Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Who will get hit with political blame as pop, beer prices rise in coming weeks?

It was with some interest that I read reports about how the price of a can of pop or beer will go on the rise in coming weeks due to the rising cost of producing the aluminum for the pop-top cans that are the all-too-popular way of selling such beverages.
Cost of the cans could boost price of the pop/beer
The tariffs being imposed by President Donald Trump are expected to result in rising costs that will be passed along to the consumer.

IT SEEMS THAT both Coca-Cola and MillerCoors are saying they’re going to have to boost the price of buying pop or beer respectively because they will need to recover the costs of producing the cans.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the cost of a case of beer could rise by $1. A hike that could be copied by many other manufacturers of canned beverages.

We all saw last year the outrage that some people got worked up when Cook County tried to impose a tax on sweetened beverages – particularly pop. The carbonated beverage industry made sure to let people know that the prices went up due to government officials.

They also inspired the political outrage that wound up pressuring many of the Cook County Board members who voted for the pop tax (which as I recall boosted the cost of a bottle of Coca-Cola by about 20 cents) to vote to rescind the fee.

THERE WERE PEOPLE who were seriously worked up into a frenzy over the very notion that anyone would try to boost the cost of their pop bottle by anything!

Now, we could have the cost of cases of pop back on the rise not all that long after people thought they had somehow forced the price to drop back down. Considering that there also are hints that Cook County officials may wind up considering to restore some version of the sweetened beverage tax once Election Day has passed and incumbents will be safe from the wrath of gassy pop drinkers for four years, it’s likely that the price we now pay will shoot up soon – and significantly.

TRUMP: Will costs from tariffs cause outrage
So what happens?

Will the wrath be directed entirely upon county officials? Will we have some people who will want to blame the aluminum-related part of the cost increase on the county as well?

OR COULD WE wind up seeing this Age of Trump taken down by the Wrath of Beer-Guzzlers. How dare you do anything that causes the cost of my Bud to go up?

I could see where people who don’t get concerned about all the legitimately-stupid things Trump has done as president would get offended by something trivial; we all have a selfish side to us – and will only get worked up when something purely personal impacts us all.

Or could the Teflon nature (as in no-stick) of the Trump presidency continue to apply here. People will whine and complain about the higher prices they have to start paying for their favorite beverages, but won’t be capable of bringing themselves around to blaming The Donald.

It would amuse me if certain types of people wind up figuring out mental contortionist tricks allowing them to justify blaming Cook County for any price increases that occur on beverages of all types.

PRECKWINKLE: Will some be eager to blame Toni
AFTER ALL, THERE were people all geared up to do a serious campaign against county Board President Toni Preckwinkle based off the tax pop issue. Only they wound up having a political mediocrity like Robert Fioretti to back; which means she cleaned his clock with ease back in the primary election cycle, and there’s no one challenging her come Nov. 6.

Either that, or else they’ll just down another beer or a few while complaining about the additional cost they had to pay in order to put themselves in a state of intoxication.


Monday, July 30, 2018

Is Illiana going to be nothing more than a partisan tradeoff for Dems, GOP?

Both major political parties have their battle plans for the upcoming election cycle in place; mostly based of trying to connive just how many political posts they can manage to swipe away from each other.

Yet the reality is that there will be a certain amount of tradeoffs that will occur.

FOR EVERY SINGLE post that Democrats manage to swing away from the Republican column, there will be a few that manage to flip the other way.

And among the most likely flips that could take place as a result of Nov. 6 involves our very own top-ranking officials in Illinois and Indiana.

There are many political observers convinced that Bruce Rauner is likely to go following Election Day. We in Illinois will have a governor in the “Democrat” column largely by default – a majority of us feel that much contempt for the guy we’ve got now and aren’t willing to give him “four more years.”

While in Indiana, there’s the fight for a U.S. Senate seat currently held by Joe Donnelly, a Democrat from South Bend. A fact that bothers the Republican Party establishment that runs government throughout the Hoosier State.

RAUNER: Most unpopular gov seeking re-election
IS THE MIDWESTERN political scene one in which the Democrats will take a governor’s seat in Illinois, while the Republicans gain a Senate seat in Indiana?

Morning Consult has come out with various polls showing Rauner is the most unpopular governor seeking re-election this year, while Donnelly’s chances of getting re-elected are not overwhelming at this point in time.

The political party establishments in both states are inclined to think that such an outcome is appropriate, because they want to believe the fact that Rauner and Donnelly got elected in the first place is a total fluke.

They would think that picking J.B. Pritzker as Illinois governor and Mike Braun as U.S. Senator from Indiana would be a restoration of the natural order – as in the way things should be – in the two states.

