Friday, May 31, 2019

EXTRA: Cheech & Chong gag obsolete? At least in Illinois!

The Illinois House of Representatives completed the legislative portion of the process by which marijuana use in the Land of Lincoln loses its stigma -- sending off to Gov. J.B. Pritzker the bill that will make it no longer any kind of illegal act for people to light up a joint/doobie/whatever you choose to call it.
Which makes me wonder about the old Cheech & Chong comedy skits involving the Sgt. Stedenko character. The overbearing, and inept, cop was forever trying to bust the comedy team -- and as I recall in one of their films, turned out to be a drug user himself.

BUT HOW WILL future generations view such moments? Will they wonder just why a cop was getting all worked up over someone wanting to indulge themselves in having a smoke for pure pleasure?

For the intent of Illinois' new law, which Pritzker is expected to sign off on some time this summer, will allow for people to purchase their "pot" from officially licensed vendors -- whose sales will be taxed, Meaning Illinois will get its "cut" of the proceeds. Which the cynics say is an immoral, if not ought to be criminal, reason to legalize something.

I don't doubt some people are going to wan to forevermore maintain the stigma of marijuana use -- mainly because they're going to object to the kinds of people they want to believe actually use the substance,

Which is why the most important part of this legislation, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2020, if Pritzker actually signs it into law, are the measures allowing for people to have their criminal records cleared of any offenses for past usage.

THE MARIJUANA POLICY Project estimates that some 750,000 people in Illinois will be eligible to have their records cleared for any times in the past they were caught by police using. It should be clear that people have to show they didn't commit other illegal acts while using pot -- their convictions will remain in place.

It should be noted that this change in law, when it takes effect, will not legitimize your neighborhood drug dealer. If anything, they're going to remain under police scrutiny. They will be, after all, selling pot products that compete with the officially-licensed vendors the state will want people to purchase from.

It will be something along the lines of the "illegal lottery" rackets that compete with the Illinois State Lottery games and are the remnants of the old policy rackets that allowed people to place nickel bets on numbers in hopes of winning a prize. The police still crack down on those people -- because they want us to buy lottery tickets from gas stations and convenience stores instead.
Which means that the cops are still going to crack down on the scuzzy-looking guy who tries growing his own pot product for sale. "Sgt. Stedenko," however, will become a less onerous law enforcement image -- and something more akin to "Barney Fife."

DeLUCA: Our brains on drugs

EDITOR'S NOTE: Just a bit of evidence as to how some people will always remain opposed to the idea of legitimizing marijuana use. Amongst the legislators who voted "no" are state Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, who couldn't bring himself to side with the desires of his political party's governor. DeLuca brought to mind that old public service announcement, reenacting that moment by frying an egg in a pan within the House chambers, then telling us, "This is your brain on drugs."

Can government tell people they can’t pack pistols? Some would say ‘no!’

I can’t help but think the Illinois State Rifle Association is showing just how ridiculous and overbearing their interpretations of the right to bear arms truly are, what with the way they called “most onerous” a bill approved this week by the Illinois House of Representatives.
Victim of overbearing government? Some would say 'yes'

That bill is one requiring people seeking permits to legally own a firearm to submit their fingerprints – which would make it easy for police to check to see if there are any reasons this particular individual ought not have such weapons.

THE BILL WAS motivated by past incidents, including one in suburban Aurora, where a man with a criminal record that should have stopped him from owning firearms had managed to purchase them anyway.

The man who walked into his former employer and began shooting people (he was p-o’ed) slipped through the cracks of the process we already had in place to make sure people with relevant criminal records don’t obtain such weapons.

Which means these people shouldn’t have pistols or rifles or any other such firearm.

Yet it seems the people whose only interest in the U.S. Constitution is in the (some might say obsolete) Second Amendment are interested in protecting the “rights” of people whom those of us with sense would think it a ‘no-brainer’ that their rights to own firearms have been forfeited.

SERIOUSLY, IN THE Aurora incident (that left five people AND the gunman dead), the man had a felony aggravated assault conviction in Mississippi and had multiple arrests in Aurora and Oswego.

Technically, the law would have made his Mississippi conviction (for which he served a little over two years in prison) ineligible to purchase a firearm legally.

Yet he was issued a Firearm Owner Identification card in Illinois in 2014 in large part because the background check did not include a fingerprint check – which would have revealed the Mississippi conviction and made him ineligible.

That FOID card is what allowed the man to openly walk into gun shops and purchase the weapons (at least one of which he is said to have used the day he walked into his former employer and began shooting – upset that he had been fired from his job).

