Thursday, April 30, 2015

Maybe Sox been better off if they hadn’t played for a 3rd day straight

(NOT IN) BALTIMORE – We finally got to see Chicago White Sox baseball this week, although the game got so ugly so quickly, I wonder if we’d have been better off getting another day off.

The game played Wednesday (in the afternoon, rather than as originally scheduled in the evening) was the first game of this three-game set that the White Sox were able to get in against the Baltimore Orioles.

ALL OF THE riots had officials convinced they’d rather not risk having angered Baltimore protesters (upset over black abuse by police officers) attack fans trying to get to and from Camden Yards.

Plus, it also reduced the number of police officers who would have to be on detail to maintain order at the ballpark, thereby allowing them to be on patrol in other parts of Baltimore – although there was evidence Tuesday that the worst of the outbursts had passed.

So what we got was a White Sox/Orioles game in which no one was allowed to attend. Attendance was literally zero. People who showed up were locked out.

The teams still got in a ballgame to count toward their 162-game season count. But the other games that were meant for this week will be made up during a special trip to be made to Baltimore in mid-May (when the White Sox will be traveling from Toronto to Houston).

I WASN’T ANYWHERE near Baltimore on Wednesday, although I made a point of watching part of the WPWR-TV broadcast, listening to announcer Ken Harrelson tell us about what turned out to be dreadful activity on the field.

Cameras kept showing us a group of Orioles fans who converged outside a gate that sort of gave them a view of the game. Their “Let’s Go, O’s!” chants could be heard throughout the ballpark – while several panoramic television shots confirmed for us that there truly was no one sitting in the stands.

I’m sure at a time like this in Baltimore, this wasn’t the biggest concern. But it had to be a business blow to the Orioles, since ball clubs usually count on concessions stand sales from the people who attend the game for a significant part of their revenue.

If no one was on hand on Wednesday, they weren’t to buy overpriced beer and hot dogs, nor any barbecue from the stand named for one-time Orioles’ star Boog Powell.

I CAN THINK of one positive aspect of Wednesday’s circumstance – having a game played literally with zero attendance wipes out what I always thought was a stupid statistic cited by the Charleston Riverdogs of the South Atlantic League.

Back in 2002, they claimed to have played a game before zero fans – although it was really a stunt since the roughly 1,800 people who showed up for the game deliberately were locked out of the ball park until after the fifth inning; at which point the game became official.

Now, we have a real zero attendance statistic for a professional ballgame; even lower than the 413 people who attended a White Sox/New York Yankees game at Yankee Stadium in 1966, or the 653 who saw the Oakland A’s play the Seattle Mariners in a game in 1979. For the record, the ’66 Yankees and ’79 A’s (despite the presence of future Hall of Fame ballplayers Mickey Mantle and Rickey Henderson, respectively) were truly awful ball clubs.

The record for lack of fans in the stands now has some legitimacy.

ALTHOUGH ONE CAN argue that all of this is trivia, and that the only thing that matters about a sporting event is the on-field action.

If that is the regard, then “blech!” is the only reaction we should have, particularly since White Sox starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija seemed determined to do his best impersonation of a Chicago Cubs pitcher (which he once was).

Six runs given up in the first inning alone; the final score was 8-2. The White Sox’ incompetence level settled down, but it was also the kind of game one quickly wants to switch the channel on.

Even the WTTW Prime rebroadcast of the PBS “Last Days in Vietnam” documentary seemed more appealing to watch!


EDITOR’S NOTE: That “No attendance” minor league ballgame was plotted as a publicity stunt by Mike Veeck, team owner and son of the Hall of Fame baseball owner Bill Veeck. For the record, the younger Veeck’s ball team lost 4-2 to the Columbus (Ga.) Red Stixx in that game.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gay marriage ‘brawl’ is on, but will it merely provoke a 2nd high court case?

The oral arguments by lawyers in the Supreme Court case related to whether gay marriage will become a legitimate concept across the United States took place Tuesday, with many legal experts expecting a ruling some time in June.

Yet this is going to be an issue that will remain with us for some time, and I found it amusing to read a Washington Post account of how this could merely trigger another legal battle that will have to be resolved by the nation’s high court.

MANY ACTIVIST TYPES whom I have encountered seem to be going on the belief that gay marriage’s time has arrived. A majority of the court will wind up deciding that this is not an issue that should be settled state-by-state.

