Saturday, March 30, 2019

How fickle our electorate can be

It can be amusing to see just how quickly we, the voters of Chicago and Cook County, can turn on the political people we elect.
FOXX: Legal savior, now demonized

Almost as though all we really want to do on Election Day is “throw da bums out,” rather than try to judge public officials on their merits and pick the best qualified people.

IT MAKES ME think that just about three years ago, the public sentiment was such that people were looking for an excuse to dump State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez from office. The popular sentiment amongst many was that anybody with sense would choose Kim Foxx to be the county’s head prosecutor.

Sure enough, Foxx won the Democratic primary of 2016. Very few people were the least bit upset to see Alvarez depart – with some wishing she could have suffered something much more severe as part of public officials being prosecuted for the shooting death of a black teenager by a Chicago cop.

But now? How times change!

Foxx is finding herself demonized for the fact that the state’s attorney’s office decided to drop the criminal charges that had been filed against actor Jussie Smollett.

POLICE SUPERINTENDENT EDDIE Johnson is “furious.” Soon-to-be former Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he wants Smollett to have to reimburse Chicago for the cost of the police investigation (some $130,000) against him.
ALVAREZ: Will her legacy change?

Many pundits are going about saying that Foxx will have to take the blame for the failure of Chicago’s law enforcement community to get a criminal conviction of sorts against Smollett.

Heck, some people are going about speculating that even the now-demonized Alvarez wouldn’t have let Smollett walk away unprosecuted – and capable of going around saying he’s the victim of police incompetence.

People already are gunning for Foxx to be dumped from office when she faces re-election in 2020. From reformer looking out for the protection of the people to corrupt hack. It took her just a couple of years. She may never be capable of shaking this stain from her public persona.

WHICH IS SOMETHING we probably ought to keep in mind when it comes to other political posts.
PRECKWINKLE: Once progressive, now a hack

Take mayor, for instance.

Toni Preckwinkle went through her time as alderman and as Cook County Board president with something of a “goo goo” reputation, and was supposed to be the political progressive amongst the 14 candidates who tried becoming mayor in this year’s election cycle.

But when Preckwinkle made it to the run-off stage of the electoral process against a candidate so much like herself, Preckwinkle’s experience made her the “political hack.” Opponent Lori Lightfoot has tried to claim her inexperience in electoral office merely means she hasn’t had the chance to become tainted by it all.

PRECKWINKLE IS BEING demonized now with the issues that her challengers in the 2016 county board presidency campaign tried unsuccessfully to use against her. We’re hearing now more about that pop tax the county tried imposing a few years ago. That issue’s time has come.
LIGHTFOOT: How long 'til electorate turns on her?

Of course, this trend is ongoing. So perhaps before we get all absorbed in the notion of Lori our government savior who’s going to shine a light on everything, keep in mind that it could easily shift gears and voters will rant and rage about how they could ever have been silly enough to think Lightfoot deserved election.

Perhaps her lack of experience, once she has to go up against the political powers-that-be will be such that the electorate will turn on her. It will be intriguing to see how quickly that shift happens, and just what the issue will be that will sway the electorate against her.

Not that I’m feeling all that much sympathy for any of the candidates. Or even for the government that is supposed to represent our interests. For the fact is that we usually get a government of the quality of the people whom we elect. Which means we tend to “get” what we deserve come Elections day.


Friday, March 29, 2019

Who’s the bigger political whiner?

Mark Janus or Anne Stava-Murray – both of them are in the news of concern to people with an interest in Illinois state government.
JANUS: Continuing the fight against unions for state officials

And the question may well be which one is being more of a malcontent in terms of their political behavior.

BOTH OF THEM are engaging in rhetoric and actions intended to express their discontent with the standard operating procedures in existence at the Statehouse scene.

Both of them are managing to tick off the people who are part of the operations of the state government.

Janus, of course, is the guy who became the namesake of the court case that eventually resulted in labor unions losing the authority to automatically require union dues from all state government employees who benefit from those union contracts.

But in ruling that Janus was wronged by being forced to join the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the courts also determined that it wasn’t practical to require the unions to “pay back” any of the money they collected.

AFTER ALL, THE unions merely were charging the dues that were permitted under the law at the time.

So Janus – who has since retired from the state payroll and now does work for the ideologues who led the anti-organized labor group that filed the lawsuit that bore his name – now wants the courts to refund the money he had taken from his state paychecks to cover the dues.

