URBAN PHILOSOPHER
Conscience Laureate

Friday, July 30, 2010

THE TEST SCORES ARE STILL FAILING NUMBERS!

While Mayor Daley and Ron Huberman were touting the college preparedness of Chicago Public School students,
students achieving an ACT score of 20 or better — rose by 2.6 percentage points, from 21.8 percent to 24.4 percent,” they, of course, did not relate how pathetic a score of 20 is! And since the average CPS student’s ACT score is 17.3% that is nothing to be proud of even though that is the highest number in a decade. In comparison, the average ACT score statewide is 20.8; so Chicago students performed more than 15% worse than other students in Illinois.
Does that mean downstaters are smarter or do they just have better schools? Maybe breathing the fresh air on a farm helps with being smart?
As a state though, Illinois still has nothing to be proud of either because, by comparison, many other states have higher scores. The states with the highest average ACT test scores are Massachusetts (23.6), Connecticut (23.3), New York (23.1), and Washington (23.1). So Illinois fails miserably also.
With the exception of community colleges, a student cannot expect to gain entrance to an institution of higher education with an American College Testing (ACT) score lower than 20; that means that 75.6% of CPS students do not have scores high enough to attend and succeed in college. No school official or the Mayor ever relates that information because it would make them look bad.
ACT scores (along with an applicant’s high school grades, curriculum, and class rank) are the largest determinants into whether a college will accept an applicant. The average ACT score of all 1.4 million test takers nationwide remains consistent from year to year, and was just above 21.1 in 2009. So, with an average ACT score of 17.3%, Chicago lags woefully behind the national average.
Do the students of the Chicago City Colleges perform any better in school now that they have matured a bit? All city colleges, which are two year higher education schools, are open-admission institutions; they accept an applicant based solely on the following criteria:
--Are graduating from or graduates of accredited high schools --Are General Education Development (G.E.D.) certified --Are transferring from another college or university --Are 18 years of age or older, not completed high school, but, do qualify for college-level work.
So basically anybody who is breathing and older than 18 years of age can attend. Since the graduation rates range from 3.4% at Harold Washington College to 13% at Malcolm X , we’ve answered the question of whether the students perform better after they leave high school. NO! They still do not succeed.
So Chicago students fail miserably in high school and the trend continues at the Chicago-run colleges. And it can only get worse as the Board of Education is sending out layoff notices to 1,000 teachers in preparation for raising high school class sizes from 28 to 33 this fall.
Since it is inconceivable that Chicago high school students are just dumber than teenagers in the rest of the state, the answer must be that the teachers are failing to educate properly.
I have not written anything here that most people don’t already know. I just get so frustrated when Mayor Daley and CPS officials boast about test scores that are so pathetic, that I have to vent somewhere.
Mayor Daley took control of CPS in 1995 when he successfully convinced the state legislature to hand over the keys of education to him. As Reverend Meeks has said about the Mayor,”Public schools is not his expertise. It's just not. You could be passionate about something but it doesn't mean you're good at it.” Meeks, a product of Harper High school in Chicago, might exhibit bad grammar in his speech, but what he said is correct.
It has been 15 years since the Mayor has been in charge of public education and he gets a big F for his efforts.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

IT ALREADY SHOULD HAVE BEEN A LAW!

I have never been inside a jail, prison or penitentiary. My knowledge of those facilities range from the tiny cells seen on the old “Andy Griffin Show” to documentaries about Alcatraz. As far as I know, I don’t have any friends who have served time so I can’t even ask around what it is like being in the clinker. As much as a neophyte that I am about detention centers, I still think that it would be illegal if I were to visit a prisoner and bring in some sort of device to help them disable their cell door. Well, until January 1, 2011 certain tools are not illegal! Governor Quinn signed Senate Bill 3503 last week. This new law prohibits people from bringing tools into prisons that are intended to help inmates evade security measures. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office has faced several recent incidents in which tools called poppers have been used by inmates attempting to escape from the county jail. According to a speech the Governor gave last week, “The new bill expands the definition of ‘tool to defeat security mechanism" by adding ‘poppers’ to the list of examples and by expanding the definition to cover any item or device used to prevent a lock from locking. Poppers are defined in the law as any device that can be placed in a locking mechanism of a cell door to override or block the locking mechanism of a cell door allowing the inmate to exit the unlocked cell.
The previous version of this law defined ‘contraband’ within the context of the crime of bringing contraband into a penal institution. The definition of this term provided a broad description to include any “device or instrument capable of unlocking handcuff or security restrains, doors to sells, rooms, gates or other areas of the penal institution. "
I don’t understand why the state had to “expand the definition of tool to defeat security mechanism.” If a piece of bubble gum can be shoved into a security mechanism to disable it, then Wrigley products should be banned. Once a law starts listing specific products that aren’t allowed, prisoners and their visitors will come up with new ones that have not been listed in the law.
It should be real simple. If one gives a prisoner a device--no matter what the device is--that enables him to jam the security mechanism in his cell door, it is a crime! And why do we have to wait until January 2011 to implement the new law? It should be effective immediately! Just post some signs!
Quinn also signed Senate Bill 3546 last week which, according to Quinn, “requires railroad police to notify local law enforcement, including the county sheriff and the Illinois State Police when a rail shipment of firearms, explosives or other weapons are reported missing. Currently, railroad police conduct investigations of such thefts but do not take fingerprints left at the crime scene. The new law is aimed at helping law enforcement officials conduct more thorough investigations.”
What!!?? How can it be that the railroad police do not take fingerprints at the scene and they don’t notify local law enforcement when a gun shipment or explosives are stolen? Shouldn’t that be a part of the normal investigation of a crime? On every law drama I have ever seen on television they take fingerprints!
Again, this law does not take effect until January 1, 2011. So if one is planning on hijacking a gun shipment do it on December 31, 2010 and your fingerprints will be safe from scrutiny.
If these laws are as important as I think, they should be effective immediately and we should not have to wait until January 2011. But since there will be a new Governor in 2011, Quinn won't even get to see them become effective.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bridging the Budget Gap