There ought to be a single national policy, and the idea of a patchwork network with some states going absolutely out of their way to say “No!!!” to the idea of gay couples being married just isn’t workable.

However, I also know from experience that anybody who tries to predict what a court will do is a fool. This is a court with conservative leanings, and I noticed the Post reporting that Justice Antonin Scalia said during Tuesday’s questioning that he is reluctant to support anything that would be “unpalatable” to religious-motivated people. I doubt he's alone.

There may well be people who will “go down with the ship,” so to speak, on the issue of preventing gay couples from being able to wed (and get all the legal benefits that heterosexual married couples receive).

IF WE GET a patchwork of laws on this issue, it would seem that Illinois would remain a sympathetic place. Illinois may have been far from the first Midwestern state to take on the issue, but it ultimately had a Legislature and governor sign changes into law.

That may well wind up being the biggest part of former Gov. Pat Quinn’s legacy – although I’m sure there also are those individuals in Illinois who would want to demonize him for that very fact.

But those states who wound up having gay marriage imposed on them by courts striking down their laws against it (which Illinois used to have, the two mid-1990s years of Republican domination of state government included passage of a law prohibiting marriage for gay couples) may wind up engaging in a mad dash to see how quickly they could reinstate such conditions.

That could well include Indiana, where certain political people are peeved that their laws were taken down and that their attempt to make a symbolic gesture to the conservative ideologues (in the form of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) drew so much hostile attention that they had to back off.

STATE LINE ROAD could well become a barrier for certain people – a place where they will have to make sure they don’t venture too far east for fear of getting caught on the “wrong” side of the Chicago area after dark. Although some Hoosier municipalities are trying to sway their Legislature to the “proper” side of this issue.

As for those couples who already have married, would they find themselves invalidated. The Post reported that it could well turn into another legal battle as to whether those marriages would be undone, or if we’d have certain gay couples who got married on a technicality and others who can’t because of timing.

It seems like the easiest thing to do would be to just accept the reality of our society these days. It’s here, and going nowhere – except perhaps in the minds of the ideologues who think everybody else ought to live in their world in a subservient position.

Although I suspect that regardless of how the high court ultimately rules, it won’t change the sentiments of some people with regards to marriage.

THEY’LL BE THE ones who will grimace every time they see a gay couple together – probably the same way they are bothered by the sight of an inter-racial couple.

The essence of human nature won’t change.

But what can change, and what should change, is the idea that those individuals’ hang-ups ought to have the protection of the letter of the law.

That is what our Supreme Court will have to resolve in coming weeks.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

EXTRA: Will ‘Baltimore’ come to Chi?

A part of me is starting to wonder if the Chicago White Sox are a bad omen.

I still recall the team’s whereabouts on Sept. 11, 2001 – they were the professional baseball team in New York City on that day when two jets crashed into the World Trade Center, triggering many bad memories for our nation.

NOW, IT WAS the White Sox who were in Baltimore this week when rioting motivated by people pissed off by the death of a young black man while in police custody is giving the nation many violent images on our televisions.

The rioting was considered so out-of-control that Monday’s White Sox/Baltimore Orioles game was cancelled. Some of the violent outbursts were a mere three miles from the Orioles’ ballpark, and many of the roads leading to the stadium had restricted access.

The last thing anybody wanted to see happen was some sports fan get yanked out of their car by the violent protesters while trying to get to Camden Yards! As of this writing, it is not clear when, or where, those ballgames will be made up.

Yes, my bringing the White Sox’ presence into this circumstance is an attempt to inject a touch of humor to what is an overly-serious situation. Although the serious part of all this is perhaps how fortunate we in Chicago ought to feel that we haven’t had similar incidents occur here.

BECAUSE THE UNEASY sentiments that exist between law enforcement types and black people are not confined to Baltimore. Nor Ferguson, Mo., or New York or any other one city.

You know it’s just a matter of time before the tensions heat up enough that we get an incident that causes certain people to react in ways similar to what is taking place now in Baltimore.

Let’s be honest! We should feel fortunate that the death of Rekia Boyd did not create such an outburst.

She is the woman who was shot to death by a Chicago police officer – one who recently was acquitted of the criminal charges he faced, and now has police Superintendent Garry McCarthy going about on Monday saying that officer should never have faced a criminal indictment.