He claims he’s owed some $3,000. The federal appeals court based in Chicago will have to take on this case.
STAVA-MURRAY: Still opposes Madigan

It would seem that Janus and his ilk are really after a devastating blow that would financially cripple the labor unions altogether. Being the namesake of the court case isn’t enough to appease him. He’s out for financial blood – which is bound to ensure his name becomes Mudd, in the eyes of state government officials.

BUT IT MAY be that Janus won’t be the one who offends political people the most.

That may well be Stava-Murray, as in the state representative from Naperville.

She’s the woman who made a public stink by being the lone Democrat who refused to support the notion that Michael Madigan ought to be retained as Illinois House speaker.

Is it really a surprise that since Stava-Murray deliberately went out of her way to snub Madigan, that he and his allies are not all that enthused about doing anything that would be of benefit to her? In the real world, the answer is “no.” To Stava-Murray, however, it comes as a shock.

FOR STAVA-MURRAY SAYS her bill meant to protect the rights of people who file complaints against state government officials with the Inspector General’s office is being thwarted deliberately by Madigan & Co. She says her bill has a “do not call” order placed on it that will prevent the measure from ever getting a vote

Now I’m not going to argue the merits of this particular bill. Maybe there are some legal protections that people with complaints about the state ought to have.

It just seems absurd for Stava-Murray to be surprised that she can be so openly critical of her political party’s leadership, then expect their full cooperation. It reeks of “Casablanca” and Capt. Renault being “shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here.”
Perhaps even more ridiculous than Janus thinking he’s entitled to a refund just so he can ideologically screw over his one-time colleagues on the job who derived benefits from their union membership.


Thursday, March 28, 2019

EXTRA: Opening Day too early? Nah!

Spring training is ovah! It’s time for the 2019 regular season to begin.
Future super-dooper star? Or a dud?

Sure enough, the Chicago White Sox began their season Thursday (their attempt to redeem themselves from last year’s 100-loss debacle) in Kansas City (where the Royals were even worse in 2018), while the Chicago Cubs were in suburban Dallas/Ft. Worth to take on the Texas Rangers.

FROM HERE ON in, the ballgames count for something. We’ll get to see if that prediction of the Cubs finishing in fifth place this year has any legitimacy to it, while the White Sox’ so-called youthful talents will have the chance to show they really will be stars who can take the Sout’ Side to a championship.

Of course, there are some people who are grousing over the date – this is the earliest that Major League Baseball has even begun its season, which will allow for more off-days during the regular season. But some fans are complaining about the weather.

As though they believe baseball is solely a warm weather sport that should only be played in California or in the Deep South.

So perhaps the Cubs playing in Arlington, Texas isn’t too abhorrent to them. But Kansas City (where the noon-hour temperature was 63 degrees and cloudy skies)? No amount of quality barbecue could make up for the less-than-ideal weather.

PERSONALLY, IT DOESN’T bother me. Mostly because I find the game itself more intriguing than that of any other sport. Particularly the very factor of the pitcher vs. hitter – the constant duel to see which one comes out on top.
Recalling past Sox memories

No amount of football tackles or basketballs being stuffed into hoops overhead can match up to it.

And as for the chill in the air? Well that’s just the reality of weather in the Midwestern U.S. or the East Coast. In short, the places where baseball is a long-standing factor and traditions are built. Unlike places like Phoenix or San Diego, where Major League baseball almost has a fake feel to it.

I’ll take a good White Sox/Royals brawl on Thursday, as two teams are desperate to show they’re not as worthless as some fans would try to dismiss them as. Particularly those Chicago Cubs fans who just can’t handle the thought that anybody root, root, roots for anybody other than the Cubbies.

ANYWAY, IT’S SPRINGTIME (it became official last week). And the first game to be played in Chicago comes April 4 – with the White Sox taking on the Seattle Mariners.
Wrigley faithful to convene again for 2019. Photos by Gregory Tejeda
With Chicagoans getting their first chance to see the alleged youthful star Eloy Jimenez playing in left field. We’ll get to see if he’s worth the six-year (with two option years) contract worth just over $70 million – more than any other ballplayer has ever received before even playing his first major league game.

We’ll have to wait a few days longer before the Wrigley Field faithful can pack their way into the ballpark – for which they’ll grossly overpay for the privilege of tickets to the ol’ ball game.
For as the old Harry Simone Songsters told us all those years ago, “It’s a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame.” Even if the temperatures Thursday were only in the mid-50s.


