Monday, August 31, 2015

Too safe? How about too costly?

I’m not a regular reader of The Onion (that one-time paper-turned-website filled with attempts at parody), but I couldn’t help but stumble across one of their recent attempts at humor about our neighborhoods.
Humboldt Park on display in this 2008 film

For The Onion last week gave us an account of a woman who lives in the Humboldt Park neighborhood who thinks that the recent efforts toward gentrification have made the neighborhood too expensive for her to live in.

OR, AS THE parody attempts to portray it, the neighborhood is, “too safe for her family to afford.”

It seems that this account is mocking of those people who criticize gentrification. Because who in their right mind would up upset about the safety of a neighborhood? Or would deliberately search for a more violent place to live in order to save money?

Which may well make the people who came up with this particular account as much a part of the larger problem as anyone else. They’re definitely part of the solution!

Because the issue with gentrification that causes so many people to be resentful of the concept is that it comes across as officials willing to upgrade a neighborhood in search of a higher economic demographic – which often comes across as a more Anglo-oriented ethnic class of people.

AS THOUGH NO one wants to be bothered to make a neighborhood better for its current residents if those people happen to be a little too dark complexioned for the tastes of the kind of people who make their money from real estate development.

In the real Humboldt Park, that is the prevailing attitude that is going about.

Humboldt Park is a northwest side neighborhood that back in the mid-to-late 1960s became the center of a Puerto Rican community for Chicago. Many of them moved from places like Lincoln Park when that neighborhood began its upscale trend.

There are those current neighborhood residents who wonder if the fact that many upper-scale, somewhat monied, residents have moved in during recent years means that history is trying to repeat itself.

SO THE ONION finds humor in quoting a woman saying she now feels safe when she walks to the grocery store. Which is a bad, bad thing for her.
If gentrification were to take full effect, would this icon disappear?

I did find some absurdity in the name that the parody account gave to this mythical woman – it most definitely is not anything with origins in Puerto Rico or Latin America.

Because if anyone were really going to be complaining about the gentrification trend, it would be someone of those ethnic origins. Who may have to wonder where they’re now headed.

Perhaps Jefferson Park? Could it be that someday, the Puerto Ricans will be chased out of Humboldt Park and wind up living in those neighborhoods that ring around O’Hare International Airport?

WILL FUTURE GENERATIONS of Chicago residents complaining about airport noise and the idea of jet fuel dumped on their homes express themselves in Spanish-accented English?

Let’s not forget that this particular ethnic tension was partially behind the outcry earlier this year that chased the Riot Fest event from Humboldt Park!

Not that this tension is unique to Humboldt Park. The whole concept of gentrification bothers those who feel like they’re only permitted to live in neighborhoods that are decrepit – usually due to age and neglect and the idea that they’re not worth maintaining anymore because of the demographic of the current residents.

At least until someone figures out a way to get someone else to overpay for the concept of living in places that have always had a certain advantage throughout the years – proximity, aided by mass transportation, to downtown Chicago!


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Life’s losers didn’t win the Lottery after all? They have to wait for prizes

At a time when Illinois government is being run largely by court-order mandating that certain things be paid regardless of the lack of a balanced budget in place, it seems at least one entity is being left out in the cold because of the Illinois Constitution.

Illinois Lottery winners!

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE reported Friday about how people who win the large prizes that are the whole purpose of the lottery games are merely being given written statements confirming that they are owed the money.

But not actually being given the money; until the day comes that Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, can learn to act like adults and put together the spending plan that will allow all of Illinois government to function normally.

Well, maybe not normally (because much of our state’s ‘normal’ is rather bizarre), but at least legally.

The Tribune, then WBBM-TV, found Illinois Lottery winners who are downright peeved at the fact that their ‘pot of gold’ at the end of the rainbow is on hold.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS picked up on those reports, and is now spreading the story across the nation – Illinois is the state that is killing people’s dreams while acting in a cold, callous manner.

The Tribune literally found one person who said that anybody who owed state government money wouldn’t be allowed to claim that their finances were too out-of-order as an excuse to get out of having to pay the money.

Which is true. Although not the best of points.

Because I’m going to have to concede that I’m not all too sympathetic to these people – who were winners of prizes of more than $25,000. It seems that anybody who won an amount less than that can still get their money.

DO WE REALLY want to take up the cause of those people who blow their bucks on large sums of lottery tickets, in hopes the prize will be worthwhile financially?

I want to scream at all of these people who are now complaining to “Get a Job!” and work for a living. Anybody who thinks that Lottery games is the key to their financial success deserves whatever abuse they wind up getting.