DONNELLY: A big bullseye on his back?
LET’S NOT FORGET that Illinois has been a Democrat-controlled state for nearly the past two full decades, and that Rauner’s victory in the 2014 election cycle was more about apathy by the Dem establishment toward then-Gov. Pat Quinn. Rauner is the only guy who thinks he WON that election, rather than political apathy costing their candidate.

There’s no way that apathy will recur in 2018. Rauner has managed to tick off so many Democrats, and even a good-sized portion of the Republican establishment, that he has a mere 27 percent approval rating these days.

Donnelly faces similar circumstances, in that his 2012 election victory was equally fluky. He beat Richard Mourdock, the former state treasurer, because so many people became offended when Mourdock made comments during a debate about how women who become pregnant as a result of rape is “something that God intended.”
Would these two restore natural order …

That was his way of justifying not permitting abortion even in instances of sexual assault. Chances are good if Mourdock hadn’t been that dense (or if long-time Sen. Richard Lugar had won in the Republican primary), the Republican would have prevailed in the general election six years ago.

DOES ANYBODY THINK that Braun, an auto parts distribution business owner who’s wealthy enough to fund his own campaign, will be equally clueless? Donnelly would have to be the luckiest man alive to get another political break of the one that allowed him to slip past Mourdock.
… to politics in Illinois/Indiana?

Considering that Indiana has a governor with a 52 percent approval rating with Donnelly only 41 percent (with 34 percent disapproving and 25 percent of people who can’t make up their minds), it’s likely that many people are waiting for the chance to vote against the incumbent.

Donnelly could be the guy who winds up carrying nothing more of the vote than Gary on Election Day.

Many voters in both states might think it appropriate if the two major political parties did a swap that strengthened the overall majorities – what with President Donald Trump having 38 percent approval in Illinois, but 51 percent approval in Indiana. It also would reinforce the view each state has of the other -- that of a Bizarro-world version of itself.


Saturday, July 28, 2018

EXTRA: Second City certainly ain’t ‘Ground Zero’ of the DJT Fan Club

It shouldn’t be a shock that, as has been pointed out in many reports, that President Donald J. Trump didn’t actually say anything specific about Illinois when he made his first visit as president earlier this week to the Land of Lincoln.

A sunny Saturday in Chicago … 
Trump was on hand to tout the U.S. Steel plant that re-opened in Granite City (near St. Louis). Trying to take personal credit for it, he went out of his way to avoid saying anything that anyone in Chicago could construe as a positive.

NOT THAT SUCH acts should be shocking. It is Chicago that is the reason Illinois is solidly in the “blue” column when it comes to electoral support and is one place that can be counted on to give its Electoral College support in 2020 to whomever runs against Trump for president.

As was evidenced by the political rallying taking place Saturday in the Near North Side’s Washington Square Park. The one-time Bughouse Square where the radicals would gather and literally stand on soap boxes to rant and rage about whatever issue caught their fancy. Once a year, they try to recreate that ol' spirit.

I stopped by briefly and caught a bit of the rhetoric – a woman complaining that modern politicos are all for gentrification that tries to attract cutesy businesses like an Amazon.com facility rather than a steel mill. Which is true enough -- the steel mills where my grandfathers were employed are both long-abandoned, and generations of people who thought they would have life-time jobs there have had to come up with alternate schemes for life.

Not that she, or many others on hand Saturday, would have been inclined to look favorably upon Trump and the actions he has taken that he claims are the reason U.S. Steel was able to reopen their plant in the St. Louis. The park was also filled with lots of anti-Trump rhetoric.

INCLUDING THE BANNERS that I couldn’t help but notice hanging all around the park.
… wasn't a pleasant place for everyone. Photos by Gregory Tejeda
Not that it was all feisty rhetoric by people wanting to play “anarchist” for an afternoon. There were those making a point of walking their dogs through the park, and for all I know making sure their pets deposited their loads of poop by those people they most disagreed with.


Is it just a matter of time before Supreme Ct overrules Chgo justices?

It’s no secret that President Donald Trump doesn’t think much of the political establishment of Chicago. Our public officials, after all, are clearly in opposition to the will of The Donald and are willing to publicly point out how wrong he is on so many issues.
LEINENWEBER: Standing up to Trump

So when a federal justice in Chicago ruled this week to reject the Attorney General’s attempts to have a lawsuit by Chicago against the federal government dismissed, a part of me now wonders if the presidential focus will shift to the Supreme Court.

THE ONE THAT could wind up with a solid margin of political partisanship intended to present his take on the law as the one that must be legitimate.