Too little, too late for Preckwinkle?

I remember back to the 1998 election cycle for Illinois governor – the one in which Democrat Glenn Poshard had hopes that Southern Illinois would prevail over the rest of the state and make him governor.
It didn’t happen. Republican George Ryan took advantage of Chicago apathy toward Poshard along with solid voter bases in Republican parts of the state, to prevail on Election Day.

ALTHOUGH THERE WAS one point in time when the Poshard people felt optimistic. It was in the autumn when their operatives started spouting the word that a news development would become public in about two weeks – one that they insisted was so shocking and appalling that it would ensure a Poshard victory.

As I recall, it was about two weeks later that the public became aware of that accident involving an illicitly-licensed truck driver that resulted in the deaths of children.

Which later turned into a matter of Ryan’s political people accepting bribes and Ryan’s willingness to look the other way – so long as campaign donations kept coming in.

In short, the first hint of the stink that later would result in Ryan having to spend just over five years in federal prison.

NOT THAT IT made one bit of electoral difference. Because by that point in time, Poshard’s public perception amongst many voters was so low that there was nothing that could have revived him.
Will 'dead kids' work for Preckwinkle … 

If anything, all it did was reduced the size of the landslide by which Ryan would have won. It may have caused many people to decide that a vote just wasn’t worth the time to take to cast in that election cycle.

So why am I bringing up this political history from some two decades ago?

Because it popped into my mind when I learned Wednesday that mayoral hopeful Toni Preckwinkle IS going to use the final five days of the election cycle to air campaign ads meant to devastate the electoral chances of a victory by Lori Lightfoot.

THE CAMPAIGN AD is meant to remind us of a fire on the city’s West Side – one in which four children were killed. How is this relevant?
… any better than they did for Poshard?

It was during a time when Lightfoot was on the city payroll as chief of staff of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Which means she was in charge of the 911 emergency dispatch system.

Which ultimately took the blame for the fact that firefighters were not properly sent to the fire scene in time to make a difference. The courts called for sanctions, particularly since they claimed city officials – including Lightfoot – were “shockingly lax” and “cavalier” in their attitude toward addressing the problem.

Or, as Preckwinkle has a narrator say in her advertising spot that we’re likely to hear a lot of in coming days, “With lives on the line, Lori Lightfoot didn’t bring in the light, she covered up the truth.”

TONI PRECKWINKLE IS resorting to trying to smear the blood of long-dead children on Lightfoot in hopes that it will shock and appall so many voters from jumping on the Lightfoot bandwagon – and perhaps shift back to supporting her desires to be mayor.
Will voters believe allegations against Lightfoot?

It just seems so much like the Poshard tactic; resorting to the images of dead children to try to make people appalled at the very idea of a “Mayor Lori” serving at City Hall. Or course, it didn’t work for Glenn. Which is why I’m skeptical it will serve Toni any better.

It may shock and appall some would-be voters into not casting a ballot for Lightfoot. But I can’t help but think that Preckwinkle has already sustained so much damage to her public image that there’s nothing to be done to revive her electoral chances.

If anything, use of such a tactic may merely convince some voters that both of these candidates are unworthy of our support. Could it make some of us wish that Bill Daley’s mayoral campaign could have prevailed and that we were voting for “Mayor Daley III” when our votes are tallied come Tuesday?


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Who’s the liar now?!?

I haven’t bothered to write a word until now about the saga of Jussie Smollet, largely because I must confess to not having a clue as to who he is.
"Empire" gains unwanted notoriety
I know he’s an actor in the television program “Empire,” but that’s theoretical. I’ve never watched the show, and haven’t felt compelled to check it out in recent weeks on account of the stink over Smollet.

A STINK THAT gained touches of lasting stench on Tuesday when a Cook County judge went along with prosecutorial recommendations that the criminal charges against Smollet be dismissed.

Of course, Cook County will keep the $10,000 cash he had to post as bond in order to avoid being locked up in the Cook County Jail. But Smollet was able to walk out of the Criminal Courts building with claims of innocence and the ability to go about making grandiose statements to the effect HE was the crime victim.

It’s a wonder he didn’t accuse police of improper activity against him. Then again, maybe that statement will be forthcoming.

Smollet was the guy who claimed that back in January, he was walking along the streets of Chicago when two men grabbed him, threw a noose around his neck, and began shouting racial and homophobic slurs at him.

