Conscience Laureate

Monday, October 31, 2011


When a person first heard stories about how Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was cutting the budget of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCHR) and further, was eliminating seven of the commission’s advisory councils, it might cause that person to worry that the city was not committed to human rights.  That is how the media portrayed the story, because they did not know the truth.  Now you will hear the real story, firsthand, from a former member of the Advisory Council on Women of the Commission and former Acting Commissioner.

The CCHR is comprised of Commissioners and Advisory Councils.  The Commissioners and members of the Advisory Council are appointed to terms by the Mayor and are there on an unpaid, voluntary basis.  The paid staff consists of hearing officers, lawyers, bureaucrats and the Directors of each of the Advisory Councils.  I was appointed to the Advisory Council on Women in 2002 by Mayor Richard M. Daley.  I thought it was a great honor and I was very excited to participate.  Then I started attending Advisory Council meetings, and soon realized that absolutely nothing was ever accomplished. I felt the Council was just a sham.

Besides the Women’s Council, there are Advisory Councils on African Affairs, Arab Affairs, Immigration and Refugee Affairs, Latino Affairs, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues and Veteran’s Affairs.  Some of the other councils held forums and seminars, but really did nothing that has not already been done by the same exact type of groups at the county and state levels. The media seems to think that the Advisory Councils actually do something with hearing discrimination cases. None of the councils hear any cases. So eliminating the Advisory Council will effect absolutely nothing! Hearings are held by the Commissioners. 

When I was appointed to the Women’s Advisory Council, the Chairman of the Commission was Clarence Woods, who also held a full-time job as the head of Hull House.  I always wondered how he was able to have two full-time paid jobs -- but the amount of time city employees actually spent at work was not always carefully scrutinized under the Daley administration.

Sitting on the Advisory Council on Women was a huge frustration to me.  I hate having a title and doing nothing.  In 2006, the Chairman of the Women’s Council quit.  I decided that I wanted to become Chairman, because then maybe I could get the Council to actually accomplish something.

I met with Chairman Wood and pitched my case for the appointment.  He agreed to recommend me to Mayor Daley.  The letter is the picture on this blog.  I became acting Chairman of the Women’s Council, and that position also included becoming an Acting Commissioner.  The Commissioners were supposed to meet monthly and vote on the discrimination suits that people had filed with the Commission for adjudication.  These cases dealt mostly with sexual harassment, housing and racial discrimination.

At my first monthly Commissioners’ meeting, I was astounded to discover that the small number of cases we looked at were years and years old.  We only looked at a few during each one hour meeting so the backlog would never be erased. Most of the meeting was actually spent eating lunch.  Each of the commissioners discussed what city contracts they could share with each other’s companies while they leisurely ate those lunches, and I was appalled.

I then discovered that at many of the monthly meetings we could not even make any decisions because there weren’t enough present for a quorum.  Further, there were no monthly meetings during the summer, nor in the month of December.  I was astounded and started to complain.

As expected, my “Acting Commissioner” title was yanked and the Mayor’s office decided “not to move my appointment along.”  I was vocally exposing that the Commission was useless and existed only so the City of Chicago could look good by having a Human Rights Commission “on paper.” The city could not risk having me around. If I could not be a Commissioner or Chairman of the Women’s Council, then there was no reason to be just a member of the Women’s Council, so I resigned. I let the system beat me.

Emanuel’s proposed 2012 budget cuts the spending of the Commission by $619,322 or 19.5%t and will eliminate seven of the Commission’s advisory councils.  Soon to disappear are the Advisory Councils on Women; African Affairs; Arab affairs; Asian affairs; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues; Latino Affairs and Immigration and Refugee Affairs.   Instead, there will be two new umbrella advisory councils — one on gender and sexuality, the other on equity. The Advisory Council on Veterans Affairs would remain intact.  An Office of New Americans also would be created in the Mayor’s office.

Members of the advisory councils held a press conference last week, and according to the Sun-Times, the reason was “…to complain that the consolidation would leave surviving advisory councils with a workload so ‘overwhelming’ that it would render them ‘ineffective.’”
What a joke! The councils don’t do anything now, so how can there be an overwhelming workload for the remaining two umbrella groups if the advisory councils are eliminated?