Just as it took several months before Trump got his way on travel restrictions meant to make it seem that people from Islamic-influenced countries were of being permitted in the United States, maybe he expects that a court rigged in his favor will gladly give him his take on “sanctuary cities.”

As in claiming that Chicago and other municipalities that refuse to have their law enforcement do the dirty work of federal immigration officials are somehow being un-American and ought to lose federal funding they now rely upon.

The scary part is that his line of “logic” isn’t totally absurd. A partisan court could wind up giving legitimacy to Trump’s ideologically-inclined ramblings.

ON THE ISSUE, U.S. District senior judge out of Chicago issued rulings saying the federal government is overstepping its bounds in its efforts to force Chicago to do away with the Sanctuary City concept.
Leinenweber a Chicago holdover from Reagan

Leinenweber isn’t a liberal-leaner by any means.

He’s a judge who got his appointment to the federal courts back in the days of President Ronald Reagan. He is the spouse of one-time Rep. Lynn Martin, who later served as Labor secretary under President George Bush (the elder),

He’s an establishment-oriented Republican. But in this Age of Trump, he’s the kind of person who finds a strong sense of shame in thinking his political party could produce someone of the ilk of the current president.

WHICH IS WHAT makes it possible for him to follow the letter of the law, which is along the general line of thinking that federal officials have jurisdiction over federal issues. Local people do their own work.
TRUMP: Waiting for Supreme Ct to overturn?

Crossing over that boundary in either direction causes serious problems that undermine the concepts upon which our society is based. Such as us not being a police state looking to harass the people who live here for political reasons.

If anything, the Leinenweber rulings may add a sense of legitimacy to Chicago’s hard-headed support for the Sanctuary City concept – one which the U.S Court of Appeals for the 7th district (based in Chicago) is expected to consider later this year whether it should apply nationally.

Something that Trump most definitely won’t want to happen – largely because he still has his vision of the presidency being about him being the “Fearless Leader” (remember Boris and Natasha’s boss and their repeated failed cartoon attempts to “kill moose and squirrel”) who can bark out orders at will?

WHICH IS WHY he likely is counting on that partisan-leaning Supreme Court to undo every attempt to maintain a sense of logic and sensibility in the way our government operates in this Age of Trump.
Are these Trump's kind of characters?

Just as I’m sure the president is peeved with that Federal Communications Commission head who is publicly speaking out against the proposed merger of broadcast properties across the nation with Sinclair Broadcast Group – whose own clueless leanings are in line with the presidential vacuous ideology.

Maybe Trump fantasizes the high court will give him sufficient authority to make “The Apprentice,” that lame television program he once appeared on, a reality by being able to bark out “You’re Fired!” at anyone who offends his sensibilities.

We can only hope the electorate comes to the rescue and the vocal minority does not once again prevail as it did in 2016. Because we need to dump Trump, then work to undo the damage this man has caused through all his egomaniacal acts.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Is most obnoxious tactic also the most effective when it comes to protest?

It has not yet been a full month since that day when Rev. Michael Pfleger led a band of protesters to march for a mile-and-a-half right on the Dan Ryan Expressway – with the stunt meant to call attention to problems of urban violence.

HARDIMAN: Wants to 'redistribute' pain
Now, another activist group (this one including political dreamer Tio Hardiman) wants to do a similar stunt – although for what it’s worth, they have said they resent anyone who tries comparing their event to that of Father Pfleger.

THIS GROUP WANTS to march in the middle of Lake Shore Drive, and not just any old portion of the road.

They want to cause traffic congestion from Diversey to Belmont avenues, then walk over to Wrigley Field. Which on the day they plan to do their event is one in which the Chicago Cubs will be playing, and it also is the first day of the Lollapalooza music festival.

Meaning it’s likely there will be many white people out trying to enjoy their lives but will find their recreational plans interfered with by these activists – who by the way are also claiming they want to see Rahm Emanuel resign his mayoral post in shame.

Who’d have thought that Michael Pfleger, with his decades of history of outlandish tactics, would come across as the calm, rational guy.

PFLEGER: Tried drawing attention to So. Side
NOW I DON’T mean to try to undermine the problems Chicago has with regards to urban violence. There are parts of this city where it is risky to venture into. For the people who, by circumstance, wind up having to live their lives in those communities, life can be fairly miserable.

And for the rest of us, it is shallow to think we can ignore those people and those communities just because we don’t live there.

So in that sense, I comprehend the intent of what Hardiman and his allies are trying to accomplish. We, the masses, do need to be made more aware of what is happening. And perhaps we do, occasionally, need to have our noses rubbed in reality because we don’t pay sufficient attention.