SUPPOSEDLY, ONE OF the men also shouted that “this is MAGA country,” implying that this was motivated by people who firmly believe in the Age of Trump and all the nonsense that President Donald spews on a regular basis.

A Trump-motivated hate crime.

Except that Chicago police fairly quickly found flaws in the account, and the two men then told police that Smollet paid them a few thousand dollars to stage the attack against him.
WATKINS: Dismissed the case

Which led to criminal charges being filed against Smollet, and all the ideologue nitwits of the world being eager to claim this was just another case of fraud. Smollet, who is both black and gay, is just a liar who shouldn’t be trusted, like everybody else who happens to not be white and Protestant.

A REAL AMERICAN, as these people would prefer to define it.

That version of the story, however, fell apart on Tuesday, when Judge Steven Watkins used what was expected to be a routine status hearing to dismiss the case – at the request of prosecutors.

Smollet’s attorneys say there was no advance warning or deal. It’s not anything resembling a plea agreement. The case was thrown out of court. Not that we’ll ever know details, for the judge also issued an order keeping the court file of the case under permanent seal.

With prosecutors saying in court that this agreement is, “a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” it makes me suspect there was some sort of error in the handling of this case by the police during the investigation – something that would have ruined any chance of getting a criminal conviction that would have held up under appeal.

NOT THAT I know that for sure. This case is now under seal, which means we’re never going to be informed as to why prosecutors were willing to write off the case against Smollet, who many were more than willing to demonize as a liar who was worthy of whatever criminal punishment the courts felt like dishing out.
JOHNSON: He's furious

So are we supposed to go back to the account where Smollet was the victim of racially-motivated thugs? Smollet himself insisted Tuesday that he has been, “truthful and consistent from Day One” in talking about the incident.

For what it’s worth, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson was said to be “furious” that prosecutors would dismiss the investigation his officers put together. Of course, Johnson was the guy who went around saying Smollet was particularly contemptible for being a black man who’d stage a racially-motivated attack against himself.

Which means it’s likely that Johnson will be the one who winds up taking the fall for this incident. Even though I’m sure there’s enough “blame” to be passed around. Johnson said early on that this case “pissed everybody off,” and now that list of irritated individuals includes the ideologues who were taking joy from Smollet’s arrest.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Preckwinkle to put Garcia’s political influence to the test on Election Day

Rep. Jesus Garcia, D-Ill., would like to think he’s the predominant Latino politico in Chicago, and the upcoming run-off election for mayor will be a significant test.
GARCIA: Cook County grudges come to life

For Garcia, formerly a member of the Cook County Board before being elected to Congress, has come out publicly in favor of the mayoral campaign of Lori Lightfoot.

OR ACTUALLY, IT’S more like he’s come out as being opposed to the mayoral aspirations of Toni Preckwinkle – who was his county board colleague as county board president.

Meaning this is about political payback. He doesn’t want Preckwinkle to prevail. He’d like for her to go down to a shameful defeat come April 2.

Part of it is because back in 2015 when Garcia wound up running against Rahm Emanuel for mayor, Preckwinkle managed to fail to support Chuy’s mayoral aspirations back then. So he doesn’t feel compelled to offer her any support.

There’s also the fact that when the county assessor’s post was most recently open in the 2018 election cycle, the two were split – with Preckwinkle backing Joe Berrios’ bid for re-election while Garcia came out in favor of Fritz Kaegi.

ALSO PLAYING INTO this is the fact that when Garcia gave up his county board post to run for the seat in Congress, he wanted to hand-pick his replacement – Alma Anaya. But Preckwinkle offered only the most tepid of support for her.

All in all, it means Garcia has his reasons to not be inclined to want to see Preckwinkle succeed. And if, by chance, there turns out to be evidence that the Latino vote in Chicago this coming election swings heavily in favor of Lightfoot for mayor, I have no doubt that Garcia will be more than eager to take credit for it.

He’ll gladly take it as a feather in his cap that he personally deprived Preckwinkle of a significant (and growing) share of the electorate, and it will further bolster his desire to see himself as Chicago’s most politically powerful elected official of Latino ethnic origins.
Will Toni defeat redeem for Garcia … 

Similar to how in last year’s elections, he was more than eager to take credit for the fact that Dan Burke lost his seat in the Illinois House of Representatives – saying he turned out the significant Latino vote in that Southwest Side legislative district in order to bolster the Latino caucus within the General Assembly.