Besides, I happen to comprehend the reason why the Illinois Constitution requires that a budget be in place before funds can be spent. Do we really think it is appropriate that money can be spent, willy-nilly, without something in writing dictating how much can go toward any individual program.

My biggest fear these days is that when a budget for the Fiscal Year 2016 (which began July 1) does finally get done, so much money will already have been spent that everybody will not have enough to make it to June 30, 2016,

AFTER ALL, THIS was the year that there were either going to have to be billions in cuts or a significant increase in revenues for things to balance out.

The fact that somebody might have to wait on the prize they think they’re entitled to because they either scratched off the proper sequence of figures on a ticket (or got lucky enough to get the right numbers on a “quick pick”) doesn’t really bother me much.

It is one of the occupational hazards of doing business with state government – sometimes payments get delayed, although there is the guarantee that you will be paid in full eventually.

Unlike some private companies that can get out of paying their debts altogether.

MAYBE MY THOUGHTS are harshened because my father once owned his own construction company that got contracts for work on government-owned buildings.

Past political disputes and shortfalls by the state caused so many delays that it was a factor in him eventually having to shut down.

Excuse me for thinking that he, and others like him, are the real victims – not somebody who’s upset that their “Million Dollar Jackpot” hasn’t paid out yet.


Friday, August 28, 2015

We got the Obama presidential library, but will we get to design it as well?

The fight with New York and Honolulu is over – the main facility of the presidential library and museum that will honor the two terms of Barack Obama will be located in Chicago – and on the fringes of the Hyde Park neighborhood as well.

OBAMA: Now we fight over who does design
So now that Chicagoans can’t quarrel over whether or not we’re being deprived of the facility itself, it seems we will now fight over whether the Second City is being snubbed by having an out-of-town (or out-of-country) architect design the facility.

AT LEAST THAT’S the impression I got when officials with the Barack Obama Foundation made it known that they sent out invitations to select architects, asking them to take an interest in the project.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the foundation wants those companies to present their credentials and references by Sept. 16; if they want the project!

Although it also was made known that anybody is permitted to apply, and that the foundation doesn’t expect to see finished plans for a library at this point.

This is more about flushing out who is interested in being the architect who gets credit for designing the Washington Park-based facility that officials hope becomes a major tourist attraction for the South Side – and also one of those places that Chicago schoolchildren of the future will wind up taking many field trips to.

IN SHORT, IT would be a prominent place in Chicago. It would be the kind of facility that will draw public attention – and could also be the source of great derision if the ultimate design turns out to be something completely gaudy.

Then again, I’m sure the conservative ideologues are going to call it the ugliest building known to mankind regardless of what the final design is. Some people, particularly with regard to Obama, are going to complain regardless of what happens.

Which also applies to the idea of choosing an architect.

I’m wondering how much of an issue it will be if the Obama foundation even considers choosing a non-Chicago-based architect to design the building.

WILL WE DENOUNCE Obama as some sort of city traitor? Somebody who never was really one of us? Somebody who thinks he is too good to continue to live amongst us?

You just know that charge is forthcoming – particularly since a recent Washington Post story that told of how Obama and first lady Michelle are likely to wind up living in New York once the presidential term ends in 2017 and daughter Sasha graduates from high school a couple of years later.

Add in an out-of-town architect to a city whose residents like to brag about the quality of local pizza, Polish sausage and architecture (and don’t seem ashamed that the Cubs are so historically awful), and you know it will be a stink.

The Tribune pointed out that every single presidential library/museum to date has been designed by a U.S. architect (if not somebody local). So what if Obama picks a firm from out-of-country? I can already hear the shouting and screaming and yelling and whining!

BECAUSE FOR AS much as we Chicagoans like to go on and on about how we’re an “international” city with a place on the world scale, we’re also incredible of being ridiculously parochial.

We’re bound to think that nobody outside of the neighborhoods is worthy of involvement in this project. Some may even argue this ought to be exclusively a South Side project that MUST have a minority-owned architectural firm in charge.
We may even wind up bragging someday about how many Chicago-made bricks and beams of steel are used in the final structure, and how many Chicagoans were involved in its construction. All of which is intriguing because the building has the potential to be one of the few presidential library facilities that people actually visit.

Sorry ideologues, but the Obama presidency is more notable historically (and politically) than any of the clowns you’d prefer to praise.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Occupational hazards of a reporter-type? Or how big a twit can Trump be?

What should we think about the trio of news people who on Wednesday were all over the news reports because of incidents that prevented them from being able to report the news?

RAMOS: Will this become ongoing feud?
There is one difference, Jorge Ramos, the lead anchor of the Univision network’s national newscast, is still alive and kicking – compared to a reporter and camera operator for a Virginia television station who were shot and killed while doing a live report Wednesday morning.

