sort of ethnic hang-up; as though would-be voters simply think a “foreign” (born in Mexico, but lived the bulk of his life right here in Chicago) guy is naturally less qualified. But it does seem to be an element of the debate.

There is something about the tone of these claims that Chuy isn’t up to the task that seems reminiscent of the way certain people used to talk about why they didn’t like the idea of “Mayor Harold Washington” – but didn’t want it attributed to “racial” hang-ups.

He just didn’t have the kind of background they desired, even though Washington was just as much a part of the Chicago political organization as anybody else. Just as is Garcia!

Of course, there’s also the fact that the Democratic Party is (has been for a couple of decades, since the days of President Bill Clinton) in its own fight for its character. It’s the ‘60s activists grown older versus the activists grown up – as in having outgrown their cantankerous character and now expressing a desire to be the establishment.

THAT IS A good part of why the retirement in two years of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will result in Number Two Democrat Richard Durbin, D-Ill., (he who bad-mouthed Walgreen’s) being passed over for the leadership post for Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. – who is perceived as being more sympathetic to “Wall Street” types.

Just as I’m sure those who say Garcia isn’t qualified to be mayor are really saying they define “qualifications” as being more like Emanuel. It is why it is likely that a Garcia near-victory next week will be written off as nothing more than a loss to soon be forgotten and the masses will go back to thinking that “Chewy” is a Star Wars character.

Unlike the Notre Dame near-victory that some people will never want to forget about. After all, just think of how crushed country singer Ashley Judd (a prominent Kentucky basketball fan) would have been if the Fighting Irish had actually won?

I can’t envision anyone (not even Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, an outspoken Rahm-basher) getting that worked up if Emanuel wins.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Are we being teased by all these early ballots being cast in upcoming election?

With the exception of Monday’s snowfall, the weather this week has been fairly mild – which could make it less unpleasant for people to actually go out and cast ballots for the upcoming municipal elections.

That may account for the fact that the early voting centers open this week in Chicago have seen significant numbers of people show up.

THE CHICAGO BOARD of Elections indicated that through Thursday, there had been 44,291 people who had showed up to vote – more than the 21,557 people who cast ballots in the first four days of early voting prior to the Feb. 24 municipal elections.

Now I know some are going to point out that the early voting for that February election wound up being higher than any other early voting for city government posts – so it must be a sign that there is intense interest in the upcoming mayoral election.

Which I’d like to believe, but I’m not sure I do.

The fact I remember is that most of the early voting for those elections came in the final days of the two-week period in which people could cast ballots prior to Election Day. So being ahead of the pace for now isn’t that difficult.

THERE ALSO IS the fact that in the November 2014 elections for state and county government posts, there were a high number of early voters who participated.

Yet let’s point out that the overall percentage of people who voted for governor and the other posts last year wasn’t all that high. And the total number of people who bothered to cast ballots for mayor back in February stunk – it came within a few hundredths of a percent of being the lowest mayoral voter turnout ever.

What we’re seeing are the hard-core types who – for whatever reason – are capable of taking a day off during the week, and include a trip to the polling place amongst their daily errands.

These are the people who have that Rahm “hatred” that is getting them all worked up so they feel the fire in their bellies to partake in this political crusade – which has the potential to disappoint them come April 8 when they realize that perhaps the bulk of Chicago doesn’t care.

NEARLY TWO-THIRDS OF registered voters didn’t bother to vote back in February. It may turn out that the overall percentage of voters who bother to vote come 10 days from now won’t be any higher.

Which is a shame, since I really think people ought to express themselves politically – it is their government and they have every right to let it be known what they want, and expect.

It is this kind of apathy that ultimately makes political people think they can do what it is they want, without having to pay much regard to “We, the People” (remember that blasted U.S. constitution?), for whom the political people supposedly work for.

It also is the reason why I bothered to take the time Friday to get my “I voted!” sticker, which means I cast my actual ballot.

IN MY PARTICULAR part of the Chicago area, the elections aren’t that thrilling. Most of the votes I cast were for unopposed candidates. There were a couple of picks, but I was able to work my way through the whole ballot in a matter of a few minutes!

In fact, it took more time for the election judge to find my name in the voter rolls and program the card so I could use a touch-screen to cast my ballot than it did to actually vote.