EVEN THOUGH SOME people are interpreting the comments made by the judge who tossed out the criminal charges as saying they were the wrong charges and perhaps should have been even harsher.

As though this particular cop got off on a technicality and NOT some claim of innocence, as I’m sure the police would want to believe. Just an officer doing his job – one that is tough enough that I’m sure many in our society would be incapable of handling it.

Just a couple of people handling things a little less rationally in Chicago, and it could be our city with the images of a gas mask-clad man slashing the hose of a firefighting crew that was trying to keep a CVS pharmacy from burning to the ground.

It could be the death of Freddie Gray (who suffered a spinal cord injury while in police custody and whose funeral seems to be the motivation for Monday’s violent outbursts) isn’t all that different in spirit than that of Boyd – or many of the others whose ill treatment at the hands of police has caused public outrage.

AND YES, I realize in writing that sentence there are some people who are determined to believe the police some noble creature who are dealing with people who hardly deserve to be called human.

Although I find their thought process to be as ridiculous as the face-covered boy in Baltimore who told CNN how people aren’t going to calm down until some sort of “justice!!!” is handed down.

We have a serious problem in our society that way too many people don’t want to have to acknowledge. That, ultimately, is the real problem.


Rauner political influence, skill comes from friendly rich peoples’ wallets

What was that old line used to describe George W. Bush’s political and business acumen – he was born on Third Base, and thinks he hit a triple?!?

I’m starting to wonder if we need a similar line with regards to Gov. Bruce Rauner, who might not literally have been born to big money (I suspect real ‘old money’ thinks our governor is a garish rube), but certainly thinks the fortune he has accumulated and has access to entitles him to behave politically like a boor.

WE ALL REALIZE he got himself elected governor with absolutely no political qualifications because he was able to tap into millions of dollars more than anybody else could.

An amount that if you think about it too much becomes almost obscene – how many worthy goals could have been accomplished for the betterment of our society instead of spending it on rounds of campaign advertising meant to distort reality?

Now, it would seem that Rauner’s approach to governing is going to be the same – tap into so much money that regular people couldn’t even fathom having access to and use it to mold a public opinion that will be gullible enough to buy whatever he says.

All of this is to say that I was appalled by learning that Rauner’s “Turnaround Illinois” political action committee has come up with its first donor.

BOTH THE CHICAGO Tribune and Sun-Times reported Monday of the State Board of Elections filing showing that billionaire Sam Zell (who once tried to mold the Chicago Tribune in his own image) came up with a $4 million contribution.

I’m not saying I find it particularly noble when a political person says their campaign fund was constituted by people donating $5-10 each – as though the tiny amounts are somehow honorable.

But the reverse is also true – there’s nothing noble about someone who thinks that by coming up with some sort of private fund that will enable him to buy airtime and other communications tools he can somehow “buy” our political love.

I really think that this fund likely to receive donations from the many wealthy people who funded Rauner’s electoral campaign (along with the many millions of his own money he loaned himself) is meant to come up with all kinds of negative ads meant to make our legislators sound vapid, stupid and downright mean-spirited when they refuse to go along with his anti-organized labor rhetoric.

THIS IS THE governor who complains about the fact that labor unions have too much influence over political people because of the fact that they can help certain types of candidates raise the kind of money they need to hold their own against politicos who have the backing of big business-type interests.

Maybe it isn’t some ideological belief against unions as much as Rauner wants to be all-dominant over who has a say about what government does?

Which makes this particular political action committee sound downright venal.

This coming at a time when Rauner types are trying to get local government officials to pass symbolic resolutions meant to show how much they agree with his anti-union desires – his fantasies that would (in his own mind, I’m sure) culminate with “right to work” status coming to Illinois.

WHICH BASICALLY AMOUNTS to making it legal for companies to harass those interests that want to have union representation on their jobs!

I find it interesting that both the City Council and Cook County Board this week are contemplating resolutions expressing opposition to Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda,” which probably has Rauner thinking in terms of what tactics he must use to counter the significant negative blow his political dream will take.

In the world of partisan politics, making dreams become reality costs money. If Rauner can’t find more millions of dollars from business interests concerned with their selves, then the desires of the people might actually prevail.

That might be the most appalling thought of all to the business interests – and one we should all keep in mind in coming months when we hear all the nasty rhetoric about how Rauner is being prevented from doing what he thinks is right.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Claypool for chief of staff – how circumstances change with time!!!

