Monday, July 31, 2006

Vacation by Amtrak....

Well this is my returning home post which came behind the post about Mayor Daley. I talked about my trip on board the Southwest Chief last year. Before I got off the train today (The Capitol Limited and it was running late) our train attendant told us about the impending threat to shut down long distance trains and urged us to write our congressman, Senator, or Amtrak and let them know how we as Amtrak customers feel about that.

Well I'd like to encourage that from here. I may make the attempt to do the same on my end. I'd like to think Amtrak is a different animal from what I had know way back when, when Chicago's Union Station nothing more than a basement. All the same the ride was short but I enjoyed it and it was great to be at home again.

BTW, our attendant said that he didn't say we'd be on time but we'd get there safely and that we did. So far my experience on the train has been nothing but pleasant.

This trip I went to Washington, DC for a family reunion. My folks out there are suburbanites poor me as a city guy is forced to stay out in the burbs with them. Either way we did find our way into the nation's capital. I saw the National Mall for the first time in years seeing the Washington Memorial and actually going to the Lincoln Memorial. We also spent some time at the WW2 memorial.

The day we saw all those sights we actually went to tour the White House. There are no pictures because they wouldn't let any tourist take pictures of the White House. We didn't see anything that sensitive but I suppose that doesn't make a difference. I've been reading up on a little White House history before I even knew I could take a tour of the place. It was great to see the rooms, library, hall and the porticos. We may not have made it to the Lincoln Bedroom, the rose garden or even the west wing, it was still worthwhile and those rooms we have seen have nothing but history in them.

And also understand that things are a little different in Washington, DC especially for the federal government thanks to the ever present threat of terrorism. Barricades, closed streets, even retractable street barricades seem to be the rule of the day. Either way this was still a worthwhile experience. Although there were kids in our group and in other groups on tour many of those individuals will probably have the chance to become President and will ultimately be able to see the rest of the White House.

BTW unlike last year when I promised to post video of my trip to LA, photos of Washington, DC are forthcoming. Look for them over at My Mind's Eye. So that was by brief vacation. Anyone have any vacation stories?

Business doubts Mayor Daley's influence

An article in today's Crain's. There's been a lot of talk about the Mayor's waning influence over the city council is it that serious. Well this article has the business community doubting that although Daley's policies are basically probusiness. I was disapointed that while I was in the nation's capitol that the big-box ordinance was actually passed and was said to be veto proof. And seeing the count of those for and against, it seems that if Daley vetoes the measure it will be over-ridden.

Here's a column that proves to be an ever better analysis of the waning power of Mayor Daley by Rich Miller. I've never thought of what's currently going on in the city in these terms...
Daley is a pro-big business, moderate Democrat. Chicago doesn't have some of the wackier liberal laws on its books that other large cities do mainly because of Daley's influence.

But now, things are starting to change. The once ultratight leash has been loosened.

"They want to put microchips on dogs," Daley complained this week about the council. "We've got [the ban on] foie gras. We've got pay raises. They've got all of these things going."

One alderman previously thought to have been a voice of moderation has turned way-out California liberal.

Ald. Ed Burke (14th) wants to ban drivers from smoking in their cars if any of their passengers are under the age of 8. Burke also introduced a ban on restaurants serving any food containing trans fats.

One restaurant owner told the Sun-Times that Burke is becoming "the next Burt Natarus."

Ah, yes. Ald. Burt Natarus.

Natarus is probably best known for making extremely goofy public comments and introducing ordinances like forcing horses that pull the Loop tourist carriages to wear diapers.

The guy really doesn't like horses.

"The neighing of horses in a city where people are not used to such noises can be more piercing than a car alarm," Natarus once told the council.

These are the people who will be setting the agenda if Daley's power is completely breached. Without a strong leader to contain their zanier impulses, they'll probably go off in a zillion different directions, each one more bizarre than the others. I'm sure it will be quite the show. Reporters and columnists will love the fresh material. Citizens and business leaders might not.

Am I saying that Chicago should keep the Machine in place to prevent a messy democracy from sprouting? Heck no. What I am saying is that it's not enough to change the man at the top or diminish his awesome powers. Voters and reporters have to get more involved as well. The past few months have made it clear that everyone needs to start paying much closer attention to aldermanic elections, or the "City that works" could become a national laughingstock.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I just had to post this...

So yeah about me not having internet access, well I got it now.

Yesterday I found this YouTube video from 9/11. It was a recording of a 911 call from the 105th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center. The man was Kevin Cosgrove. While on the phone the building collapses on him and that is the last thing we heard.

This is totally unbelieveable and unreal. If you don't feel anything then I'm not sure what to say. If anything you should be speechless.

I still haven't gotten a solid handle on this terrorism thing. Why this happened on that day? What I can say is that we can't let these terrorists become freedom fighters, because they are no heroes. This is what the current fighting in Israel and Lebanon is all about.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Turning a page at Johnson Publishing

Johnson Publishing Company, they're responsible mainly for Ebony and Jet magazines, have hired a new executive director, Bryan Monroe . He will be responsible for content for those aformentioned magazines as well as their websites. Here's some current facts about Johnson publishing...

Its flagship general interest monthly, Ebony, has seen paid circulation drop by more than 100,000 to 1.46 million in the last two years, while Jet has kept circulation steady. As for online content, “There is a great opportunity with the Internet that we are just not tapping fully right now,” says Mr. Monroe, 40.
He was responsible for some Pulitzer Prize winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina...

As Hurricane Katrina bore down on the Biloxi, Miss. Sun Herald’s offices, the paper’s executive editor saw Bryan Monroe’s big frame down a hallway.

“The Marines have landed,” Stan Tiner recalls saying.

Mr. Monroe was assistant vice-president for news at Knight Ridder Inc., the newspaper’s parent, at the time. He and five staffers had driven rented SUVs from Atlanta to Biloxi to help get the paper out. Their aid contributed to The Sun Herald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning disaster coverage.

“He exuded confidence,” Mr. Tiner said. “You had the sense this was a man who can really do his job.”
As for what's going on at Johnson Publishing this is what Bryan Monroe had to say...
Ebony is not the San Jose Mercury News, a former Knight Ridder paper known for dogged investigative coverage where Mr. Monroe spent 11 years. Ebony’s August cover story is entitled “Mariah Carey’s Big Comeback,” which calls the pop singer a “resilient artist” who “has demonstrated that she has what it takes –– enormous talent, guts and perseverance –– to overcome adversity and endure personal and career setbacks.” Jet has a newsier edge.

Asked if he’ll put harder news in Ebony, Mr. Monroe answered, “I know there are many other topics that we haven’t covered that we can cover.”
Read more at Crain's Chicago Business. I haven't picked up an Ebony or a Jet in years. The coverage hasn't really interested me, but I do hope that those magazines can get back as close as to what they were during the Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps they can be that magazine today. I hope that Monroe can cover stories that weren't covered in Ebony/Jet.

Obama reassures ministers he's still on their side

Today's Mary Mitchell column. She starts off with this...

Sen. Barack Obama's private breakfast meeting with a group of local ministers on Monday morning showed why a lot of people are hoping the freshman senator will seek a higher office sooner rather than later. His ability to feel comfortable in any setting, and to put others at ease while wading through the muck of partisan politics, has made Obama an attractive candidate to a broad base of voters.

Yet, Obama knows it's important to assure his base that they haven't been left behind -- that his broad appeal won't rob them of an advocate in Washington.

He also senses that this is the right time to preach his style of black empowerment.
He met with some ministers on the west side of Chicago at Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church on Washington Avenue. This church is right in the heart of redevelopment on the west side according to this column. This was who attended that meeting...

Powerful clergymen crossed denominational as well as geographical boundaries to hear Obama's comments. Among them were the Revs. Clay Evans, Leon Finney, Mildred Harris, Willie Barrow, Tyrone Crider, Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright, Al Sampson, Michael Pfleger and Bishops Larry Trotter and Claude Porter, founder of the Proviso-Leyden for Community Action Inc.
She alludes to the fact that his appearance there will do more to bring south side and west side leaders together than the hollow call for unity by elected officials still reeling from the appointment of Todd Stroger to replace his father for County Board President. As for the persistent rumors of him running for President in 2008, he still has a long way to go. Here's a little of what he said...
"I'm firmly convinced we cannot accomplish the goals that we hear about in the
newspaper every day if the church and organizations aren't mobilizing around that agenda," Obama said. "If parents inside the pews don't feel invested in their child's education, those children will not be educated."
Sticking to a political ideology that puts him a lot closer to the center than some liberals would like, Obama touched upon the issues that black churches are uniquely equipped to tackle. For instance, he suggested that the alliance of ministers could approach companies like FedEx and offer to sponsor ex-felons for employment.

"Sponsor them and train them," he said. "Maybe we could get some government money to the churches to help with the training system
While holding government accountable for its role in the dynamics that created stressed urban cores like Chicago's West and South sides, Obama is clear that African Americans must organize around the issues that impact their communities the most.

"In 14 years of marriage, my wife and I have never argued over two gay men," Obama said, sharing how he reconciled his position on the proposed anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment (he doesn't support it) with his religious beliefs.