THE LEGISLATURE’S ACTION might appear common-sense to many, but to the people who want to view firearms as some inalienable, God-given, right, it is one that has them screeching and threatening to take legal action to find a judge somewhere whose willing to let his own ideological leanings interpret the law in such a way that the gun owner becomes the “victim.”

And yes, it would seem that it was rural and outer suburban-based legislators who provided the bulk of votes against the measure – which narrowly passed this week 62-52 (60 votes needed for approval).

There were other provisions of the bill, including one that says someone whose legal right to own firearms has been revoked must actually surrender them to police or document that they’ve turned them over to someone who can legally possess them.

Which would appear to be very sensible – except to those who think that gun owners ought to be able to slip through the cracks of bureaucracy in order to keep clutching their pistols in the grips of their fingers – until said moment that their grip becomes cold and dead!

IT STRIKES ME as hypocritical for some to think that these restrictions on firearm ownership are flawed. Particularly if they’re the types of people who think that a person’s felony conviction for a crime ought to forevermore prohibit them from being able to register to vote in elections.

Then again, there also are those types who want to think there’s no such thing as a unit of government that they’re obligated to respect.

It reminds me of one time I saw one of those daytime talk shows where a clergyman was the guest being interviewed – and he showed as evidence of his disdain for government his own special driver’s license. One not issued by his state’s motor vehicles bureau because he thinks no state has a right to tell him he can’t drive.

About the only consolation I take in any of this kind of thought is the notion that someday, these people will have to confront the lord almighty and have to justify their knuckleheaded line of logic. My faith says they won’t be able to do so.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Lightfoot “wins” battle; we’ll need to see how she prevails in the “war”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot had her first official meeting Wednesday with the City Council, and the aldermen didn’t go out of their way to try to humiliate her.
LIGHTFOOT: Prevailed, for now

Now as far as how Lightfoot treated the aldermen, that is debatable. For it could be that Lightfoot came ahead on her first political conflict, but may also have cemented a reputation that is bound to have her name taken in vain in certain City Hall offices.

LIGHTFOOT GETS CREDIT for a “win” because the council formally approved her picks for whom amongst them ought to be in charge of the various council committees.

Including the selection of 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack as chairman of the almighty and powerful Finance committee. While the senior-most alderman who was the long-time Finance chair, Edward M. Burke, got nothing.

Another council veteran who didn’t get any sort of committee posting was 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale – who had been vocal in his criticisms of Lightfoot and made it pretty clear he didn’t think much of her mayorality. Regardless of the so-called historic nature of her term that many attributed to her.

For what it’s worth, Lightfoot’s committee chairmanships were approved by the aldermen by a voice vote. Meaning there is no recorded roll-call.
Will Burke and Beale (below) become … 

IT IS MORE a matter of the mayor deciding that the “ayes” had it, and as for the “nays,” well, she didn’t hear any, so she says her side prevailed. She won! She so declared it.

Which strikes me as just as much a political “boss” behavior as any of the past mayors from City Hall history whom the Lightfoot proponents are quick to lambast.

For what it’s worth, various news accounts of the council session place the number of potential critics at about 10 – which would mean about 40 supported Lightfoot. Although the Chicago Sun-Times went so far as to say there were four aldermen who voted “no,” with Burke and Beale most definitely being amongst them.
… a bi-racial coalition speaking out against Lori?

But we should keep in mind that nobody recorded a vote, so we can’t say definitively that either man was opposed. Because, after all, the “ayes” have it.

NOW AS FAR as Lightfoot’s appointments on Wednesday, she chose 18 of the 50 aldermen to have committees that they would oversee – thereby giving them some degree of influence; if not outright power.

The appointment that caught my attention was that of 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney, who in addition to being Zoning committee chair also is now vice mayor. Not bad for an alderman whom the Ricketts family tried to single out for political defeat because he wouldn’t cater to all the whims the family had in the way they wanted the Lake View neighborhood surrounding Wrigley Field to be remodeled to the financial benefit of the Chicago Cubs.

Then again, there’s the way the new mayor gave the back of her hand to Burke – who has been an alderman for 50-plus years but now has brought national notoriety (if not outright shame and disgrace) to the City Council for the criminal investigation now pending against him.

At one point, Burke tried to lecture Lightfoot on the use of the pronoun “he” in her measure, and tried to play the moralistic high-ground by calling for gender-neutral terms – to which she cut him off.

WHEN HE TRIED to bring up other issues, she responded, “Alderman, please. I will call you when I want to hear from you.”
TUNNEY: Chicago's new vice-mayor

I don’t doubt that Burke took it as a personal snub, and it most likely was intended as such. For all I know, Burke and Beale (who had been a council committee chair under mayors Emanuel and Daley) may form an alliance – which could also wind up including several Latino aldermen.