You might say that the $619,000 the city will cut from the 2012 budget to eliminate the councils is a minuscule percentage of the overall spending by Chicago, so why is Emanuel creating a furor? Obviously his office discovered the Councils do nothing!

Kathleen Strand, a spokesperson for the city’s Office of Budget and Management said, “Upon extensive review of the city’s advisory councils, it became clear that their missions share a great deal of objectives and values.”  Yeah -- a shared objective to do nothing.  Money well saved.

Friday, October 28, 2011



The protestors at Occupy Chicago divided themselves into three color-coded groups.  Those who did not want to be arrested wore red.  Undecided members donned yellow, and green for those who were willing to remain behind and go to jail. My friend Lisa said she had some suburban friends who went.  They designated themselves as pinks—hang out for a few hours and then have lunch with Daddy in the Walnut Room at Macy’s.


I read a story on the blog of The National Law Journal about a lawsuit filed by Thomas M. Cooley Law School against an anonymous student blogger, Rockstar05, (who has since transferred) who wrote bad things about the school.

"The blogger's statements damage our reputation because today's law school applicant looks online for information about the law schools he or she may attend," said Cooley Associate Dean for Legal Affairs and General Counsel James Thelen. "As a law school that emphasizes professionalism and ethics, we are particularly harmed by false statements that are dishonest."

 The blogger is now in a court battle with his former law school, who wants to publicly reveal who he is and sue him for defamation.
What’s the worst that could happen to him?  Maybe the same sentence that Trevor Blackaan, a former legislative assistant for then-Senator Kit Bond of Missouri recently received from U.S. District Court Judge Richard Roberts.  Blackaan had taken thousands of dollars in illegal gifts from lobbyists.  Naturally, he did not declare the money on his income tax returns, so he pled guilty to filing a false return.  After he got caught back in 2008, he helped prosecutors nail others.
His sentence?  FIVE HOURS in a cell block!
I think I could do that amount of time.
This picture is amazing.  When you go to the actual picture, you can put your cursor on any individual picture and click for their bio.  You have to look closely to find me.


The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday ruled that it had settled a religious discrimination lawsuit against the Berkeley School District, in Chicago’s west suburbs.  The  district has to pay $75,000 in lost back pay, compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees to Safoorah Khan, a teacher at MacArthur Middle School who had been denied an unpaid leave of absence when she wanted to leave school for three weeks to perform hajj.  Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca required once in a Moslem’s lifetime. The settlement also requires the district to provide mandatory training on religious accommodations to all board of education members and school supervisors.
I am thoroughly confused about this.  If Khan wanted to go to Mecca, why couldn’t she go during the school’s summer vacation?  She would have two months off then.  Why go during the regular school year?  It seems like she was almost looking for trouble by demanding the time off during the regular.  Maybe she was in the green color coded group.  (Green because those were the ones looking for trouble…)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


(Local children sell lemonade to help cool down those hot summer days)

The Village of Evergreen Park  is a southwestern suburb of Chicago. The village describes itself on its website as the “small town” connected to the “big city.”  In a line that sounds like it came from a  brochure still floating around from the 1950’s, the village web site also says, “Neighbors are always there for each other, merchants know the names of their customers and our children feel safe at play.”  What a bucolic place to live!  One can almost hear the birds chirping in delight as they fly through the village surrounded by evergreen trees for them to nest in.

Evergreen Park is a small village.  As of the last census, there were 25,044 people, 8,010 households, and 8,059 families residing in the village. This village seems like a friendly, caring place to reside.

Unless of course, you happen to be a high school student who happens to require use of the “facilities” throughout the school day.

The first “bathroom rule” at Evergreen Park Community High School states, “Students are not allowed to leave the cafeteria during lunch. Students wishing to use the bathroom facilities during the lunch periods must present their ID card to the lunchroom supervisor to gain permission to use the facilities.”  Wouldn’t you assume that lunchtime would be the appropriate time to visit the loo?  That way, students don’t miss any classroom instruction.  How embarrassing that a teenager has to ask permission to relieve themselves!  Then again, what would the high school experience be like for teenagers without constant reminders that they are still children with no control over their lives (or their bladders, for that matter)?