The church's focus has to be economic development, Obama said, acknowledging that he may have stepped on a few toes when he pointed out that more and more churches are raising money to build bigger churches.

"All the assets of all the churches represented in this room is about $100 million," he said. "I know most of the money gets spent on big churches and that is all good. But I also was thinking that if we just put one-tenth, a tithe, into a fund -- you wouldn't have to touch the capital -- you'd have a revolving fund to help finance businesses within your own church.

"Sometimes I hear people complaining about, 'Why are these people opening up stores in our community?' It's because they pool their resources to buy the equipment. But we've got more assets in this room and we don't use it. That doesn't make much sense," Obama said.
I'm not a big fan of his but I'm with him on economic development. That's been a very important thing to me. This was an interesting column this morning.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Daley steps up opposition to big-box wage bill

Courtesy of Crain's Chicago Business...

Flanked by a quartet of African-American ministers, an emotional Mayor Richard M. Daley Monday stepped up his opposition to the pending “big box” minimum wage ordinance, suggesting that its passage would be unfair to minority neighborhoods that are desperate for jobs.
In a City Hall press conference, Mr. Daley clearly suggested without explicitly saying so that mostly white union bosses who ignored the growth of low-wage retailers in the suburbs have decided to make an example of Chicago as part of their feud with Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., regardless of the impact on poor city neighborhoods.

“Not one person objected” when Wal-Mart opened stores in Forest Park, Bedford Park, Niles, Northlake and a dozen other suburbs,” Mr. Daley declared. “Not one.

“If the suburbs have it, why can’t parts of this city have it?” he asked.

At the same time, Mr. Daley suggested that many white aldermen who are for the ordinance already have off-priced retailers in their wards but are getting upset only now that Wal-Mart has begun to move into the inner city market.
The chief sponsor of this ordinance Ald. Joe Moore claims to have at least 30 to 32 votes behind. If Daley vetos this measure, 34 votes are required to overide the Mayor's veto.

Here's more from this article...
Mr. Daley suggested that aldermen add an “opt out” provision to the bill, which would set a minimum wage of $10 plus $3 in fringes for stores above 90,000 sq. ft. of space. But an amendment to allow each alderman to exclude his ward from coverage failed to make it out of committee.

The Rev. Albert Tyson of St. Stephen AME Church, one of those who stood next to the mayor, said surveys show most blacks are opposed to the ordinance, largely because they realize the value of having even entry-level jobs in their depressed communities.

Another, the Rev. Leon Finney, said even low-cost retailers mean business for long-neglected areas and “business brings business.” He said labor unions which are pressuring aldermen to vote for the bill do not have the political clout they claim.

Separate and Unequal: The Reality of Race...

If I had known about it a lot earlier I'd have written a blurb about it already. I'll do better hopefully. This was a good program hosted by former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw yesterday evening about stories revolving around students, teachers, and other concerned citizens of Jackson, Mississippi. They've got a lot of work to do down there. You can see a little bit about that program at

This interests me because the first blurb I saw on NBC Nightly News about it was of the mayor of Jackson, MS. A man by the name of Frank Melton, who seems to have a hands on approach to the issues affecting his city. He makes patrols around the city wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying two guns on himself. He talks tough and he doesn't have to do this, he was a wealthy man having sold his TV station (an NBC affiliate). Seeing this I already started to like the mayor.

All the same Jackson seems to suffer problems I only image could occur in much larger cities like Chicago. Of course they would have them in what amounts to be the largest city in Mississippi. Then they talk about white flight, and how Jackson became a majority black city with the whites moving to the suburbs. The suburbs look better than Jackson's inner city. There are Best Buys, shopping malls, and nice homes. One of the people featured in this program a youth minister says Jackson doesn't have a movie theater in town.

You want to know a little background about this city. This city was a battleground, a heavily segregated city as far as the south goes. When integration won out the whites started to move away. But the interesting story was about the daughter of the segregationalist governor of Mississippi who eventually started teaching at the black high school Lanier and still volunteers there. She says that it was a learning experience for her because she didn't really know much about black people.

All the same this was a good program. I recorded a portion of this program. Having bought a brand new VCR I forgot that I can actually record programs again. Then again while fool around with a VCR when I could get a Tivo.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Big-box ordinance would hurt blacks who need jobs

I've been trying to find a way to discuss the debate with regards to Wal-Mart other than using my own small knowledge of Economics and merely regurgitating what I've heard especially if it makes sense to me. Then I've heard tidbits here and there on cable access. The calls were either in agreement or not in agreement with Wal-Mart coming into the black community.

There are those who complained that Wal-Mart doesn't pay enough. There are those who claim Wal-Mart are nothing but some slave masters paying slave wages. Then there are those who say that disadvantaged communities will need these opportunities in such communities. No doubt opinions are all over the place.

Then I see Mary Mitchell's column this morning. She starts off by talking about the unions, who seem to hate Wal-Mart with a passion (that I've never understood)...

If City Council goes ahead and passes the "big-box" ordinance, it would show a couple of things. The first, of course, is that despite bad schools, the lack of black faces on construction sites and double-digit unemployment rates in black neighborhoods, unions still have a firm grip on this town
She talks about the proposed ordinance which requires by July 1, 2010 that superstores such as Wal-Mart and Target to pay their employees $10/hour and $3 in benefits. But Mitchell notes...
But underneath the feel-good rhetoric about all those poor black folks needing to make a living wage, the real battle with Wal-Mart is between the superstore and unions that are trying to organize its workers.

That's reason enough for union members to want to stick it to Wal-Mart. But what about the thousands of black people who are stuck in the unemployment line?

I put that question to the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church because, quite frankly, I was surprised he was supporting this ordinance.

"We need to have jobs where people can work and still not be in poverty," he told me. "Wal-Mart has billions of dollars in profits. You should share your profits with your workers. I'm totally against this craziness that any job is better than no job."
But then she has a take about what having a job at Wal-Mart is really all about...

What other company is going to hire a black person who has dropped out of high school and is basically unskilled and lacks job training? In the old days, an unskilled worker could go to a manufacturing company or to the steel mills and work his or her way up from the assembly line.

But those jobs are long gone.

That's why parents are pushing and pulling their kids through high school, and then piling on debt to get them through college. We know firsthand that an entry-level job at Wal-Mart isn't going to pay much. And, after all, who really wants their kid to end up living a minimum-wage life.

Yet despite our warnings, kids do drop out of school. And people get divorced; spouses die; retirees sometimes are forced to go back to work. When life takes these twists and turns, we can at least thank God for Wal-Mart.

Second, passage of the big-box ordinance would make poor people the sacrificial lambs in this battle. Look around your neighborhood: Who's working in the small shops? It's certainly not black people.

So suppose the superstores fold up their blueprints. What then?

"If this ordinance is successful, the unions would have carried the day temporarily," said Eugene Morris, CEO and Chairman of E. Morris Communications. "But at what cost? The cost is not being paid by the aldermen, who can shop where they want. The cost is being paid by poor people who have to go miles to get to a decent store."
And here's something I didn't know, Wal-Mart is actually good to black owned contractors. We just met one of them in that last quote Eugene Morris, but who else...

Morris' company has done business with Wal-Mart for the past 14 years. A member of the Alliance of Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs, the African-American-owned advertising agency is one of many companies that has benefitted from Wal-Mart's investment in the black community.

Other black-owned companies doing business with Wal-Mart include Ariel Capital Management, which manages Wal-Mart's 401(k) plan, and Margaret Garner, the owner of Broadway Consolidated Construction, the first and only African-American female-owned firm to build a Wal-Mart store.

Alliance members do more business with Wal-Mart than any other company, Morris told me.

"We do about $300 million in business transactions," he said. "Here is a company that has demonstrated that they will hire people from the community, will do business with people within the community, and we are going to keep them out?" he asked.

If black aldermen are ignoring this dynamic, then they are serving their communities with blinders on.

In its June issue, DiversityInc magazine named Wal-Mart No. 6 among its "Top 10 Companies for African Americans" based on the company's "recruiting at [historically black colleges and universities] and professional organizations, investing in black-owned businesses, building community relationships through philanthropy and leadership roles in black organizations and marketing directly to African Americans."
Now while Mitchell supports a living wage she says that this proposal will only serve to hurt those communities that may not be able to survive the damgage that may be cause by this ordinance. I'm very inclined to agree. The struggling black communities in the city needs some type of economic engine. The argument won't fly if the concern is for mom and pop stores why because there aren't many such shops in the black community. Those callers on cable access who complain about Wal-Mart not paying enough or calling Wal-Mart slave masters probably wouldn't take a job if one was staring at them in the face.

I close this post with Mary's challenge to those blacks sitting on the city council...
The only reason I can think of for black aldermen to vote for this ordinance is that they've forgotten it wasn't the insiders, but the outsiders that sent them to City Council.
Crossposted @ Illinoize

Crackdown on fights near schools eased

An interesting storyin today's Sun-Times. There was a legislative proposal that at first prompted charges of legislative overkill. Then the proposal was eased up for various reasons. It all started two months ago...