But I can’t help but think this proposed event could turn out much worse.
Will these kinds of people want to bother with problem/
BECAUSE WHAT WAS key to the event that Pfleger staged was that he focused on a stretch of the Dan Ryan Expressway right in the heart of one of the neighborhoods where the urban violence is at its worse.

A segment where many people merely pass by as they drive along the Dan Ryan and never even think of stopping for anything. Their attention, however briefly, was forced to focus on the South Side.

Whereas this proposed protest is such that it is focusing on a portion of the North Side where it is possible for people to think that talk of a violent Chicago is just another one of those lies spewed by President Donald Trump to appease the whack jobs who still think highly of the man. They, after all, will believe anything – no matter how absurd it sounds!

As the Chicago Tribune points out, the police district for that area has one of the lowest totals (11) of people being shot this year, with 36 shootings all of last year. And some of those were people who were shot by police for causing trouble.

THE IDEA OF activists come next Thursday is to get in the way – to make sure that some concern-goers get there late and perhaps some of the Cubs fans be massively inconvenienced.

EMANUEL: He's not going anywhere anytime soon
In fact, some of the activists organizing this event say they think Pfleger’s event was flawed because it did nothing to “redistribute the pain” they say is felt by black Chicago residents.

Personally, I thought Pfleger’s event succeeded because it managed to tie up traffic without anyone getting killed by a motorist trying to get through. It made its point without getting distracted by fatalities.

I could easily see this one failing because someone driving along (and not on) LSD strikes a protester – and the masses of Chicago will think that protester got what he (or she) deserved for trying to walk in the middle of a major thoroughfare!


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Whole slew of kids show off potential to be Chicago Cubs infielders of future

I have been to enough baseball games during the course of my life that I have seen similar scenes many times – a ball gets hit into the stands, a kid or kids attempt to catch it to gain themselves a souvenir.
'Kid' who got 2 baseballs at Sunday's game. Photo provided by Chicago Cubs
And one may get his (or her) fingers on it briefly, but somehow can’t hold onto it.

MEANING THAT SOMEONE else wound up going home with the baseball. Some kid gets a memory of how he “almost” got a souvenir. Or else maybe they interpret it as “evidence” that “baseball sucks!” (and they’d rather play video games in the future).

So I can’t say I was surprised by the incident at the Sunday ballgame between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals – one that has managed to gain national attention and shows the general intelligence level (not very high) of the kind of people who take to Twitter to rant about anything and everything.

In that incident, a Cubs’ coach picked up a stray ball on the playing field, saw a cutesy little kid sitting in the front row and tried flipping a soft toss of the ball to the kid.

But the kid was a klutz, couldn’t hold on to the ball, it fell to the floor under the seats, and the guy sitting behind him managed to grab the stray ball.

VIDEO OF THE incident quickly got posted to the Internet, and under headlines such as, “When going to a baseball game, DON’T be this guy,” the story quickly circulated about the over-bearish oaf who deprived a cutesy little kid of a baseball.

The Cubs, not wanting to have negative publicity stemming from a ballpark incident (even one that they were in no way to blame), found the kid and arranged for the kid to get a baseball autographed by Cubs infielder Javy Baez.

Provided moment of goodwill
They also arranged for photographs of the cutesy kid wearing a too-big Cubs cap showing off his baseballs. Yes, baseballs. For it seems that the kid already managed to gain a ball earlier in the game.

Despite the nonsense Tweets from twits who raged about the bully of a fan, it seems the guy had managed to gain several baseballs throughout the game and had given them to kids sitting in the stands surrounding him.

INCLUDING THE CUTESY kid whom he supposedly deprived of a ball on live television.

Now one can argue that there might be something overly aggressive about a fan who manages to get so many stray baseballs (personally, I have never come close to getting a ball, even though I have gone to ballgames live for more than four decades).

But what I took from this particular incident is that we probably shouldn’t pay much attention to anything anyone says through Twitter. It is too often the means for saying meaningless things.

While I myself have a Twitter account (@tejeda_gregory), I’m not about to say there’s much significance to anything said in 140 characters – and often feel like I’m surrounded by those with nothing better to do with themselves. While I’m usually the first to find something snotty to say about Chicago Cubs fans, we certainly don’t have the bully or oaf that Twitter twits claimed.

AND AS FOR people snagging baseballs at games, the usual rule of thumb is that you have to hold onto the ball in order to stake a claim to it. Otherwise, tough luck.
It reminds me of an incident years ago I saw at a Chicago White Sox game. A ball hit foul into the stands. It bounced around a bit. A kid tried to grab it but couldn’t hold on. It wound up in the next section, where a semi-drunken adult finally snagged it.