Although the sun was shining and it wasn’t extremely freezing outside. Because I went in mid-day, there was no line. I was able to walk right up, cast my vote, then go back home within minutes.

Thereby reclaiming my Constitutionally-given right to complain about my elected officials and their actions; which are, after all, known to many political operatives as, “the People’s business.”


Friday, March 27, 2015

Hoosiers determined to go down w/ sinking ship of opposing gay marriage?

When it comes to the concept of gay marriage being legal, we in Illinois had it implemented into our law by the General Assembly and a governor. While in neighboring Indiana, it was the federal courts that wound up striking down the Hoosier laws that made such marriages illegitimate.

So in learning Thursday that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence went ahead (like he had said he would) and signed into law a “religious objections” bill, all I can figure is that some people are determined to be the last holdouts to accepting the reality that such marriages are here to stay.

THEY’RE PROBABLY THE ones who secretly are praying that conservative ideologue Supreme Court justices such as Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas can convince a slim majority of the nine-member high court to rule later this year that all these federal appeals courts (including the seventh circuit here in Chicago) were wrong to rule in ways that legitimized gay marriage.

Personally, I think the new Indiana law – and the bills being considered in about a dozen other states – is a whole lot of nothing.

Its intent is to say that Indiana people and business interests can’t be forced into doing something that would violate their own religious beliefs.

As in those clergy members who might be asked to perform a wedding ceremony for a gay couple, or all those businesses that cater to weddings for their livelihood now being able to say they don’t want to deal with gay couples.

IN CERTAIN RURAL parts of Indiana, that might well make it impossible for a couple to be married locally if there aren’t a lot of alternatives readily available.

But the Illinois laws that former Gov. Pat Quinn gave approval to included clauses that exempted religious organizations from being forced into performing such marriage ceremonies.

In fact, the bulk of gay activists I have spoken to about this issue have conceded that many such couples would be more likely to seek a civil service and a trip to a friendly judge when seeking to be married. There really isn’t a problem.

As for the others, I can’t help but think they will be the ones who suffer by refusing to accept such wedding business. It’s their loss of income, and if they get branded as some sort of ideological nutcase who tries to spread his (or her) view onto others, it will be them who ultimately go out of business.

ALTHOUGH I HAVE to wonder about a florist who thinks it offends his sense of self to be involved in a gay wedding. Does he think that standing up against certain marriage somehow makes his (or her) line of work appear less effeminate? Or are they merely covering up their own leanings on the issue?

It’s nonsensical, and I can’t help but think that those people living east of Indianapolis Boulevard (the part of Indiana west of that street really does feel like an extension of the Chicago area) are envisioning problems that simply don’t exist – all because they want to be on the record as opposing what is happening with regards to marriage!

A view that isn’t shared by many. Reading the local press makes it seem like a lot of businesses are opposed to this change – and, in fact, are making sure potential customers know of.

As though they think making their services or goods available to all is the ultimate way to make a profit in business.

OF COURSE, THE supporters of “religious objections” are probably ranting right now about how “liberal media!?!” (their favorite target) is distorting their idea of truth by paying attention to the elements they’d rather discriminate against!

It further reinforces the notion that the ultimate losers in this Hoosier way of thinking (which I’m sure there is a minority of Illinoisans who sympathize with them) will be the hard-core ideologues who want to live in their own, small-minded world.

That wouldn’t be so bad, except they also think the rest of us are supposed to live there with them in a subordinate role!


Thursday, March 26, 2015

EXTRA: Chuy said what??!?

“The monument to Darth Vader, I oppose,” is not something I thought I’d ever hear coming from a political person’s mouth.

Yet it was part of the official stance that came forth from mayoral hopeful Jesus Garcia when discussion during a Thursday night debate turned to the proposed construction of a pair of museums in Chicago.

THE DEBATE, BROADCAST on WFLD-TV, was directed to that topic by long-time political reporter Mike Flannery, who tried to get Garcia to clarify why he initially wasn’t enthusiastic about supporting the idea of putting a future presidential library and museum for Barack Obama on land owned by the Chicago Park District.

The talk then shifted to talk of the ongoing legal battles over whether to permit filmmaker George Lucas to develop a pop culture museum on a lakefront site just north of Soldier Field.

Lucas has repeatedly insisted the museum will be about much more than the “Star Wars” films he produced. But Garcia apparently feels differently, in quickly dismissing the current proposal – although he said he hopes the museum winds up being located somewhere in Chicago.