...after a Canaryville woman told a harrowing story about getting caught in the middle of a gang fight outside Tilden High School.
This was how the proposal used to look...

Two months ago, Balcer convinced the City Council's Police and Education Committees to establish "safe zones" within 1,000 feet of public, private and even nursery schools in Chicago.

Under the new offense of "battery outside a school," prosecutors could have gone around sometimes lenient judges and made their case at administrative hearings, where the bar is lower. If minors were convicted, parents or guardians would have faced fines as high as $1,000 and up to six months in prison.
But there were some questions raised by this. For instance...

Police Committee Chairman Isaac Carothers (29th) was concerned about overburdening foster parents and the growing number of grandmothers struggling to raise their children's children. He wondered aloud whether 11-year-olds could be thrown in jail for school fights that "happen every single day."

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) raised another concern: the "nerd" factor.

"Nerds always get beat up. If it happens within 1,000 feet of a school, are we gonna make them pay a fine? Are nerds gonna be thrown in prison?" he said.
Now the sponsor 11th Ward Ald. Ed Balcer is proposing and eased ordinance...

Parents or guardians of kids caught brawling near schools would get a written warning after the first offense. They would face fines or restitution after the two or more offenses within a 12-month period.

Hearing officers would have the option of sentencing students to 100 hours of community service as an alternative to jail. And those "acting in self-defense" would be permitted to raise that "as an affirmative defense."

"I have children myself. I don't want everyone arrested. If they're being picked on, they're part of a fight and they're defending themselves, they shouldn't be hauled in. And if it's a fistfight that's not gang-related, there should be an alternative" to jail, Balcer said.

Burnett, a self-declared "nerd" who wore wire-rimmed glasses as a kid, said Balcer is "leaning in the right direction" with the new version. "I was concerned about the good kids who may get caught in the middle. I was concerned about innocent bystanders -- kids who are at school when bad kids are doing something. I don't want them getting caught up when police come and arrest everybody," Burnett said.

Carothers said he supports the new version. "I agree with the spirit of the law. I was just concerned about the practical application of it," he said. "He's made changes to make it more palatable. We won't impact the grandmothers and foster parents. We won't hit people who are indigent and can't afford to pay. Community service is a better way to go -- and it helps the community."
The full city council will get to vote on this proposal on Wednesday. The much harsher proposal was never voted on by the city council.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Star Trek news...

JJ Abrams who directed Mission:Impossible 3 is set to produce the next Star Trek movie. Check this out...
Abrams Confirms 'Star Trek' Movie

Mission: Impossible III director JJ Abrams has confirmed he's set to save the Star Trek franchise after signing on to produce the next film in the sci-fi series. The 40-year-old Lost and Alias creator, who is a longtime fan of the cult TV show and subsequent movies, is considering directing the new Trek movie too. In an exclusive interview with America's TV Guide magazine, Abrams says, "It's sort of surreal but wonderful. I'm producing and may direct. I have every DVD of every Star Trek episode from every series. I haven't seen every episode from every series but I certainly know it well enough to be working on the movie." Abrams, who will team up with fellow Star Trek buff and Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof on the new project, initially fumed when his involvement in the new film was announced before he'd committed to it. He admits he took his time to sign up for the project: "There have been 10 films and all these different (TV) series, so it was a question of finding out what they (movie executives at Paramount) were anticipating." Abrams insists the cult following Lost has found will help him make decisions about where to take the secret storyline for the latest Star Trek film. He explains, "Fans of Lost don't compare to fans of Star Trek, but working on Lost gives us a view into how important it is to respect the fans."
If the rumors about a movie based on young Starfleet Cadet James T. Kirk is true here's a possibility...
Will MATT DAMON get beamed up? Could happen. I'm told J.J. ABRAMS is very interested in casting the Oscar-winning Damon as a young Captain Kirk in the upcoming 'Star Trek' movie that he's directing and producing. He's so interested that he's apparently already sought support from the original Kirk, WILLIAM SHATNER. "Shatner gave his blessing," my source says. "J.J. got his approval." Damon first popped up in Trekkie circles as soon as the Abrams-'Star Trek' deal was announced. Rumor had it that the new movie would center on Kirk and Spock's early days at a space academy. "J.J. wants Damon as Capt. Kirk," my source reports. "He really loves the idea."
When this news was making the rounds it was Ben Affleck as James T. Kirk. I joked that I'd rather see Affleck as Mr. Spock.

In other news. What might you be thinking about the new look It's My Mind? I thought it was about time to brighten things up around here. Let me know what you think.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Found this.

I was looking at this picture of a building in Bronzeville that formerly housed a black-owned insurance company. Then I got to thinking about the fabled Supreme Life Liberty Insurance Company which seemed to disappear off the face of the earth in the 1980s. See I used to see advertisements for this company in Ebony magazine in the 1980s. Then beyond a certain point nothing.

Then I find this tidbit in the Encyclopedia of Chicago...
The Great Migration of African Americans to Chicago during the First World War spurred the next major development in Chicago insurance: the creation of insurance companies to serve the black community. In the 1890s the life insurance industry's discriminatory practices had led to a proliferation of black-owned companies in throughout the South. Chicago's Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company, founded by Arkansas native Frank Gillespie in 1919, was the first Northern black-owned insurance company. A tradition of saving for a dignified funeral made Chicago's black community an enthusiastic and stable market for life insurance, despite its poverty. Black-owned insurance companies were one of the few sources of white-collar jobs for Chicago's African Americans, and some firms, like the Chicago Metropolitan Assurance Company (founded 1925), evoked nationalist sentiment by appealing to their policyholders' “race pride.” However, the loss of African American customers to large insurers and the catastrophic black unemployment of the 1980s ended the age of the independent black insurance company. Supreme Life was purchased by a national white-owned insurer, but Metropolitan Assurance was acquired in 1990 by the black-owned Atlanta Life Insurance Companies.
Now I know the fate of a very important relic in black Chicago history. The building that once housed this company and also Johnson Publishing is home to a bank, and a cellular phone company among other things having been restored recently.

New charter school mixes poor, better-off kids

This story from the Chicago Sun-Times today about the charter school that opened at the former Donoghue School (which was closed by the Chicago Public Schools back in 2003 due to low enrollment). All the same there is a concept of mixing kids there from different economic backgrounds. I'm not going to pick it apart and add my comments. I'll just bring it to your attention. I had already written about seeing this school earlier this summer.

John Kass

When I look for articles I rarely look at the Tribune. If there's an obvious pattern here it's almost always the Chicago Sun-Times. When I read a column it is often Mary Mitchell, or it could be Mark Brown or Laura Washington. Then I found a link to a recent John Kass column with regards to the current Cook County Board drama. Then I looked at other columns pertaining to local and countywide politics within the last couple of months or so.

They've been pretty good. I've heard of John Kass, I do recall that he's been seen on TV programs such as the O'Reilly Factor. I've probably read some other of his columns online within the past three years. Particularly I printed off an old column in the past (and I'll get my hands on it when I get the chance) which talked about Bridgeport and how it has changed or indeed there probably has been a column on Bridgeport without Mayor Daley.

Reading these recent columns I've seen a lot of what I have missed. I really liked the column published today with regards to the torture by the Chicago Police in the 1980s. In it he even had a good paragraph about Ald. Todd Stroger...
...He just installed pliant Ald. Todd Stroger (8th) as the Democratic Party's candidate for Cook County Board president, without appearing to pull any strings for Todd, now referred to openly as Urkel.
Wow that might hurt won't it. Except at least Urkel had some personality that Todd doesn't seem to have. But this was a good column. Check out some of this stuff about Commander John Burge...

They investigated the torture of suspected criminals by former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge in the 1980s. The victims were minorities, some confessed under torture and were later sentenced to death, prosecuted by a Cook County state's attorney who had big political ambitions.

And the conclusions?

Mayor Richard Daley was not to blame for not investigating, though he was Cook County state's attorney for much of the period. Back then, he campaigned for mayor as the law-and-order candidate. But don't blame him, said special prosecutors Edward Egan and Robert Boyle.

"We accept his explanation, but would not do it the same way he did," Boyle said.
Black votes are vitally important to white Democratic bosses like Daley, as important as water to a man alone in the desert, because without black votes, there's nothing. So in the white paper, blame was not applied to the mayor. The authors found others to blame, including former Chicago Police Supt. Richard Brzeczek.

"They spent four years and almost $7 million to say it's Brzeczek's fault," Brzeczek told me Wednesday. "Years ago, when they appointed Democratic sycophants to investigate this, I said they'd blame me, and they did. I'm not a Daley guy. This whole thing is about covering Daley's [posterior]."

Flynt Taylor is director of the People's Law Office, which fights wrongful convictions. He's no fan of Brzeczek's. But on this point, Taylor agrees.