BUT FOR ALL that accomplishment might mean, there’s also evidence that there are limits to Garcia’s political influence. Such as the Feb. 26 election when Garcia made it known he was targeting the aldermanic re-election bid of Burke’s brother, Ed – as in the long-time Finance chairman who liked to think he was the almighty powerbroker of City Hall.

Despite the growing Latino population of that ward (about 80 percent), Burke solidly won re-election. He got the remaining white voters to turn out in force to generate some 53 percent of the vote – meaning he didn’t even have to endure a run-off election.

And he overcame all the hostile rhetoric that has been spewed about Burke on account of the fact that federal prosecutors were slinging toward Ed. As in if there ever was a time when Ed Burke should have been politically vulnerable, this was it.

If anything, Ed Burke’s victory showed the limits of Garcia’s influence over Latino Chicago. It puts thoughts into peoples’ minds that maybe Chuy isn’t as almighty as he’d like us to think he is.

BY THAT STANDARD, being able to claim he “took down” Preckwinkle’s mayoral aspirations would be face-saving, to a degree.
… his failure to beat Burke?

Of course, there was the fact that in the Feb. 26 election, the Latino segments of Chicago were the ones where the mayoral race was seen as a political battle between Susana Mendoza and William Daley, with some extra votes for Gery Chico.

Preckwinkle and Lightfoot really didn’t factor into the equation. Making some wonder if come the run-off, the Latino voter turnout will be tepid, at best. Will Garcia be able to get the Spanish-speaking enclaves of Chicago to care at all about who the next mayor will be?

That will be the real test – as we will learn whether anybody ought to be paying any significant attention to Garcia and his thoughts in future elections.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Could Illinois impose a statewide ban on immigration detention centers?

I’m sure the ideologues amongst us were extremely satisfied when officials in downstate Dwight, Ill., voted to allow a detention center to be built within their boundaries.
Is detention center issue best settled at Statehouse, … 
The center is viewed as a place where people facing violations of federal immigration policy could be detained while officials work through the legal process of deporting those individuals out of the United States.

IT IS A facility that officials have proposed building in so many different communities throughout Illinois AND Indiana, only to run into constant opposition from local officials who don’t want any such thing being built within their communities.

Because no matter how much ideologues try to disguise such facilities as a humane place to hold people facing charges of immigration violations, the simple fact is that they are jail-like in nature.

There’s just no disguising it. We’re looking to lock up people, even though most of them haven’t done anything criminal in nature. And no, not even their immigration violation – which is more a civil offense rather than something for which they could face incarceration in a real prison facility surrounded by other criminals.

Anyway, it seems Dwight was a facility far enough from Chicago that the locals weren’t inclined to share the hostile feelings that many locals have about having a prison-like facility built within their boundaries.

IF ANYTHING, IT seems that Dwight was willing because the community has a history of containing prison facilities. Dwight was once the site of the prison for women within the Illinois Department of Corrections.

I’m sure some locals remember the idea of prisons as being a source of local jobs. Even though I always wondered about people who work in corrections facilities – it is, after all, work in prison. One literally has to go to jail every day. Possibly amongst the most depressing employment environment one could find.
… or something best left to the locals?
Which is why I find the Illinois House of Representatives’ latest actions intriguing – led by state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, they’re pushing for a new law that would make it illegal for local governments to permit any private company from allowing any such detention facility from being built within their communities.

It would demonize at a statewide level the very concept that the ideologues want to view as economic development. All because they don’t want to see more prison like facilities being built anywhere in Illinois.

IT DEFINITELY PUTS Illinois further in the camp of those people who don’t want to see ideologues and their hostile views prevail.

Particularly since the thing about these detention facilities that is key to comprehending them is that the proponents of such places think that a key element is that they be owned and operated by private companies.

Meaning a lot of the usual regulations that govern prison operations just wouldn’t apply. Not only do they appease the ideologues on immigration ideals (deport all the foreigners!), they’re also anti-labor.

None of those pesky rules that might require detention to be done with certain ideals of humanity in mind. And that also up the overall cost of operating detention facilities.

IN SHORT, I’M sure the ideologues are now prepared to lambast the Illinois Legislature as being even further out-of-touch with their conservative ideals than they already do so.
CASSIDY: Pushing for statewide ban

Then again, these are the people who got all excited last week when a judge struck down an attempt by suburban Deerfield to ban high-powered assault weapons from being owned by anyone within their community.