Some of whom are miffed over the notion that only two of the 18 committee chairs came from their ranks. Which may be given the political spin of being a multi-racial and ethnic coalition of people who object to the coming of the Lightfoot years.

But then again, we have to concede, Lightfoot did say “please” before treating Burke as coldly as the legendary Richard J. Daley ever treated those opposing aldermen who suddenly saw their microphones turned off in mid-rant!


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

EXTRA: Reality tops fantasy

It's the reason I find it incredulous anyone would ever consider writing fiction; I find that reality usually has a knack of coming up with even more outrageous things than even my addled imagination could ever concoct.
Take the Chicago White Sox employee who, on Wednesday, was called upon to do the "first pitch" duties. She wound up uncorking a wild throw so erratic that she hit a photographer who happened to be on the playing field at the time.
IT LOOKED ALMOST as ridiculous as the bit from the 1988 film "Bull Durham." Remember when actor Tim Robbins' "Nuke LaLoosh" character hit the bull mascot? And probably more memorable than either of the ballgames the White Sox actually managed to win Wednesday against the Kansas City Royals.

Of course, this first pitch attempt brings to mind the one time that Chicago Bulls basketball star Michael Jordan did the duties prior to a ballgame at Wrigley Field. Made worse by the fact that Jordan himself once tried playing professional baseball.
No wonder he never made it beyond the Birmingham Barons. He couldn't hit (only .202 batting average) or throw!
And now, this White Sox employee is being overly grateful for the fact that the ball club won't publicly identify her. Because you just know she'll make "blooper" videos for years to come, just like that moment when then-Texas Rangers outfielder Jose Canseco had a ball bounce off his noggin for a home run -- a more-memorable moment than any of the 462 home runs (16 of them during a brief stint he played for the White Sox) he clubbed with his bat.


State Line Road becomes battle front in the abortion “war” some want to wage?

Venture to Chicago’s far southernmost tip, and you’ll reach that point where the streets of the Hegewisch neighborhood are named in letters until you reach the appropriately-named “State Line Road.”
This part of State Line Road (between Calumet City and Hammond) is now loaded with shops selling cheap cigarettes, generic pop brands and fireworks … 
That is where Hegewisch becomes Hammond – and Illinois becomes Indiana. And the way things are going, it could become a battle front in the ideological war that some seem determined to fight as to whether or not we ought to regard abortion of a pregnancy as a fully-legitimate medical procedure,

ILLINOIS SEEMS TO be a place determined to protect the availability of a woman’s right to have a choice on whether to end a pregnancy. While Indiana seems to have officials inclined to want to revert back to the old days when abortion would be regarded as a criminal act.

Off in Washington, D.C., the Supreme Court on Tuesday issued rulings with regard to actions that the Hoosier state tried to implement against abortion availability there.

The high court upheld an Indiana law that required the remains of an aborted fetus to be disposed of similar to the way a dead person. Perhaps reinforcing the belief in ideologue mindsets that the unborn is a full-fledged life – instead of an appendage whose life is dependent upon its mother.

Although the court wasn’t as supportive of an attempt to put into Indiana law a measure forbidding a woman to terminate a pregnancy because the yet-to-be born person was not of the race or gender preferred – or may be suffering from a disability once it is born,

IDEOLOGUES HAVE LONG said they view such restrictions as a way of preventing science from trying to create babies-to-order and have tried to use this as an excuse for limiting abortion, The high court made a point of saying its ruling this week “expresses no view on the merits.”

Although Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas issued his own dissenting opinion that tried comparing abortion practices to “modern-day eugenics.” But in a sign that the rest of the court doesn’t want to get involved in this issue, no one signed off in support of his stance.

In short, it seems that for every ideologue who is determined to do whatever they can to restrict a woman’s ability to decide her own fate with regards to giving birth, there are others who probably wish they could focus on other issues – rather than having abortion become the ultimate Scarlet letter “A” of the 21st Century.
Will it someday be loaded with dueling abortion protesters?
Then, we have our own situation on our side of State Line Road, where the ideologues who favor the Indiana measures (or those of places like Alabama or Missouri that are trying to make abortion impossible to obtain) are trying to demonize Illinois.

I’VE LITERALLY LOST count of the number of commentaries I’ve read where people are trying to scare everybody into believing that Illinois – and most likely Chicago – will become THE place where women flee to in order to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Largely because of the political situation, where in addition to marijuana legalization and sports gambling, the future of abortion access could be one of the key issues to be contemplated (or not) in this final week of the 2019 spring legislative session.