"I'm not absolving Brzeczek," Taylor told me. "He was superintendent when Jon Burge was active. But he at least passed on the information about Burge to Daley, and Daley, as state's attorney, did nothing. This paper is nothing but a major effort to deflect blame from where it belongs. The man who should be blamed is Daley."
Back in 1982, Wilson was taken to Area 2 detective headquarters on the South Side for interrogation under Burge. Dr. John Raba, director of Cermak Hospital, later examined Wilson, determined his patient had been tortured, and quickly complained to then-Supt. Brzeczek in a letter:

"I examined Mr. Andrew Wilson on Feb. 15 & 16, 1982. He had multiple bruises, swellings and abrasions on his face and head. His right eye was battered and had a superficial laceration. Andrew Wilson had several linear blisters on his right thigh, right cheek and anterior chest which were consistent with radiator burns. He stated he'd been cuffed to a radiator and pushed into it. He also stated that electrical shocks had been administered to his gums, lips and genitals. All these injuries occurred prior to his arrival at the Jail. There must be a thorough investigation of this alleged brutality."

Brzeczek forwarded that letter to then-Cook County State's Atty. Daley. And what did Daley do with it?

Not much.

He passed it along. Maybe. He really doesn't know what happened, according to the report. The mayor echoed a mantra he's used repeatedly, namely, that he can't remember.

"He assumes the letter directed to him by Brzeczek with the enclosed letter from Dr. Raba was directed to his First Assistant Richard Devine [now Cook County state's attorney] ... It was probably discussed with him and Devine. He has no current memory of how the letter was processed," the report said.
Too bad the statute of limitations are such that the police involved in this will not be charged. Well in any event I want to point you toward other interesting Kass columns that I've just read. I'd like to write about them at some point even if they are old by a few months.

All Stroger signatures point to Todd
Peraica's foes have race card up sleeve
Boss' son rebuilt machine in own image

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bush Touts Voting Rights Act Renewal

I don't totally agree with this. In fact I'd rather they just find a way to make this permanent instead of just trying to extend it another 25 years. All the same it's great the President Bush spoke up on the issue of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This was reported in the Washington Post.

In this article President Bush visited and address the NAACP for the first time in his Presidency having rebuffed them for five years. Makes sense to, sense the NAACP has been generally hostile but this is what apparently convinced President Bush to stop by...

For five years in a row, Bush has declined invitations to address the NAACP convention. This year, he said yes. He was introduced by NAACP head Bruce Gordon.

"Bruce was a polite guy," Bush said. "I thought what he was going to say, `It's about time you showed up.' And I'm glad I did."

Bush said he saw his attendance at the convention as a moment of opportunity to celebrate the civil rights movement and the accomplishments of the NAACP.

"I come from a family committed to civil rights," Bush said. "My faith tells me that we are all children of God _ equally loved, equally cherished, equally entitled to the rights He grants us all.

"For nearly 200 years, our nation failed the test of extending the blessings of liberty to African-Americans. Slavery was legal for nearly 100 years, and discrimination legal in many places for nearly 100 years more."
Here's more about his address to the NAACP...

"President Johnson called the right to vote the lifeblood of our democracy. That was true then and it remains true today," Bush said in the first address of his presidency to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's annual convention.

Acknowledging his administration's bumpy relations with black voters, Bush said he wants to change the Republican Party's relationship with African-Americans.

"I understand that racism still lingers in America," Bush said. "It's a lot easier to change a law than to change a human heart. And I understand that many African-Americans distrust my political party.

"I consider it a tragedy that the party of Abraham Lincoln let go of its historical ties with the African-American community. For too long, my party wrote off the African-American vote, and many African-Americans wrote off the Republican Party."

Bush, joined by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and his chief political adviser Karl Rove, spoke as the Senate debated a bill to approve a 25-year extension of expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The House has passed the bill, and the Senate was expected to pass it quickly, propelled by a Republican push to increase the party's credibility with minorities.
I read somewhere that the Bush family have been supporters of the United Negro College Fund. I think it was in a book but I've have to find that book. Either way we know the President's official stance on the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Is 'white boy' a slur?

This was the subject of today's Mary Mitchell column. This is based on a story in the news earlier this week. A white 14 year old boy with a heart defect was beaten in a park in the Beverly neighborhood by three black teenage boys between 16 and 17 years old. The police are currently investigation this as a hate crime although it seems the state's attorney's office wants to look at this as a case of robbery.

So it is a slur check this out...

Until Roland Burris described his field of opponents as "unqualified white boys" during his Democratic primary race for governor in 1998, he was the front-runner. A day after making those comments before a predominantly black audience, Burris' political aspirations took a dive.

Despite the fact that he has always been labeled as "not black enough" for some black voters, white voters were absolutely outraged by his use of "white boy."
I guess that answers that question and I would have had no idea what blacks actually thought of Roland Burris, the first black in the state of Illinois to have attained a statewide office. But using that term pales in comparion to committing an assault. These teens referred to this victim as a "goofy looking white boy".

Mitchell notes...

But charging the teens with a hate crime reflects a community's outrage over intolerance, and I believe it has to be considered whenever race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation appear to be a motivation.
Then she goes to the perception of the use of white boy or n*gger...

In this instance, because the suspects are already charged with felonies, designating the attack as a hate crime wouldn't ratchet up the class of the crime. It would, however, give a judge more leeway in sentencing and would force these teens to deal with the underlying motivation for their purported attack.

It would also go a long way toward dispelling the perception that there is a double standard when it comes to police charging someone with a hate crime.

For example, there was little doubt that hate was the motivation when black youth Lenard Clark was brutally beaten in Bridgeport because the neighborhood already had the reputation of being hostile to blacks.

But the motivation wasn't as clear when Keith P. Radloff was tracked down and murdered by Matthew Givens, a black bicycle messenger with whom Radloff had had a confrontation a day earlier.

It also wasn't clear when Roy Trumblay, a 56-year-old White Sox fan, was beaten to death by 19-year-old Thomas D. Cooper, a black man who was determined to be mentally ill.

That's why figuring out whether "white boy" is a slur or just an insensitive or inappropriate description of white people will likely become part of the discussion about whether the teens in the Rusch case will be charged with a hate crime.

Here's some more scenarios. But she says there needs to be more clarity on the usage of the term...

Earlier this month, a black commissioner in Orlando, Fla., Daisy Lynum, stumbled into a fire storm when she said she didn't want "some white boy shooting my son or Tasing," as she argued that her son had been racially profiled by police. Despite fierce criticism, the commissioner stuck by her words, telling a local television station:

"In the last week, I've been called [expletive] more times than I have ever been called, probably in my life, for calling a white boy a white boy. Now when did that become a racial slur?"

Ironically, the taunts that sealed the fate of a Nicholas Minucci, the Howard Beach man who was found guilty of a hate crime in the baseball bat attack on a black man last summer (the man had admitted going to the all-white neighborhood to steal cars), included both racial descriptions:

"What's up, n-----s?" Minucci allegedly yelled at a group of would-be thieves before chasing them. "We'll show you not to come and rob 'white boys.' "

In defending himself against the hate-crime allegation, a charge that could enhance his sentence, Minucci argued he used the n-word as a greeting rather than a slur. That argument didn't fly, and he was sentenced to 25 years in jail.

We need to be just as clear about "white boy."

When the pop group Wild Cherry sang the lyrics: "Play that Funky Music, White Boy" in 1976, it wasn't a putdown. But over the years, "white boy" has evolved into a subtle dig on white males. Black people know this.

White people are starting to figure it out.

Oliver Stone Heralds ‘World Trade Center’ Heroes

From the Left Coast Report on Since this came in an email without a link I post this in its entirety. I must say it is unlikely that I'll see this at the show. I'll sit this out as I did that other 9/11 movie, United 93. I'll spend my money on the DVD because the events of that day still does something to me.

I must say though since the perception is that Oliver Stone seems obsessed with conspiracies perhaps it's a good thing that Stone made this movie as straightforwardly as possible.

Ready for a shocker?

Oliver Stone has made a movie that is sure to please cops, fire fighters, red-staters, the military, and even the GOP.

Yes, you read the name correctly. It’s that Oliver Stone.

I recently had the chance to screen Stone’s latest film “World Trade Center.”

The movie I saw was not a final cut; it was a high-definition video version with a temporary score. Stone had prepared a written statement, which was read to the audience prior to the screening and explained the unfinished state of the preview cut. Notwithstanding, what came through on the screen was a tender rendering of a story that is rich with timeless themes.

From the opening sequence to the end of the film, one can discern that Stone used painstaking care to tell the WTC story without embellishing it with a political agenda.

Some on the left will be disappointed to find that Stone eschews the customary Hollywood conservative-bashing ritual. Instead, through his main characters, he elevates and celebrates the time-honored traditions of faith, love of family, and uninhibited masculine valor.

“World Trade Center” tells the true story of Sgt. John McLoughlin (played by Nicolas Cage, “National Treasure”) and William J. Jimeno (played by Michael Pena, “Crash”), two New York Port Authority police officers who were part of the first responders to place their lives on the line when the WTC was attacked on 9/11.

McLoughlin and Jimeno were among those who attempted to evacuate tower 2. They were subsequently trapped beneath the rubble when the towers collapsed.

Only 20 people were rescued from the wreckage in the disaster. Miraculously, McLoughlin and Jimeno were numbers 18 and 19.