Yet another effort to try to impose their views upon all of Illinois – no matter how out-of-line it is with the way the bulk of us view the issue.

Which makes this an issue likely to provoke a brawl across the state in coming months. Because although a majority of us in places like Joliet and Crete headed east to Gary, Ind., have made it clear how much we detest the concept, there are those who will continue to push it until we get a state law. And even then will likely fight it further.


Saturday, March 23, 2019

When an Election Day endorsement doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot

There were those people who expected this election cycle for Chicago mayor to ultimately come down to a political brawl between candidates Toni Preckwinkle and Bill Daley.
Preckwinkle wishes she could claim … 

With that in mind, it would seem like it somehow ought to be significant that the Daleys are now throwing in their lot with Preckwinkle. But not really!

IT MAY MORE well be evidence that an endorsement can be cheap. Just like talk itself.

Actually, Bill Daley has pretty much kept quiet since that night in late February when he fell short of having enough votes to qualify for the ongoing run-off election that will take place April 2.

The endorsement proper came from John Daley, as in one of Bill’s brothers and one of the many men who can say they’re a son to one-time Mayor Richard J. Daley.

John is the one who’s saying people ought to cast a vote for Preckwinkle over the campaign of Lori Lightfoot.

WHETHER THAT WILL mean much in the way of generating political support has yet to be determined. We’ll have to wait and see whether anybody is swayed by the idea of the Daley name taking a stance in this run-off.
… to have the political backing of Daley … 

Personally, this strikes me as one of those formality endorsements. As in it’s being done for the sake of saying he took a stance – rather than because he actually cares much about which candidate actually prevails.

Either that, or John Daley himself is incredibly eager for a political promotion.

For John Daley is a member of the Cook County Board. He even has the title of “finance chairman,” which does put him in a position of authority and makes him someone whose judgment on issues often is deferred to.

AND IF BY chance Preckwinkle manages to prevail in the mayoral election, it would create a vacancy for the board president’s position. A spot that would be filled by the other county board members from amongst their ranks.
… and Obama.

Meaning John Daley could find himself in line to become the county board president for the next three-plus years. Considering he’s the Daley brother who often is thought of as the one whose political ambitions are on a smaller scale than those of Rich or Bill, it would be ironic if he wound up becoming the highest-ranking Daley in our local political scene.

In fact, it would be the real kicker if Bill Daley’s mayoral loss set the stage for John to become the county board president.

Of course, the Daley endorsement isn’t the only “big name” one that Preckwinkle would like to have these days. Much has been made of how she wanted to have Barack and Michelle Obama make some sort of statement of support on her behalf.

HOPING THAT THE Obama influence could still linger over Chicago sufficiently enough to sway some people to actually get off their keisters and cast ballots for Toni.
Barack backing didn't help Quinn

Unfortunately for Preckwinkle, the Obamas have decided to keep quiet this election cycle after all. They’ll cast their ballots (via absentee from their home in the D.C. metro area), but they’re not making anything in the way of public statements about who people should vote for.

Then again, perhaps they’re remembering the 2014 election cycle when Obama made a point of a late endorsement in support of Pat Quinn for governor. It didn’t help. We still got Bruce Rauner’s one-term stint as guv.

Perhaps Toni has become so bogged down in the nonsense that could take her down to mayoral defeat that Barack and Michelle just figure it’s better to remain silent, than open one’s mouth and remove all doubt about being a fool.


Friday, March 22, 2019

EXTRA: How baseball has changed

I dug out my copy of “Ball Four,” the diary that one-time major league pitcher Jim Bouton wrote of his 1969 season, and his recollections of the first contract he signed to play ball for the New York Yankees was noteworthy.

Major league minimum, and thankful for it
For the record, he got $6,000 (the then-major league minimum salary) to pitch in 1962. His contract was offered to him on Opening Day, just before the National Anthem was played for that game. He was told to “sign it!” because all rookie ballplayers were given $6,000.

BUT THAT WAS a half-century ago. Times truly have changed with baseball’s economics – and not just because the major league minimum now is $555,000 for a rookie ballplayer.

The Chicago White Sox have got their share of national attention for the contract they gave to outfielder Eloy Jimenez – one of the kid ballplayers whom the White Sox are banking on to become stars who revitalize the ballclub into champions.

