URBAN PHILOSOPHER
Conscience Laureate

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Illinois' New Laws for 2012



Ignorantia juris non excusat is the Latin phrase loosely translated as ignorance of the law is no excuse.  It is a legal principle that just because someone is not aware of what the law is they cannot escape liability for violating said law merely because they were unaware of its content.  Illinois has more than 200 new laws taking effect as of January 1st, so by pleading, “Δεν ήξερα, ότι η ελληνική μου,”  or “I did not know, it’s Greek to me,” will not save you from punishment.

State Senator Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) put out a 35 page press release listing all of the new laws.  I picked out some of my favorites and have written comments about them.


Seat Belts (HB 219/PA 97-0016): Requires adult passengers in the back seat of a vehicle to wear a seat belt, and also requires those 18 and younger riding in a taxi cab for school-related purposes to wear a seat belt.   Luckily I have a two-seater car and I always ride shot gun as passenger, so this law does not affect me while I am driving.  While I do ride in the back seats of taxi cabs, taxis were exempted from the law of requiring the wearing of a seat belt in the back for adults! I do not understand the second part about those 18 and younger being required to wear a seat belt in a cab if they are involved in a school activity.  Why should it matter what activity they are doing?  If a seat belt is required, it should be required whatever one is doing.  The reason that Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, who was a sponsor of the bill, gave for exempting cabs, “A lot of times in taxi cabs, the seat belts are not maintained properly and it's hard to find them. I know I have trouble myself digging down to try to find them sometimes."  So shouldn’t the law require that cabs maintain the seat belts instead of excusing them for being sloppy? 


Closed Meetings (HB 1277/PA 97-0318): Creates an exemption in the Open Meetings Act to allow public bodies to hold closed meetings with auditors or financial committees, if the meeting was called to discuss suspected or potential fraud, or internal control weaknesses. It seems to me that one of the important reasons for the Open Meetings Act was so that shenanigans could not occur behind closed doors.  Fraud and internal control weaknesses are two issues that definitely should be public! I do not understand the reasoning for this law.


Disability Definition (HB 3010/PA 97-0410): Includes mental, psychological, or developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, in the portion of the Human Rights Act that prohibits discrimination in public accommodations."  If I am a person who has a mental or psychological disorder that causes me to fear elevators and enclosed stairwells, does that mean that a high-rise building would have to install a 50 story escalator to accommodate me?  I understand autism and developmental disabilities, but the mental part?  I guess I am too crazy to understand it.


Hunting Fees for Terminally Ill Individuals (HB 2861/PA 97-0215): Waives hunting and fishing fees for terminally ill individuals and allows terminally ill youth to hunt outside of an established season if approved by the Director of Department of Natural Resources.    If the state wants to do something nice for terminally ill Individuals why stop at free hunting and fishing licenses?  Why not throw in free mass- transit also?  I also don’t understand why someone who id terminally ill is necessarily too poor to pay for a license.  Poverty and illness are not related issues.


Jury Duty (HB 1317/PA 97-0436): Exempts people who have a total and permanent disability from serving on jury duty. And Jury Selection (HB 2066/PA 97-0034): Includes claimants for unemployment insurance in the lists used to create jury selection pools.  I don’t understand why if someone has a permanent disability they cannot sit on a jury?  Why is someone who is wheelchair bound not mentally capable of serving? Unemployed people of course should have to serve jury duty; they have nothing else to do.  I wonder why the list of claimants was exempted to start with?


Universal Fare Pass (HB 2874/PA 97-0271): Requires the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) to develop and make available to riders 65 and older a universal fare pass that can be used on all public transportation funded by the RTA. Why can’t people of any age buy a universal transit pass?  I believe because I am less than 65 years of age I am being discriminated against.  Where is the law to protect me? I guess I will have to wait until 2013 to try to get that one passed!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

ECONOMIC JUSTICE COMES TO ILLINOIS PART 2



During the past year I have written many times of my frustration about how Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has used various economic development programs to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at large corporations that threaten to move away.  The amounts of money he was giving seemed to have no correlation with what the companies were promising to do in return.  Because of this, the Governor is not going to like the new legislation proposed by State Rep. Jack Franks ( D-Marengo) calling for  an oversight committee to give approval before Quinn can give away the money.

First some background:

On May 9th I wrote a blog asking if any economists in Illinois knew how to do math because the financial incentives being awarded were outrageous. I wrote,“Sometimes I think I am the only person in the State of Illinois who knows how to add, subtract and divide.  The accountants that work for The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the group that administers the new Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credit program that the Governor signed into law recently must be using an abacus because they obviously have no clue.  I must imagine that they think they are playing with Monopoly money and not the real money of the taxpayers in Illinois when it comes to the latest deal for Continental Tires the Americas (CTA).”