The two trapped officers survived the ordeal by talking to each other about their wives, kids, and life in law enforcement.

Meanwhile McLoughlin’s spouse Donna (played by Maria Bello, “Payback,” “The Cooler”) and Jimeno’s pregnant wife Allison (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Adaptation”) attempt to hold their families and personal sanity together while they anxiously await news of whether their husbands survived the devastation.

The overall casting of the film is outstanding with Bello and Pena stealing many a scene.

Andrea Berloff's script provides a powerful subplot with the tale of Dave Karnes (played by Michael Shannon, “8 Mile”), a deeply religious retired Marine who in a spiritual calling feels compelled to put on his uniform once again, head out to Ground Zero and assist in finding survivors.

You won’t find the cynicism of “Wall Street” or political content of “Born on the Fourth of July” in this film, but you will see some of the grit of “Platoon.

While “World Trade Center” recounts one of the many occurrences that took place on that mournful 9/11 day, it moves beyond the infamous and calamitous and explores the supernal courage and virtue displayed by ordinary Americans who when circumstances required were able to soar to extraordinary heights.

Stone handles his task of cinematically relaying this true story with the kind of integrity one expects from a great journalist and the kind of artistry one appreciates from a veteran filmmaker.

Stone explained to film scholar Emanuel Levy the political restraint he exercised in making the movie: “These men were not concerned with politics. Although my politics and their politics are different, that didn't matter. We all got along. I can make a movie about them and their experiences, because they went through something that I can understand. Politics does not enter into it. The movie is about courage and survival.”

“World Trade Center” is set for release on Aug. 9.

More than a mere chronicle of the nation’s attack, the film is a homage to the courage and selflessness that were displayed amidst tragedy.

Summer is the season for blockbusters that feature superheroes; the flights of fancy that include characters who are able to perform extraordinary feats.

“World Trade Center” is about real-life superheroes.

The Left Coast Report thinks Stone may have just performed the super-cinematic feat of his career.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ald. Natarus Shouted Down After Insensitive Remark

Ironically enough this was at the meeting among Cook County Democrats to choose their new candidate for Cook County board President. This quote is courtesy of CBS2...

"The delivery of the United States mail stinks," he said. "Of all the places in the United States where African-Americans have an opportunity with benefits and with good pay to do a job, it's the postal service. They have a lock on it. And that's fine. I'm for it. I'm for it. They can have it. I want them to have it. But I want service."

Natarus was explaining his vote for Stroger by blaming Congressman Danny Davis, who sits on a postal committee in Washington, for poor mail service.
Wow, I've always heard that he had a tendency to say the wrong things at the wrong time. This moment was just one of them.

It's Todd Stroger!!!

Todd Stroger was selected today to be the Democratic nominee for Cook County Board President. He edged out Rep. Danny Davis in the voting that took place in the Hotel Allegro the longtime meeting place of county Democrats (hey wasn't that the Bismark Hotel where the Republicans selected a "dark horse" by the name of Warren Harding for their nominee for President of the United States back in 1920 talk about a smoke filled room). According to the Tribune the tally of weighted votes among the Cook County Democratic committemen was 77% Stroger to 23% Davis.

From the Tribune...

Stroger told committeemen of his background as a legislator and an alderman and said he has "a genuine passion for county government" and would not use the position as a "stepping stone" for a higher office.

He said he was "proud of the Stroger legacy" and has had a "long-term interest in county government that comes with being raised a Stroger."

But, he said, "I am my own person."

Davis warned committeemen that the Democratic Party could face a backlash as a result of the replacement process.

"The people want to be heard. They want your decision to reflect their views," Davis said.
I think there is a good possibility of a backlash. Perhaps people who dislike the choice of Ald. Todd Stroger will consider voting for Commissioner Tony Peraica, Stroger's Republican opponent. Either way we have at least 4 months before the next election.

John Stroger who is to resign the county board presidency on July 31st according to Crain's Chicago Business...

He was admitted to the Rush University Medical Center Saturday. A spokesman for Todd Stroger said the elder Stroger's most recent hospital admission was to address a series of minor seizures.
We know who the nominee for county board president will be but who will fill the seat until after the election. Well the choices are either commissioner Bobbie Steele or the man who ran against John Stroger for the nomination for County Board President, commissioner Forrest Claypool.

Speaking of Bobbie Steele, she took her name out of contention for the the spot for President on the November ballot. She had some comments with regards to these developments thanks to Newsradio 780 WBBM.

Meanwhile, Steele said she thought Todd Stroger was a weak candidate.

"I don't have a legendary last name. My dad was a farmer. And I'll say no more," Steele said Monday.
I've got one more for you. How well have Republicans have done for county board presidency since the 1960s? Let check out what Tribune columnist Eric Zorn has said.

But lots of money and foot soldiering will go into rehabilitating young Stroger's image -- now he's portrayed in political cartoons as "Toddler," a homunculus in oversized glasses -- and tearing into Peraica.

And my guess is that, on November 7, voters will fall in line when they go to the polls. They usually do, especially when it comes to electing the offspring of powerful. If party leaders make the election of Todd Stroger a priority, it will take a near revolution to thwart their wishes.

After all, 40 percent is best that a Republican candidate has done in a Cook County Board president's race since the 1960s.
I think Tony Peraica has a lot of work to do. He can't rest on his laurels.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Meet Alderman LaTasha Thomas

She was today's subject in the Tribune Magazine's meet the alderman series. She represents Englewood just as the other alderman that was already interviewed I covered two of them here, Ted Thomas, Shirley Coleman, and Fredrenna Lyle (I didn't get to blog about her). There was some good material in this article titled 'Hard Love'. This is how Kogan starts off the article...
If you have forgotten how innocent young children can look, drive by St. Sabina Academy on the South Side and you will see them. Then walk across Racine Avenue and into the offices of 17th Ward Ald. Latasha Thomas and listen to her talk about some of the recent killings in the Englewood neighborhood in her ward. "When we lose a child," she says, "we lose a link to our future. It is heartbreaking when a child is murdered. We have to have some hard love and do something about this [violence]."
And here's a little background on the 17th Ward Alderman...
Thomas has spent most her life living in the ward. Her memories stretch back to a more prosperous era of movie palaces, department stores and "the milk man delivering the milk."

She was appointed alderman in 2000 to replace Terry Peterson, who became chief executive of the Chicago Housing Authority. In 2003, she won the election with 80 percent of the vote.

Thomas comes to politics naturally. Her grandfather worked as a precinct captain in the well-oiled machine of William Dawson, the legendary South Side political boss, and both of her parents also practiced that vanishing form of personal politics. Her late father was a CTA supervisor and her mom, who has a nursing background, currently works for the county.

Born in 1965 and the eldest of the five kids, Thomas as an 8th grader wanted to be the first black president of the U.S. and thought the way to go about that was to become a lawyer. A member of the debate team at Kenwood Academy, she went on to earn a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she majored in political science, and a law degree from DePaul University.

She worked in private practice, served as a law clerk and corporation counsel, and was with the Department of Human Services while also serving as Peterson's chief of staff.

She has been married for 19 years to Tim Thomas, whom she first met in college, even though they had both attended the same high school. They make a political "power couple," since he is deputy commissioner in both the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Mayor's Office of Special Events (and a former University of Illinois basketball star).

"Power couple? I don't feel that. We never, ever, talk about work at home," says the alderman. In part, that's because they are busy with their two teenagers, Victory and Timothy III, and taking care of their 100-year-old home in the Gresham neighborhood. (To see a map of the ward and a photo of Thomas, go to and click on the "Your Ward and Alderman" link).
She still practices law, though she will not accept clients in the ward, and is running for reelection next year. She no longer wants to be president.

"In this job I can see what I am doing for people and I am confident in the growth and prosperity of this area," she says. "I tell people, 'If you're not in here now you better get in.' I am proud of the people who have stayed here through thick and thin.
She obviously comes off as a champion and a promoter of her ward. She says that there is more good than bad there. One of her accomplishments that she points to here is a new mall going on the block of 69th and Ashland. Anchored by a grocery store and there is a bank there. I drove by their earlier this summer attempting to avoid the traffic on the Dan Ryan. I remember that it used to be a CTA bus barn. That last quote in that last paragraph I quoted was pretty good.

Here's another good quote from the alderman...
"The media doesn't know Englewood. Yes, there are problems and that's what gets in the news. They should come down here for the [annual] South Side Neighborhood
Gospel Festival [this weekend in Ogden Park] and see that. It's the largest neighborhood gospel festival in the city, and I actually think it's better than the one downtown. We have 20,000 people in that park ... families, kids ... and nothing bad happens. Why don't they report on that?"
Ogden Park I hear is a good park. This park was designed by the Olmsted Brothers could rival other well designed neighborhood parks in Chicago such as Garfield Park, Marquette Park, Washington Park, and Sherman Park (another Englewood park). Those parks have winding streets and lagoons.

All the same this is the first time I've ever heard about a neighborhood gospel fest hosted in a neighborhood park. Perhaps this is something I should look forward to in the future.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Superman Returns...