I just learned that located inside the southwest bridge tower on the Michigan Avenue Bridge is the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. In fact, on May 10th of this year, it was the 90th anniversary of the bridge and a party was held. Wish I had been invited! Information about the museum can be found at http://bridgehousemuseum.org/home The web site describes the museum as,”The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum uncovers the marvels of the Chicago River. Visitors find themselves inside the southwest bridge tower of the Michigan Avenue Bridge where each of the five-stories of the Bridgehouse Museum captures a critical moment in the history of the Chicago River. Surrounded by snippets from various stages of the river’s uses, visitors explore visions for the river realized or forgotten. The historic bridge tower is itself a relic of another time, when bridge tenders operated the opening and closing of the bridge from the narrow tower. The Bridgehouse Museum also houses the gears of the landmark bridge. Visitors to the Bridgehouse Museum are treated to a rare look at the interworkings of the bridge that is lifted by two 100 horse powered engines.”
After reading about the Museum I thought, is it right to desecrate the museum by decorating it for Halloween?
The Chicago City Council just passed an ordinance allowing Fresh Picked Media the opportunity to sell corporations the right to decorate, through a sponsorship agreement, one of 14 (those with the highest traffic usage) Chicago River bridge houses for $1 million-a-year-per-bridge. The sponsoring company would be allowed to hang the decorations for the month-long period preceding four major holidays --- Halloween, Christmas, Easter and 4th of July. The exact wording of the ordinance is to “utilize certain Chicago River Bridge Houses and the Riverwalk development project as venues to advertise and promote tourism, special events, holidays and commerce in the City of Chicago.”
Phillip Lynch, president of Fresh Picked Media said, “We’re looking at a projection of $250,000-per-month per [holiday] or $1 million on an annual basis for a sponsor…Based on the 14 bridges at 100 percent occupancy, that’s $14 million in gross revenue and $10.5 million to the city.” Fresh Media will keep 25% of the sponsor fee as their commission.
Since the ordinance also states that, “Promotions to be undertaken by FPM must be approved in advance by the City Department of Transportation (“CDOT”) with full disclosure of all material terms and conditions,” I guess we won’t have to worry that Trojan will be a sponsor and turn a bridge house into a giant penis covered with a condom.
Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th) said,” The idea is a good one. I’m just kind of concerned about the size [of the corporate logos.]…We could come back, maybe, later on and wish we didn’t do it if it’s too large.” John Yonan, deputy commissioner of engineering for the city’s Department of Transportation, assured Schulter that corporate logos would be the “smallest dimension possible,” adding, “We’ll try to scale it down as much as possible.”
So if the corporate logo would be the “smallest dimension possible,” why would a corporation spend $1 million to sponsor a bridge?
On March 29, 2009, I wrote a blog about how KFC wanted to sponsor the naming rights of potholes in exchange for repairing hundreds of thousands of them. The state of Kentucky was already doing it. I wrote, “KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken’s official name) has offered to patch the pot holes for free in exchange for leaving behind a stenciled brand on the patch informing the public that the road has been “Re-Freshed by KFC.” KFC has already done this in Louisville and earned a testimonial from Mayor Jerry Abramson, who noted that “finding funding for needed road repairs is a continuing challenge.” The reason the city turned down the offer came from Brian Steele, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation who said, “We don’t allow any type of printing or advertising placed on a city street or sidewalk.” So advertising on streets or sidewalks is a “NO”, but advertising on bridge houses is a “YES”. I wonder about the decision making process. I seriously doubt that there will be companies willing to spend $1 million to sponsor a bridge house so this discussion is probably moot. But come October, I hope the BridgeHouse Museum is not covered with slime promoting Ghost Busters III.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

THE PERFECT MURDER?

Some patients taking this medicine have performed certain activities while they were not fully awake. These have included sleep-driving, making and eating food, making phone calls and having sex. Patients often do not remember these events after they happen." While I have always had trouble sleeping, I have never taken sleeping pills for fear of addiction; but when I came home from the hospital last month my recovery was being severely hampered by my lack of sleep. It became such a problem that I decided to follow my doctor’s advice and take something. I don’t remember the order of the prescriptions, but each one he gave me made me feel loopy and I only took for one night each. The last prescription was for Zaleplon. While in the elevator coming home from Walgreen’s, I decided to read the “Cautions” section of the pamphlet. When I saw the section quoted at the start of the blog, I did not take the pill; I was too scared. The sex and phone calls part did not scare me it was that I might wake up and find myself surrounded by piles of wrappers from 100 calorie snack pack cookies! I have since discovered that the FDA requires that most sleeping pills have that warning.
David Sorin, the son of John and Bette Sorin died on August 11, 2008. The parents have filed a prejudicial genocide fit in Cook County Circuit Court for his wrongful death. This is the same charge Michael Jackson’s father Joe has filed against Dr. Conrad Murray. According to court papers, their son “ingested the recommended amount of sleep-inducing prescription drug called Ambien in order to help him fall asleep for the night.” The suit further says that David “was induced into a sleep walking episode, and consequently suffered a fatal fall while trying to gain entry to his residence by climbing into his apartment window from the roof of the building.”
The suit is not filed against the manufacturer of Ambien, but their daughter-in-law, Dava Grundhoefer. She is the doctor who prescribed the medicine for her husband and she is an anesthesiologist based in Evanston. According to the Sun Times, the parents” contend that even though Grundhoefer knew that sleepwalking is a possible, albeit rare side effect from taking Ambien, and that her husband had been in a car wreck as a result of a previous sleepwalking incident, she continued to prescribe the prescription drug to him to help him fall asleep.”
Dava and David Sorin had only been married for 6 weeks. Dava’s attorney, David Novoselsky, says, ““The allegations are simply not true. I haven’t heard this is anything other than an accident.”
In Michael Jackson’s case, Dr. Murray prescribed hundreds of pills that Jackson was taking; in this suit there is no allegation of over prescribing and states that Sorin took the recommended dosage. Sorin was certainly aware of his own previous sleep walking incident and should have been aware of the side effects of Ambien. How should he have known? His father, who filed the suit, is also a doctor! No story that I read on this law suit mentioned that. I discovered it when I found a condolence story on David’s death on page 113 of a 2008 issue of Saddle and Briddle magazine.
So if the widow Dava committed the perfect murder by prescribing a medicine that led to her husband’s death, couldn’t his own Father, a doctor, be counted as an accomplice if he knew his son was taking the Ambien? Something to think about.

Monday, July 26, 2010

LET THE MOB RUN IT!

"Only in Illinois can we fail at gambling. Why don't we just hire the mob to run it for us? They have done well in that area." Jake Hartford, WLS radio personality. The first recorded signs of a lottery are keno slips from the Chinese Han Dynasty between 205 and 187 B.C. These lotteries are believed to have helped to finance major government projects like the Great Wall of China. Illegal lottery or the “numbers game” came to the United States prior to the Civil War. Because bookies could extend credit to bettors and winners could avoid income taxes on the winnings, people in poorer communities were drawn to what were known as policy shops. The word policy was used to describe the establishments from a similarity to cheap life insurance, both seen as a gamble on the future. With a three number bet, the exact odds of picking the correct number are 999:1 and since the typical payoff rate was 600:1, the 40% profit, known as vigorish, was enormous for the racketeers. A bookie would have runners and sub runners who earned a percentage of the daily bets they collected which left about a 30% profit for the bookie. He made a lot of money from his 30% In 1875, a report of a select committee of the New York State Assembly, stated that "the lowest, meanest, worst form ... [that] gambling takes in the city of New York, is what is known as policy playing.” So with a 40% hold the Mob earned millions and millions of dollars. They spent no money on advertising, fancy offices and employees. The runners and sub-runners were essentially outside contractors with no overhead. In Illinois, the lottery has a 50% vigorish on the pick numbers games and pays out 58.7% overall as stated in their audited annual report; yet we read stories that the system is floundering! The state instituted the lottery in 1974 with the first tickets being sold on July 30th. For more background, the history of the Illinois lottery can be found at: http://www.illinoislottery.com/subsections/gamehist.htm According to the Chicago Tribune, “The Illinois Lottery has reached annual sales of more than $2.2 billion a year. Last year, the lottery contributed $625 million to schools and another $32 million to the statewide construction program for schools, bridges and roads. “Now think carefully and read slowly my explanation of the numbers. If the payoff is 50%, that would mean the lottery had a pre-operating expenses profit of $1.1 billion. According to the latest filed audited report which is for the year ended 2008, the lottery contributed $643 million to the common school fund; which we know really goes straight into the state’s operating budget. Here is how the money was actually distributed in 2008: -- $1.226 billion in prize winning expense (that's 58.7% of revenue)
-- $153 million in commission and fees expense (7.3% of revenue
-- 5% goes to agents, 2.1% independent contractors and .2% distributors)
-- $60 million other operating expense
Transfers out:
--$643 million to common school fund
--$1.4 million for ticket for cure
--$ 2.5 million for veterans funds
--$1.1 million for quality of life fund
Instead of Illinois trying to determine how to run the agency better, they are looking to sell the management to a private company. That is tantamount to admitting that the administration of a state agency is a failure! If that is correct, fix it, don’t outsource it. "Other states run their lotteries much better than we do. We are literally leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table," said Rep. Jack Franks, a Woodstock Democrat who oversaw hearings examining the potential sale of the lottery under former Governor Blagojevich. "But if we just ran it better, we would be able to realize the extra money. Why don't we keep it in-house, instead of giving our profits to a private manager?" Franks is correct in his assessment that the state should run the lottery, but I am still upset how the lottery is basically a gambling scam because of the pathetic return to the bettor on the money they wagered. Illinois, and other states, market the lottery to the poorest neighborhoods. To put the “house edge” in the lottery in prospective to other gambling games, one should know what they are to be able to make a comparison. If one is playing in a casino, the game with the lowest hold is craps (double odds) at 0.60%; blackjack’s hold is 0.80%, roulette (single zero) is 2.7%, roulette (double zero) is 5.6% and keno has the worst odds at 25%. Casino’s in Illinois are taxed at an onerous rate and are hugely successful. The lottery holds 50%, pays no taxes on its winnings and still returns a profit to the taxpayers at a pathetic amount. The lottery’s advertising is centered around winning a dream, but the system is really a nightmare.