WHAT WOULD HAVE been a forgettable live interview about tourism on WDBJ-TV turned into news when someone pulled out a pistol and fired shots at the reporter and camera operator.

Early reports indicate the gunman – whose face the camera operator may actually managed to catch on camera in his final moments of life – was a former employee of the Roanoke, Va.-based television station. This incident could be some sort of bitter grudge connected to that station.

So personally, I’m not feeling any increased fears that I’m going to be picked off by a sniper while interviewing someone in and around Gary, Ind. (a ‘day job’ of sorts for the local daily newspaper I have to earn money).

Unless I feel the need to have a chat with my editor to see if he has any enemies I should watch out for.

I PROBABLY SHOULDN’T joke about this incident, which if anything is merely evidence of the randomness of life. And the fact that not everything that happens makes any sense. Some of it is downright stupid.

But it means that reporter Alison Parker (she’d been at the television station for about a year and was just starting in the news business) won’t have the bright future she may, or may not, have been destined for.

Parker and Ward (below) have become ...
And as for camera operator Adam Ward, he won’t be leaving the television station in the near future to follow his fiancée to a better job at a station in Charlotte, N.C. (which is what CNN reported Wednesday morning).

The pair will be tied into the local memory of stupid happenings – at least until the next idiotic moment occurs.

YET FOR AS freely as I toss about the words “stupid” and “idiotic” in connection with this incident, I actually don’t think this moment is the dumbest thing that happened during the 24-hour period of Tuesday night into Wednesday.

... an unwitting pair
Instead, you'd have to check out the behavior of presidential buffoon Donald Trump – who at a press conference made a point of confronting, then having ejected, Ramos. Who was trying to bolster his credentials as a legitimate news person by actually going out and reporting on the presidential campaign!
Trump on Wednesday was claiming that Ramos was “ranting and raving like a mad man.” He also pointed out that Ramos eventually was readmitted to the press conference, and got a couple of questions answered (albeit with lame, pointless answers by Trump).

Yet I can’t help but be influenced by the images I saw on television not of a “mad man” reporter, but of a candidate behaving like a pompous buffoon. I wonder if his presidential fantasies include being able to have White House press corps reporter-types ejected at his will. Or maybe he's going to single out the Univision network (owned by the same people who operate NBC) throughout his campaign.

THAT WOULD MAKE Trump more of an un-American tyrant than the conservative ideologues ever accused Barack Obama of being. Unless you think much of the fact that Trump says he won’t eat Oreo cookies any longer because the company moved to Mexico! Which would have been the Trump “story of the day” had he not singled out Ramos for abuse.

TRUMP: How unpresidential!
I’m actually more offended by this story (Trump’s behavior, not the cookies) than I am of the two news people being killed by gunfire while trying to do their jobs. Because that has the potential to turn out to be such an isolated incident unlikely to occur with any regularity. Nobody’s siding with the gunman.

While I’m sure there are going to be some people (mostly those of a xenophobic bent) who are going to try to claim some sort of ‘heroic’ status for Trump because he stood up to the evil (as they perceive it) influence of Univision.

Which strikes me as a gross overstatement for a network of television stations that my grandmother used to watch for some of the cheesiest, and steamiest, soap operas anyone could ever envision.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

EXTRA: Cop quips – view really puts them in their own little world at times

I can claim a “credential” that a lot of city residents like to cite as evidence of their authenticity as native Chicagoans – I had two uncles (one retired, the other deceased) who were officers within the Chicago Police Department.

Yet I’m not about to claim to have any unique comprehension of what goes through the minds of those people who take the oath to “serve and protect” the people of their community, yet often have the knack of being out-of-touch with certain segments of society.

I DON’T DOUBT they’re in touch with the way certain people feel; and that those people LIKE the idea that the police are on their side protecting them from everybody else.

But it’s not exactly a universal concept that everybody feels safe when they see the flashing lights of a “Mars bar” atop a squad car.

So it shouldn’t be a shock that a pair of stories turned up Wednesday involving the Chicago police that would make it seem that certain officers do their jobs to reinforce their own racial hang-ups.

If anything, these stories become so prevalent that we almost become immune to them – as though we’re not sure we should have ever thought the police were protecting “us” on a daily basis.

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE reported that the police department’s Internal Affairs began an investigation into an officer who got caught on video making a disparaging remark about Michael Brown – remember him?

Supposedly, the officer made a traffic stop and wound up arguing with a man, who said he didn’t trust the police. That man then mentioned by name the individual who was killed by police last year in Ferguson, Mo.