Mayor Rahm Emanuel turned to an experienced political hand in choosing a new chief of staff; shifting Forrest Claypool away from his CTA post and putting him in charge of running the staff that does the actual work that the mayor gets to take credit for.

Not that I think Claypool is incompetent. He did hold the very same position twice under Mayor Richard M. Daley. He’s been around a number of local government positions. He knows how things operate.

IT’S JUST THAT the circumstances under which Claypool was picked by Emanuel actually amuse me.

Let’s not forget that Emanuel is now the guy whom all the good-government types demonize. He’s the ultimate political hack, as far as they’re concerned. They desperately wanted to dump him in this month’s municipal elections.

Except that Emanuel was the candidate with the big bucks that allowed him to spend the living daylights out of opponent Jesus Garcia – who had become a darling of those people who like to think they’re the good-government types.

Now Emanuel turns to Claypool to make sure things get done the way he wants them to.

YET I CAN remember back in 2010 when Claypool ran for Cook County assessor, ultimately losing to Joe Berrios.

Berrios managed to win that election cycle despite being demonized for being a political hack – a walking ball of conflicts of interest. The guy who conducted himself in ruling on tax appeal cases in ways that made it clear he was getting some sort of benefit (if not quite criminal in nature) that enriched himself.

Claypool’s election as assessor was supposed to be the move that would save us from the political hack days of old – the days when now-corrupt behavior was commonly accepted as standard practice.

The fact that a majority of voters picked Berrios in that election was supposed to be some sort of sign of our political stupidity – just as some, I’m sure, think the fact that Rahm Emanuel took 56 percent of the vote (not far off from those pre-season polls that said he’d take 58 percent) is a sign that we STILL haven’t learned any better.

DOES THIS MEAN that Claypool, who also ran the park district once and also served on the board of appeals that handled tax cases, has gone from being the goo-goo to being the guy who’s going to keep “politics as usual” operating in local government?

It’s probably more a piece of evidence that the people who were ready to anoint Claypool to political sainthood some five years ago were seriously over-exaggerating his good government sensibilities.

If he’s able to work with Emanuel – who actually was the guy who got him into the CTA position that he’s held in recent years after he lost that assessor election – then he’s probably got a practical politics streak. Although it could also mean that some of those practical political people also have a touch of government altruism flowing in their veins.

Although I do find one bit of irony. Berrios managed to get re-elected despite all the goo-goo griping because his Puerto Rican ethnic origins made him attractive to the Latino segment of the electorate.

THE SAME SEGMENT that this time around was the hard-core base of the Anybody But Rahm voters. Which amounted to all of 44 percent of the vote this month!

And which is what can make the Latino electorate unpredictable – because it often splits between those who want to be practical and back the winner and those who have an ideological streak for what they perceive to be the right thing.

Let us hope that Claypool, in trying to run Emanuel’s city government operation in a professional manner, can strike some sort of balance. That ultimately is what would benefit Chicago as a whole.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

How ugly will the legislative battle be?

I’m a fairly regular reader of the Capitol Fax website who got my chuckle Friday from their “Question of the Day.”

“Which happens first?” As in the release of former state Rep. Derrick Smith from the West Side; or the agreement by Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly on a budget for state government for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

WHAT’S FUNNY ABOUT that is the fact that Smith is the legislator who earlier this week was sentenced to five months in prison on federal charges he accepted bribes.

Under the federal system, he’ll have to do 85 percent of that time. With five months, that means four-and-a-half months of real time served. He’ll get just a couple of weeks off for good behavior.

That means he’ll be a free man sometime in September. Probably right after Labor Day he will have paid his debt to society, and we can go back to forgetting we ever knew who he was (his stint in Springfield before getting caught in a criminal investigation really was that short).

But the partisan political differences between Gov. Bruce Rauner (the man who is supposedly liked by 40 percent of the electorate and disliked by 36 percent – with the remainder clueless about what to think) and the Democratic-leaning state Legislature are so large that it is likely Smith will be free and there still won’t be a budget in place.

EVEN THOUGH THE General Assembly is expected under usual procedure to approve a state budget for the upcoming year before their spring session ends at the end of May.

Remember that one year when Rod Blagojevich was governor when the differences of opinion (that’s putting it mildly) between he and the Legislature were so great that the matter didn’t get settled finally until about early December?