What sticks in my mind is that the guy was white, the kid was black and several adults sitting near the kid who also were black tried to shame the “white” guy into giving up the ball. He wouldn’t, and I’m sure there’s at least one individual out there with unpleasant memories about baseball as a result.

It makes me wonder if we had the Twitter twits back then if a racial incident could have been created out of what happened. Particularly if one of the kind of people who feed religiously off every word President Donald Trump spews were to have gotten ahold of the moment.


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Touch of old-school politics; replacing holiday turkeys with paid-off bills?

I’ve heard the stories from Chicago’s political past, from the days when certain aldermen – usually those whose constituents were amongst the poorest and least fortunate of the city’s populace – would give out their annual holiday turkeys.

WILSON: Handing out cash
Or hams. Or something else that could be a main course at a holiday dinner – thereby ensuring that some poor family would have something to eat on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Just like all those rich folks who could afford to buy their own holiday meal.

THE PAYOFF, OF course, was that the alderman was trying to build up good will amongst people who had a vote come Election Day. They’d remember who gave them something tangible and would be inclined to cast their ballot for the alderman’s re-election – along with the higher-level politicians aligned with the said alderman.

When you look at things that way, it would seem that Willie Wilson (the African-American executive who started with a South Side McDonald’s franchise and self-made himself a fortune) is playing old-school politics and trying to maintain good will amongst the kind of people whom he thinks would be inclined to take him seriously should he actually run for mayor come February (and an April runoff) 2019.

Wilson has attracted public attention in recent days for the fact that he showed up at a South Side church and gave away cash to anybody with hardly any questions asked. He wants to think that he’s helping the unfortunate by enabling them to pay off some bill that otherwise could devastate their life’s routines.

Some have questioned whether Wilson’s act amounts to bribery (buying peoples’ votes). Others are all offended because Gov. Bruce Rauner was at the church with him – and may have actually provided some of the cash that Wilson gave away.

ALTHOUGH IT ALSO appears state Elections officials interpret the law as being vague; meaning that neither Wilson nor Rauner nor anyone associated with either man is likely to face the prospect of a criminal indictment for their actions.

I stumbled across one weblog where the writer tried to claim Wilson’s actions are downright petty to all the favors and support that Mayor Rahm Emanuel will be able to buy with the roughly $12 million he has raised for his own re-election campaign fund.

Not that I’d agree with such thoughts. But I also suspect Wilson will not be bothered by his actions – and probably will go out of his way to denounce his detractors as being “out of touch” with the realities of urban Chicago.

RAUNER: Was gubernatorial money involved?
Appealing to the sensibilities of people who would regard having their telephone bill paid off as being more “real” than anything more conventional political people could ever offer them.

I’D ARGUE IT’S really taking advantage of people who don’t know better and buying them off dirt-cheap! Really, how many government officials of the past got themselves re-elected, and capable of cashing in on the political gravy train, for the mere cost of a holiday ham?

How much good will did Wilson get for the roughly $300,000 that he says his personal foundation (and not political campaign fund) shelled out at church this past weekend?

I’d say it’s cynical to think that coughing up some pocket cash (which is what people like Wilson and Rauner think of the sum offered up this weekend) can be used to buy up the good will of people with nothing else in life.

It is a tactic that ought to be firmly lodged in our political past – because it really does reek of buying votes, even though the law sees just enough of a gap in reality for the act to be construed as such.

NOT THAT I expect Wilson to care one bit about anything I write here, or anyone else says or thinks.

EMANUEL: The ultimate target of tactic?
He’d probably say I’m being all “high-minded” and that these “rules” aren’t realistic to daily life; existing solely to “hold down” the less fortunate amongst us. As if we’re making an issue of this only because it is African-American people continuing to benefit from something that used to be standard political practice.

If anything, it is more likely to be Rauner who will suffer political blows. Guilt by association, even though he has said he never would have given Wilson’s foundation any kind of contribution if he had known it were to be distributed in such a crass manner.

Which could be mere double-talk on Rauner’s part to escape the taint of this controversy involving the governor and possible mayoral candidate who do have one thought in common – both probably think it is Emanuel who holds down their ability to have greater influence politically. Because Rauner certainly hopes that any good will Wilson derives will spill over onto himself come Election Day on Nov. 6.


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

It almost sounds like a writer’s dream – living off past rounds of copy

A part of me wonders if Mike Royko, the late columnist for just about every newspaper that existed in Chicago, has the ultimate fantasy assignment.

He hasn’t had the pressure of meeting a deadline in just over two decades – yet the two remaining metro papers in this city seem eager to dredge up his old columns (some 30-plus years worth of copy) and use them to fill the space they’re so desperately eager to create around the declining number of advertisements.