Back when the Supreme Court struck down all the various state laws restricting abortion, Illinois officials included a legal clause saying that if the “Roe vs. Wade” ruling that legitimized abortion ever was struck down, Illinois law would automatically revert to the old days – when a miscarriage could be considered reason for a police investigation to determine that the mother didn’t do anything to bring the end of pregnancy upon herself.

But the Illinois House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill that would strike down all those restrictions – so that if ideologues really do succeed in their effort to abort abortions, Illinois could remain as one of the few places that didn’t explicitly ban them. Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said that "women's health will always be a fundamental right in Illinois." Just a thought to keep in mind the next time you hear ideologues demonize the Madigan persona.

IT’S A LOT of legalistic maneuvering to try to keep Illinois on the side of women who, for various reasons, may think it not in their best interests to have a baby. A concept that will offend the ideologues.

And could well make the Illinois/Indiana border – particularly the part between Chicago and Hammond, Ind. – a place where people will glare at each other and shake their fists in outrage while accusing each other of being immoral.
Will Illinois Legislature act to protect abortion rights, regardless of what other states choose to do?
Of course, what constitutes a more-immoral act (letting a baby die, or thinking you have a right to meddle in someone else’s decision about that act) is probably going to be one of those perennial ideological splits. We’ll never come to an agreement.

But just think, before you start ranting about Chicago’s potential support for immoral acts, keep in mind that less than a mile to the east of State Line Road is the Horseshoe Casino.

A WOMAN COULD end her pregnancy legitimately in Illinois, while gambling away her money in Indiana – with the state and local governments taking a cut of the proceeds.

Does that really make the gambling any more legitimate in the eyes of the overly-moral?


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Friday could be historic deadline for Lege – or then again, maybe not

Friday will be an intriguing day for those of us following the General Assembly, which ought to be all of us living across Illinois.
PRITZKER: Will he have anything to sign into law?

There’s a good chance that Illinois will move extremely close to enacting new laws doing away with the notion that people using marijuana ought to be regarded as criminals, degenerates and an all-around scourge on our society.

WE MAY ALSO get changes in the law meant to allow for people to legally gamble on sports events other than horse racing.

This on top of the notion of implementing a graduated income tax over the current flat-tax system – a move that would require an amendment to the Illinois Constitution to be enacted. Which the Illinois House of Representatives gave its approval to Monday afternoon.

It’s possible that the General Assembly will finish up the spring 2019 legislative session by approving a constitutional amendment that could be put up for a vote in 2020. In addition to the gambling and marijuana measures.

This spring – whose session comes to an end Friday – could turn out to be one of the most significant legislative sessions of all time.


Because there’s always the chance that our state Legislature could turn out to be cowardly, spineless and all-around gutless.

There’s the chance that legislators may decide that marijuana and gambling are just too big a step for them to want to take. They may well decide to wait for another time before taking on these issues.
This may be a big week in Springfield, … 

Think I’m kidding? Just realize how many decades the issue of building a new Chicago-area airport near Peotone has been contemplated by the Illinois Legislature.

THE BOTTOM LINE is that I honestly don’t know what to expect from our state’s Legislature this year, or any time for the next few years.

Theoretically, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has the potential to run roughshod over his political opposition. He has, in theory, Democratic majorities in both the Illinois House and state Senate so large that they would overrule the Republican caucuses that would be inclined to oppose him.

But it’s also possibly that our legislators have the backbone of the cowardly lion. They may not want to have history record that they legitimized marijuana or made it legal to place a bet on a ballgame (provided that the ballclubs get a share of the gambling proceeds).

Or if they do, they’d rather have the final vote turn out to have Republican support along with Democrats. So that neither side can take total blame for the issue for those people eager to impose their sets of morals on everybody else.

THEY MAY THINK that taking on all these issues could be too much to take on at one time. Or maybe they just don’t have enough ambition to want to do significant things – fearing that too much change will be held against them.

All these things that the Illinois General Assembly spent the spring contemplating? It makes me think our legislators have the ambition level of way too many people (and myself, sometimes, to be totally honest) that I knew in college.

We did enough to make sure we’d get passing grades, and wound up waiting until the last minute before going on a work binge to ensure all our papers were written for our course loads.
… but activity returns next wk. to Thompson Center

Which is why the General Assembly likely will work its way to a hectic pace at week’s end – and may well have a final day of legislative action that pushes dangerously close to a midnight deadline.


It’s the equivalent of collegiate “cramming.” Whether anything of significance will change in Illinois? It could turn out that, years from now, we’ll wonder how we could ever have thought the Legislature would accomplish anything this spring!


Monday, May 27, 2019

Will Asian Carp assault Chicago, Lake Michigan similar to the way Godzilla terrorized Tokyo in the movies?