That could wind up looking like a tea party by comparison to what could happen if both Rauner and the Legislature’s leadership remain as pig-headed as they are capable of being.

I remember back to 1991 when the budget didn’t get approved until the early hour of July 19 and people thought that was some sort of record moment that would never again be achieved.

UNTIL IN FUTURE years when it kept taking until early July to settle a spending plan for state government. All of this was basically about then-Gov. Jim Edgar and House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, showing who could go longest without blinking.

Personally, I get the sense that Rauner has so many ideological points he wants to score that he’s willing to remain stubborn on budget issues, which are serious because of the fact that the budget approved last year really made no sense unless you presumed the General Assembly would come back later in the year and approve the extension of the state income tax hike that started withering away at year’s end.

We still have those pension funding issues. We have a governor who seems to think he can merely force his views upon the public (which may be why nearly half of all those who have an opinion disapprove of him).

And, quite frankly, we have a House speaker with a veto-proof majority who’s more than willing to make an effort to let the new governor who the real boss is of Illinois government.

I HAVE READ my share of gags on the Internet about how Smith may wind up being released from prison and somehow get himself back into the Statehouse just in time to vote on the final budget proposal.

Although I think it more likely Smith will wind up spending the summer months at a minimum-security prison facility serving his sentence, reading the news and shaking his head with contempt at the knuckleheads in Springfield who are letting this budget mess drag on and on.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Is Kris Bryant city's baseball savior? Of course not; that’s Jose Abreu!

Do I owe an apology to Kris Bryant, whom I’ll admit I mocked last week when he made his major league debut with the Chicago Cubs going hitless in four at-bats, and managing to strike out in three of them?

Considering that Bryant is supposed to be the big star player who is going to turn the pathetic Cubs franchise into baseball champions and that there were people all throughout baseball who were worked up that he wasn’t immediately called up to the major leagues this year (he hit .321 with three home runs and 12 runs batted in for the Iowa Cubs in seven games before getting the call-up to Chicago), it seemed funny to me that his big baseball debut was a dud.

OF COURSE, IT should be kept in mind that it was just one ballgame, and part of the beauty of baseball is that today’s goat is tomorrow’s on-field hero.

Since then, Bryant seems to be on a hitting streak.

In his seven ballgames with the Cubs as of Thursday, he has the .409 batting average (and a .591 slugging percentage, along with four doubles, six walks and seven strikeouts – three of which were those first-game whiffs that we’ve already mentioned.

Now I have amongst my Facebook-type friends a guy I went to Junior High School with who seems to have bought into Cubs-mania on account of Bryant. I’m seeing constant updates about how “oHHHHHHH-K” Bryant is, along with how he’s, “on fire. He don’t need no Gatorade. Let that Rookie Phenom Hit. Hit, Rookie Phenom Hit!” I took out his ALL-CAPS mania and translated it into readable English.

I’M ALMOST SURPRISED I have not received some sort of Internet-transmitted blip telling me where I could stuff my original commentary that called Bryant’s Cubs debut an example of quintessential Chicago Cubness – failing when it most mattered.

So I’ll admit that Bryant has basically had a good first week playing baseball in the Major Leagues. His games against the San Diego Padres and Pittsburgh Pirates (minus the first one) have been the kind of hot streak that any ballplayer wishes to have – and that the best of them rely upon to balance out the times when they “stink on ice” and can’t get a hit no matter what.

Then again, that is one week out of a 26-week long regular season. And Bryant is already being jerked around from position to position (center field, from his usual third base).

The real test will be to see how Bryant keeps hitting in mid-season, or in the weeks following the All Star Game. When fatigue sets in and the aches and pains any human body experiences when trying to play the rigor of a 162-game season takes its toll.

LET’S BE HONEST; Chicago White Sox star slugger Jose Abreu was the American League Rookie of the Year last year largely because he had such an overwhelming first half of the season.

I'm not saying he flopped come August and September, but much of the home run power that he showed early in the year and that had him in the running for much of the 2014 season to lead the American League in home runs dissipated.

He would have had 50-something home runs if he had kept up that ridiculous pace, instead of the still-respectable 36 home runs he finished the season with.