IT KIND OF threw me off for a second when I saw the editorial pages of the Chicago Tribune on Sunday included a Royko column amongst their choice commentary.

They dredged up a column from the 1980s (back in the days when George Bush, the elder was president) where Royko used his aging Slats Grobnik persona to mock Republicans for trying to be holier than thou and make it appear as though God himself is the ultimate member of the Grand Old Party.

I’d say they were trying to make Jesus out to be the ultimate Republican. But in today’s day, there are many Jesuses of a Latino ethnic persuasion whom the hard core of the Republican Party are looking for excuses to deport.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times continued its trend of the past couple of months and published an old Royko column on Monday – but only online.

PEOPLE READING SUNTIMES.com could see an even older column from the 1960s where Royko told the tale of how big, corporate-minded businesses were squeezing the little guy out of work.

Specifically, he told of a one-time neighborhood cleaners where the woman who owned and operated it all by herself had to work extra-long hours, but eagerly did so to meet the desires of her customers.

Which, Royko claimed, was something that the new, modern cleaners in the neighborhood would never bother to do.

But they were able to justify charging a slightly cheaper price (you save perhaps a nickel) for their services, gambling that people would be so eager to save any money that they’d accept the lesser personal service and lack of a personal touch.

MUCH HAS BEEN made by the Sun-Times of how they’re dredging through their archives for Royko copy (both from when he wrote for the Sun-Times proper and also when he was a focal point of the old Chicago Daily News) out of the concept that what he said about issues way back when has an eerie relevance to modern times.

I’m sure the Tribune thinks the same thing. Although I also noticed that the Royko column published in the Sunday paper included a tag at the end informing the reader how the Tribune’s book publishing wing is coming out with a new book soon – one that compiles several of the Royko columns he wrote during the 17 years he was with the Chicago Tribune.

That book will be available for purchase come mid-August, and I’m sure somebody thinks (or at least desperately hopes) that somebody reading the column in the paper will choose to buy the book.

Personally, I don’t know that I feel the need to rush right out and buy a copy – largely because I actually own all six of the compilations of newspaper columns that Royko had published when he was actually alive.

I ALSO HAVE a hard-cover first edition of “Boss,” the biography he wrote of Richard J. Daley back when “Hizzoner” himself was still alive.

That book is one I have quoted from on occasion in this very weblog when trying to tell the history of Chicago politics. It may be the best piece of writing ever about our city’s political scene (although Milton J. Rakove’s “We Don’t Want Nobody Nobody Sent” has the best title ever).

You’ve got to admit, for a guy who hasn’t written a word since 1997 (he died a month after writing his final column for the Tribune), it’s impressive the staying power that the man’s copy has. Although I’m sure there are some snot-nosed brats out there reading this who are going to be taking a sense of pride in saying, “Royko? Never heard of him!”

All I know is that I seriously doubt anybody will be dredging up anything I (or 99 percent of the rest of the populace that tries to claim themselves to be writers for a living) ever wrote some two decades after my own eventual demise.


Monday, July 23, 2018

The payoff for helping to undermine organized labor influence in Illinois?

I’m sure some are going to accuse me of being overly cynical. Why can’t I appreciate the honesty of someone fighting for their personal ideals, they’ll say about me.

JANUS: W/ Honest Abe looking over his shouder
Yet I couldn’t help but snicker a bit at the weekend news reports about Mark Janus.

HE’S THE CHILD care specialist with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services who allowed his circumstances on the job to be used by the partisan ideologues who were anxious in filing a court case to try to undermine the influence that organized labor has within Illinois state government.

When the Supreme Court of the United States last month ruled in his favor, it was Janus’ name that got national attention. I’m sure for some people, the name “Janus” is now as big a deal as the names of “Roe” and “Wade.”

As in the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that tossed out all the state laws that considered abortion to be the equivalent of a criminal act, and not a decision that was truly a woman’s personal business.

Janus is a long-time state worker who claims he enjoyed his job. But he also has personal views that make him object to having a labor union being involved in his employment.

HE PARTICULARLY RESENTED the notion that even though he didn’t want to join the union (Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), union dues were deducted from his paycheck to cover the cost of the work the union did in representing his on-the-job rights.

That was the basis of his lawsuit, and the high court has ruled in his favor.

Now, the Illinois Policy Institute has offered Janus a job – one he plans to accept and will begin work at come Aug. 1.
Some will forevermore view "Janus" as a bad word
Which probably benefits Janus, since he’ll now be doing blatant partisan political work (a senior fellow speaking out on behalf of workers’ rights, from the social conservative perspective). He’ll probably be happier that way.