Friday, July 23, 2010

SELLING OUT

SELLING OUT I am thoroughly confused. If as Fran Spielman wrote in the Sun Times on Wednesday, “As of Dec. 31, the city had just $180 million left from the $1.15 billion parking meter windfall that was supposed to last for 75 years,” that would mean that the city spent almost a billion extra dollars that did not come from taxpayers. If my assessment is correct, it means that next year, besides the already 700 million we are short, we will need another billion. Where will that money come from except from taxpayers? Maybe there is another plan-“The Celebrity Chef Art Smith Selling Out plan.” I first read about this scheme to raise money in Shia Kapos’ column, “Taking Names,” in Crain’s. Art Smith, originally of Oprah fame and now famous on his own merits, is getting married in August in Washington, D.C. where gay marriage is legal. GBK Productions asked Smith if they could compile the gift bags for the guests. Smith agreed. GBK started sending out proposals to PR firms to see which of their clients wanted to have a product in the bag. Of course, besides product, the client would have to pay anywhere from $2,500 to $20,000. While 20% of the money collected will go to The Common Threads Foundation, the rest will go in Smith’s pocket. Because so many celebrities will be attending the wedding, it’s a cool event for companies to participate in. Nike is providing running shoes for each of the guests; not a product one normally associates with a wedding bag gift. But I guess if one is dancing all night, it will be nice to change into something more comfortable for aching feet. Why can’t the City of Chicago take a page from Art Smith? We have hundreds of celebrities that come to Chicago every year. Whether it is for a movie shoot or to emcee a charity event, they are here. The Mayor’s Office of Special Events could prepare gift bags that would be given to every celeb. Companies would pay to have their product placed in the bag. The City would provide a picture of the celeb and the bag (autographed) to the sponsoring company as proof that it was given out. The Mayor should love the plan because it would be providing swag to the visiting stars. Why is that? Because swag mean “stolen without a gun” and we know how much he hates guns. For a final thought; Sharon Rae Bender has her own solution to the city’s financial woes. We hold a giant bake sale in Daley Plaza. How sweet is that? One chocolate cake please.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

RINGING THE BELL FOR POLICE OFFICERS

RINGING THE BELL FOR POLICE OFFICERS According to a story in Tuesday’s Sun Times, “A shortage of officers is emboldening criminals, said a former high-ranking Chicago Police official who said he's "terrified" for officers because felons no longer fear the police. A two-year police hiring slowdown has left the Police Department understaffed by more than 2,230 officers a day, below the city's budget-authorized 13,200.” "The manpower situation in the Chicago Police Department is bad," added Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. "Guys are out there every day telling us they have to wait for backup. And we're advising them to wait for backup for their own safety." The police department is not fully-staffed because of money woes. As I have written before in defense of first responders, (July 9, “All Fired Up”), “The fire and police departments are the two most important departments. Really, who cares if someone from the City’s graphics department has to take a furlough day? It does not have an effect on my life or anybody else’s if some invitation for one of the many Mayor’s receptions goes out a day late. But if I had a fire, then it would matter if staff size were lower because of furlough days.” I do not want to live in a city where there are not enough police officers or firemen! As a citizen of Chicago, ranting about needing to hire more police officers is easy; finding the solution to the fiscal woes is harder. But I have an idea. If we need 2300 more police officers (I know they say we need 2230, but I am rounding up) and the average pay is $200/day for 365 days per year then I need to find about $183 million dollars to cover the annual salaries and benefits of the new hires. There are approximately 3 million people (adults and children) who live in the city limits. So if we divide the money needed by the number of people who live in the city, it works out to $63/year/person or only seventeen cents a day! That is simple enough math for even my friend Linda to understand and not start spewing pea green soup at the thought of multiplying and dividing! (But she lives in Oak Park so the police shortage is not her problem!) That sounds like a small price to pay for protection; but the Mayor is never going to send all families a tax bill for their share. Not when it is an election year. So we need a way to raise the money and assure that the money is used only to fund the police department. The Salvation Army is very successful during the two months a year during the holiday season when they are ringing the bell and they raise millions. Let’s take that idea and have some sort of daily equivalent fund raising. We could design something like a parking meter that people could put money in that they know would go solely for funding police salaries. These police meter boxes could be on every corner and when you passed one, you would put in some change. How could we be sure that the revenue would not go into the General Fund? When Al Gore was running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2000 and was asked about his plan for funding future Social Security payments he said that he would keep the money earmarked for the program in a lockbox! So we would have a special lockbox storing the money to be used exclusively to pay for extra police officers. I know my plan will never be implemented but I wanted to toss it out to bring attention to the fact that we are talking about seventeen cents a day per Chicagoan to fund the extra hires that are sorely needed. That is less than pocket change. How come the money cannot be found by the Mayor somewhere in the billions of dollars of revenue the city takes in? By the way, I will be happy to keep the lockbox at my home. I promise I won’t go shopping at St. John!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

ELECTORATE SAYS, “You’re Hired!”