It has long been the fear of environmentalists that Asian Carp, a breed of fish considered particularly devastating to our ecology, is someday going to manage to work its way into Lake Michigan and the surrounding of the Great Lakes.
Have Asian Carp arrived at Lake Calumet? Photos by Gregory Tejeda
So it is with much trepidation that there is now evidence indicating that the Carp have made it past the electronic barricades further south near Romeoville (which the Army Corps of Engineers installed thinking that was the absolute solution to keep the Carp out of Chicago) and are now in existence in Lake Calumet.

FROM WHICH, IF they really have made it that far along the path, only now have to swim upstream through the Calumet River for about seven miles through Chicago’s South Side and will then be in Lake Michigan proper.

The Asian Carp, who initially were released accidentally into the Mississippi River somewhere down near New Orleans have managed to make it up across the nation, and across our state through the Illinois River and could now be about to take over the lake that is pride and joy to our Chicago.

Which, of course, will have many people eager to blame Chicago for letting the Asian Carp loose – even though one could claim it was the ineptitude of those who initially let the Carp loose down south who are truly to blame.
From Lake Calumet mouth to Calumet River … 

But the reality is that there’s nothing that can be done to undo the damage in the mighty Mississippi. But we can still hope that our officials can act in ways to bar them from Lake Michigan.

SO WHAT’S THE big deal about the Asian Carp? The fact is that the Asian Carp feed on anything and everything in their paths.

In doing so, they’ll devastate the ecosystems of whatever water supply they manage to get to. In a sense, everything that is alive and thriving now in Lake Michigan could wind up becoming barren, if the Carp make it that far.

And the reality is, we may well find there’s nothing we really can do to stop the Asian Carp from making the final stretch of their journey to Lake Michigan and all the other Great Lakes.
and up the river, past the Chicago Skyway bridge
If they’ve managed to work their way north from New Orleans to Chicago this far, what’s to make us think there’s anything that can be placed in their way during the final seven-mile stretch of the Calumet River?

NOW IT SHOULD be noted that the Asian Carp proper have not been found in Lake Calumet itself. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said last week that traces of DNA from Asian Carp have been found in the lake’s water.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the DNA could consist of evidence of skin cells, secretions and feces (just think, fish poop), and that those substances could well have been in the bilge water of the ships that pass through the area – if not the Asian Carp themselves.
Too bad the Asian Carp can't read signs!

It could be just genetic junk, and not the fish themselves that have made the lengthy journey from down south. Which means that rather than blaming Chicago for letting the Carp into the Great Lakes, we ought to be thinking in terms of whether or not Chicago will be “heroic” enough to prevent the trip from being completed.

I suppose we’re now on the lookout for the Asian Carp, which have been sited by the T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam – located just south of the lake – to see if they’ve made it a few miles farther north to the lake proper, then well on their way to the “big” lake itself.

IT WILL BE intriguing to see what kind of last-ditch measures our federal and state officials (Gov. J.B. Pritzker has written to the Army Corps of Engineers offering whatever assistance the state can provide) can concoct to try to keep the Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes.

Will we see some new sort of technology devised to try to barricade off Lake Michigan? Or are we destined to see the same kind of electronic barricades erected at the mouth of the Calumet River headed into the lake as one last-ditch attempt to kill off any sort of creatures?
Will the Asian Carp be reminiscent of Godzilla films?
Is it inevitable that Lake Michigan (and the other Great Lakes) as we now know them are doomed? Or can they be saved?

It makes me wonder if we’re destined for some sort of story in our future resembling the old Godzilla movies – with the Asian Carp being a threat to our ecological well-being and threatening Chicago similar to the way the cinematic dragon-like creature used to terrorize Tokyo!


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Can Lori Lightfoot really make Chicago a less violent place this Memorial Day?

Lori Lightfoot hasn’t even been mayor of Chicago for one full week, and she’s already promising what may be an overly ambitious goal – eliminating the urban violence that is a Chicago embarrassment every Memorial Day holiday weekend. 
New mayor hopes to put her mark on city's Memorial Day safety
Which sounds nice. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Lori Lightfoot could really make Chicago a nicer, less violent place to be. Of course, this opens her up to criticism from every single smart-aleck (many harsher than myself) who will now try to hang every single violent crime that takes place this weekend on Lightfoot herself.

SO WHAT IS it Lightfoot has in mind?

Basically, it’s a marketing campaign. “Our City, Our Safety,” it’s being called. What it means is that the mayor wants us to get off our fat behinds and DO something,

In the form of attending one of the many events being held in neighborhoods across the city. Which almost reminds me of that old English proverb that says, “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.”