Just as he also said his bottom line for an Obama museum and library is to have it in Chicago – even if it has to go on the one-time park district land that recently was turned over to the city government to make it available to the Obama foundation that soon will decide where the facility will someday be located.

EITHER WAY, IT seems like Garcia wants to appease the voters who get hung up on certain details while also pleasing those who want the larger project.

And after publicly dissing Vader, I wonder if a Garcia-run Chicago would need those 1,000 extra police officers to defend the city against the Imperial Stormtroopers who are now destined to invade us as retribution.

With the Sith lord who gives in to his evil impulses using the almighty “force” to take over Chicago and run it in ways that will make incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel seem like the cutesy, cuddly teddy bear whose image is portrayed by our city’s National League baseball club.


EDITOR’S NOTE: My apologies to those who find the “Star Wars” allusions overbearing. Personally, my favorite Lucas film is “American Graffiti” – although the soundtrack LP (or CD, for those of you too young to appreciate the values of vinyl) is worth more than the film itself.

‘Junior’ may be home again by week’s end. But will it be D.C., or So. Shore?

Sometime Thursday, federal inmate Jesse Jackson, Jr., will be released from the prison camp near Montgomery, Ala., where he has been held since last spring; and I’m sure his thoughts and prayers are focused on how quickly he can return to home.

Technically, Jackson remains in federal custody through Sept. 20, although his release to a halfway house in the District of Columbia is part of the process by which all federal inmates become re-accustomed to life outside of prison walls.

AND YES, I realize that Jackson was being held in a camp that was part of an air force base, but the imagery remains.

But the trick is going to be to decide whether Jackson can be determined to be such a non-threat to the society at large that it would be a waste of time to have him actually stay at the halfway house.

It’s a very real possibility.

Remember back when former Gov. George Ryan was released from the work camp that was attached to the federal prison near Terre Haute, Ind.? He reported to a halfway house on the West Side, and it was found within six hours that he didn’t need to be there.

HE WOUND UP spending that first night of “freedom” really free at his home near Kankakee. It’s very possible that depending on how late in the day you actually read this commentary, Jackson himself could be on his way home.

The only question being, “Which home?” The house he has in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington? Or the house in the South Shore neighborhood that gave him the address that enabled him to be a part of the Illinois congressional delegation for all those years?

Will Jesse, Jr., return to his South Side roots? Or find that a change of scenery is best for him to be capable of building a new life for himself. He did just turn 50 a couple of weeks ago, and is still capable of doing something significant to build his reputation.

Even though I’m sure there are certain ideologue crackpots who will only be satisfied if Jackson were to become a destitute bum. Of course, then they’d rant about him existing off the public welfare rolls.

SOME PEOPLE ARE just determined to be miserable to deal with! Like the ones who, I’m sure, are now ranting that Jackson should not be free anytime soon – even though his “criminal” offense wound up being the use of campaign funds to purchase assorted memorabilia to decorate the office.

Which makes me wonder about the ongoing mess that soon-to-be former Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., faces. He being the guy who spent significant sums to re-decorate his own Capitol Hill space – is there something about interior decorating that attracts the suspicion of “the feds” to warrant indictment, conviction and incarceration?

It will be intriguing to see how the new Jackson comes to be.

While he had a political career of some significance with big dreams that fell short (“Mayor Jackson?”) of becoming reality, I don’t doubt he could come back to achieve some goals that could wind up topping his political significance.

OF COURSE, HE has to get through this ordeal first. Regardless of where he calls “home,” he’s likely to have to wear one of those funky ankle bracelets during the summer months so as to further demean him.

Then, sometime in mid-October, spouse Sandi (the former alderman who got busted for signing the income tax returns that allegedly tried legitimizing Jackson’s actions) will have to do her few months in prison – followed up by her own stint in a halfway house/home confinement.

When the Jacksons are finally (sometime late in 2016) finally able to get on with their lives, there is another benefit. Perhaps then we’ll be able to get over our public obsession over this case.

All of us will be a lot better off when that day comes.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Mexican “political” revolution for Chicago? Or four more years of Rahm?

There are those people who want to view the storyline of this municipal election cycle as being something historic – the Latino population is going to assert itself on behalf of Jesus Garcia so as to make him the first Chicago mayor of Latin American ethnic origins.