ELECTORATE SAYS, “You’re Hired!” This past Sunday a Tribune/WGN poll showed that Mayor Daley’s approval ratings are at an all-time low and that more than half of Chicago voters don’t want him to have a 7th term as Mayor. But no serious contender seems to be stepping up. Greg Hinz wrote in Crain’s, “In the past week or so, I've talked to aldermen and Daley insiders, business and civic leaders, union chiefs and political operatives. Across the board, the responses are alike: "Nothing." "Haven't heard a thing." "Nope." And "It's getting really late for someone to mount a serious campaign." My friend Daniel French has an idea for a great candidate and suggested to me Bill Rancic of “Apprentice” fame. When I asked French if he knew what Rancic’s political views were, he pointed out that as long as they were not radical it would not matter to the huge base of voters who are Rancic fans. French said, “For good or for bad - America loves the rock star quality. We love name recognition. We like good looking people. Rancic has all three. Unless he has some real dirt that would call his judgment into question, his is a fresh face that could excite people. I can't imagine a woman under 50 who wouldn't vote for him. And you can shoot down the 'no experience' mark against Rancic with this: "Experience? You mean, like Daley's?" In defeating Daley, French does not suggest “running him out of town,” but, “Give him what he wants: legacy. Thank him for his service, for making Chicago one of the most beautiful cities in America - and beyond. Truth be told he has done that. What was Chicago before Daley? Not what it is now. He should be thanked, clapped on the back, and sent into the sunset to care for his wife.” What French says makes a lot of sense. Rancic is a financial expert and that is what Chicago needs more than anything else right now. We have enough flowers, wrought iron fences, bike paths and parks until the next millennium. What Chicago needs is jobs. Rancic wrote a best selling book, “Beyond The Lemonade Stand”, which, according to Rancic’s web site,”Includes: 20 ideas for your own kid business and 5 easy steps to get each one started; Stories from Bill about how to be honest and come out on top!; Words of advice from super celebrities such as Donald Trump and Andy Roddick on how they learned to succeed; Thoughts about how you can share your successes with others, by helping those who need it; A build-your-own business worksheet that will turn your ideas into reality.” Rancic had to compete against a pool of 250,000 applicants to be chosen to be a contestant on The Apprentice before he won; so that is one election he won. Donald Trump once said, “I have made the tough decisions, always with an eye toward the bottom line. Perhaps it's time America was run like a business.” With Rancic’s entrepreneurial skills, he could run Chicago like a business; and that is what we need. Let’s turns lemons into lemonade.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

IT RAINED ON THEIR PARADE

IT RAINED ON THEIR PARADE Last week I received an e-mail from my friend Teresa Krasinski with the subject line, “You must be ill. “ The body of the e-mail said, “You are not complaining about Transformers being filmed in Chicago??? “ I replied that because of the stories dealing with the controversy about the Anti-Semitic graffiti my blog schedule got thrown off, but be assured I would complain. It is now that time as I wonder if it were part of Daniel Burnham’s his 101-year-old "Plan of Chicago'' to transform Michigan Avenue into a battle zone? It is also interesting to note that while there has been a multi-year study, very contentious, ( still continuing) on whether a heliport should be allowed on the roof of Children’s Memorial Hospital which is currently under construction; it is perfectly acceptable for movie helicopters to be flying in the very same air space over Michigan Avenue. The hypocrisy of it! Sunday morning I walked over to the set, literally steps from my home, to look at all the stupid people who traveled from the suburbs to be able to view absolutely nothing from their perches on the street barricades. Evil Decepticon that I am, I got satisfaction that at Noon I watched from my window as a downpour engulfed the city and I knew that the dim-witted tourists were going to be drenched. Why am I and other residents of Chicago being subjected to noise and inconvenience during the weeks of filming? Because, as Mayor Daley said, “The Transformers 3 shooting will pump $20 million into the local economy and create 200 jobs.” Every story about the shooting contains the reference to the $20 million, but I cannot find any verification for the use of that dollar figure. Where is the $20 million being spent? How will that money affect my life? And who will fill the 200 jobs and what are the jobs? The Mayor threw out numbers and nobody has questioned them. One of the film’s stars, Tyrese Gibson, who I would not know if he walked into my home this instant, said on Saturday, "Please allow me to formally apologize to the whole city for all of the traffic and for all of those extra blocks that you have to turn, just to get to where you're going. But you know, we're bringing some energy to city, and we thank y'all for graciously allowing us to be here." How is the filming bringing energy to the city? Chicago is a world-class city that does not need the filming of a movie to empower it. And “we’all” had no say in “graciously allowing” the shooting to take place; we were just told that our lives would be disrupted and we had no input in the decision.When I heard Director Michael Bay say in a story on WBBM-TV, “Michigan Avenue is the most iconic view of the city, in both directions. It's not like an alley,” I screamed at the television. First there are views east, west, north and south from Michigan Avenue, what did he mean by “both views?” Is he so stupid not to realize there are four directions one can look at, not just two? And to praise the Magnificent Mile by saying “it is not like an alley,” is an insult, not praise! The last time one of the movie’s stars, Shia LaBeouf, was in Chicago in 2007, he was arrested for misdemeanor criminal trespassing (being drunk and disorderly) at 2:30 a.m. in the Walgreen’s on Michigan Avenue. He joked about it on The David Letterman Show. That is how much respect LaBeouf has for our city. I have never seen a Transformers movie. But I do know that the newest villain will be Shockwave, a robot Cyclops-turned-laser-canon who became dictator of Cybertron after the other Autobots and Decepticons traveled to earth. Meaningless to me, but probably important to little boys. With Mayor Daley’s approval numbers at an all time low, I am sure he wishes he could transform himself. Maybe becoming Optimus Prime, the Autobot leader, would do the trick. This character can transform himself into a blue Peterbilt 379 semi-truck with red flame decals. I can just see the Mayor driving down Michigan Avenue in that baby. Do a wheelie for us Richie!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Secret Ballot, Secret Vote