To which the officer supposedly said, “he got what he had coming” and that Brown’s death was “deserved.”

Whether expressing that opinion violates the professional standards we expect of a law enforcement officer is what the department’s investigators will have to determine.

ALTHOUGH I ALREADY can envision the people who will come to the officer’s defense – he merely said something, He didn’t act in a harmful way.

For all I know, many of these people probably agree with a thought that people in confrontations with police are worthy of force – because they wouldn’t be in a confrontation if they weren’t doing something wrong!

We’ll have to see how harsh, if at all, the Chicago police wind up handling this incident. Let’s not forget that the officer who killed Brown was ultimately found by St. Louis-area prosecutors to have done nothing that would warrant criminal charges. This is much less.

This incident isn’t alone in the news on Wednesday. For the Chicago Sun-Times reported its own story about a police officer potentially being too open in expressing his thoughts.

IN THAT CASE, the officer supposedly threatened a colleague and made racial remarks. But as the newspaper reported, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office dropped the charges that officer faced.

It seems that a third officer to who the officer actually expressed the threats has died. There goes the witness whose credibility would have been put on the stand in any trial that might have someday taken place.

So now, there’s a police officer who has been cleared – although it seems he was on disability leave back in 2011 when the original “threat” was made.

Although the idea that an officer is off-the-hook for “racially derogatory” comments is bound to offend many of the same people who think that the other officer should be punished severely for opening up his mouth about Brown.


A constitutional debate? Or a business out-of-touch w/ its community?

The arrival of a new Mariano’s supermarket within a neighborhood or community these days is usually an occasion for local celebration.

Wasn't posted on Mariano's Opening Day in Northbrook
The chain of markets that offer a somewhat upscale shopping experience for food (they stock some items that the local Jewel finds to be a tad esoteric) is usually seen as a reason to celebrate.

YET UP IN suburban Northbrook, people were picketing because the new Mariano’s had management that wouldn’t take up their pet cause – concealed carry of firearms on one’s person.

Activists said they would be at the store when it opened for business Tuesday morning because they want the store to post those stickers that depict a red slash though a silhouette of a pistol.

Making it clear that people who feel the need to carry a firearm are not welcome in the store. As in they ought to leave the gun inside their cars while they shop inside for groceries.

Now insofar as the law in Illinois is concerned, people can get permits that allow them to carry a pistol in a shoulder holster or a purse (open-carry is a separate issue). Which means a shopper with a permit could have his pistol on his person while picking out a piece of trout or grabbing a gallon of milk.

STATE LAW DOES permit businesses that don’t wish to have firearms on their premises to post the stickers on their doors that the activists desire. In short, they want their new Mariano’s to make a political statement!

One that the Mariano’s management indicates they’re not willing to make.

WBBM-AM radio reported that Mariano’s parent company justified its actions by saying it is in compliance with Illinois law. They say their Chicago-based locations do post such stickers, because city ordinances require them in the stores that also sell alcoholic beverages.

It's not exactly Georgia
Short of a state law that would require the stickers in all their stores in Illinois, they’re not about to go any farther than they have to.

WHICH MAKES SOME sense. Mariano’s is in the business of selling groceries and some prepared-food items. It isn’t a social organization out to make statements on anything.

So the idea that it doesn’t want to tick off anyone by bringing up what it wants to regard as an irrelevant issue is to be expected.

But it also makes a certain amount of sense that a business doesn’t want to needlessly tick off its customer base. Which in the case of this new supermarket is the north suburban area in and around Northbrook.

It’s not exactly a rural community filled with people who think they’re about to take their shotgun out and kill their dinner tonight. If anything, it is a community inclined to be sympathetic to rules and restrictions intended to reduce the potential for crime.

THOSE WOULD INCLUDE restricting the access to weapons by people who aren’t the police. It’s not one of those communities filled with people who think they’re going to be called upon to shoot someone else to defend themselves against a would-be mugger.

Let’s not forget that Northbrook is just a couple of towns from Morton Grove – which was once the first community in the nation to ban the sale and ownership of firearms.

It makes me wonder if Mariano’s management is that out-of-touch with who their customers are. It’s not like this is a store in Kennesaw or Nelson in Georgia – the communities that require their adult residents to own firearms.

Of course, if Mariano’s were to now decide to add the desired stickers, they’ll wind up attracting the attention of the National Rifle Association and every other gun group.

THEY MAY EVEN wind up like those Starbuck’s franchises in certain states where gun owners make a point of bringing their weapons into the stores and making sure everybody knows they’re armed while they buy a cup of overpriced coffee.