As if the Latino vote that accounts for just over a quarter of the city’s population but about 17 percent of the registered voters in Chicago is going to turn out in such strength as to overcome the man who can count Barack Obama as a personal colleague.

I’M IN A position where I personally would be intrigued by a serious campaign for political office run by a Latino – and not just because Chicago needs to have someone other than Luis Gutierrez be the primary Latino political face to come from the city.

Although I have to admit to being skeptical enough that I have already braced myself for the likelihood that Mayor Rahm Emanuel will manage to get himself re-elected to the dreaded “four more years.”

Political apathy amongst the masses, rather than a Latino voter turnout of historic nature, is what we’re likely to see come the April 7 run-off elections.

For his part, Garcia has tried to make some connections to Latino officials elsewhere in the United States – both for moral support and for fund-raising help. He’s going to get his clock cleaned financially by Rahm’s millions, but still wants to appear competitive.

A LACKLUSTER CAMPAIGN by Chuy would be more harmful to Latino political empowerment than anything else.

Earlier this week, the Latino Victory Fund tried its part to elevate Garcia’s status, endorsing his mayoral campaign along with that of a Puerto Rican official seeking to become mayor of Philadelphia and an aldermanic candidate from Seattle.

The group pointed out that Garcia, who already has the designation of being the first Mexican-American ever elected to the Illinois Senate, has been running a “trailblazing candidacy” that “has energized the Latino community.”

Yet there’s the poll done by the Miami-based Latino Decisions organization that contends 65 percent of all Latinos surveyed in Chicago had not been contacted by any campaign to check to see if they were going to vote, or if they were even registered.

CONSIDERING THAT GARCIA needs an overwhelming, almost Harold Washington-like voter turnout amongst Latinos if he’s to have a chance of success, that doesn’t say much for a campaign organization that can turn out the vote he needs on Election Day.

Which makes me wonder how solid that 61 percent of Latino voter support for Garcia (compared to 18 percent of Latinos for Emanuel) truly is. Considering that just about all of the Latino political officials in Chicago are publicly backing Rahm, I wonder if the 18 percent will turn out to vote for sure, while the 61 percent will show up if they can’t find something better to do on Election Day.

We can talk about spirit and spunk all we want, but it is a good voter ground game that wins elections. Who bothers to vote?

Earlier I mentioned the idea of a “Harold Washington-like” turnout, referring to the overwhelming dominance that the former mayor got from African-American voters. As in the fact that in the wards with predominantly black populations, Harold took in excess of 90 percent of the vote.

I’M NOT SURE Latinos quierre Chuy the same way that Harold was beloved by black voters way back when. Even if I suspect that Harold himself, if he were alive, would vote for Garcia.

It is a rare political phenomenon – the closest I have ever seen to it was back in the ’98 Democratic gubernatorial primary when ultimate nominee Glenn Poshard dominated the Southern Illinois counties by taking as much as 98 percent of the vote in some places; making up for the fact that Chicago voters wanted any one of the other three candidates to win.

Unless Garcia can create something similar, he’s likely to fall short. The fact that the Mariachi Aguilas de Oxnard (who also did the Viva Obama mariachi song back in 2008) has put together a corrido entitled Don Chuy de La Villita is cute.

But all it does is ensure that Garcia will be able to reminisce about an unsuccessful mayoral campaign while watching a YouTube video in coming years.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring time in Chicago? More like a twisted Midwestern winter wonderland!

On the fourth day of spring time, my true love gave to me, four sloppy inches of snow.

Only in Chicago could something like that be taken literally, and not be the least bit of a surprise.

FOR IT’S TRUE. The spring equinox came on Friday. We’re literally out of the winter season. Spring training baseball in Arizona is well underway. The sloppy, slushy snowfall that can cause massive traffic headaches ought to be behind us.

Yet on Monday, we got hit with anywhere from two to five inches of snow – depending on where in metro Chicago one lives. The further north toward the Illinois/Wisconsin border, the heavier the snowfall!

The four-inch figure comes from what was measured at O’Hare International Airport, where some 250 flights scheduled for Monday morning had to be cancelled and delays ran as long as 90 minutes in length.