Probably the first experience people had with voting was when they were in Kindergarten. Some issue or other would come up and we would be told to put our heads down on the desk, close our eyes and raise our hands for a “Yes” or “No.” Thus begun our familiarity with a “secret ballot.”
The provision at polling places for people to place their votes privately instead of orally was first originated in Australia during the 1850’s and became known as the Australian Ballot. The four points necessary for an Australian Ballot are: --An official ballot being printed at public expense, --on which the names of the nominated candidates of all parties and all proposals appear, --being distributed only at the polling place and --being marked in secret.
In the United States secret ballots started being used after the presidential election of 1884. The first Australian ballot used in the United States was in Lexington, Massachusetts with Kentucky being the last state to follow in the process, joining in 1891 to abolish the oral ballot. The first president to be elected completely under this system was Grover Cleveland in 1892.
The issue of privacy is very important to us. We have all sent and received e-mails with disclaimers such as, “This message contains information which may be confidential and privileged. Unless you are the intended addressee (or authorized to receive for the intended addressee), you may not use, copy or disclose to anyone the message or any information contained in the message. If you have received the message in error, please advise the sender reply e-mail and delete the message. Thank you very much.”
HIPPA Compliance Disclosure is even stronger because the law makes disclosure of health information a crime. “The documents accompanying this e-mail or fax transmission contain confidential information belonging to the sender that is legally privileged. This information is intended only for the use of the individual or entity named above. The authorized recipient of this information is prohibited from disclosing this information to any other party and is required to destroy the information after its stated need has been fulfilled, unless otherwise required by state law.”
So we have established that Americans like their privacy, yet in Illinois one has to vocally announce what political party’s ballot they will take during a primary. I have always been astounded by this. I don’t have to disclose to anyone my weight, age or wealth, yet I have to reveal what political party I am supporting? This open, oral ballot creates fear that if one chooses the wrong ballot the poll watcher will report back to the party bosses. If one lives in Chicago and holds a city job, one cannot ask for a Republican primary ballot without apprehension of repercussion.
One should be able to take the ballots of all parties and choose which one to use in the privacy of the voting booth. State Representative Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) has called for open primary voting for years and has gotten no where. Last week, Governor Quinn used his executive authority and issued an amendatory veto of House Bill 4842 to eliminate the state’s current requirement for a voter to declare their party affiliation orally and creates an open primary system. His letter stated, “To ensure that each citizen of our State has the ability to fully participate in primary elections, we cannot allow party affiliations to stand in the way of meaningful choice. The choice to favor one political party over another is a personal one and should be between a voter and his or her conscience. A voter should never have to fear the repercussions of picking one party over another when exercising his or her fundamental right to vote.
My specific recommendations for change to House Bill 4842 eliminate the requirement that a voter publicly declare party affiliation when voting at a primary election. Voting is a sacred right and as long as I am Governor, I will do everything within my power to protect each citizen’s ability to cast a ballot. With my recommendation today, a voter’s partisan preference will no longer be known to others. The decision to cast a primary ballot for one party or another will be strictly a matter of personal choice.”
The Supreme Court has given women the right to the “personal choice” to have an abortion, but in the State of Illinois one cannot make the private “personal choice” in asking for a primary ballot. It makes no sense!
In response to Quinn, State Rep. Franks said, “Governor Quinn’s veto message offers the General Assembly the opportunity to return to this important issue and remove the requirement that voters declare a political party when receiving their primary ballot on Election Day. In the 2010 February primary, voter turnout was at an all-time low. This important change to an open primary system will encourage more voters to participate in the democratic process going forward. “
Even with the support of Franks, I seriously doubt that open primaries will ever come to Illinois. Other powerful Democrats won’t allow it to happen.
Another election issue that was decided on last week, House Bill 5820 (P.A. 96-1018) is a bill that requires the governor and lieutenant governor to run as a team in the general primary election. This came about because of the election of Scott Lee Cohen as the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor that shocked all the party regulars. Cohen dropped out of the LG race when he was threatened by the Democratic Party and has now emerged successfully as an independent candidate for governor.
I have made no secret of my support of Cohen, yet so many people I have spoken to are afraid to openly declare their intention to vote for him for fear of backlash from the Democratic or Republican Party. Thy have told me they cannot attend a party at my home for Cohen, but they will be voting for him in November.
The Australian ballot provides for confidential voting, so I am convinced that in the secrecy of the voting booth, the electorate will do the right thing and make the personal choice to vote for Cohen. No one has to know you marked his name; just do it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

WWW.RENTKATHY.COM

WWW.RENTKATHY.COM
I read an article in the LA Times by Meghan Daum and have discovered my true calling! She wrote about a web site www.RentAFriend.com that profiles more than 167,000 people that one can hire on a platonic basis for various services. The fee for hiring a “friend” ranges from $10 to $150/hour and must be paid first in cash. Site creator, Scott Rosenbaum told Daum that the “ friend” services range from ” a 31-year-old Las Vegas woman who has been hired occasionally by traveling businessmen who want to go sightseeing, a stay-at-home mom who wanted a scrapbooking companion and a bored grandmother who was visiting family from the Midwest and wanted to take in a movie. He also mentioned a college student who got in trouble for drinking and rented "parents" to meet with school administrators.”
Rosenbaum also said says there's a zero-tolerance policy for sexual solicitations.” I personally review every profile before it's made live on the Web site," Rosenbaum told me in an e-mail last week. "I verify all of the contact information and check their pictures ... (Profiles with sexual undertones) are immediately banned from the site."
The web site lists many reasons why someone would possibly rent a friend:
●People who travel to a new city can hire a local to show them around town. It's always good to know someone from the area who can give you first hand information about where to go and what to avoid.
● Someone might want to see a movie or go out to a restaurant but don't have anyone to go with. They could "Rent a Friend" to go along with them.
● Many Friends on RentAFriend.com have unique talents and skills. They can teach you a new language, tutor you, share a new hobby, art, dance, and much more. It's also a great way to meet people of different cultures and religions.
● People who travel often for business that are looking to find local Friends to go out to dinner with, go to the bar with, or watch a sports game with. It's always great to have Friends in different cities.
● People who have an extra ticket to a sporting event or concert and don't want to go alone. They can "Rent a Friend" to go along them.
● Someone may want a workout partner for the gym. Renting a Friend to help motivate and spot you during your workout. It can also be a lot cheaper than hiring a personal trainer.
● Just looking for someone to give you personal advice. There are lots of people who just want to get real advice about a situation and it's always great to get an outsiders point of view.
Now that I have established what www.RentAFriend.com can provide, let’s explore what www.RentKathy.com can do for you! Currently, if one goes to www.RentKathy.com one just gets linked to my regular web site; but we are working on the construction of the new one. I had to quickly buy www.RentKathy.com before some “fake” Kathy got it. One has to be confident that they are receiving the services of the correct Kathy and not some random Kathy who is acting as a poseur and affecting my attitude and identity to impress or influence others.
None of my current friends pay anything for my friendship. This is bad economic planning on my part. While former Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich might go to prison for making people pay to be his friend, there is no law against my doing it. Being Kathy is f***ing golden and I am not going to give my friendship away for free anymore!
I will not charge an hourly fee; my fee will be $1/day and that will allow people to have the privilege of saying they are my friend. The prestige that one will revive for a mere $30/month (less than the cost of cable TV or a phone bill) is tremendous! For that low price, people will receive access to a private e-mail address and phone number where they will be able to write or call me and “ask me stuff.” (Membership card included!) Currently my phone rings all day long with calls from “friends” seeking advice or connections to other prominent people. No more! Unless one is a subscriber to www.RentKathy.com access to Kathy will be shut off!
E-mail me today for information on how to become a subscriber. The first 100 people who become my friend will also receive a personally autographed picture of me! (You may Photoshop yourself in the picture so you can pretend you were with me when it was taken.) Why are you waiting? Sign up now before the price goes up.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

GOING, GOING, GONE!