Which puts Mariano’s in a very awkward position – one they may not be able to escape from. Unless people decide that the novelty of the exotic food items they can get from a Mariano’s makes them overcome any concern they have about firearms.

If people get hungry enough, that may become a very real possibility.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

‘Keep your eye on the ball’ some good advice for fans as well as ballplayers

Listening to Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon talk this weekend about how fans attending ballgames ought to pay more attention to the field reminded me of a pair of game-goers I met over a decade ago.

Too many fans act as though they're bobble-heads
That particular couple was sitting right in front of me at U.S. Cellular Field for a game against the Boston Red Sox. He was a Massachusetts native who married a South Side girl, and they now lived here.

FOR THIS PARTICULAR game, they brought their newborn son – who was clad in a Red Sox cap and White Sox-logoed pajamas. It was the first game they ever brought him to, and they were overly obsessed with taking all kinds of pictures of their son at the ballpark.

Which is cute. It is understandable.

But it also struck me then as being reckless, because we all were sitting just a few rows up from the field down the third base line. It was prime territory for someone who would want to catch foul balls hit into the stand during the game.

It was a likely place for some right-handed pull hitter to crack a line drive that would go screaming into the stands. One that would wind up sending a person to the hospital if they weren’t ready for it and capable of either catching the ball cleanly, or ducking to get out of the way!

FORTUNATELY, NO LINE drives came too close. One ball did land about 10 seats away. But I didn’t get the up-close view of an infant being bashed by a baseball.

Sunday wasn’t so lucky.

During the Cubs’ game against the Atlanta Braves, a woman sitting near the camera well on the first base side got hit by a line drive into the stands. Badly enough that she had to be taken to an area hospital.

Which led to Maddon’s comments about how fans, particularly those in the prime seats near the infield, ought to pay attention to what happens on the playing field. That would at least give them a chance at avoiding harm if a line drive were cracked toward their heads.
Are those fans in stands? Or targets for line drives?
IT’S THE LITTLE lie that too many people attending ballgames want to believe – softly lobbed drives into the stands. Instead of something smacked hard that WILL inflict pain and cause bone-crushing damage (particularly to the skull) if there is physical impact.

I remember the closest I ever came to having a ball hit to me it came so fast that my reflexes were too slow to react. A good thing for me that the ball wound up going about eight feet to my left – and somebody else wound up getting their hand smashed!

The problem is too many people act like clowns and don’t pay attention.

If anything, all those video boards that exist in 21st Century stadiums wind up serving as a distraction. They motivate people to think they ought to be watching somewhere other than the infield.

WHICH IS SOMETHING I really don’t understand.

For the price of tickets these days (the last ballgame I went to about a month ago, the seats in the outfield were $40 apiece), you’d think people would want to actually watch the game – instead of whatever silly sponsor-driven stunt is being promoted that day.

If anything, it was the fact that my brother actually managed to catch himself a baseball at the game a month ago – the first ever in his life – that ought to be evidence that paying attention has its merits.

Either that, or we’re going to literally have to fence off the entire playing field to protect fans from their own refusal to watch out for themselves.


Monday, August 24, 2015

How warped is Trump on immigration? Even goofiest of rumors seem true

It doesn’t shock me in the least whenever Republican presidential dreamer Donald Trump opens his mouth about immigration-related issues.

Only $79, and you can smash it to your heart's content
He has a strategy in mind; he wants to get the support of that segment of our society that is determined to think of immigration as a problem to be eradicated – particularly as it relates to Latin American nations.

IT WILL GAIN him some supporters. Although as far as I’m concerned, it also means he is worthy of any abuse that comes along with it. He made a choice about the kind of people he wants to vote for him.

So it also means he deserves the hostility and suspicion of the people he seems determined to single out for attacks just to try to get himself the votes of some people whose own motivations are questionable.

How else to explain the Trump rally on Friday in Alabama that devolved into racist rants from the followers when Trump once again brought up a pet issue of the xenophobic segment of our society – removing citizenship from certain people who aren’t exactly like them.

The problem with the remarks that Trump has made about Mexico and U.S. relations with the Mexican government is that they are so ridiculous and over-the-top that they make all the other rumors seem so viable.

IT BECOMES HARD to tell just what is absurd, and what is truthful. Because the truth of what comes out of Trump’s mouth is so absurd, in and of itself.

Take the story that emanated out of a Latin American-oriented website about how Trump said he wants to revoke the century-old orders that gave U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans. As I initially read on the website.

Because, as Trump  supposedly put it, they don’t fit the image of what the “American race” ought to be. As stupid as such a thought is, it isn’t any more ridiculous than what Trump has legitimately said about Mexico.