All of the Streets and Sanitation Department’s trucks had plows attached and were out working to try to keep the streets cleared. Illinois Department of Transportation officials were doing the same on the interstate highways – although that didn’t prevent an auto accident from occurring this morning that involved the official motorcade of Gov. Bruce Rauner.

THE CAR THAT the governor was riding in was not hit. But it seems that one of the vehicles carrying his security team struck another car, with the sloppy road conditions being blamed.

A police officer was taken to an area hospital, although was treated and released. No major injuries involved, which is fortunate.

Now two months ago, none of this would have been the least bit interesting (well maybe the gubernatorial motorcade in an accident would have gotten a brief mention). But the rest of this would have been chalked up to “winter as usual” in the great Midwestern U.S.

But this is springtime. We’re supposed to be past this.

EVEN THOUGH I realize that the National Weather Service records indicate that Chicago has been hit with snowfall as late as May 11, and that the latest snowfall of an inch or more of the not-so-fluffy stuff came on May 4 (back in 1907, for those who are interested).

But it was still a depressing jolt to wake up Monday morning, flip on a television set tuned to The Weather Channel and see that they felt the most intriguing meteorological event in the United States was a live shot of the Michigan Avenue bridge over the Chicago River so we could see the snow falling on the city.

Made worse by the fact that when I looked out the window, I saw heavy snowfall burying my neighborhood to the point where I couldn’t see any street.

Fortunately for me, the places I had to go to on Monday were for things happening in late afternoon.

BY THAT TIME, the snow had long stopped falling. In fact, by about 1 p.m., the streets had sort of been cleared – although it was quite obvious that a layer of grayish slop still remained on top of the pavement.

Keep in mind that this came just days after the Chicago winter weather season officially ended with temperatures routinely getting into the 50-degree range, and one day when I was seriously overdressed in a sweatshirt because the temperature got up to the low 70s.

Which the weather forecasts indicate is likely to return within days. Supposedly by Wednesday, we’re going to have sunshine and temperatures in the low 60s. Just envision the mess from the melt we’ll face by then!

I understand its worse further northwest (I have aunts in the greater Minneapolis area got whacked this weekend with harsher snowfall). But it makes me wonder what we could have done to offend Mother Nature so bad – or is it all her idea of a sick joke?


Monday, March 23, 2015

Will cliches outlive the political candidates who choose to utter them?

I find government and electoral politics intriguing, but have never aspired to actually run for office myself – in large part because I would detest all the routine speeches that candidates often have to give.

I have heard so many of them throughout the years that I find them mind-numbing in their similarity.

BECAUSE THE KEY to a candidate managing to give a public speech while also avoiding saying something stupid that, more often than not, makes real news is to have a set speech in mind.

A series of thoughts, talking points, so to speak, that needs to be hit on regardless of the event.

Admittedly, the candidate has to try to localize it a bit. And there will be occasions when a specific issue must be the focus.

But the bottom line is that the candidate essentially gives the same speech every single time he speaks in public. It may be interesting a first time, or for those locals who have never heard it before.

BUT IT GETS awfully repetitive. Made all the worse by the fact that many political people either think too much of themselves or have aides who write copy that gets way to clichéd.

The former category probably includes President Barack Obama, who in his early years of running for office had a reputation for being someone who would rewrite his speechwriter’s copy. Apparently, being the author of an autobiographical book that didn’t sell much until after he became a name politically made him think he has something to say.

But the clichés are the worst. Certain catchphrases that the candidates might not even realize are ever so awful. Which is why I was amused to learn Sunday of the polifiller.com site that will review copy and automatically knock out phrases it is programmed to think of as repetitive nonsense and double-speak.

Now I don’t think I’d want to trust a computer program to review all copy. It really needs the human touch. Just think of all those automatic language translator services that manage to turn English into something else, then translate it back to English in some overly stilted, gibberish-like prose.

WE COULD SOON have politicians talking even more stupidly than they already do.

Although the polifiller.com website released the results of an online poll for the worst clichés used by too many government officials – when they think they’re sounding all omnipotent but come across as being more impotent than anything else.

“Hard-working families” is the worst cliché, although “Let me be clear” is a close second, usually because whoever says it probably isn’t being all that clear about what he (or she) means.

I found the most amusing cliché to be the number six item on the list, “the Great (fill in the blank) people” which is meant to let the speaker fill in the blank of whomever the person is speaking to.