On June 14th I wrote about the money being given to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and laid out their timeline of greed. 

On June 24th, I wrote about the deal that Motorola Mobility had gotten
and quoted Rep. Franks when he called the deal “outrageous” and said that all future economic and financial deals needed to be made public before they are signed off by the Governor. “If citizens knew that (Motorola Mobility) could fire 790 people and still get the tax credits, I don't think anyone would stand for that." he said at the time.

Current Plans:
State Rep. Jack Franks in Springfield

Franks doesn’t want the people of Illinois to have to accept the vast amounts of blackmail money the Governor has been paying out with little to no oversight, transparency or opportunity for public comment.  His answer?  Last week Franks filed legislation to create the Economic Incentive Committee within the Illinois Department of Revenue (DOR) to approve agreements entered into under the Economic Development for a Growing Economy Tax Credit (EDGE.)

“Creating and retaining jobs is vital to Illinois’ long-term economic success, but we must question whether offering selective tax breaks, business-by-business, are ultimately worthwhile investments for the taxpayers,” Franks said.

The five member committee will be charged with approving or denying an agreement within 60 days of it being submitted and will post the terms of each agreement online. The committee’s members must be business owners or have expertise in economic development. House Bill 3934 would give the committee final approval authority before EDGE incentives are committed.

“We have allowed a business tax scheme that is politically corrupting and a short-sighted economic development strategy,” continued Franks. “It is time to move these secretive negotiations from the Governor’s office into the open – for the benefit of taxpayers and the business community alike.”

EIC now can boss EDGE around, so finally the citizens of Illinois will get the edge in this bet.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

EVERYBODY IS LAZY!! (But I don’t mean you!)



Last week, under an agreement with labor unions, Volkswagen agreed to deactivate e-mails on German staff Blackberry devices during out of office hours.  This decision will affect 1,154 workers at the company's six plants in Germany.  The e-mail system will be disabled from half an hour before the start of work and half an hour after the end of work.  I think if the employees are important enough to be issued company-owned Blackberrrys, they should be prepared to use them 24 hours a day.

John Tschohl author of “Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service,” summed it up perfectly when he said in response to the shut-down, “What they should do is announce to their customers: 'We only work business hours and after that we have no interest in communicating with you. If you have a problem, go to our competition.'" 

Every story on this subject used the statistic that employee burn-out in Germany is blamed for almost 10 million sick days a year.  That number sounds large until you compare that to the population of Germany which is almost 82 million.  If only half of that population, 41 million, were employed (throw out babies, sick and elderly) that equals ONE QUARTER of a day per person for this supposed employee burn-out!  What is the big deal about that?  Employees probably LIE about taking a sick day at least twice a year—that would mean a loss of 82 million days due to lying.  More productivity would come from having lie detector tests than shutting off e-mails.

Reuters  reported that, “German IT body Bitkom published a study this year showing that 88 percent of German workers are reachable for clients, colleagues and bosses by e-mail or mobile phone outside of working hours, compared with only 73 percent two years ago.”  So that is bad because why?

I have owned a cell phone since they were the size of huge briefcases and probably weighed twenty pounds to lug around.  I have had an AOL e-mail address for twenty years.  I want to be reachable and those who don’t are just plain lazy!

People should be happy they have a job instead of complaining about 24/7 accessibility.  If one doesn’t want to be reached on vacations or weekends, take a job where the workload does not back up if you are not around.  But if one has a position where one has to be available, stop complaining!

In 1999, DATELINE NBC profiled me as one of the hardest, fastest working people in the country.  During the interview, reporter Rob Stafford asked me if I ever took vacations.  I said, “No.”  My theory was if one takes a vacation to do nothing then there would be nothing to do.  What fun would that be?

By the way, with the exception of my sister and Michael Harkavy, the title of this blog does refer to you!

                                       

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WHEN IS A SCHOOL NOT A SCHOOL?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word, “school” as a noun is defined as “an organization that provides instruction.”  At dictionary.com, the word is defined as “an institution for educating children.”  Likely, we all thought we knew what a school was, but a recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling has changed the definition of school as we know it.

Illinois statute720 ILCS 570/407(b)(2)  has a section that makes Delivery of a Controlled Substance a Class 1 felony if it is committed within 1,000 feet of a school. So exactly what constitutes a “school” is very important for drug dealers to know.

The facts of the case I am writing about are not in dispute. On January 28, 2007, an undercover officer approached Anthony Young where he was standing on the sidewalk at 4958 West Augusta Boulevard in Chicago, and bought some heroin from him. The sale occurred within approximately 443 feet from the High Mountain Church and Preschool.

A jury found Young guilty of delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school.  An Illinois Appellate Court reduced the conviction to delivery of a controlled substance, finding that a preschool is not a “school” within the meaning of section 407(b)(2) of the Act.  Did the Supreme Court agree?