If that rule were not bad enough, the school has now instituted a very strict bathroom policy for during school hours.  According to the SouthTown/Star newspaper Students are now limited to three washroom visits during class per semester without penalty. After that limit, they have to stay after school and make up any class time missed when answering the call of nature. Principal Bill Sanderson said the policy ensures that students won’t miss valuable class time and also prevents some from using a washroom visit as an excuse to skip class for a bit.”

Evergreen Park High is on a block schedule, which means that students attend four classes a day, each of which lasts eighty-three minutes.  The students have five minutes between classes but during the day, the only washrooms that are open are near the main office on the first floor.  Principal Sanderson claims this is a necessary security measure for the safety of students, faculty, and staff.

Embarrassingly, I have the bladder the size of a cherry pit.  I don’t attend movies or plays because I have to get up at least twice and by the time I get back there have been so many plot changes, I don’t know what is happening.  I always explain to flight attendants not to panic when they see me constantly going to the washroom—I am not plotting an attack, I just have to pee!
High school students have enough anxiety about standardized tests, homework, grades and whether or not they look cute in that navy sweater – Must they worry about when (or if!) they will obtain permission to perform a necessary bodily function?  

Evergreen High School has one famous graduate—unibomber Ted Kaczynski.  One of the lines from his manifesto is, ”Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy.”  Perhaps as he wrote that line, he was reminiscing about his alma mater.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


For the past four years, there have been continuous community meetings in Chicago on whether the plans for the new Robert H. Lurie’s Children’s Hospital could include a helipad and the safety issues involved with having helicopters flying over Lake Michigan.  As I wrote on March 9th of this year, the evil Michigan Avenue residents (with the exception of me) believed they owned the sky and did not want the heliport.  I know the real reason was that the snobby condo owners were concerned about the noise of helicopters flying by their high rise windows.  I am happy to report that last week, the children won, and the wealthy condo owners lost when the Illinois Department of Transportation approved the heliport.

What I have found ludicrous about the fight is that it’s even possible that residents would think that a heliport would be approved if major safety studies had not been done. Children's Memorial Hospital, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the City of Chicago and a slew of aviation experts did extensive studies on the safety of the heliportThey all concluded that the hospital’s heliport plans EXCEED any safety requirement for the operation of a heliport. This video  clearly explains how all safety issues had been resolved, but the wicked residents persisted in their battle.

If safety were an issue for the helicopter flights, why did the city allow helicopters to swoop up and down Michigan Avenue during the shooting of the Transformers movie?  That certainly had to have been a lot more dangerous than helicopters coming in from the direction of Lake Michigan and landing on the hospital roof.

The importance of the helipad was clearly explained by hospital:

(1)  The heliport will be used to receive critically ill and injured children who cannot be transported by ground transportation without threat to the life or condition, and for time-critical organ transplantation.

(2)  Heliport transports to the future rooftop heliport will be used for pediatric treatment of Children’s Memorial patients only.

(3)  Annually, an average of 73 seriously ill or injured children and five organs for life-saving transplantation are transported by helicopter to our Lincoln Park location

(4)  Children are only brought from other hospitals – never from the scene of accidents.

(5) Doctors have concluded that using an off-site heliport could result in serious harm to the child being transported because of the additional time and physical movement of the medically fragile child.

The statement giving the thumbs up for the helipad issued by Dr. Susan Shea, IDOT Director of Aviation said, “After a comprehensive review, I am confident that the application submitted by Ann & Robert H. Lurie’s Children’s Hospital meets or exceeds all legal and safety requirements needed for a certificate of approval from the State of Illinois.”  Since most government officials like to pussyfoot around to cover their ass later on, Shea’s statement of “confidence” is refreshing.

The approval for the heliport was opposed by the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR), the non-profit community group with vocal hatred of the heliport. The group has said they planned to appeal the approval.

I said in one of the community hearings about the helipad, “Once the heliport is built, if I hear the noise of a helicopter, it means the life of a child is being saved.”  Nothing else really matters.