Besides, I can’t help but notice Bryant hadn’t hit any home runs as of Thursday. Abreu managed to get his first on Opening Day – being the lone run in that otherwise appalling 11-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

SO HERE’S HOPING that Kristopher Bryant, who gives us the most offbeat Cubs name spelling since “Ryne Sandberg”), does manage to accomplish something of significance. It would be nice if Cubs fans would finally shut up with their whiny routine about how we’re all supposed to feel sorry for them and think they’re special because their team hasn’t won a thing since back when V-J Day was fresh in the newspapers.

Although if you really want to see the best ballplayer in Chicago, you have to make the trip to U.S. Cellular Field – where Abreu has his 5 home runs this season (second in the league to 8 for Seattle’s Nelson Cruz), along with 12 runs batted in, 7 runs scored and .291 batting average.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Are we destined to be “blessed” by being picked for site of Obama library?

In the ongoing dispute over where President Barack Obama would choose to have the legacy museum and library meant to enhance his historical reputation, I can’t help but wonder how long until we get the big announcement.

Because to listen to the various reports that have emanated from assorted places, Chicago has done everything that has been asked.

WE CAME UP with a site with proximity to the University of Chicago and put on the political pressure to make those individuals who hate the idea of a presidential library being built on Chicago Park District land feel uncomfortable.

Heck, some 332,171 of us even went so far as to vote for Rahm Emanuel to be our mayor for the next four years – out of the ridiculous belief that having Jesus Garcia as nuestra alcalde (that’s “our mayor” for those of you who are linguistically challenged) was somehow a deal-killer for the Obamas.

That supposedly was the reason why the Obama Foundation that technically is deciding this issue (in reality, it’s the president himself, deferring to the best judgment of first lady Michelle) held off on making an announcement about a museum and library location back in February.

We needed to see if Chicago voters cast their ballots properly in order to deserve such a facility.

YES, I’M BEING very facetious in writing this, because I honestly believe if the Obama interests were being shallow enough to decide their library location based on a municipal election outcome that ought to be the deal-killer for anybody with sense.

In which case, let the facility go to Honolulu – which you have to admit would provide for a most-unique location for a facility that usually winds up in places like Abilene, Kan., or Grand Rapids, Mich.

Then again, Ike and Jerry Ford aren’t Obama by any means.

I got my amusement from the Chicago Sun-Times Wednesday, which gave us a “Sneed Exlusive” that says it’s just about a done deal – the presidential library will be located in Chicago.

THE CLINCHING ACTION was the resignation of Cassandra Francis of the Friends of the Parks organization. That is the group that always complains about over-commercialization of the public parks, and was threatening to tie the Obama library/museum proposal into legal knots if they tried to put it there.

They may still be opposed, technically. But having a hole in leadership hurts their effort to put up much of a court fight.

Although considering how political people have their ways of influencing the courts, I’d have to wonder what judge out there would want to be remembered as the guy who ruled against Obama.

This isn’t South Texas where a federal judge was only too eager to put a hold on Obama’s attempt to impose some common sense to the nation’s immigration policies – rather than the ideological nonsense that comes from the kind of people who are likely to want to demonize the library/museum project for years to come.

IN CHICAGO, THIS project is going to be a big deal.

The part of columnist Michael Sneed’s report Wednesday that caught my eye was her claim that the Business Leadership Council and other African-American community leaders were preparing to take on Friends of the Parks by claiming that their no-parkland stance was denying the black community of Chicago a chance to have a significant facility.

Even Emanuel seems to realize this. In Washington this week, he told reporter-types who asked if Chicago would consider bidding for a future Olympic Games that he was more interested in attracting the library/museum for the man whom he once served as chief of staff.

He called a presidential library, “an Olympics with an annuity that gives every year,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

EVEN THOUGH THERE’S a good chance that such a facility would be visited once by locals, then become the site where future generations of schoolchildren from the city (if not the more Republican-oriented of suburban communities) would go on field trips.

Which is what we have to look forward to when the announcement is made.

As I look up from my keyboard, I see a plastic mold figure of the U-505, the Nazi Germany submarine that was captured intact and has been on display for decades at the Museum of Science and Industry. The mold is a souvenir from a long-ago trip to the museum.

Will future generations go to the Obama museum and wind up coming home with a plastic mold bust of the president’s head – big ears and all?!?


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” reinforcing Illinois’ urban/rural split?

Gov. Bruce Rauner has his “Turnaround Agenda,” a set of policies meant to reinforce the anti-organized labor attitude he has expressed ever since he became a candidate for governor some two years ago.