Or the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (which was one of the amendments implemented right after the Civil War to address the status of former slaves). Trump on Friday in Alabama called the amendment “stupid.”

I’LL BE THE first to admit that I can’t find back-up accounts of Trump actually discussing Puerto Rico and citizenship. In short, I can’t find an actual news account of what was said. Yet it is so in character that it comes across as believable.

Just as a story on the website came across as truthful – even though it isn’t.

In that report, Trump supposedly said he was prepared to settle the dispute over Jerusalem and the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the Arabs who live in the area claimed by Israel by relocating those Arabs to Puerto Rico.

It was meant to be parody, but a Muslim cleric in Jerusalem on Friday took it literally, and went about denouncing the idea – claiming that, “Palestine is not the same as Puerto Rico, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque is not a mere building made of stone.”

IN LIGHT OF everything else he says when Latin American issues come up, it would only make sense that Trump probably thinks Puerto Rico and its people aren’t worth much.

Trump probably thinks that Puerto Rico is nothing more than the place where he once developed a luxury golf course (with appropriate hotels) that has since gone bankrupt. How could it be anything worthwhile if it didn’t add to the Trump financial bottom line?

On the surface, the idea of revoking Puerto Rico citizenship (which would cause so many more problems than resolve the few the ideologues think exist) and turning the island commonwealth into an Islamic land are too ridiculous to take seriously.

Then again, so are Trump’s real comments about Mexican people in this country being “rapists and drug runners.” Whose only real purpose is to appeal to the segment of our society that respectable people realize are THE problem we ought to address.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Was Chicago ever really that white?

There’s a new piece of video now publicly available for those people who want to rant and rage about Chicago race relations and just how segregated a city we really are.

The Chicago Film Archives took a nearly 15-minute promotional film and put it on YouTube – so we can now see how the city’s establishment wanted to view itself back in 1977.

NOW I WAS 12 years old back in that year – notable because it gave us Michael Bilandic as mayor (whose reputation hadn’t been whacked by snow yet) and actually had a “July 31” with both the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs in first place and many fantasizing about an all-Chicago World Series.

Richard J. signature, even though he was gone
Of course, that didn’t happen. Now, the Internet is filled with assorted people complaining about the distorted image that film gave of the city as a whole.

After watching the film myself (the website for Chicago published a feature Friday about it), I have to admit my initial reaction was to wonder how a city that was roughly split equally between white and black people (and not quite as many Latinos as there are now) could appear to be so white?

Then again, I think back to the mentality of the era and remember how little attention official Chicago paid to the South Side neighborhoods that had in the mid-to-late 1960s developed majority African-American neighborhoods.

Despite all the South Side Hit Men homers ...
ALMOST AS THOUGH they had sunk into a black hole when all the white people left places like South Shore or Gresham to live in suburbs like Oak Lawn or South Holland.

So the idea that the people who shot the video for the film sponsored by the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau and the Illinois Tourism Bureau naturally looked for images of white people is predictable.

The part of the film where then-WBBM-TV news anchor Bill Kurtis narrates copy talking about Chicago’s diversity gave us footage of all kinds of people in ethnic garb – and several intense seconds of a Greek belly dancer in a particularly-skimpy costume.

There were shots that look like they came from Chinatown, and also some footage of Asian ethnics who appear to be a part of a tourist group – as though these “foreigners” were checking us out (and also spending their money in Chicago).

... '77 was just a 3rd place finish
WHICH WAS KIND of the point of this whole exercise.

In fact, the only signs of black people I saw was one quick glimpse of a taxi driver, and an extended sequence of a parade with black people as spectators and participants.

Which makes me think it was from a Bud Billiken Parade from the early 1970s – check out all the afros (the hairstyle) amongst the male participants.

Then again, that wasn’t the only sign that this was the era following the Age of Aquarius, but prior to the Reagan Years.

MANY PEOPLE WILL laugh about the presence of “discotheques” and the sight of so many white people trying to “get down and boogie.”

Although what I noticed was the idea that few of those people had any real dance moves. They were just sort of waving their hands about and trying to writhe and wriggle in time to the music.

The film “Saturday Night Fever” really was a fantasy in terms of the idea that anyone looked like John Travolta’s “Tony Manero” character. At least as far as Chicago was concerned.

As far as those people who were ranting on Friday that the film was “too white,” I’d have to say that this is the image of Chicago that Richard J. Daley would have wanted the world to see.

Then the latest models, now most likely scrap metal
IT WAS ALSO the image many white Chicagoans had of their city – which is why there were so many people who were thoroughly, and utterly, shocked on that day in the spring of 1983 when Harold Washington actually won a Democratic primary election for mayor.