GOING, GOING, GONE! Normally I do not write two blogs in a row on the same story (Gasoline The Bitch), but I had so many requests for a follow up, I knew it would be important to share what happened as a result of my posting. If you have not read the first posting, you need to do it before you read this one or this blog will make no sense! Wednesday Timeline 7:46 a.m.—I went to the construction site and took pictures of the Anti-Semitic graffiti before I posted my blog to prove the posters were still defaced. 8:35 a.m.—I posted the blog and pictures. 10:25 a.m.--The first reaction I had to the posting was an e-mail from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “My name is Corinne Bernstein, and I am contacting you on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League. We saw the blog post that you wrote this morning, and we would like to know if the graffiti that you mentioned is still on the construction site, as you mentioned. If so, we would like to investigate the issue further and send someone to take pictures of the incident.” I was excited that my blog had such reach that the ADL would react so quickly. I called Corrine and told her the pictures were still in place. She said someone from ADL would go to the site. I asked her how ADL had heard about the story and it turns out a blog follower had contacted the ADL Director, Lonnie Nasatir. 10:51 a.m.—Felicia Dechter, someone I have worked with in the past who is a columnist with SKYLINE, a weekly newspaper, e-mailed me that she would like to do something in her column about this. I gave her Corrine’s contact info at ADL. Felicia said she was also going to call the marketing company for the Ritz Carlton Residences. 12:13 p.m. Felicia e-mailed me that she spoke to Lori Smuckler, contract administrator at Rubloff Properties, which is the marketing company for the Ritz Carlton Residences. Felicia wrote,” The woman I spoke to said she was horrified, and not aware of it. She said it might have stayed so long because the construction union is on strike and no one has been at the site to report it. She said she'll talk to the developer immediately, and I asked her to call me back to let me know when it would be taken care of. She said she would. As soon as she calls me back I'll let you know. I imagine it'll be taken care of pretty quickly. She said she really appreciated the call, she wishes she would have known sooner.” What is so ironic about Smuckler’s saying they did not know about the graffiti is that Smuckler told Felicia that Rubloff’s offices are across the street from the site. In a week’s time nobody from Rubloff happened to cross the street? Very strange! 1:17 p.m.—Felicia e-mailed me that Rubloff, is”on it and if they can't remove the graffiti they will take the boards down.” I asked her to please let me know when that had been done. Smuckler also tells Felicia that she personally went out and found it, "disgusting.” 2:30 p.m.—It is now more than two hours since the Rubloff people first were told about the graffiti. I personally checked and it is still there. How hard is it to cover the graffiti? 3:10 p.m.—I called Corrine at ADL who tells me that she took pictures and the incident is being investigated. 3:30- Felicia e-mailed me that Corrine cannot comment to a reporter and Felicia is waiting to hear from someone else at ADL. 3:39 p.m.—Felicia and I spoke. She told me that she spoke to Jenna Benn, assistant director of ADL who said they are investigating to see if it is gang related or punks or something else. The ADL will not categorize the graffiti as Anti-Semitic because the picture of the Jewish star in the doorman’s hand has two small extra lines in it. Benn also said the graffiti is not blatantly Anti-Semitic because it does not have the word JEW written anywhere and no JEWISH reference of any kind. They will only file as an Anti-Semitic Incident, (ASI), if ADL decides it is such. I am outraged at hearing this. I e-mail the picture of the doorman’s out-stretched hand to a number of Jewish friends who all agree that it is clearly a Jewish Star. I now feel abandoned by the ADL, the one group that I felt for sure would protect me! It is definitely an ASI! 4:51 p.m. -- Felicia called me to say that the Ritz says the graffiti has been covered up. 4:52 p.m. -- I walked over to the site to verify the news and took the picture that is posted on this blog. 5:26 p.m--I contemplated the ending of this story and I am not pleased with the outcome. I wanted the ADL to be as outraged as I was, call the media and demand that the city do something about this. I wanted to bring attention that anti-Semitism exists in Chicago. Instead, all that happened is that the graffiti is gone and only a few of us even knew it was even there. Now I really want to wail.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

“GASOLINE THE BITCH”

First some background--at 664 N. Michigan Avenue a new residential high rise is emerging. The location previously housed the Terra Museum of Art, Garrett’s popcorn and a Starbucks-but such is urban progress. The web site for the project describes the condos as,”86 ultra-luxurious residences ranging in size from approximately 1,370-square-foot, one-bedroom homes to grand penthouses of more than 6,500 square feet. Just one of the special features is a full-floor private club reserved exclusively for the residents and their guests. Other special features within each home include 9’8” to 12’ ceilings, private recessed balconies, and graceful archways leading from the foyer to the living room. Home prices start at approximately $1.25 million. Delivery is expected to be in early 2012.” In June 2009, The Robb Report wrote,”Furthering the trend, The Ritz Carlton Residences, Chicago, promises to set a new standard for luxury home ownership in the heart of Chicago’s famed “Magnificent Mile.” The new landmark building with its Parisian style architecture will not only transform the skyline of Michigan Avenue’s toniest district, but it will inject an elite level of service into what promises to become one of the city’s most desirable addresses.” This is going to be one classy building one would think. Because I live next to the construction, I have watched the progress from demolition to now construction. As at any construction site, there is scaffolding and a temporary wooden wall to protect pedestrians from the debris of a “work in progress.” I pass the site almost every day. The wooden wall has colorful photographs placed along its length depicting future residents enjoying their future luxurious accommodations living at the Ritz. All very typical. Until something new appeared last week. The photographs have been defaced with black-inked phrases such as, “burn”, “gasoline the bitch” and the image of a Jewish Star painted on the out-stretched hand of a white-gloved doorman. Clearly Anti-Semitic graffiti. I recoiled in shock and revulsion the first time I saw the pictures. I did nothing because I wanted to see how the City of Chicago or the Ritz Carlton would react to the graffiti. If racist graffiti was defacing a wall on Michigan Avenue, it would be removed immediately. I wanted to see how long it took for someone to take action when the graffiti was against Jews. The horror that just feet from my home I have to view Anti-Semitic graffiti that relates to the Holocaust and the gas chamber extermination of Jews is frightening. Every day since I first spotted the slurs, I have walked by to see if it is still there. I have watched yellow-hard-hatted construction workers from the site pass the pictures with no reaction. I have observed pedestrians strolling down Michigan Avenue paying no attention to the words on the wall. Thousands of people have walked by the wall with no obvious reaction. Yesterday afternoon I called a friend at WLS television and told her about it. She said she would try to send a camera. As far as I know, no crew came to document the filth. I checked the WLS web site this morning just in case I had missed the airing of the story. Nothing. This morning the graffiti was still there. The pictures on the blog were taken at 7:51 a.m. today I will say nothing to anybody else until Friday when I know I will be seeing Mayor Daley at an event. I will publicly tell him about the wall. If the graffiti is still there on Saturday, I will notify the Anti-Defamation League of Chicago and ask them to stand with me and wail. Then maybe someone will listen.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

CAN’T ANYBODY DO THE MATH?