Does this make Lightfoot the equivalent of Chicago’s granny, spewing out sayings that basically mean we ought to make ourselves useful for a change instead of sitting around doing nothing?
Could events such as Mole de Mayo festival play a role in reducing … 
SERIOUSLY, THE CITY has a list of hundreds of events taking place from Friday through Monday. The theory being that if we’re doing something and perhaps even enjoying ourselves, we’re less likely to get ourselves involved in something stupid that will cause tempers to flare and lead to the potential for someone to pull out a weapon and use it.
… Memorial Day violence?

Is it our civic duty, then, to attend the Mole de Mayo festival in the Pilsen neighborhood, or any one of the many other events taking place in Chicago this weekend.

Maybe you’d rather check out the Lane Tech (as in high school) Carnival, or one of the many places that are doing film screenings (Lilo and Stitch will be showing Saturday at 6800 N. Western Ave., as an example).

What it basically sounds like is that Lightfoot wants to use what I’ve always considered to be one of Chicago’s biggest pluses to her advantage (the mass of activities taking place at any given time).

ANYBODY WHO’S SERIOUSLY bored in Chicago isn’t trying hard enough to find something interesting or enlightening to do.

Now I don’t know if I feel compelled to check out the Mole de Mayo festival in Pilsen, although I’ll admit I went last year and it was an interesting experience stuffing my face with a dish I consider my personal favorite.

Although I feel compelled to try to find something new to do to occupy my time this holiday weekend. And part of that time may well be in some sort of serious contemplation of those people who served in our nation’s military and wound up losing their lives as a result.

That’s enough bloodshed to have to think about, without having to contemplate the number of people killed or wounded (it could wind up being several dozen) in incidents that usually compete with each other in terms of just how insipid they are.

ALMOST AS THOUGH some people are eager to see a life lost in the most pathetic and wasteful manner possible. My own reporter-type days saw me write many a story about someone who happened to be sitting on their porch when they got struck by stray gunfire.
Various types of police will be in force this weekend. Photos by Gregory Tejeda
To try to cope with the incidents that are inevitable this weekend, the Chicago Police say they plan to have an extra 1,200 patrol officers on duty – with some 50 of them riding the Chicago Transit Authority buses and “L” trains to try to reduce the number of moments where someone merely trying to get themselves somewhere wind up being hurt or killed.

While a summer mobile patrol of about 100 officers will be working the parks and Lake Michigan shoreline. The last thing we need is someone killed during a quarrel breaking out at a traditional holiday “cookout” gone awry.

Which may sound like quite a force being put to the streets to deal with potential violence. The reality, though, is that it will only take one child getting caught in someone’s crossfire to taint the holiday weekend – no matter how much Lightfoot tries to reduce it.


Friday, May 24, 2019

Illinois Supreme Court sides with the aged, not with fans of “food trucks”

I have a cousin, some 20 or so years younger than I, who considers himself something of a “foodie.” Quick to check out exotic cuisines and always on the lookout for an interesting place to eat.
Dining under the "L" tracks. Photos by Gregory Tejeda
Yet I know he’s also a big fan of the “scene” that has developed in Chicago to have “food trucks,” rolling restaurants of sorts that are capable of bringing unusual food items to the neighborhood.

THOSE TRUCKS RECEIVED a legal blow from the Illinois Supreme Court, which on Thursday ruled previous rulings by the Cook County and Illinois Appellate courts that have sided with Chicago city government’s restrictions on food trucks.

Such as the one preventing a food truck from parking itself within 200 feet of a more conventional restaurant. Or the rules requiring the food trucks to contain GPS devices to make it easier for city officials to track their movements.

The food truck operators filed their original lawsuit back in 2012, contending that such restrictions harmed their ability to do business. And as for the GPS, they say it’s a violation of their right to privacy to have someone being able to track their movements throughout the city.

Yet the Illinois Restaurant Association contends they’re willing to work with the food truck operators to reach some sort of compromise to allow them to operate in partnership with more conventional restaurants.

ALTHOUGH I DO suspect that for the restaurants, the “compromise” resembles something along the lines of “withering away and dying.” They don’t really want more competition when it comes to the concept of preparing and serving food.

Particularly from a food truck, which is an operation that has far lower overhead costs than maintaining a conventional restaurant in a physical building and having to maintain the kind of staff required to operate a restaurant.

I don’t doubt the restaurants think these food operators are thinking the food trucks are playing unfair. Probably the more we hear the phrase “roach coach” used to refer to them, the worse business is becoming.

Can this Pilsen neighborhood restaurant compete?
I do have to admit to a bias, and it’s probably one because of age. I personally have little interest in searching out the food truck that serves the best Korean-inspired tacos, or even the best conventional (ie, ketchup-less) hot dog.