We are better off for acknowledging the larger Chicago; a city where white, black and Latino are headed toward parity, with a sizable Asian population as well.

Although I can’t help but think that whenever I hear people complain about Chicago being too dominant (Gov. Bruce Rauner made such comments earlier this week) over the rest of Illinois, I wonder if they’d have less of a problem with that concept if the city were more truly like this decades-old PR image in the video.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Out with the old on political scene, White and Carter keep busy into old age

Listening to a 90-year-old Jimmy Carter talk Thursday morning about the treatment he will start receiving for minuscule (but still deadly) cancerous spots on his brain couldn’t help but remind me of that election cycle nearly 40 years ago when the man from Plains (as in Georgia) became our president.

From 1976, when Mayor Daley gave Jimmy Carter a less-than-stellar election effort
To be honest, Carter prevailed because the stink of Watergate hovered over the nation – leaving a lot of people turned off to the political party of Richard Nixon.

ANYBODY WHO WON the Democratic primary was likely to win the general election in that Bicentennial year.

Amongst our own local political trivia, it ought to be noted that 1976 was one of the fluke years.

It was one of only two election cycles during the 20th Century (1916 was the other) in which someone managed to win a presidential election WITHOUT taking Illinois.

In what was Cook County “Boss” Richard J. Daley’s last election cycle on the national stage (he died one month later), Illinois’ votes in the Electoral College went to then-incumbent President Gerald R. Ford.

MAKING THE LAND of Lincoln one of the few places that actually did vote to have Ford as our nation’s chief executive.

Carter took only 53 percent of the vote in Cook County, meaning all the rest of the state (outside of a few sparsely-populated Southern Illinois counties) was able to gang up on Chicago and put the state into the Republican column.

The reports back then indicated that Daley didn’t think much of the idea of a Southerner like Carter, and doubted he had much appeal to working-class Chicago. Which resulted in the lackluster effort by the political organization to turn out the vote.

There also were the reports about how Daley felt insulted at the Democratic National Convention that year when his big public moment was to attend a press conference with Miss Lillian – as in Jimmy Carter’s mother.

CONSIDERING SHE WAS the one with the sassy personality, it would have made the aging Daley come across like the grouchy ol’ man from Bridgeport – telling the kids to keep off his lawn.

Or perhaps to have the cops parked on the block to keep watch on his bungalow do it for him?

WHITE: Will he finally retire come '18?
But Carter went on to win his one term in office – one that still gives the conservative ideologues material for their rants and rages. So much that those who felt compelled to use Fox News Channel websites to read the story to make crude insults about the man!

Back in those days when Carter and Daley were at the top of the pecking order, one of the lower-rungs was Jesse White, who had just finished serving his first term representing a piece of Chicago in the Illinois House of Representatives.

AN OFFICE HE held through 1993 – when he got himself elected to what locally was a higher post; Cook County recorder of deeds.

Then, in the 1998 elections, White won the post that was supposed to allow him to retire on top – he became Illinois secretary of state at age 64. A term there, and he could go out in style.

Except that White has managed to keep that post through five terms. Although he said Thursday he has no intention of running for term number six come the 2018 election cycle. Retirement for White would come at age 84.

Although I found it interesting to learn he intends to remain active by continuing to operate the Jesse White Tumblers, the gymnastics group that tries to give inner-city youth something to do.

JUST AS HOW Carter told reporter-types he wants to be able to think he can carry on with his charitable works even while receiving his medical treatments.

Some people just seem to want to keep busy. Which may be why they are remembered long after most of us are forgotten?


For what it is worth, following is a commentary I wrote for United Press International from Springfield, Ill., at the end of Jesse White’s first week in January 1999 of what could wind up being his 20-year return to the Illinois Statehouse scene.

Around the Statehouse

White’s Statehouse ‘return’ well-received


SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Jan. 18 (UPI) – When Jesse White gave up an Illinois House seat and a career in state government in 1992 to be a Cook County government official, he was following the Chicago rulebook about moving up in politics.

But the Cook County recorder of deeds return last week to the Statehouse scene made him one of Illinois’ most popular politicians these days.

“I’m glad to be home,” White, 64, says of his return to the state payroll when he was sworn in as Illinois secretary of state.

Democrats routinely gave him enthusiastic rounds of applause and cheers during his public appearances last week. Even Republicans are on the White bandwagon.

Part of the appeal is the bipartisan political rhetoric that flowed through Springfield last week. Once the General Assembly and state government has to start doing things for people, the blatant praise will pass.

White’s popularity from Democrats is due to the party’s lack of anyone holding a state constitutional office during the past four years.