CAN’T ANYBODY DO THE MATH?
On May 10th I wrote a blog, “Two Taxing Issues” where I pointed out the futility (because it will not produce any revenue for the state coffers) of a 5% state sales tax moratorium for clothes and school supplies from August 6-15. At the time the bill for the state sales tax moratorium was just being discussed; it became official when Governor Quinn signed the bill last week. The number 5% was arrived at by suspending the State’s use tax on eligible items but the 1.25% rate (that portion of the 6.25% Use Tax that goes to local governments) will still be charged as will city and county taxes.
What I wrote then was: “Five percent is such a meaningless number that I do not see how it will help “spur sales and create jobs,” as State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) said. In April I defended Franks in an unfair diatribe against him by State Rep. Bill Black, (R-Danville) but today I agree with Black who said, “It will cost $25 million to $50 million that the state cannot afford. It's an irresponsible thing to do when we don't have the money." Since the state currently has a $13 billion budget gap, how can the Governor propose tossing away millions?
Every day Kohl’s, Target, Wal Mart have sales of 50% off and more and we don’t see consumers running to the store to spend $1 billion just to save 5%. (That is what is spent to achieve a 5% savings on $50 million). If a 50% off sale does not produce a spike in revenue for the stores how will a 5% tax savings do it? The stores are not going to hire more salespeople in anticipation of a one week tax moratorium so I don’t see how more jobs will be created.
To break it down more simply, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the annual retail spending for Illinois is approximately $131,469,518,000. So $1 billion worth of spending is a basically a hick-up. The state’s population is about 13 million people. So each person would save about $4 while the state coffers would be denied $50 million in sales tax. FOUR DOLLARS per person?? What is the big deal about that? Unless you have a family with 100 members, that is not a lot of savings!”
When Governor Quinn signed the bill in an elaborate ceremony at the Sears on State Street he stupidly said, "I think this is a landmark day for our state. It's going to help parents and families all across Illinois save money." This remark is dim-witted for two reasons. The first being that it is ludicrous to call a ten day sales tax moratorium, “LANDMARK.” If Quinn wants his administration to be remembered for something LANDMARK, I would hope his aspirations were higher than a ten day week suspension of sales tax! The second reason is that while families in Illinois will save a few dollars, it will end up costing them more in lost tax revenues. The nonpartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability estimates that the sales tax holiday would cost the state anywhere from $20.6 million to $67.1 million. Lose, lose for everybody!
Quinn also said, according to the Chicago Tribune,” stores may hire new workers to keep up with demand.” Again a stupid statement. Stores are not going to hire employees for TEN DAYS only! It would cost them too much money to train each worker and process the payroll for only TEN DAYS work! There will not be a single person hired because of the tax holiday.
The exact definition of a state sales tax holiday, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue “Is a 10-day period during which consumers can purchase certain items and pay sales tax at a reduced rate. Items include qualifying clothing and footwear with a retail selling price of less than $100 and certain school supplies used by students in the course of study. School supplies are not subject to the $100 threshold.” Also found on The Illinois Department of Revenue web site (
www.revenue.state.il.us) is a detailed list of what's included and what's not. One can visit the web site to see what is in and what is out, but some of it makes no sense! Crayons, glue, paste sticks, markers, pens, highlighters are among those art supplies that are exempt; but clay and glazes, acrylic, tempera, and oil paints, paintbrushes for artwork, sketch and drawing pads and watercolors are not. Who and how was the decision made to choose what is exempt or not? One would think that reference books, reference maps and globes, textbooks and workbooks would be essential school supplies and be exempt; but they’re not! Many states have varying sales tax holidays for diverse reasons. Voters like them because they are too stupid to do the math and see that their local economies are HURT, not HELPED by the moratoriums. So politicians have to vote for the sales tax suspensions just to keep their jobs. Of course, residents of Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon never pay sales taxes. Maybe we should be visiting www.onesimplemove.com and relocate to one of those states!

Monday, July 12, 2010

EYE DON’T THINK IT IS ART!

Because everyone’s taste is different, we all have our own definition of what art is. We have dissimilar feelings about what we appreciate or respond to. Artist Tony Tasset’s three stories tall, EYE sculpture, newly installed at Pritzker Park (State and Van Buren) for a few months of display, might be a perfect sculpture of an eye, but I don’t see it as art. It also must be terrifying for a young child confronted by a giant eyeball with 258 veins as they walk down the street. The fact that “more than six figures” (no exact amount has been reported) has been spent on what is just a temporary exhibit makes the veins in my own eyes bulge in dismay! I am even more upset to have learned that this EYE is just a larger version of an EYE that has been in the Collection of Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, MO. since 2007. So the “EYE “idea is already three years old! Plus “more than six figures” have been spent on a piece of art that is going away. So we basically only “rented” it for the money.
The second part of the EYE display is 156 street banners of the Illinois state bird the cardinal. I have no clue why these two images have anything to do with each other but Tasset said, “I hope both EYE and CARDINAL change the everyday experience for pedestrians and drivers along State Street. The image of the flying bird is quieting and humble in contrast to the commercial bustle surrounding it, while the enormous scale of the EYE serves to miniaturize its surroundings… The juxtaposition of these two archetypal images with the city of Chicago as a backdrop should create a grand surreal picture, in the spirit of Magritte and Dali.” How does a street banner of a red bird create a surreal picture? Honestly Mr. Tasset, you are putting your self in a category of artists you don’t come close to belonging in!
Not being a culturally educated person, I had never heard of Tasset until his EYE was put up. He is a midwest-born multimedia artist who currently teaches art at the University of Illinois Chicago. Back in 2005, he created a conceptual sculpture of a pile of snow, as a site-specific installation for the west window of the old Goldblatt’s building at 1613 W. Chicago Ave. The City of Chicago’s tourism web site wrote, “To create a hyper-realistic replica of a typical Chicago snow pile, Tasset included pieces of handcrafted debris such as coffee cups and matchbooks. “ I saw a picture of the sculpture and it did look exactly like a dirty pile of snow. I can see a REAL dirty pile of snow in Chicago for about six months of the year; why would I care to view a fiberglass pile of dirty snow?
Some of Tasset’s other unusual sculptures include, “Smashed Pumpkin”(bronze and hand painted), “ Dead Blue Jay “(taxidermied bird), “Pallet” maple wood),” Box” (cardboard and paper tape) “Shredded Styrofoam Cup” (epoxy paint and bronze) and , unbelievably, “Coke Can Cross” which is five Diet Coke cans laid out like a cross. There is only an edition of three of the Coke sculpture. Since I drink about 10 cans a day; I could produce many editions of that cross. Pictures of these sculptures can be viewed at www.kavigupta.com/artist/tonytasset. If one does not think the sculptures I described are unusual enough works, one only has to look at the picture on this blog. It is called, “I peed in my pants.” It is a dye bleach print of the artist with urine on his khakis. I could not find the price that someone paid for this picture taken in 1999, but it was sold at the famous auction house, Christie's New York, in 2006. My friend Linda has a great-niece, Talia, who just celebrated her one year birthday and pees in her diapers every day. Linda sends me pictures all the time of Talia. The Chicago Loop Alliance is the organization that paid for the EYE, maybe I can convince them that a droopy diaper picture of Talia is worth six figures! Diet Coke for everyone if I get the commission.

Friday, July 9, 2010

ALL FIRED UP!

ALL FIRED UP!
Last December, through the generosity and help of Tim O’Brien of Chicago Fire Fighters Union Local No. 2 and Dick’s Last Resort, I was able to provide 75 underprivileged children with brand new Huffy bikes for Christmas. This past April, Chicago firefighters joined police officers of the 18th District in a Chicken Wing eating contest that benefited the Make A Wish Foundation. So whose side do you think I am in the controversy about overtime pay for Chicago Fire Department employees?
I understand that city employees are required to take furlough days to help with the budget, but there are certain departments whose work is so crucial that it should not apply. The fire and police departments are the two most important. Really, who cares if someone from the City’s graphics department has to take a furlough day? It does not have an effect on my life or anybody else’s if some invitation for one of the many Mayor’s receptions goes out a day late. But if I had a fire, then it would matter if staff size were lower because of furlough days.
A report by Inspector General Joseph Ferguson said, "The city appears to be hemorrhaging funds due to the liberal and comparatively standardless award of this ... overtime pay. Moreover, there is a direct correlation between the 2009 spike in payment of overtime and the imposition of increased furlough days.” That makes total sense. If there are more furlough days than in the previous year and not enough personnel reporting for duty, then the fire department would have to have employees who reported to work continue working on overtime. It is the opposite that would sound suspicious! Are we living in Bizzaro world?
According to the Chicago Tribune a top level city budget official told the Inspector General’s office, “"The city lost money on the (Chicago Fire Department) regarding the furlough program, because the overtime payments exceeded the savings." As a citizen of Chicago I don’t expect the Fire Department to produce revenues—unless we want to start charging people whose houses catch on fire!
I went to the web site of Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas to see how much of my property taxes were credited towards fire protection and while I did not see a breakdown of my bill, I found something else very interesting.
The latest financial report from the city is for year ended December 31, 2008. On page 14 of the City of Chicago Comprehensive Annual Financial Report is the city’s organizational chart. According to this chart, the city is NOT headed by the Mayor, but by the citizens. The organization chart has CITIZENS listed in the box above the Mayor! So we are really the bosses of the city and no one has ever told us!
As one of the city’s bosses, I hereby declare that firefighters and policemen take no furlough days and overtime is provided if needed. Are you all with me? “We’ve got this thing and it’s f***ing golden, and, uh, uh, we’re just not giving it up for f***kin’ nothing. We’re not gonna do it. And, and we can always use it.”