I was finally able to see this film today. I liked it but there were some things that I would have liked to have seen. I'm happy that this is an updated vision from 1978 (the first Superman movie).

I can come up with some imagery seen in the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1930 & 40s. And I can say some of this movie was pulled right off the pages of DC Comics as it was in Batman Begins. It was great to see Superman zoom past as I would hope movie makers would be able to do it. I was really impressed by the sequence in which Superman attempted to save the Shuttle and its piggy back aircraft.

What I was disappointed by though was the art direction taken directly from the earlier Superman movies. They even retained the Superman theme by John Williams, but I didn't have as big of a problem with that as I did the design of the titles and the design of the Fortress of Solitude. I was a little disappointed by the portrayal of Lex Luthor by Kevin Spacey. I was hoping for the ruthless capitalist Luthor that I have gotten used to through the comic books instead of the takeoff from Gene Hackman's portrayal from the earlier four movies.

All the same I liked the movie. I hope that there will be more and perhaps the series will truly come into it's own. I suggest you guys see this movie before it leaves the theaters.

BTW, this was the second movie I've seen this summer. The first was Mission:Impossible 3 back in May and I probably saw it the first weekend. I've yet to blog about it but perhaps for filler I will though it may be more of a review should anyone decide to see it on DVD. And there's another movie I look forward to this summer, Miami Vice. That will be the next summer movie blog.

Finally I've started a new Movie blog there I just talk about some of the movies in my collection and perhaps even films I saw on TV or in the theaters. This may be one more reason to pull out the first Superman movie so that I can post about it there.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Remember Cory Booker????

He was in the news today. Apparently he attempted to chase down some bank robbers. He wasn't successful but the criminal were caught eventually. Also what shocks me was that he actually won the Newark mayoralty.

The election was back on May 9th. Mayor Sharpe James didn't want any of Mr. Booker this time and chose not to seek a sixth term. Booker faced Newark's deputy mayor and state senator Ronald Rice. He beat Rice 72% to 23%. Not only that Booker's slate of city council candidates were able to sweep the city council elections giving Corey Booker solid control of city government. His term in office began on July 1st.

Too bad I don't actually live in New Jersey or I'd actually would have heard about this. And don't forget I dropped his name on this blog last year sometime. I blogged twice about a documentary about his first mayoral campaign.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Target halts expansion, citing wage measure

This proposal seemed to be targeted (pardon the pun?) at Wal-Mart but since this also affect other big box stores. It appears that this proposal for a living wage may help to prevent other establishments from opening up new stores in the city. I think such a proposal will just as easily hurt those struggling areas which could use jobs from big box retailers.

Four years ago Target opened a store at 87th and Cottage Grove and it appears that they might be building a store off I-57 near Morgan Park according to this Crain's article. It would be unfortunate if this falls through. Check this out...
The measure would require that retailers with stores of 90,000 square feet or more pay employees who work there at least $10 an hour and provide minimum benefits of $3 an hour. The city council’s finance committee passed the measure June 21 and the full council is expected to vote on it July 26.

Mayor Richard M. Daley has criticized the proposal, but sponsor Alderman Joe Moore (49th) says he has enough votes to pass it and, if necessary, override a mayoral veto. He dismissed Target’s decision to suspend new development in Chicago as an idle threat.

“They obviously couldn’t win the argument on the merits so now they’re resorting to threats and scare tactics,” the alderman says. “Chicken Little is alive and well in the city of Chicago.”

Yet if Target follows through with its threat, it could hamper retail development in neighborhoods that have been largely ignored by retailers. A shopping center is hard to pull off without a large anchor tenant to bring in traffic—and attract smaller retailers.

“If Target goes, the whole thing falls apart because a lot of these tenants are contingent upon Target,” Mr. Sneider says. “It’s kind of like a house of cards.”

For Target, added costs created by the measure “would be sufficient to where this project wouldn’t work out for them financially,” he says.
I hope this doesn't get passed though this will make for an interesting discussion.

Here's a new link for you

A photographer on Flickr named Lee Bey who goes by ChicagoEye now has this great website at His niche seems to be architecture and he's taken pictures of plenty of buildings. Check out his essay about Rebuilding the 'Hood. This essay talks more about the redevelopment of the lakefront Oakland neighborhood but also the gentrification taking place around the city in neighborhoods such as Englewood, North Lawndale, West and East Garfield Park.

Gentrification interests me to be honest. It just shows that nothing ever stays the same. What was once a bad neighborhood can become a better neighborhood or at least a prized place to live in no time. One can either be a part of the change or be forced out against your will.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Cook County Drama...

Thanks to the Chicago Sun-Times...

Let me start off with the county board approving a measure that no longer allows for the name of the county board president to be placed on any signs for the Cook County Forest Preserves. This was considered a time honored tradition that is now going bye-bye. This is what Commissioner (and Country Board Presidential candidate) Tony Peraica has to say...
"Without any disrespect to anybody," Commissioner Tony Peraica said, "I don't believe we should spend the funds to constantly update the names on any signage."

Here's another item about "Poop butt" in a column by Carol Marin. It's pretty funny. She talked to Danny Davis about what exactly does this mean. See this appeared in the papers last week when Ald. Bill Beavers (who hopes to take the county commissioner seat of John Stroger) directed this term at County Clerk David Orr. Danny Davis asked if Marin was sure he didn't say "poot but". Read her column to see what that means.

I just have to throw in Ald. Todd Stroger who wants to take his daddy's position as County Board President. Well this isn't in the Sun-Time but there's an item about this on the Capitol Fax Blog. It seems he's having trouble navigating campaign finance laws. He's sending fundraising letters from his aldermanic offices. Not only that it seems there is no record of his arrangement of funding his ward office which is not only an aldermanic office, but is headquarters of the 8th ward organization, and of a local state representative. When I saw this video I was like DAMN. I've got figure out how one comes across campaign finance disclosures.

Also look at this article at how Ald. Beavers might already be at odd with the people on the county board. Check some of this out...

The 7th Ward alderman says he wants the 4th District commissioner's job so he can do "less work."

Dealing with the county's budget crisis, he says, will be "much easier" than what he's handled as city budget chairman and he isn't worried about the county's 2007 budget because he expects it to be passed before he gets there in January -- even though that timetable hasn't happened in two years.

He needs to be on the board, he says, because John Stroger "didn't have the leadership" from his board allies to help stop some of the vicious debates he's endured.

Should Ald. Todd Stroger (8th) win the right to replace his father, who suffered a stroke in March, Beavers says he'll serve as a barrier and "ward off" the attacks.

"If Ald. Beavers thinks he's going to come over here and stifle debate and stop commissioners from speaking out, he's got another think coming," said Commissioner Forrest Claypool. "Things may work that way at the City Council, but that's not the way things work at the County Board."

Finally here's the final piece of this puzzle. Ald. Beavers wants to have installed his daughter Darcel (currently Beavers' chief of staff) as his replacement but here's a curveball. The wife of Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. may want some of this action. So it could be that Darcel may have a short stay as 7th ward Alderman. I suppose we'll have to see come February.

What is the unfolding story line of this political soap opera?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Grand Ballroom

Over the summer I've driven by this place frequently. It seems that the Grand Ballroom is having another hey day. It was recently refurbished by two entrepreneurs.

Just think as many times as I've rode past this building this was just another building in a struggling neighborhood. However change is a coming. See there is change around the city and this area may prove to be no exception.

This structure is located in the Woodlawn neighborhood. In fact the ballroom is on the 6300 block of Cottage Grove. Going east on 63rd Street you might see a few storefronts but there are vacant buildings. Then you will run into new homes and then before you hit the IC tracks a big church with Arthur Brazier as its pastor.

Change is coming surely but slowly, but this ballroom is just another piece of this puzzle. A place where people can congregate without leaving their neighborhood or even having to go out into the suburbs. Check out the website, the neighborhood may be blighted but look at the pictures of the inside and you can't believe that this is a very classy place to go in the neighborhood. Just goes to show even in the middle of blight there is something to see and indeed something worth saving. Posted by Picasa

The abandoned Taste of Chicago boy...

Has been in the news for about the past week. Today's Mary Mitchell's column touches upon this case. His father is now in the picture to gain custody of his son. Here's a little about the story...
The boy's mother, Marie Campbell, 29, was charged with felony child abandonment Monday afternoon. In an act born out of either callousness or desperation, Campbell turned the young child loose in the Taste crowd eight days ago with instructions to go to the Lost and Found tent.
The father has turned up but reading this article are we sure that this child being in his father's custody is in his best interest...
How does a 35-year-old man who works for a delivery company, lives in Lincoln Park and drives a convertible Mercedes argue convincingly that he couldn't afford a lawyer to go to court and fight for custody of his son -- if that son is a priority at all?

How does that man justify never paying a dime in child support?

"I tried to pay child support, but it was never ordered by the State of Illinois," Green told me.
So daddy may have some more issues. But at least now I suppose he's trying to step up to the plate and take custody of his child from the mother. But here's some more troubling issues...