AN ATTEMPT TO localize the talk, but creates the risk of the candidate having a brain cramp and filling in the blank with the wrong group. Or not being specific enough, such as whenever a politico makes a Chicago reference to a group of people from the rural part of Illinois.

Believe me, they get peeved at being reminded that their part of the state lacks a certain panache.

Although when it comes to certain catchphrases getting a little too comfortable in the speech pattern of a government official, perhaps the ultimate that I have ever heard was, “a whole host of issues.” That was the phrase that former Gov. Jim Edgar used to rely on ever so much whenever he tried to convey the idea that he was going to address multiple topics.

And there are still some reporter-types (myself included) who can still mock the way that phrase sounded coming from Edgar’s nasally-toned voice!


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rauner vs. Madigan, Lisa that is

It’s starting to feel like the dominant trend in Illinois state government in coming years is going to be brawls of Rauner vs. Madigan, as in the daughter of the Illinois House speaker who is state attorney general in her own right.

Yes, it could be that the biggest obstacle Gov. Bruce Rauner has to overcome to impose his ideological agenda is that of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan – who on Friday took a serious dump all over the fantasies the new governor has about bringing ‘right to work’ concepts to Illinois.

THOSE TYPES OF laws enacted in several conservative-leaning states are meant to undermine organized labor in ways that discourage workers from wanting to join unions. Usually by permitting companies to be able to engage in actions that are hostile to labor interests.

Rauner tries to claim that it somehow forces people who don’t want to join a union to do so if they want to work in certain types of jobs. In reality, it makes it easier for companies to single out for abuse those people who would want to have a labor union help represent their interests on the job.

Right to work is a concept that is big in Southern states, and has spread to certain other parts of the country – including our neighbor states of Indiana and Wisconsin.

In the latter, Gov. Scott Walker wants to think his hostility to organized labor interests will carry him to the White House as a successor to Barack Obama come the 2016 election cycle.

ILLINOIS IS DIFFERENT politically and the Democratic Party interests that control the General Assembly are highly unlikely to ever take full-fledged ‘right to work’ seriously. Which is why Rauner was talking about creation of ‘right to work zones.’

As in certain communities might be able to designate themselves as places where labor unions would have such restrictions that they would be unable to function within those boundaries.

I suspect that Rauner thinks if he could bring the ‘right to work’ concept to parts of Illinois, the rest of the state would soon be clamoring for the same thing.

But on Friday, Madigan (the attorney general, not “Mr. Speaker”) issued a legal opinion saying that Rauner’s idea is not legal. It wouldn’t work. He can’t go about trying to impose ‘right to work’ laws piecemeal by slipping them under the door crack.

IT WOULD BE a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, Madigan wrote, and that it would take the actual General Assembly in full to approve changes in state law to bring ‘right to work’ anywhere in Illinois.

Which is a big ‘fat chance’ in Illinois. There might be some local officials in isolated pockets of the Land of Lincoln (mostly the kind of people who wish they could be called Hoosiers) who would be willing to offer up their communities for an experiment.

But full-state passage isn’t likely. Perhaps too much of Illinois is urban? Or maybe it's just that Illinois people, urban or rural, are too smart to put up with such nonsense.

Rauner could still try to file some sort of lawsuit and convince a judge he’s right. But he’d have Lisa Madigan and all of the attorneys who work for state government in opposition.

IT WOULD EXPOSE his desires as the politically partisan power grab that it truly is.

It wouldn’t be the first time this governor and the current attorney general disagreed on an issue. Let’s remember that when the death of Illinois comptroller Judy Baar Topinka created a vacancy, Rauner’s preference was to appoint a replacement for the full four-year term.

While Madigan ultimately said a special election must be held at some point, rather than let Rauner appointee Leslie Munger have a full four-year term.

Is this going to be the trend; those people with more progressive political leanings viewing Lisa Madigan as their savior to protect the masses of Illinois from being tormented by the governor who (let’s be honest) didn’t win election as much as his opponent in last year’s election cycle lost it.

IF SO, THEN perhaps we ought to view the happenings of Jan. 11 (the day before Inauguration Day) in a new light; when Madigan and Rauner were both at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Chicago Sun-Times got a picture of the two embracing.

Perhaps now in retrospect, the two wish they had wrapped their fingers around each others’ necks!