The agenda is meant to reinforce the idea that local people should be allowed to undermine the authority of labor unions, and it is with that goal in mind that Rauner’s staff has been working to try to get local governments across Illinois to pass a resolution saying they support the agenda.

I HAVE FOUND some amusement from reading the Capitol Fax newsletter’s website in recent days, as publisher Rich Miller is running tallies of which communities are feeling compelled to express their support for the governor’s desires to make Illinois a “right-to-work” state (implying that unions interfere with people getting jobs, rather than merely protecting their right to be compensated respectably for their work).

Day after day, it seems that every rural community across the southern third of Illinois, and even a few in central Illinois, adds to the list of Rauner supporters. Then again, the voters in those places were the bulk of Rauner supporters in the 2014 election cycle – so it’s no surprise!

Monday was the day they finally got a “big” city on board – the City Council in Rockford voted largely on partisan lines (The Register-Star newspaper reported that one Democrat flipped) to support the resolution.

I know some will remember the days when Rockford was the second-largest city in Illinois and will want to think that means something. Although considering that Aurora and Naperville are both now larger, and Joliet's growing population nips at the heels of Rockford, I'd say it means Rockford isn’t what it once was.

WHAT I HAVE noticed about this is that the trend doesn’t seem to be spreading into metro Chicago. If there are any communities among the roughly 260 municipalities that comprise the Chicago suburbs that have backed the idea, I’m not aware of them.

In fact, the only area community I have heard of that even considered the idea was Crete – a Will County town that realistically can be considered the southern tip of the Chicago area and the place where some would say downstate Illinois begins.

Even then, Michael Einhorn, the long-time village president tried rewriting Rauner’s agenda a bit to soften it up. But the trustees decided to postpone any kind of action.

Reading through the suburban press these days finds a lot of quotes from suburban mayors who just don’t want to touch the issue. Which when combined with the fact that Mayor Rahm Emanuel will likely be the leader of the effort to quash Rauner’s symbolic resolution from becoming reality (because it would interfere with many of the priorities Emanuel thinks the state should have) means this is turning into the two-thirds of Illinois’ population refusing to go along.

EVEN THOUGH I’M sure the masses in the remaining third will want to see themselves as representing the true sentiments of Illinois.

All the “Turnaround Agenda” (which includes such language as, “Voters in our community should be allowed to decide by referendum whether or not employees should be forced to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment”) is doing is becoming more evidence of the “urban vs. rural” split that has become Illinois’ character.

If anything, Rauner by pushing this resolution (thinking that it will pressure legislators into giving in to the governor’s anti-union beliefs) is making that split bigger than usual.

I’d argue he’s becoming the source of the problem, rather than any attempt to become a solution.

HONESTLY, I WON’T be surprised if a lone suburban community or two wind up backing “Turnaround.” Naperville in onetime GOP bastion DuPage County took up the issue Tuesday night. There always are a few exceptions to the rule. But this isn’t a revolution sweeping its way across Illinois – the way Rauner backers would have us think.

If anything, I wonder if Makanda (the Southern Illinois municipality that was the long-time home of now-late Sen. Paul Simon) is the true way of how the Land of Lincoln thinks.

It seems their village officials voted to support the resolution earlier this month without realizing exactly what it meant. The Southern Illinoisan newspaper reported that village President Tina Shingleton said officials thought it was just a call for local control of local government.

Rather than part of an agenda to undermine organized labor and the people who work at such jobs – a desire that Makanda officials are now desperately trying to undo to avoid looking even more foolish than they already do!


EDITOR’S NOTE: Will “Turnaround” be the issue that breaks up the Emanuel/Rauner friendship? Or at least membership in that pricey wine club?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

EXTRA: A 20-vote lead, will it hold?

Tuesday was the final day by which Chicago Elections Board officials had to validate and count provisional ballots from the April 7 elections, while also processing absentee ballots that were put in the mail (and post-marked accordingly) by Election Day.

The final day of the canvass and the announcement of results for those municipal elections is April 28.

FOR MOST POLITICAL people, it doesn’t matter. There was no way Jesus Garcia would close a 75,000 vote gap to overtake Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

But in the 10th Ward (the land where Indiana is the nearby reality that gives us a Whiting-based oil refinery that really stinks up the air), there was always the chance of a last-minute shift in votes that could alter the aldermanic election results.