BUT IT REALLY comes across as Janus getting his payoff for helping partisan ideologues undermine organized labor – which many state employees do rely upon to ensure the state doesn’t run roughshod over their concerns.
SHAKMAN: Will Janus name gain similar aura?

For the point of this lawsuit is to spark an effort by which many government employees get swayed (or possibly strong-armed) into thinking they should drop out of the AFSCME labor union.

A significant loss of membership would result in a financial loss if it means the union has less in membership dues to fund its work. Get enough people to go along with such talk, and you could start to have a movement for revoking recognition of the union altogether.

Which is the real goal of the ideologues who engage in such rhetoric. Make those “lazy bums” on the state payroll realize they ought to be grateful anybody bothers to employ them. Even though anyone with sense realizes treating employees with a modicum of respect is the real way to get efficient labor from them.

JANUS, WHO IS now 65, likely wasn’t far from being able to retire. Although I’m sure his financial future is significantly stabilized, what with private sector employment that he gets largely because his name was used as the legal basis for the Janus v. AFSCME lawsuit.

Of course, I’m sure those people who think more highly of organized labor will feel he sold them out, so to speak. But I’m not out to put the “Judas” label on Janus. In fact, I’m fairly sure the state payroll would no longer be a pleasant place for him to be employed in the months and years following his involvement with the lawsuit.

How will AFSCME recover from partisan court ruling?
All I know is that a part of me wonders if there’s any truth to the rhetoric being spewed by AFSCME types saying that not many state workers are looking to quit paying dues, and a significant sum of state workers who hadn’t previously joined the union are now doing so!

Janus’ name is going to be remembered for his partisan action far more than the work he did on behalf of children. It will be interesting to see what kind of taint, in coming decades, that will develop. Or if it develops an aura similar to that of "Shakman" (as in Michael, the attorney/activist who inspired the lawsuits that heavily restrict government hiring for partisan political purposes) which I'm sure Janus thinks is likely.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

There’s always an issue we can quarrel over with regards to city street names

Aldermen this week signed off on the idea of making the street name “Congress Parkway” as obsolete as the one-time “South Park Way” that most of us now merely think of as Martin Luther King, Jr., Drive (that is, when we think of it at all).
Soon to be Wells and Wells? Or Ida and Wells?
For that strip of a few blocks of street at the southern edge of the Loop will now bear the name of Ida B. Wells, the one-time activist whose cause was to make people think of lynching as a crime – rather than justice being carried out.

BUT JUST AS some people got all worked up and fought it out when plans to turn Balbo Drive into Wells Parkway were proposed (seeing it as a slur against people of Italian ethnic origins), I’m sure even this attempt at political compromise can cause a brawl.

For Chicago already has a Wells Street, and it intersects with the soon-to-be former Congress Parkway. Meaning we will soon have an intersection of Wells and Wells. And I don't mean one of those brown "honorary" street designations. I'm talking about a full-on renaming; green street sign and all!

Mass confusion? I’d hope not! Even though one alderman has suggested we ought to refer to the former Congress Parkway as “Ida Drive” to eliminate all doubt.

Personally, I’d like to think the people of Chicago are intelligent enough to be able to tell the difference between a north/south running street and an east/west running one – particularly since the latter will only exist for a few blocks. Besides, I also think it will be an interesting quirk to have the Wells and Wells intersection. It will be something that the kind of Chicagoans who take great interest in the city’s historical oddities will take great pride in.
IDA B.: Anti-lynching activist, suffragette

WE’LL ENJOY THE confused look that out-of-towners will get on their faces at the very concept that two intersecting streets can have similar names. We’ll even start using it as a test, of sorts, to be able to figure out who is a real Chicagoan – and who is just a pretender from a place like Schaumburg.

Maybe we can even argue it out over which Wells has greater merits to have a street named for them. For Ida B. is the woman who was a reporter-type person back in the days when black women were supposed to be nothing more than domestics.

While William Wells was a U.S. Army captain assigned to the early 19th Century military base Fort Dearborn (where Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River now intersect) and who died in the Aug. 15, 1812 fight with Potawatomi Indians.
WILLIAM: Indian fighter in pre-Chicago days

You just know it’s a matter of time before someone suggests that William is unworthy (in today’s day and age) of having his name at the same intersection as Ida B.

ALTHOUGH IT SHOULD be noted he was of the Miami Indian tribe and fought with them during the Indian wars, before eventually becoming an Indian agent with the developing United States. Meaning this could become a brawl with American Indian activists if anyone seriously tried to remove the “Wells” name from Wells Street.