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I WON’T DRINK TO THAT!

I WON’T DRINK TO THAT! In my blog of May 29, 2009, (Crying in Your Beer), I wrote, “People justify liquor consumption by stating that a glass of wine is “good for your heart. Maybe one glass of wine a day is healthy, but people do not stop at one glass. Why don’t people realize what mental, physical and emotional destruction is caused by excessive liquor consumption?” Obviously not Mayor Daley who recently said, “Many times, people enjoy to have a drink. Is there anything wrong with that?”
The Mayor made that statement to justify his desire to allow vendors to sell beer and wine from stationary pushcarts located beyond security checkpoints at the airports and by allowing restaurants and bars that now shut down at 10 or 11 p.m. to sell hard liquor 24-hours-a-day. Currently, the closing hours for a standard liquor license are 2 a.m., Monday through Saturday mornings, and 3 a.m., Sunday mornings. With a Late Hour License, licensed establishments are permitted to remain open until 4 a.m., Monday through Saturday mornings, and 5 a.m., Sunday mornings. The legal time for opening is 7 a.m., Monday through Saturday mornings, and 11 a.m., Sunday, regardless of whether a late hour license is held.
If someone NEEDS to have an alcoholic beverage available 24 hours a day, they are not drinking to “enjoy to have a drink,” as the Mayor ungrammatically said; but because they are an alcoholic!
According to the Sun Times, “The city would establish two types of licenses. A Class A license would be issued to establishments that already operate bars or restaurants where liquor is sold for consumption on the premises. Those licenses would cost $1,000 and last for one year. For every license a bar or restaurant holds it would get one pushcart. A Class B license would allow concessionaires whose establishments are temporarily closed for construction to sell liquor from a pushcart. That license would cost $600 and be limited to 180 days and be valid, only when the applicant’s leased location at O’Hare or Midway was closed.”
Further, “Pushcarts would be prohibited from selling or serving "spirits by the bottle" and package goods. They would also be prohibited from allowing seating. O’Hare currently has 32 liquor licenses. Midway has 11. Under the Mayor’s plan, airport establishments that currently sell liquor could be open around-the-clock. “
The most consumed beverage in the world is soda. (With, of course, Diet Coke being the most perfect and delicious beverage! I don’t drink water because that is where fish defecate.) So if soda is drunk by more people than anything else, why does the airport have to offer liquor 24 hours a day? If one wants to “enjoy to have a drink,” it does not have to contain alcohol.
In 2009, according to Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico Udall there were 10,000 cases of air rage, a figure that is 400% higher than incidents in 2000. When Senator Diane Feinstein tried to pass a bill limiting people to only two drinks apiece on airplanes she used the figure of 5,000 incidents a year. Which ever number is correct, even one incident of a drunken airline passenger is one too many. While it is never pleasant to be around a drunk, being closeted with one on an airplane is horrendous! But the Mayor wants people to “enjoy to have a drink” at all hours with no regard to the consequences. The Mayor’s proposal would give Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andalino authority to determine the number of pushcarts in each terminal, their hours of operation, their location and their design. Andolino would establish a "lottery or other neutral process" for allocating pushcart liquor licenses in the event that "demand exceeds available locations."
Remember that this is Chicago. When has there ever been a “neutral process” to determine who is going to rake in the bucks with an airport concession? I can just about guarantee that the owners of the pushcarts will all have names that are recognizable as political pals and contributors. I doubt if there will be a “Bob’s Beer” cart. Unless Robert’s last name is Vanecko. Since the Mayor’s nephew’s other investments have not worked out, maybe this one would.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

BITE ME, BIKER!

BITE ME, BIKER! In 1972 when I was an econometrician at Merrill, Lynch, for fun, we ran an economic forecasting model showing how the world would be buried under horse manure by the late 1900’s as the population grew and people used horses for transportation. Of course, the car was invented so that scenario did not happen. Planes, trains, buses and automobiles are great modes of transportation; unless you are a Luddite and opposed to industrialization. Bicycles should be driven on tree-lined quiet, suburban streets and sidewalks. I grew up in the suburbs of New York and loved riding my bicycle. The streets of a metropolitan area are not designed for, and should not be designed for, bicycles. The majority of bicyclists who traverse the congested streets of Chicago pay no attention to the traffic laws. They blithely drive through red lights, stop signs and zip in and out of marked lanes. Only someone who has experienced the fear of almost hitting a bike rider who has darted in front of their car knows the almost heart-stopping feeling of impending doom. Suburban legislators have no idea of how horrible it is in Chicago dealing with bike riders. That is evidenced by their passing SB 2951, a bicyclist safety law, and chauffeur-driven Governor Quinn signing the bill in an elaborate July 5th ceremony. Have any of these legislator’s ever been caught in a “Critical Mass” take over of the streets by bicyclists? Chicago Critical Mass bike rides start from Daley Plaza, Dearborn & Washington at 5:30 pm on the last Friday of each month, regardless of season or weather. According to their web site, “Critical Mass is a worldwide movement to promote the use of bicycles as a viable means of transportation. It has arisen in response to what many call the "car-culture": overdependence on the private automobile. It is, more than anything else, reclamation of space, a demonstration to show that the city belongs to people and not machines.” WRONG! “Machines” are good! Go to McHenry County if one wants to bike on the streets, not Cook County! The synopsis of SB2951 reads, “Amends the Illinois Vehicle Code. Provides that a person commits crowding or threatening a bicyclist when a person driving a motor vehicle recklessly drives the motor vehicle unnecessarily close to, toward, or near a bicyclist. Provides that every person convicted of crowding or threatening a bicyclist shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor if the violation does not result in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to another. Provides that if a crowding or threatening a bicyclist violation results in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to another, the person shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony. Provides that a person commits Projecting or throwing missiles at bicyclists, a Class A misdemeanor, when a person projects or throws any missile (defined as any object or substance) at or against a bicyclist. Effective immediately.” Bicyclists riding on Chicago streets pull in front of cars with no regard to the speed they are traveling I would claim that the bike rider darted in front of me, but in the Mayor Daley world of loving bicyclists nobody would believe I was innocent So if a bicyclist darts ahead of me and I hit the rider, I could be subject to a term of incarceration in a state penitentiary for between one and three years and fined up to $25,000. The Class A misdemeanor could get me up to 1 year in jail; and/or a fine of up to $2,500. I hope all of you who visited me during my recent hospital stay, will also visit me in jail after I hit a misguided, crazed biker. Attica! Attica!