Now, a Democrat controls the agency that has many jobs around Illinois and deals with licensing motorists – the function that brings most people into routine contact with state government.

“He’s looking mighty good up there,” state Rep. Art Turner, D-Chicago. Noted during legislative inauguration ceremonies where White presided. “It’s nice to have one of our own in a position of power.”

But White’s record of community service, including the nearly 40 years that he has headed the Jesse White Tumblers gymnastics team and other work he has done to benefit inner-city kids in Chicago, also is a factor.

It is hard for even the most cynical political observer to bad-mouth someone with White’s social work background. One Statehouse observer says White, “already was an American hero. Now, he’s an American hero with 1,000 patronage jobs.”

One should not doubt that White knows how to do politics. Already, he is arranging to put failed lieutenant governor nominee Mary Lou Kearns on his state payroll.

White also is playing the Chicago political game, trying to influence the choice of his successor as recorder of deeds.

White is backing Darlena Williams-Burnett, the wife of a Chicago alderman, even though Cook County Board President John Stroger and other officials prefer state Rep. Eugene Moore, D-Maywood.

White also became the first newly-elected pol to create a mini-scandal of sorts by offering a key financial post in the Illinois secretary of state’s office – and its $70,000 annual salary – to his daughter, Glenna.

But political observers are putting all that aside. Many are recalling White’s cooperation and willingness to support newly-elected colleagues during his 16 years in the Illinois House.

He’s close enough to them that state Rep. Joel Brunsvold, D-Milan, quips White can still be used by the Illinois House softball team, which has not been able to beat the state Senate team in years.

White played baseball in the Chicago Cubs minor league system in the 1960s, and remains athletic. But it is his Cubs connection that led to what was the closest to a hostile comment made about White all last week.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan – speaking like the life-long Chicago Sout’ Sider that he is – says, “the only mistake (White) ever made in his life was to play with the Cubs, instead of the White Sox.”


Copyright 1999 by United Press International.
All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

EXTRA: 100 and 50 years ago this date; 35th & Shields the place to be?

The Chicago White Sox were in Anaheim, Calif., Thursday night, finishing up a series against the Los Angeles Angels that has been as dismal (three losses thus far) as much of this season (55-63, or a .466 winning percentage).

So if you want to find a moment of glory connected to the Sox, you have to turn to history.

FOR IT SEEMS that Aug. 20 is a fairly historic date connected to the American League’s franchise in Chicago.

It can be argued that the greatest ballplayer to ever wear the White Sox uniform was “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, whom the White Sox acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Indians on Aug. 20, 1915.

Back in the day, it was a big money deal – Cleveland got $31,500 in cash, along with three journeyman ballplayers. The White Sox got the guy who arguably was the second-best hitter in the American League – behind Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers.

Seriously, how many .400 hitters (.408 in 1911, compared to .420 for Cobb that same season) can’t even win a batting title. And still hold the Cleveland and Chicago team records for triples.

JACKSON, OF COURSE, went on to help the White Sox win American League championships in 1917 and 1919. They got a World Series title in the former, but about all most people remember about Jackson these days (aside from thinking he looks and sounds like actor Ray Liotta) is that he was one of the eight ballplayers who got indicted on criminal charges for allegedly taking money to play less-than-well during the ’19 World Series.

LENNON: Above 'sacred' ground
That was a stink that lingered over the franchise for decades; one that some Cubs fans would like to think still ought to be associated with the ball club all these decades later.

Of course, time passes, and it was 50 years later to the date that another moment occurred on the grounds where Shoeless Joe once roamed.

The White Sox themselves were in Kansas City, Mo., to play the Athletics – whom they beat 3-1.

BUT THE BALLPARK still saw one of the city’s moments – the Beatles were on their 1965 tour of the United States, and 50 years ago this date they were in Chicago.

Where the music fans packed their way into the 45,000-seat ballpark to see one of the biggest rock music groups ever give one of their many less-than-stellar performances.

It’s the drawback of playing day after day after day of the same set of songs. Although I’m sure those who were actually on hand in the ballpark that day could care less. For all I know, the prepubescent screams drowned out the actual sounds of music that came from White Sox Park that day.

Even Ringo Starr gave an interview in the basement of the ballpark saying he thought that the people in the stadium, “they’re too far away, really” to enjoy the music.

SO WHAT SHOULD we think of Aug. 20, 2015?

The shorts, on display
Somehow, I suspect there won’t be anything terribly notable about the date. Unless you get excited by the anniversary coming up on Saturday – 49 years since the last time the White Sox ever wore shorts during a regulation ballgame.