"One question I have is why she didn't call her caseworker and therapist," said Robert Harris, the Cook County Public Guardian. "I get the impression she was overwhelmed and did not have backup."

Green claims he showed up in court with a lawyer when Campbell lost custody in 2003. But there are no court documents or child welfare reports that show the father asked for legal custody.

In fact, while Campbell was required to go through parenting classes and to see a therapist, Green claims he wasn't required to do anything. He was apparently granted visitation with his son at the foster mother's home but never completed the necessary steps to have unsupervised visitation.
On Monday, Green denied that he was asked by the court to undergo a drug screening or take a drug test. But he could not explain why he was never granted unsupervised visits with the 6-year-old, and why DCFS did not give him temporary custody of his son after he was removed from Campbell.

That's why I say there is a dead cat on the line.

Campbell may have her issues, but she jumped through all the hoops in order to get her son back. At one point, the single mother worked two jobs to provide for her son.
But Campbell obviously had little support from Green. Although the boy's father claims he didn't know her whereabouts, she apparently didn't know his either.

On Feb. 28, 2001, when the boy was barely a year old, Campbell filed for an order of protection against Green and it was granted on an emergency basis. That order was extended twice and expired on April 11.

But servers tried four times to locate Green in connection with that order, and they were not successful.

On Monday, Green denied there was any reason for those orders and that he had loved Campbell. He has two other children and they are with their mother.
Unfortunately for Mr. Green, his son is being placed with an aunt and uncle instead into his custody. DCFS according to this column claim that placing the boy with Mr. Green would be "inappropriate".

Ward bosses to decide Stroger replacement

I found this over at Capitol Fax Blog.

Democratic ward bosses will meet next week to replace retiring County Board President John Stroger on the November ballot and Stroger’s son has a majority of the weighted votes, Ald. William Beavers said Monday.

Twelve days after predicting that Ald. Todd Stroger (8th) would replace his father on the Democratic ticket, Beavers boldly repeated the prediction and said the outcome of the July 18 vote was never in doubt.

“I’ve got the votes….I haven’t counted them up, but I’ve got the majority,” said Beavers, self-declared spokesman for the Stroger family.
On Monday, Beavers disclosed that he has decided to relinquish his powerful job as chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee as a favor to John Stroger.
It looks like they may actually go through with this. Bad move, but what can I say. Let's see how this pan out towards November. This was from a Chicago Sun-Times article.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Hiring scandal signals lack of black clout at City Hall

Today's Mary Mitchell column about the hiring scandals that have resulted in convictions this past week. She notes that...

A decade ago, the City Council was reeling from Operation Silver Shovel, a bribes-for-dumping scandal that snared several black aldermen as well as the council's resident reformer. Although the Rev. Jesse Jackson accused the U.S. attorney's office of engaging in unfair selective prosecution, the feds' net was wide enough to bring in whites, blacks and Hispanics who were taking bribes.

This time around, however, not one black political operative has been mentioned.

Obviously, I'm not advocating that black pols should be involved in illegal hiring schemes. But the absence of black names among those associated with Mayor Daley's clout machine shows blacks had little clout at City Hall when it came to jobs.

That's pretty shocking when you consider how desperately jobs are needed in the wards black aldermen represent. Indeed, everything from gang violence to littered streets has been blamed on the lack of jobs.

Yes, the names of a couple of black aldermen showed up on the so-called clout list. But what the scandal really exposed was the tight grip the Hispanic Democratic Organization and its chief, former Daley intergovernmental affairs director Victor Reyes, had over jobs, including the lucrative Hired Truck program. In fact, until the scandal forced Hispanic commissioners out, there were five such commissioners working for the Daley administration.

With Reyes, HDO had someone -- allegedly -- who could crank up the clout machine. At the end of Daley's first year in office, Hispanics held 10 percent of management jobs. They now hold 16.7 percent of those jobs.

But blacks -- who had no alleged advocate in this regard -- have lost valuable ground.
What is the shakedown right now for blacks in policy making positions. Well before Daley became mayor in 1989 it was 45.2%. As of this year there were only 29.6%. Here's some more notes from Mitchell...

When it comes to city jobs, black men hold only 12.7 percent of the jobs with the highest salaries, while black women have a 17.2 percent share. Whites now hold 49.2 percent of the Shakman-exempt jobs, a 1.4 percent increase over 2003.

As if the hiring scandal wasn't bad enough, African Americans are also getting the short end of the stick when it comes to contracts. Despite the presence of a black man to oversee the city's minority business enterprise program, blacks still received just 8 percent of the $1.7 billion in city contracts awarded last year.

Yet every time Daley ran for re-election, the number of votes he picked up from black wards increased dramatically. In his last bid for re-election, Daley amassed the largest black vote he has ever received. He couldn't have done that without the enthusiastic support of ward bosses.

Apparently, all that political campaign work should have counted for something.
Let me close this out with her parting words...

Again, I'm not suggesting that black pols should have been part of this scam. But frankly -- right or wrong -- this is the way Chicago politics has worked. And when you get right down to it, individuals may end up in prison, but it's the system that's on trial.

After all, everyone who was on the clout list knew they were benefitting from a crooked system.

Everyone who requested a favor from these rainmakers knew they were part of the scheme.

Everyone -- from department heads to secretaries -- knew they were part of a corrupt system that has now been determined to be illegal.

Everyone, that is, except black political operatives.

Go figure.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Detective Works New Lead In Sisters' Disappearance

I heard about this story a few days ago on Channel 2. I've been meaning to post about this but I haven't until now. I hope something comes of this new tip.

Basically these two girls Tionda (was 10 but would now be 15 years old) and Diamond Bradley (was 3 but would now be 8 years old) disappeared from their south side apartment in July 2001. The anniversary of their disappearance was on Thursday. Check out a piece of this story...

[Detective Maria] Biggane says she got a phone call last week from a woman who said she had a dream about the girls, but Biggane thinks the dream may be an excuse just to talk and what the woman said got the detective's attention.

"It makes me believe they are alive," she said. "Some of the information is credible, which makes me want to pursue this lead a little bit farther."

The tip is also encouraging to the sisters' family. They declined to comment, but friends say they remain hopeful.
I sincerely hope these girls are found alive.


I only write about this because of a documentary about Chicago Cubs great and broadcaster Ron Santo. Apparently this was filmed during the 2003 season when the Cubs were close to winning the pennant until the curse of the goat kicked in with Steve Bartman (who was strangely enough not mentioned in this movie). In any case this was about the man who has diabetes and the film dealt with that and then the Hall of Fame talk. So many players and sports journalists say he should be in the Hall of Fame and he has the stats but for what ever reason he never gets in. Some of his fellow Cubs players from his era would say that it is a shame that they never were able to get into the playoffs. In fact the closest they got was 1969.

All the same I want to talk a little baseball here. I love the sport more than I love say basketball. Yeah baseball has controversy especially with regards to steroids but unfortunately it seems to be basketball has more drama. I won't get into what basketball has but I will say that baseball is a lot more exciting a sport than basketball. Home runs, great catches, and pitches excite me more than a steal, rebound, or a three pointer.

Now I want to talk about the last few years in Chicago baseball. I just saw the Cubs get close to a world series while their cross town rival Chicago White Sox actually won the world series. I've been watching both teams since I was nine. Both teams have found their way into the playoffs at different moments or another. In fact in 2003, the Cubs and Sox almost were close to being in the playoffs at the same time, except the Sox collapsed toward the end.

Also I still love that 2003 team that almost made the world series. That is still my favorite period even though a couple of years later I had to reconsider my allegiance. I haven't although early in my life I was surely a Sox fan then there was a strike in 1994 and I lost interest in baseball.

The strike ended mercifully a terrible year for the Cubs but unfortunately ended the White Sox's drive to the playoffs. Of course the Sox lost their momentum from 1994 and they were struggling for the rest of the decade. But I've grown to admire, through their internet community, there resolve in following their team. They definitely do not pretend that there is a curse on their team like Cubs fans seem to. Indeed some would claim that Cubs fans doesn't care how their team does on the field, they'll buy tickets to Wrigley Field no matter what.

All the same it hurts to see that the Cubs may not likely get into the playoffs again this year. Right now the White Sox has their moment in the sun for who knows how long. I had sincerely hoped for a cross town series this year it would have been 100 years since the last all Chicago world series. I'm still hoping for one, I'd be beside myself.

In light of the news with regards to the Tribune Company who knows if the Cubs are on sale. On top of that there are even speculation on whether Dusty Baker, the Cubs manager, will even remain the manager and will be replaced next year. No knock against Baker I really think he's a great manager but it may not be working out with the Cubs.

Either way the history of Chicago baseball is getting more and more interesting by the minute. At least thus far.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Greyhound bus line boosts Laidlaw's profit by 16%

I guess the new Greyhound is actually catching on. I remember those spot they did in the past year and Greyhound's parent company Laidlaw is benefiting from it. This is from Crain's Chicago Business...

Laidlaw International Inc., the largest bus company in North America, said Thursday its fiscal third-quarter profit grew 16%, as strong performance from its Greyhound bus line helped offset rising fuel costs.