According to a Supreme Court opinion last week, “Young was charged with one count of delivery of a controlled substance (720 ILCS 570/401(d) (West 2008)) and one count of delivery of a controlled substance within
1,000 feet of the real property comprising any school (720 ILCS 570/407(b)(2) (West 2008)). Prior to trial, in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude evidence of the location of the preschool, arguing that a preschool is not a ‘school’ within the meaning of section 407(b)(2) of the Act.”

So is a preschool a school?  Not in Illinois!  The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed a 20-year old Appellate Court ruling (People v. Goldstein, 204 Ill. App.3de 1041 (1990)) that the definition of “school” is unclear in the law and that “school” meant "any public or private elementary or secondary school, community college, college or university."  No mention of preschool!

The Illinois Supreme Court agreed with the Appellate Court and said that if the legislature had wanted preschool to be defined as a school, they would have expanded the definition.
Great loophole for Anthony Young -- but not for other, future offenders.  I have spoken to State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) about amending the law.  He agrees that it needs to be fixed and will create a definition of “school” that is so tight it will include a group of fish.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ecomomic Opportunity Lost


An “economic opportunity lost” is when someone COULD have earned money from something, but circumstances or a faulty business decision caused him to lose the chance.  There are currently two examples of this economic phenomenon happening now between Chicago Parking Meters LLC, the company that now controls the city’s parking meters, and the City of Chicago.

First Economic Opportunity Lost

In December 2008, the City of Chicago signed a lease with a fund, managed by Morgan Stanley, securing the right to operate the city’s 36,000 parking meters.  The city received $1.6 billion as immediate payment and Parking Meters LLC held the rights to operate, maintain and retain all of the revenues derived from the city's parking meters until the year 2083.

Giving Chicago all that money would be a good thing, if the city had invested it, but all of it was spent within three years.   To make taxpayers in Chicago cry even more, they learned the “true value” of the deal when data published by Bloomberg News on August 8, 2010 showed that “Morgan Stanley, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Allianz Capital Partners may earn a profit of $9.58 billion before interest, taxes and depreciation, according to documents for a $500 million private note sale by their Chicago Parking Meters LLC venture. That is equivalent to 80 cents per dollar of projected revenue.”
So the City of Chicago got $1.6 billion on a deal that will profit Morgan Stanley $9.58 billion.  If it had not leased the meters, it would have profited billions of dollars.  That is a major economic opportunity lost.

Second Economic Opportunity Lost

Illinois state law allows disabled people to park free all day in metered spots.  That benefit dates back to when public transportation wasn’t handicapped-accessible, and meters had to be coin-fed.  I could not find the actual law, but I know that is the history.

Even though the condition that created the law no longer exists, it has never been changed.  Anyone with a disability placard or plate gets to park for free at any metered spot in Chicago.

The Sun-Times recently did an investigation into the misuse of handicap placards which I wrote about on November 22nd.


The Sun-Times reported, “With the help of a retired Chicago Police Department lieutenant, the newspaper did regular spot checks in the South Loop and elsewhere in the city. In September and October, those checks found as many as 60 cars with handicap placards or handicap license plates were parking for free each day in the area bounded by Roosevelt Road and Van Buren Street, and Des Plaines Street and Canal Street.”

The parking meter lease allows Chicago Parking LLC to recover revenue lost by people parking for free.  Chicago Parking LLC used a formula outlined in the deal (I read through the 521 pages and could not find the exact section that dealt with this) and calculated that there was $17.9 million worth of free disability parking in the last year.  The formula for reimbursement includes that Chicago Parking LLC has to absorb part of the lost revenue, but Chicago owes $13.5 million of the total.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is disputing the bill, and the city has not paid anything yet. Mayoral spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said that the company’s audit “illustrates that the city has long been losing parking revenue as a result of disabled-parking cheating.”

Not only has Chicago lost billions of dollars in revenue by selling off the parking meters, the taxpayers are now being billed to pay for the free parking consumed by those with handicap placards, which is the second economic opportunity lost.

CONCLUSION
I really have nothing new to conclude.  We all know the parking meter lease deal stinks and now we discover it stinks even more.  Dead fish never start to smell better.



Monday, December 19, 2011

DECEMBER STORIES 2011



DRIVING WHILE DISTRACTED




Of the reported crashes in 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said   32% were in some way related to alcohol.  The National Highway Safety Council put that number at 10,228 people   who died in a vehicular accident because at least one of the parties behind the wheel felt that satisfying his urge for potent potables was more important than being alive.   The Center for Disease Control puts the number of alcoholic liver deaths at 14,406 and the number of alcohol-induced deaths, excluding accidents and homicides, comes to 23,199. Those categories total 47,833 deaths in one year that were caused in some way by imbibing spirits.  But is the National Transportation Safety Board recommending a return to prohibition?  No. They are calling for a national ban on cell phone use while driving.
                         