Monday, October 24, 2011


While I have not been officially diagnosed with Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (also referred to as Adult ADHD), I do get distracted very easily.  I took an ADHD quiz on PsychCentral.com while doing research for this posting and I scored 93.  The report said, “It is highly likely that you are presently suffering from adult attention deficit disorder.”  But then I got distracted by all the other psychological tests and quizzes on the site and did not care anymore about the ADHD quiz. 

It actually took me three days to write this blog because “other stuff” kept coming up.  A British actress played me in this reenactment of how my days seem to flow.  Take a break and watch it.

Distracted driving became a big problem when cell phone use in cars became as common as listening to the radio.  Last November I wrote  about how “United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is on a rampage to ban all cell phone use while driving. If that is not enough, he even wants passengers to be prevented from making a call. He is lobbying for devices to be installed in cars that will disable cell phone usage. LaHood has called distracted driving an “epidemic” and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that about 5,000 people a year die as a result of it.”

A recent Chicago Tribune article pointed out that,Research suggests that distracted drivers are involved in 80 percent of collisions or near-crashes, and governments big and small increasingly are addressing the concern by restricting cell phone use and other negligent conduct behind the wheel.”

Oak Park, IL is looking to take the ban on talking and texting while driving to another level, as they discuss a potential village ordinance to ban eating while driving.

The Tribune story quoted Oak Park village trustee Colette Lueck, who wants to ban drinking, eating or applying makeup while operating a motor vehicle. "To me, this is an issue of public safety," she said. "This isn't government overreach; this is the government protecting people. Distracted driving puts everyone on the road in danger."

Trustee Ray Johnson supports a texting ban, but he is worried about issuing tickets for other types of distractions. "If you take it to the extreme, you could say having kids in the car is a distraction," he said. "But what are you going to do? Some people have to have kids in the car."

Years ago, car cell phones used to be mounted on the dashboard of one’s car.  I had two phones in my car because I did a lot of driving and needed to both make and receive calls.  One day, Thom Karmik, then-producer for news anchor Walter Jacobson, came with me on a visit to Hollywood Casino in Aurora, IL, a 45 mile drive from downtown Chicago.   I had both phones going, I was smoking, drinking a Diet Coke and the car was a stick shift model.  Thom still tells the story 15 years later.  It was one of the most terrifying rides in his life.

Now that is distracted driving!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


In June, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and School Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that the four-year graduation rate for New York City Public Schools reached an all-time high of 65.1% in 2010. Two quotes from the New York City Department of Education website have particular relevance in light of another story that I will reveal. 

(1)  “For the thousands of students who graduated in 2010, a large majority of them now in college, today is a tribute to their hard work and sacrifice,” said Chancellor Walcott. “It’s also a testament to the support provided by their teachers, principals, and families – and to the new school models that gave students attention and guidance they might not have otherwise received.”

(2)  “These new high school graduation rates are proof positive that the reforms we’ve adopted and the investments we’ve made are paying off in a big way,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “I’m proud of our students, teachers, principals and parents for achieving this all-time high graduation rate.”

Chancellor Walcott lauded the “majority of students” who are enrolled in college.  Guess what?  They are not prepared for college. In fact, at City University of New York community colleges, 74% of students last fall required extra help before starting basic college-level work. 

So if we start with a class of 100 students with a 65% graduate rate, and of those, 75% need remedial work before they can hope to function even at the community college education level, how many students are really prepared for a higher education?  Only 17 out of the original 100!  How can New York be proud about that?

Mayor Bloomberg bragged that the higher graduation rates “are proof positive that the reforms we’ve adopted and the investments we’ve made are paying off in a big way.”  Maybe not such a good investment was made at Washington Irving High School.  It received $6 million in extra funds to undergo a “transformation.”

The New York Post revealed last week that school administrators approved new grading policies that turn failing grades into passing ones!

The New York Post story said:

“The policies -- which one expert blasted as ‘approved cheating’ -- are spelled out in documents obtained by The Post, including the 2011-12 staff handbook and minutes of a meeting last October between Principal Bernardo Ascona and assistant principals who make up the school’s Panel for Academic Success.

“Excerpts from the minutes of a meeting of Washington Irving HS's 'academic success' panel: ‘A final marking period course grade of 60 to 64...will be changed automatically to a 65."