All the more reason the idea of a Wells and Wells intersection would work in Chicago – because it would (unintentionally) wind up showing the way so many groups have combined into the one entity we now know of as the Second City (which is really third and may someday soon become Number Four).

Of course, we could always think that streets being named for people creates too much cause for conflict and offense to be taken by somebody. Which is why a part of me always thought the South Side bore the most sense in Chicago, with all the streets from downtown all the way south to the Hegewisch neighborhood bearing numbers.

Is anyone up for renaming Wells Street “Fifth Avenue” – the name it had between 1870 and 1912 because some thought William’s reputation would be besmirched by having his name on a street that was, at the time, the city’s “red light” district.


Friday, July 20, 2018

Another piece of Chicago’s industry moves to far sout’east corner of city

Reports of a company that shreds scrap metal choosing to locate along the Calumet River in Chicago’s 10th Ward really isn’t that surprising.
Remnant of Republic Steel plant whose site will someday have a scrap yard. Photographs by Gregory Tejeda
What caught my attention in the reports about General Iron Industries is that the scrap yard is leaving its current location, which is along a portion of the Chicago River in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

WHILE I REALIZE that Lincoln Park hasn’t always been the upscale place for Chicago’s excessively wealthy to live (and at one point in the 1960s was close to evolving into an ethnic enclave for people of Puerto Rican descent), it makes me snicker that such an industrial company was ever located there to begin with.

It is a reminder that lakefront (and riverfront) property once was viewed as prime sites for industry. You could bring in your raw materials on barges and dump your waste into the water.

That is, until all those pesky environmentalists started spewing their rhetoric about the need for clean water and public health. How times change!

Which is why I’m sure General Iron is moving on from their long-time site. They’re no longer going to have to listen to the complaints from area residents who can’t stand the sight of piles of scrap lying around near their million dollar-plus homes and the stench of certain metallic odors that can waft through the air.
Salt piles amongst area's cleaner substances
NOW, THEY’RE LOCATING to a place that long has been a prime location for all the kind of industry that no one – if they can at all avoid it – wants to live in proximity to.

Specifically, they’re moving to a site along the Calumet River in the East Side neighborhood; that part of Chicago where you’re south of Lake Michigan altogether and the eastern boundary is State Line Road (a.k.a., the Illinois/Indiana border). They’re actually going to be on part of the site that once was Republic Steel – the site of that Memorial Day 1937 labor protest that ended with police beating dozens of picketing union members and killing 10 of them.
Along the Calumet River

It is a place where the locals are used to certain foul stenches wafting through the air. But since they don’t have “million-dollar homes” in places like the East Side or South Deering, the political people don’t seem to care. Where else would one find a sub-neighborhood literally known as “Slag Valley” because of the piles of iron slag and petroleum coke that lie out in the open near homes – no matter how much the locals complain.

I’m familiar with the area because it is the part of Chicago that is my birthplace. Specifically, the South Chicago neighborhood, but I have cousins who live in all the other neighborhoods that comprise the 10th Ward.

I KNOW FULL well how paying a visit to certain members of the family can be an unpleasant experience – and not because those cousins are annoying. It’s because the stink can be overpowering, and the sight of waste can be unpleasant.

Of course, this attitude is because much of the industry that sparked development of such neighborhoods has long withered away.

There no longer are steel mills working round-the-clock, and local residents justified the unpleasantness of the environment as evidence that they had working-class jobs that actually paid a living wage.

I am the grandson of two such men who worked in steel mills for a living, which is how my family developed an attachment to the area – it was near their jobs. Some of the old-timers who remain claim that old days of pollution were bearable because it was evidence they were employed.

BUT NOW THAT the jobs aren’t so plentiful, some people want to act as though we ought to be thankful for the few that remain. And may well try to act as though complaints about pollution are somehow elitist rants by people who have to right to think of themselves as elite.

When 10th Ward Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza says, “we’re tired of being the city’s dumping ground” (as she told the Chicago Tribune recently), I’m sure certain others in Lincoln Park are coping the attitude of “better you than me” in terms of having to cope with pollution.
Envision one-time police car soaring through air

How polluted is the part of Chicago my family hails from? One can’t help but note the continued failure of plans to turn the one-time U.S. Steel Southworks site into something economically viable – with some hints being that the pollution remaining from the plant that closed over a quarter-of-a-century ago is too toxic for serious development.

A place that too many Chicagoans regard as something utterly ignorable – except for when they stumble onto the old “The Blues Brothers” film and once again see that car-jumping scene over the 95th Street bridge – which is only about 2 miles from the site where General Iron plans to set up its new home by 2020.