FOR ME, PART of the appeal of “eating out” is to check out the physical ambiance of a restaurant, while also having someone serve me.

Which are aspects that a food truck tries to eliminate from the process.

Although I don’t doubt my cousin probably thinks I’m being overly ridiculous, as do, I’m sure, the other many fans of food trucks, who probably think it’s cool when a particularly unique one decides to pull up and operate right by where they work.

A quickie lunch that, I’ll admit, is probably much more interesting than the servings of a Subway sandwich franchise (I don’t mean that as an insult, my first job ever was working a late shift at a Subway – and my own standard order on those occasions when I eat there is a “Spicy Italian” sandwich).

WHICH MAKES ME think this is a matter of age. There is a younger crowd, I don’t doubt, that will take this issue much more seriously than I.

For all I know, the day may come when the state Supreme Court will find some sort of case that gives them the opportunity to reverse themselves on Thursday’s ruling.

BAULER: Ain't ready for food trucks either?
That is, assuming the concept survives the amount of regulation they would now face – as the Institute of Justice has its own studies showing the number of food truck operators is now 40 percent smaller than it was some six years ago.

It could be that food trucks in Chicago are a similar concept to how legendary Alderman Paddy Bauler once described political "reform” – we just “ain’t ready for it” yet.


Thursday, May 23, 2019

EXTRA: History amidst mediocrity

The Chicago White Sox gave us evidence this week that one can find moments of excellence even in the pile of mediocrity that, in all honesty, describes this year's ball club.

If it turns out that the White Sox do manage to rebuild themselves in coming seasons into a championship quality club, Wednesday's 9-4 victory against the Houston Astros may be remembered as an early moment of what was yet to come.

POTENTIAL FUTURE STAR Eloy Jimenez hit two home runs, while Charlie Tilson hit his first home run ever -- and it was a 'Grand Slam' (and no, I don't mean breakfast at Denny's).

But there also was the triple play that got the White Sox out of a jam -- and also made the game only the fourth in Major League history since 1969 where a team pulled off a Triple Play AND a Grand Slam in one evening!

It seems the old axiom is true that even the worst ballclubs are capable of giving out beatings, and even the best ballclubs are capable of getting their butts whomped on any given night!

Which only makes me wonder, just how bad will this weekend's play be to compensate for the great moments we saw Wednesday? This is, after all, a team playing just under .500 (22 wins, 26 losses as of Wednesday) baseball.

Is Lightfoot providing a mayoral “plus” or “minus” for the Chicago P.D.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is putting together the team of people who will comprise city government for the next four years, and it was interesting to see her initial moves that relate to the Chicago Police Department.

JOHNSON: Same police superintendent
Eddie Johnson, the man who became police superintendent after long-time law enforcement veteran Garry McCarthy was sacrificed by Rahm Emanuel to try to appease people p-o’ed about the shooting death by a police officer of teenager Laquan McDonald, is being retained.

IT’S USUALLY not at all unusual for a new mayor to want to have her very own police chief – someone whose political loyalties would be to her.

So if Johnson were really to be thrown out on his keister, now would have been the perfect time to do so. Nobody would have questioned it. If anything, it would have been expected.

For Lightfoot to keep the veteran Chicago police officer (beginning with the department as a patrolman back in 1988 is a sign of confidence in his professional abilities. Or at least evidence he hasn’t done anything that would offend Lightfoot.

So perhaps Lightfoot, whose past professional experience includes a stint as head of the Chicago Police Board, is not about to make radical changes in police operations – if she’s keeping the same person in charge.

BUT THEN, THERE’S the other decision she made on her first full day in office as mayor. As in the one involving her personal security team.

For the mayor of Chicago usually has a special detail within the Police Department whose duties include protecting the mayor, accompanying her to all public appearances, and usually serving as the driver of the mayoral automobile.

Yes, that’s a sworn police officer behind the steering wheel, while also keeping his eyes open for any potential that could become a threat to the mayoral persona.

SMITH: New head of mayoral security
Only not this time!

FOR LIGHTFOOT IS hiring the services of Silver Star Protection Group to handle her mayoral security detail. That company is run by James Smith – who prior to going into business for himself worked as a corrections officer at the Cook County Jail, then served for 26 years as a U.S. marshal based in Chicago who was in charge of providing protection for Supreme Court justices and other federal officials.

Perhaps it’s only logical that Lightfoot, who once also served as a prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago, would turn to someone with a sense of federal law enforcement to provide protection with herself.

But as the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday, Smith is married to Margaret Houlihan-Smith, who once was a managing director for United Airlines and now works as a lobbyist both for United and AT&T.