Under the rules:
* Students who get failing scores of 50 to 55 in class will “automatically” get 15 points for a passing 65 to 70 grade if they pass a Regents exam. Kids who score a minimum score of 65 on the Regents “should receive a passing grade” in the class. (The same practice forced a Bronx principal to resign.)

* A final grade of 60 to 64 “will be changed automatically” to a passing 65.

* Students who fail a class ‘will be assigned ... a work product not to exceed five pages” or ‘alternative project.’ Livid teachers say pupils who cut class or blew off studying get a ‘packet’ of work or take an online multiple-choice ‘credit recovery program.”

The school is cheating the students by giving them passing grades when they have not learned the material.  Last year, only 5% of seniors at Washington Irving were considered “college or career ready” based on their Regents exams.”

City-wide, 17 out of 100 are prepared.  At Washington Irving, 5 out of 100 are career or college ready.  The New York City Department of Education can “gin up” the numbers however they want to, but the facts still are that these students are not prepared for life.  Bloomberg must be drinking quite a few martinis to believe otherwise.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lights Out!

One fun aspect of writing this blog is the tremendous knowledge I gain by carefully reading newspapers and scouring the Internet looking for interesting stories to expand and share.  So when I saw a story in the Chicago Tribune  about the energy-saving street lights on Lake Shore Drive, I thought, “Didn’t I write about that already?”  I discovered I did, but not with the latest twist in the story.

On August 10th, I wrote a blog, "A Glowing Recommendation," about how some streets in Chicago were getting new metal-halide street lights that will glow white instead of yellow.  

The Sun-Times story in August that I wrote about said, So far, about 2,300 lights along Lake Shore Drive from 71st Street to Hollywood Avenue, nearly 3,000 lights along Western Avenue from Howard Street to 119th Street and about 300 miles of alleyways across the city are scheduled for replacement.” 

What I enjoyed about writing the street-light story was figuring out how many street lights were going to be installed in the 300 miles of alleyways if we knew that there were 3,000 in the distance from 71st to Hollywood Avenue.  I ended the posting by commenting, “Luckily, federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy is paying for the new lights and Chicago will save about $2 million a year in electricity costs.  No scandal here, just some interesting mathematical facts!

I was wrong!  It turns out there IS a scandal of sorts!  Ten percent of the lights don’t work and the city is stuck paying the repair bill!

The Tribune reported  that the streetlight installer’s $1,162,624 contract was paid with federal stimulus money. "All repair and maintenance are paid for by the contractor," CDOT spokesman Brian Steele said early last week. "The city does not accept responsibility for a new fixture until we inspect each installation."

Steele was wrong!  Only issues with the new fixture heads are the contractor's responsibility.  As to the problems with the street lights, “The contractor installing the new streetlights found deficiencies, including faulty connections leading from the existing wiring to the poles, as well as bad circuitry, officials said. They added that they cannot put a price on the fixes until they figure out the problem's extent.”  There is nothing wrong with the fixtures themselves except the existing infrastructure of the city’s electrical wiring.

So while Chicago was fortunate to receive the energy-efficient street lights complimentary from the federal government, where is the money going to come from to make the repairs?   The city should have looked this gift horse in the mouth and seen its teeth were yellow.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I am essentially a selfish, sanctimonious person.  I want my life to be as comfortable as possible, and damn if “preserving” the environment gets in the way.  Because I have no progeny, I really don’t care about the next generation when it comes to things like recycling (which is just a sham) or solar energy.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, solar energy was first put to use way back in the 1830’s when British astronomer John Herschel “used a solar thermal collector box (a device that absorbs sunlight to collect heat) to cook food during an expedition to Africa.”   So if solar energy and renewable energy sources are so fabulous, how come Americans only supplied about 8% of their energy needs with those sources in 2009?  Because solar energy is VERY expensive!

According to a 2009 Energy Information Administration study, “While solar energy is inherently free, the cost of capturing it and turning it into electricity makes it two to three times more expensive than electricity from coal, natural gas or nuclear fuel. Only wind turbines built offshore are more expensive.”