Jimenez this week signed his first contract to play major league ball – he’ll likely be with the team when they have their April 4 Opening Day against the Seattle Mariners at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Yet Jimenez didn’t even have to think in terms of the major league “minimum” in terms of pay. He got a six-year deal, with two more seasons if the White Sox want them, with pay being $43 million (or more like $70 million-plus, if the White Sox add on those extra seasons).

Richest White Sox even before 1st game
IT ACTUALLY QUALIFIES for the most expensive, longest-term deal ever paid out by the White Sox to a single ballplayer. And he has yet to play in his first major league ballgame.

Yet this isn’t about spending money. It’s about saving it.

Because the White Sox are convinced that Jimenez will be such a big star that he’ll be capable of demanding even higher payouts in upcoming years. So by tossing out “big bucks” now, they’re hoping they can commit him to less than the “bigger bucks” they’d have to pay in the future.

Of course, Jimenez could wind up injuring himself, or finding some other glitch in his game that keeps him from becoming all he can be. In fact, the more cynical of White Sox fandom are convinced that’s exactly what will happen.

Strategy worked for Indians
BUT THE WHITE Sox are banking that this contract will be similar to many of the significant contracts the Cleveland Indians gave to their youthful talents of the 1990s – thereby enabling them to hold their team together for several years during that decade when they dominated the American League Central division with division titles won five straight seasons.

However, by the time 2001 came around, the contracts turned out to be less-than-market value. All those stars wound up ditching Cleveland for other ball clubs – including eventually Jim Thome doing a stint with the White Sox themselves.

So it will be intriguing to see just what becomes of the youthful talent of the White Sox. Are we bound to see baseball bargains the next few seasons that will make Sox fandom happy? Particularly since Jimenez was the one-time Chicago Cubs minor leaguer whom the Sox will be able to claim a steal!

Or is there going to be continued griping, with fans finding the most exciting aspect of going to the ballpark being the new popcorn laced with bacon to be served at concession stands this season?


Politics creates strange bedfellows

There are no permanent enemies in electoral politics. Or maybe the reality is there are no permanent friends – just people you’re allied with for the time being.
PRECKWINKLE: Got two endorsements

Take the mayoral campaign of Toni Preckwinkle – whom some are determined to believe is desperately clinging to life and is on the verge of political oblivion.

YET EVEN PRECKWINKLE is still capable of finding people willing to say they support her political aspirations. And not just the labor unions whom Toni had been hoping all along would be the life’s blood of her campaign for the right to work on the City Hall side of the municipal building, rather than the County Board side.

Preckwinkle picked up a pair of people who, at one time, might have been a major political coup. But now?

We’re talking about the endorsements she got from one-time state legislator and county board President Todd Stroger and from the rap music star Chance.

As in the guy who was the pulse that was the only reason anybody took seriously the mayoral aspirations of Amara Enyia. The one who kicked in the campaign cash that enabled her to actually have a campaign.

THE GUY WHOM some thought might inspire young black Chicagoans to care about this election cycle enough that perhaps Amara could have a chance of winning something.
STROGER: Sympathizing w/ Toni? Nah!

But as it turned out, Chance’s support was only good enough to get Enyia a 7 percent share of the vote in the Feb. 26 election – not even close to qualifying for one of the spots in the current run-off election.

So now, Chance has become a part of the Preckwinkle bandwagon. Which doesn’t surprise many political observers. It was always noted that one of the chairmen of the Preckwinkle campaign is Ken Bennett – a.k.a., Chance’s father.

All it means is that Chance’s mayoral preference went down the tubes, and his father convinced him to remain involved ever-so-slightly. But not as much as he was for Enyia.

BECAUSE IT SHOULD be noted that Chance’s endorsement does not come along with any campaign cash. He’s not giving Toni any money to get through the remaining days of this election cycle.
CHANCE: Won't open his wallet

I don’t know if it’s true, but there were always those predicting that Chance would wind up being swayed over to Camp Preckwinkle. Although those pundits were usually speculating a scenario in which this would unify African-American voter support for Toni against someone like William Daley.

Nobody figured this would be a Lightfoot/Preckwinkle brawl!

But this move strikes many as being more predictable than the one in which Stroger put aside his own animosities toward Preckwinkle to say he supports her. Because there are those of us who remember the 2010 election cycle in which Toni turned Todd into the ultimate example of a political hack who was unfit for office when she beat him for the county board president post he inherited when his father, John, had to step down.