The Naperville-based company also said it will use all proceeds of a new $500 million debt facility to repurchase stock, increasing its gross debt to nearly $800 million.

Net income grew to $34.1 million, or 35 cents per share, from $29.4 million, or 29 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue rose to $860.7 million from $836.1 million.

Income from continuing operations totaled 44 cents per share, the company said. Analysts were expecting a profit of 51 cents per share on sales of $849 million, according to Thomson Financial.

``The strong performer was clearly Greyhound, which has benefited from the completion of their network overhaul, fare increases and the focus on improving the quality of their service,'' said President and Chief Executive Kevin E. Benson.

Also helping the quarter's performance was higher revenue at its school-bus unit and a stronger Canadian dollar.

Candidacy Fosters A Debate On Race

I found this interesting article from the Washington Post about a white man running for a congressional seat in a mostly black district in New York. David Yassky a Democrat has three other opponents and he apparently is the only black in the race. He is running to replace Rep. Major Owens (a Morehouse Man).

Check some of this out...

David Yassky has a solid résumé, lots of campaign cash and plenty of ideas for improving the slice of Brooklyn he wants to represent in Congress. In another Democratic stronghold, he might be the runaway favorite.

But in New York's 11th District, Yassky's candidacy has touched off a controversy about race and turned a sleepy primary contest into an emotionally charged debate over minority political representation. The 11th District is one of the dozens of majority-black seats created in the aftermath of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. And Yassky, unlike his three primary opponents, is white.

The City Council member's bid has not been well received by the district's black establishment. Rep. Major R. Owens (D), the retiring 12-term incumbent, labeled Yassky a "colonizer." Local black leaders have staged events to pressure the 42-year-old Brooklyn Democrat out of the race. A Web site was launched. Al Sharpton is calling on prominent white politicians, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), to take a stand against Yassky.
And here's a little more about the controversy. Afterall apparently he isn't the only one waging a campaign in a mostly black congressional district...

But some Democrats have come to recognize the downside of these majority-black districts. For instance, they can spark racially polarized politics, pitting blacks against other minorities and whites, particularly as the districts become more gentrified and ethnically mixed.

In a black district of Memphis, a white candidate who is among 15 Democrats vying for the seat being vacated by Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) has encountered racial hostility similar to that experienced by Yassky. Stephen I. Cohen, a Tennessee state senator, said in an interview with a Jewish newspaper, the Forward, that he is entitled to the same treatment Ford, who is black, has sought as he campaigns statewide for the Senate. "Don't judge me by my race but by my record," Cohen said.

Elsewhere, the "majority-minority" phenomenon has increased Republican strength by packing the Democrats' most loyal constituency inside fewer districts, allowing surrounding districts to become more white and Republican.

When Virginia's Republican-dominated legislature redrew its congressional boundaries in 2001, blacks were shifted from GOP Rep. J. Randy Forbes's Chesapeake area district to Democratic Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott's majority-black district, which follows the James River from the Norfolk area to suburban Richmond.

In a 2001 special election before redistricting, Forbes narrowly defeated a black state senator, L. Louise Lucas, 52 percent to 48 percent. In 2002, after the boundaries were redrawn, Forbes won his seat with 98 percent of the vote. This year, when Democrats are positioned to possibly take back control of the House, Forbes is running unopposed.
Now what is discussed in this article are provisions for the Voting Rights Act 0f 1965. It is set to expire this year and it is to be voted upon for another re-extension. The creation of a majority minority congressional districts are a by-product of the Voting Rights Act by helping to improve black participation in politics. There are those who want greater protections while there are those who think that this policy is an issue...

But some Democratic strategists have begun to question whether strict adherence to a 40-year-old model of minority-dominated districts could be hurting the party in the long term. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that at one time it made sense for the courts and state legislatures to carve out majority-black districts to break racially discriminatory practices, primarily in the South.

Looking at the map of congressional districts today, Emanuel asked: "Are we at the point in the political process where you don't need a 70 percent district, but a 50 to 45 district, with the political capacity to be more competitive in surrounding areas, so that more Democrats can win?"

The rapid transformation of urban areas could force Democratic and civil rights leaders to rethink minority districts, voting rights experts say. A combination of gentrification, immigration, intermarriage and a migrating black middle class "means that race just doesn't have the power that it once did, in these kinds of settings," said Edward Blum, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who has written extensively about minority districts.
Oh yeah here are some statistics...

Just over half of the 40 black House members represent majority-black districts, while three of the four California black members represent larger Hispanic populations, said David A. Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank that focuses on minority issues.

But they are all serving in the Democratic minority. "Remember, the [Voting Rights Act] is about black voters, not black elected officials," Bositis said. "And black voters are not having their interests represented, although there are more black members of Congress."
Finally here's some information about New York's 11th congressional district...

The 11th District was drawn in 1968 as a result of a Voting Rights Act lawsuit and was first occupied by Shirley Chisholm, who gained national prominence as an advocate of women and minority rights, and who ran for president in 1972. She was succeeded by Owens, a former librarian and state senator with liberal views and a penchant for passionate floor speeches, often delivered in rap style.

The district has evolved in recent years into a demographic melange, blending long-standing African American and Caribbean American populations with newer arrivals, including Arab, Asian and Hispanic immigrants and affluent white voters. The four candidates in the race to succeed Owens represent this new demographic reality: Yassky lives in wealthy Brooklyn Heights; City Council Member Yvette D. Clarke is of Caribbean descent; state Sen. Carl Andrews is an African American from Crown Heights; and Owens's son, Chris Owens, is biracial, having a white Jewish mother.
Perhaps more dramatic has been the change in the district's income levels, which have skyrocketed along with property values. The imbalance is reflected in the candidates' campaign accounts. As of March 31, the end of the most recent campaign reporting period, Yassky had $750,000 cash on hand, compared with $450,000 combined for his three competitors.
One feature that has not changed is the district's deeply liberal bent. Regardless of class or color, Yassky and Owens said, voters are overwhelmingly opposed to the war in Iraq and want better schools and better health coverage. Anna Acosta, 21 and black, stopped to chat with Yassky along Eastern Parkway. Acosta said she is looking for a candidate who is willing to aggressively stand up to Republicans.
Very interesting.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Stroger submits signed resignation letter

Now there's a debate over his signed letter that he submitted on Friday. I would wonder if he knows what's going on enough to even write a letter of resignation of his nomination and offices. You can read the letter here.

As for the the current news, check this out from Crain's Chicago Business...

Ailing Cook County Board President John Stroger now has submitted a signed copy of a letter resigning his positions as president and a county commissioner effective July 31, his office announced on Wednesday.

Copies of the letter first were distributed last Friday, but were unsigned. Copies handed out today contain a scrawled, barely legible signature, but Mr. Stroger’s spokeswoman said the signature was his and that it was witnessed by his son, Ald. Todd Stroger (8th), and by an a second person who was not named.

The spokeswoman said Mr. Stroger blamed the delay on Mr. Stroger’s health, saying the intent was to sign the letter earlier but he “has good days and bad days.”

Mr. Stoger, who suffered a severe stroke in March, wants his son to succeed him as board president, according to Ald. William Beavers (7th), who has served as a family spokesman in the matter. Mr Beavers is weighing whether to take John Stroger’s County Board himself, with Commissioner John Daley considered the most likely candidate to be named interim county president after July 31.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

North Korea Test-Launches Long-Range Missile

I rarely talk about international affairs and this seems like a serious story. It seems that the US and North Korea has been going back and forth mainly on nuclear weapons that North Korea isn't supposed to have. And now this story...
A defiant North Korea test-fired a long-range missile Wednesday that may be capable of reaching America, but it failed seconds after launch, U.S. officials said. The North also tested four shorter range missiles in an exercise the White House called "a provocation" but not an immediate threat.

Ignoring stern U.S. and Japanese warnings, the isolated communist nation carried out the audacious military tests even as the U.S. celebrated the Fourth of July and launched the space shuttle.

Joseph Cirincione, an arms expert at the Center for American Progress, tells CBS' Dan Raviv there's a reason this happened on the Fourth of July.

"They know this is our national holiday. They want to remind us that they're still there."

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported as many as 10 missiles altogether may have been launched, but officials could not confirm that.

None of the missiles made it as far as Japan. The Japanese government said all landed in the Sea of Japan between Japan and the Korean Peninsula.

"We do consider it provocative behavior," National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said.
I first heard this on FOX News Chicago tonight. China may be a little taken aback because they thought they had a handle on North Korea. Perhaps China will get involved in this when it seems they haven't.

If one believes this story it is starting to get a little scary with them. This is how serious it could have been...

U.S. officials said the missiles were launched over a four-hour period beginning about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday (2:30 p.m. Tuesday EDT).

Meanwhile, the North American Aerospace Defense Command -- which monitors the skies for threats to North American security -- went on heightened alert, said NORAD spokesman Michael Kucharek.

Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state, is set to head to the region on Wednesday, and Hadley is to meet with his South Korean counterpart, a meeting in Washington that already had been scheduled, the White House said.

"There's a lot going on," he said. "The safety of our people and resources is our top priority."