Challenger Susan Sadlowski Garza went from a seven-vote lead over Alderman John Pope on Election Night, to an 89-vote lead once all the precincts were counted to a 33-vote lead once the first rounds of absentee ballots were counted.

As of Tuesday, she was down to a 20-vote lead. That’s 5,825 votes for Garza to 5,805 for Pope. As in Garza, a Chicago Teachers Union official who got in the race originally thinking she’d be a running-mate of sorts to Karen Lewis’ mayoral aspirations, has 50.09 percent voter support.

THAT’S CLOSE! THAT’S got to hurt for Pope – a 16-year member of the City Council – if he comes that close to winning re-election, but doesn’t. It would take something of historic proportions for him to prevail now!

By this point, it would seem that Garza is going into the history books along with Lyndon Johnson’s 1948 victory for the U.S. Senate – an 87-vote victory margin, albeit with over 1 million votes cast to the 11,600-plus for the 10th Ward election.

Someone may wind up tagging her with a nickname as memorable as “Landslide Lyndon.” Right now, my mind is a blank. Although I’m sure Garza will settle for the label that ultimately is the only one that matters.



Sports fans arguing about anything can result in some serious stupidity

It always amuses me to learn of people whose arguments about professional sports get so over the top that the cops need to be called in.

That seems to be the case this past weekend, where a man managed to get himself arrested twice by police on Saturday – with arguments that began over who was the greatest professional basketball player of all-time.

THE KID FROM Ohio, LeBron James? Or "His Airness" himself, Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan!

The Chicago Tribune reported that Daniel Mondelice was arrested early Saturday at an apartment building in State College, Pa., after his quarrel with someone else on that very subject got out of hand.

He was able to get himself released by police after charges were filed. Yet he returned to a nearby apartment building and then managed to get into another quarrel when he refused to leave when asked, according to the State Collegian newspaper at Penn State University.

That caused his Saturday night arrest that resulted in him spending the rest of the weekend in jail. Associated Press reports indicate he was still there as of Monday morning. He is scheduled to be in court again on Wednesday.

THE NEWSPAPER ACCOUNTS didn’t indicate whether Mondelice was a Jordan backer, or was delusional enough to think that James reigns supreme! Although considering his age (22), he might be in the latter category.

For it usually turns out in these sports-themed arguments that people desperately want to believe that their own generation’s athletic heroes reign supreme. Just as I'm sure my own remembrances of one-time (and now deceased) Chicago Bear Doug Buffone are elevated because he played when I was a kid.

This guy would have been a bit young to have seen Jordan at his peak – and might want easily to dismiss what some claim is Jordan’s ultimate piece of evidence as to his superiority.

As in those six NBA championships in an eight-year period (two strings of three straight titles apiece) that gave Chicago its only taste of what it’s like to be a New York Yankees fan with perpetual strings of championship teams to root for.

THEN AGAIN, THE Yankees of the past two seasons didn’t even make the playoffs – thereby giving Yankees fans a taste of what it’s like to root for a Chicago ball club.

So what should we think of Mondelice – who may well have got the moment of infamy that now will perpetually crop up on search engines any time anyone does an Internet search of his name (and may wind up producing the bulk of the people who will ever read this particular commentary)?

I was amused to read the typical anonymous reader commentary that turned up on the Tribune website for the people who recalled the film “Bad Teacher.”

Because those of us whose minds have a knack of collecting clutter and trivia will remember the scene where actor Jason Segal’s gym teacher character argues about Jordan versus James with a student – ultimately saying the six titles is “the only argument I need” in Jordan’s favor!

EVEN THOUGH I’M sure there are those who want to think of Jordan as the aging (at 52, he’s only a couple years older than I am) owner of a mediocre basketball team in Charlotte, N.C.

Although I’m sure those James fans will get their comeuppance a couple of decades from now when some smart mouth will argue that some kid ballplayer yet to be born shows LeBron for the foolish old man he truly is.

These kind of sports arguments go on and on for generations, and we only hope that people have enough sense to keep their behavior in check so the police don’t have to get involved.

Because if you do wind up getting arrested, you might not be able to watch “Bad Teacher” for its classic scene – the one where Cameron Diaz in her short shorts shows off her physical attributes and gets soaking wet while washing cars!!!