I read through the 317 page report that the Department of Energy issued this past April  on state electricity profiles, and while it was very boring, I discovered that in Illinois we pay an average retail price of 9.08 cents/kWh (cents per kilowatt hour), while our neighboring alphabetical state Idaho only pays 6.51 cents/kWh.  Just an interesting fact to remember when stories appear about potential electrical rate hikes.  If the electricity companies in Idaho can supply product for so much less than in Illinois, maybe Illinois should get a price reduction, not an increase.

This ties into a solar energy story that the Better Government Association (BGA) recently released that was printed in the Sun-Times According to the story, “In March 2004, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley announced a deal that promised to save taxpayer money, reduce natural gas consumption and bring “green” jobs to Chicago.”   The report had a lot of information that discussed how seven years later, the deal had turned sour.  The initiative has now been suspended.  But only one section of the story really caught my eye, and that was about financial details that did not seem to make sense.

One paragraph read, “The city agreed to spend up to $5 million on the eco-friendly systems, and install them on more than 100 public buildings, such as firehouses and police stations, yielding an estimated $7 million in energy savings over 30 years.”  Study the sentence carefully--the city was spending $5 million to save $7 million over 30 years.  That makes no fiscal sense at all!  The city would not actually be “saving” $2 million.  It would be losing millions.  Think about it.  When you adjust for inflation, the difference of what $5 million is worth in 2004 versus what $7 million is worth over a 30 year period, it becomes clear that this plan is a bust!  Also, at least some accountant finally realized that the cost of installation of the solar panels is so high, it would wipe out any savings the city would recoup on its natural gas bills.  Therefore, they ended the program.

I am all for progress, but if 180 years have gone by since the first recorded capturing of solar energy, and only 8% of the country’s needs are supplied by renewable sources, just give up on the idea already!  Fossil fuels!  I am all for the dinosaur.

Monday, October 17, 2011


One of the ways that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is cutting spending by the City of Chicago is by “downsizing” city government.  In everyday English, this translates to firing 517 city employees.  Because there are fewer employees, the portion of the budget  that deals with salaries and benefits was adjusted down from what it was in the previous year.  But how accurate is the adjustment?

If you remember, we learned in Emanuel’s transition plan  that I wrote about (“Health care costs for city employees are growing far faster than the rate of inflation and outstripping growth of Chicago’s revenue. In 2011, taxpayers will spend nearly $500 million on health care costs for city employees, their families, and retirees.  In Chicago, just 4% of government employees generate more than 60% of the City’s health care costs.”

Maybe taxpayers will luck out and the people fired are part of that 4% set of employees that costs taxpayers 60% of the health care expenditures.  I wonder if anyone in the budget department has analyzed that.  Perhaps the city is saving more money than they anticipated!

One of Emanuel’s $25 million revenue generating ideas is to sell sponsorship and advertising rights on recycling carts, garbage trucks, snow plows, light boxes and bridge houses.  Old idea that just doesn’t work.  Let me remind you of their failure.

I wrote a blog on July 28,2010, “Bridging the Budget Gap, about how the Chicago City Council had “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.’”

Then on January 12, 2011, I wrote “Bridging the Budget Gap Part 2” about how Fresh Pickle Media’s pitching of selling bridge advertising did not come anywhere close to producing the revenue that was promised.

I wrote, “We were told back in July that the city could expect to net $10.5 million dollars because each bridge would gross $1 million for the four-month-period at each of the 14 decorated bridges. WRONG! According to the Sun-Times, the brochure lists the most expensive bridge at $140,000/month or a total cost of $560,000.

 Wait! We were told $1 million per location. Wabash and State Street bridges are going for $280,000 each.  So if the most expensive bridge costs $560,000 and the other 13 bridges cost $280,000 each that is a gross of $4,200,000 or a net to the city of $3,150,000. The last time I checked $3,150,000 is not $10,500,000! Where will the net difference of $7,350,000 that the ad agency promised when they got the deal come from?  I guess they are in a bit of a pickle!”

It is now 14 months since the bridge house advertising plan got raised.  Have you seen any ads on the bridge houses?  NO!