Is it a conflict for a lobbyist to now have a direct tie to the mayor? Is it the kind of thing that could be a mini-scandal in and of itself? As though it creates the appearance of a conflict of interest!

WHO’S TO SAY. For what it’s worth, a whole series of questions to various officials along that line of questioning resulted in a whole slew of “no comment”-type responses. Or maybe I should say, “nunayabizness”-type answers.
LIGHTFOOT: First law enforcement picks

Does the new mayor not trust Chicago police enough to ensure that no one tries to harm her while in office? Is she rewarding someone who comes from similar outside-the-established circles that she thinks she can trust better?

Or does James Smith really have a skills set that just isn’t possessed by anyone within the Chicago Police Department? That is something we’ll have to see.

While we also see if the retention of Johnson as police superintendent is a sign that the Chicago Police Department is on the right track, and not about to undergo significant change. Or is it really just a matter of Johnson getting about a year on the job before getting pushed into what she’ll call a “retirement” so she can make room for a police chief of her own pickings.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Are secessionists (of sort) on the rise in Illinois? Or just anti-Chi trash-talk!

It’s one of those perennial political ideas that bop about from time to time amongst the denizens of Springpatch – separate the rural parts of Illinois from Chicago.
Would this be state of Chicago symbol?

Or as these people tend to prefer thinking about it – kick Chicago out of Illinois and onto its keister. Let the “Second City” become the 51st state of our nation.

THE IDEA ISN’T new. It seems there’s always a bill pondering the concept of separation of the Land of Lincoln. The Washington Post reported this week about the latest effort – which actually has eight state representatives willing to put their names on the measure as co-sponsors.

Not that anybody seriously thinks Illinois is on the verge of separation. Even one of those sponsors – state Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna – admits this is more about the symbolism of separation.

“This is a political bill. As the political arm of the Illinois House Republicans, it is my responsibility to remind Chicago that there is more to Illinois than Chicago,” she told the Capitol Fax newsletter.

As though the roughly 2.6 million people who live in the city proper will quake in their pants at the thought of a city just over 3,000 people sitting in cultural isolation along the Mississippi River across from Iowa doesn’t want to be associated with Chicago.

TO BE HONEST, I suspect most Chicagoans have never heard of Savanna, and probably will mistake it for Savannah, the city in Georgia.

Which is why I honestly believe that if there really was a move underfoot to split up the 12.73 million residents of Illinois into separate states, it would be more in the form of rural Illinois trying to split off into its own region. Or more likely, Chicago deciding that it no longer wants to be associated with the Land of Lincoln.

In reality, nobody’s about to split. Nobody’s going nowhere. This is one of those maneuvers that would provide no real benefit – other than allowing political people to spew all sorts of trash talk!
McCOMBIE: Should we respond to her message?

For one thing, it would turn out to be ridiculously hard to determine exactly where the border ought to be.

DO WE LITERALLY turn 119th Street to the south (with portions of the border jutting as far out as 138th Street) into the new Chicago/Illinois state line – something similar along the lines of 106th Street and State Line Road now being the dividing line between Illinois and Indiana in Chicago.

Would it become the State of Cook, with Chicago as its state capitol? We’d have to wind up picking ourselves a governor. Just envision Rahm Emanuel making a political comeback as governor of the state newly-created by ideologue politicos trying to do so as some sort of political punishment.

“Cook Gov. Rahm Emanuel,” presiding over the Chicago mayor and the other 128 municipalities that comprise the county that makes up almost half of the Illinois population as things currently stand. It almost seems appropo.

Or would the reality of things remain in place, and all the people so eager to kick out Chicago wind up getting a shock of a lifetime in learning that the five surrounding counties (DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will) would realize they have more in common with a state of Chicago than they ever would with a state of rural Illinois.

WHICH WOULD MAKE the newly created state one that comprises about two-thirds of the existing Illinois. At roughly 8 million, the new state of Chicago/Cook/collar counties would be bigger than Indiana (roughly 6.67 million people who see no shame in calling themselves Hoosiers).
Which 'state' able to claim favorite son Lincoln

While the remaining state of Rural Illinois would wind up at about 4 million – falling somewhere between Oregon and Oklahoma in population, and lagging behind Kentucky’s 4.47 million people.

Just envision all those people currently of Southern Illinois becoming the place filled with all the bumpkins that denizens of the “Bluegrass State” shudder in fear that they have living to close to their homes.

Rural Illinoisans might not be ready for that level of isolation. Particularly if they come to realize that for many Chicagoans, their contact with “downstate” is if they have a four-year stint attending a college there – where far too many are eager to rush back to “Sweet Home, Chicago” upon graduation.