COULD IT BE that Todd Stroger somehow sympathizes with the way Toni Preckwinkle’s reputation is being so thoroughly trashed by those Lightfoot backers eager to engage in demonization? Not likely.
LIGHTFOOT: Not likely losing sleep

It’s more likely that Stroger is being truthful when he says he hopes that a “Mayor Preckwinkle” will give him the time of day and be willing to listen to his concerns for things he’d like to see achieved across the city’s South Side. While a “Mayor Lightfoot,” he suspects, would be likely to turn her old federal prosecutorial instincts on him to try to find a way to get him indicted for something.

I’m not saying for sure that will happen. A part of me doesn’t think Stroger was ever ambitious enough to do something corrupt.

But it would be intriguing to see if current circumstances are such that Toni and “the Toddler” are now political allies – or will be for as long as the two see some mutual benefit to tolerating each other’s existence.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Who’s to blame for Preckwinkle fizzling out at end – if that’s what it is!

This election cycle that was supposed to be of a historic nature is turning out to be absurdly anti-climactic. I’m ready for it to end – without really caring who will prevail.
PRECKWINKLE: Is it over for her?

There are those who sense that the momentum has swung to the mayoral campaign of Lori Lightfoot – even though on paper she’s clearly the inexperienced candidate. Or at least no one this time around is willing to reward Toni Preckwinkle for her superior (on paper) qualifications.

IT’S TO THE point where both Chicago major metro newspapers have reported that the Preckwinkle campaign has pulled back the funding they would have spent this week and next to flood the airwaves with a lot of advertising messages whose purpose would be to make us think Lightfoot is totally unfit for the office she seeks.

Is Preckwinkle broke? Does she privately realize she’s lost and doesn’t want to waste the money? After all, it would benefit her if she was the county board president/Cook County chairman who had something of a financial stash that she could then distribute to other political people.

Emphasizing her clout in future years when clout won’t be held against her.

Or it could be that we’re in line for some incredibly negative and nasty surprise gesture – something meant to show that Preckwinkle can play political hardball with the best of them.

SOME SORT OF last-minute surprise a week or so from now meant to create one incredibly nasty negative impression that could sway all the people who actually wait until Election Day April 2 before casting a ballot.

Of course, that idea is undermined by the fact that some people already have cast their ballots – the early voting center downtown opened during the weekend, and the neighborhood centers in each ward have been open since Monday.

Could it be that some have essentially given up – with the focus already shifting to placing blame. Just how could Preckwinkle – the one-time front-runner for the mayoral post – be the one who winds up trailing behind in the public eye.
LIGHTFOOT: Has she won already?

And no. We really can’t blame it all on the public sentiment being against incumbent political people. Because there’s always a little taste of that at work in any election cycle.

ACTUALLY, THERE ARE those who already are saying, “It’s Ed Burke’s fault.” As in voters are punishing Preckwinkle for the fact that she has been supportive all these years of Burke in his role as the most powerful alderman in the City Council.

Of course, Burke himself managed to get enough political support in the initial Feb. 26 election that he won re-election as alderman without having to face a run-off. And despite the fact that the ethnic demographics of his ward have changed so much throughout the years that Burke himself should have been a goner years ago.

Mostly because Burke knew how to turn out the vote in the precincts where his continued supporters live, and how to downplay turnout in the rest of the ward. He got his “people” to show up to vote in strength.

But in what most likely is the evidence that Preckwinkle isn’t a true hard-core old-school politico no matter how much the Lightfoot team tries to portray her as one, Toni likely won’t be able to do the same at the city-wide level.

THERE ARE POCKETS of people who will want to see Preckwinkle become mayor, and who will think it a travesty that it likely won’t happen. But Toni ain’t Eddie. If she really were the old political hack some want to say she is, she'd find ways to survive. While instead, the kind of people who wish they could vote Burke out of office (but can’t, they don’t live in his ward) will gladly use Preckwinkle as a surrogate.
BURKE: Did he cost Toni a mayoral victory?

Which will create the ultimate irony if, come May when newly-elected politicos are sworn in to office that Preckwinkle is vilified while Burke returns to office.

Admittedly, Burke has his legal travails to face. He may get a literal “day in court” at some point in the future.

But it will be annoying if, come this spring, Burke remains a part of the City Hall “scene” to face Lightfoot while Preckwinkle remains relegated to the County Building side of that massive concrete block downtown that has housed our local politicos for more than a century.