I wrote about Emanuel’s idea of garbage truck advertising on January 11, 2011  and after running the numbers concluded that, “Maybe Right Guard deodorant will put something up, but what company wants their ads on a garbage truck? Smells like a fishy plan to me.”

The 2012 budget of Emanuel has some good ideas and some bad ones.  It’s his first try at this, so I will cut him some slack.  If he just had his fiscal gurus people follow my blog, maybe they would understand the numbers a bit better.  But as a Jonathan Swift epigraph ("Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting) said, "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."  Sometimes I just feel that’s the way it is because nobody is ever listening to me!

Friday, October 14, 2011


Two years ago, I wrote about how I did not understand why people ran in marathons.   I still feel the same way and because the Chicago Marathon was last weekend, it was the perfect opportunity to reflect and add new insights.

In the previous blog I wrote:

 (1) “Chicago held its annual marathon this past weekend.  An event that caused miles of street closures, bus lane changes and inconvenienced more people than those who participated.“ 

 My sentiment still holds true.  There were 45,000 registered runners, and the course was lined with an estimated one million spectators. Could someone please explain to me what there is to see at the marathon besides a throng of people running by you panting feverishly?  At least at a parade, there are colorful floats!
(2) “The derivation of the word ‘marathon’ as a race comes from the legend of  Pheidippides, a Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon. It is claimed that he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming ‘We have won,’ before collapsing and dying.  It was not until May 1921 that the International Amateur Athletic Federation set the standard distance at 26 miles 385 yards.

I just don't understand why people want to participate in an event that originated because somebody died from the effort of doing the exact same thing!”

This statement was oddly prophetic.  Sadly, this year, a 35 year-old firefighter from GreensboroN.C., collapsed 500 yards from the finish line and died an hour and 45 minutes later at  Mercy Hospital.  This man drove 729 miles to participate in an event that was just over 26 miles long.  His wife and brother accompanied him on his trip to Chicago, and now, they will have a casket to accompany them back to North Carolina.  How tragic. 

During the June Half Marathon in Chicago, Zachary Gregory, a 22 year-old Wrigleyville resident and licensed physical therapist, collapsed and later died at the University of Chicago Medical Center.  Both of those men were young and physically fit, but the human body cannot take the torture of a marathon without repercussions.

(3)   I researched the physical toll a marathon takes on the human body and wrote, “According to Men’s Health magazine, researchers have identified a number of physical effects of running a marathon, including changes in [the] immune system and kidney function.  Dr. Arthur Siege, M.D., director of internal medicine at Harvard's McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, says , ‘The brunt of the damage falls exactly where you'd expect: on your muscles. As the miles pass, skeletal muscles stiffen and leak injury-signaling enzymes into the blood.’
He continued, “Our [bodies don’t] know whether [we’ve] run a marathon... or been hit by a truck. This is why, as you go deeper into the race, your body reacts to injury by mounting an emergency-repair response. Your adrenal glands and brain produce the stress hormones cortisol and vasopressin; your damaged muscles churn out proteins called cytokines, which trigger your liver to start producing C-reactive protein.’
Why does anyone want to put their body through such stress?
(4)  In addition, “A 2006 Circulation study, led by Dr. Malissa Wood, M.D., studied ultrasounds and blood tests of 60  marathon finishers.  The researchers found that after the race, some runners' hearts experienced difficulty refilling chambers. The researchers also noticed abnormalities in how blood was pumped from the right side of the heart to the lungs.”

Well that certainly does not sound like fun!  Is it worth risking one’s life and health just to be able to say you finished the race?
 (5)  How about this?  “Blisters on the feet and toes become painful after the race is over. Some runners may experience toenails which turn black and subsequently detach from the toe. This is from the toenails being too long (or the shoes being too tight) and repeatedly impacting on the front of the shoe.”
 Open-toed Manolo Blahnik shoes don’t look very pretty when only four toenails are in evidence!

(6)  Final reminder on why not to run.  “James Fixx was the author of the 1977 best-selling book, The Complete Book of Running, that is credited with helping start America's fitness revolution; popularizing the sport of running and demonstrating the health benefits of regular jogging. He died at the age of 52 of a heart attack just after his regular daily run.

While I “just don’t get it,” Fixx got it and it killed him.