If the NTSB is calling for a cell phone ban, a person could assume that cell phone usage while driving produces more deaths than alcohol does.  However, the NTSB puts that figure at approximately 3,000 deaths.

Ray LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, has made it clear that he hates distracted driving.  I wonder why he doesn’t hate alcohol as much when vehicular deaths in that category are so much higher?  Maybe he has nobody to call, but likes his wine.  (I realize this is an unwarranted low-blow against Secretary LaHood, but it was a good line and I wanted to use it!)


REAL VS. FAKE


On November 7th, I wrote a blog
about how politicians in Cook County and Chicago want to lower the penalties for smoking marijuana.  Some have even called for totally halting arrests for low level possession.  These guys don’t think pot is any big deal.

Yet, these same politicians lauded that the sale of synthetic marijuana recently became illegal in Chicago.  They were thrilled to announce that a State of Illinois law will make it a felony to sell or possess fake pot takes effect on January 1, 2012.

Understand what this means—a person commits a felony if they have fake marijuana on them, but won’t get arrested for the real stuff.  I swear I am not making this up. Were the politicians high on something when they made these diametrically opposed decisions?

I AM AN ADDICT


Hi, my name is Kathy and I am a food-a-holic.  I also am addicted to Diet Coke (I tried giving up Diet Coke when my friend John Rosales left the Coca Cola corporation, but I could not stop) and cigarettes.  It is important for me to reveal this because if I ever get convicted of a federal crime, I can shave time off my sentence by entering a rehabilitation program.  Since a person has to have a proven history of substance abuse within a year of her arrest, it was important for me to get this on the record, “just in case.”

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is playing the “addiction card” to get his 14 year prison sentence reduced, and amazingly, Judge James Zagel is buying what Blago is selling.  The Judge is recommending a prison rehab program for the disgraced former governor, even though there has been no indication of abuse problems in the past.

Insiders claim that Blago now drinks himself to sleep.  Well, who wouldn’t after such a conviction and sentence?

Still, the real question is … How will he get along without his cell phone in prison? We all know he liked to make a lot of phone calls.  In fact, recordings of those calls are what did him in.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I HAVE TOLD YOU SO ONE MILLION TIMES!!



I have written many, many times about how mathematically Groupon and other companies with the same type of deals cannot sustain the momentum.  In fact, I would venture to guess I was the first person two years ago to point how this type of Ponzi pyramid scheme will eventually implode.  People scoffed at me until the true financials were revealed for Groupon and it was shown how they are hundreds of millions of dollars in the red.  Now finally a restaurant has admitted that they have closed their doors because of being inundated by these types of coupons.

In the past, I have shown mathematically how companies cannot possibly fiscally survive by offering these deals.  Because these daily deals only give the company back 25 cents on the dollar, every person who redeems a coupon has to come back many times, paying full price, just for the company to hit the break even point.

I will explain one more time very simply how it works:

$10 deal is offered is for $5.00
Restaurant gets $2.50 of the purchase price and deal company gets $2.50.

(1) Coupon customer walks in and buys $10 worth of food.
Restaurant is negative $7.50

(2)  Full paying customer walks in and buys $10 worth of food.
Typically a restaurant profits 10%, so it pockets $1 profit.
            
(3)  Do you now see how the restaurant needs almost 8 full paying customers to make up for the loss on just one deal?

Drew Baker, owner of Drew’s Eatery, in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago, closed his restaurant last week saying his business was destroyed by daily deals like Groupon and Living Social.

A Sun-Times story,quoted Baker as saying, “The deals bring a lot of promise of bringing in new customers.  It seems like it’s where marketing money should be spent.”

The story continued with,” The biggest hurdle to making money from the daily deals was persuading coupon customers to come back and spend full price,” said Baker.  Proof that he never read my blog is his statement, “If I had figured out the math, I would never have signed the paperwork.”

Baker had already spent $40,000 of his own money on his vegan hot-dog eatery, and decided he couldn’t continue to go further into the hole.

I feel sorry for Drew’s Eatery and every other company that signs up for these deals.  They are great for consumers yet impossible to fulfill successfully by the company.  Just do the math.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I SWEAR I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!!




 
When I first heard that the City of Chicago was awarded a grant  by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to  bring awareness to pedestrian safety education, I thought it was great because Chicago has the most ignorant pedestrians in the world!  I have written a number of times how pedestrians pay no attention to the cross walk signs and how frustrating it is when vehicular traffic gets backed up because of this ineptitude. Then I heard how the money was being spent.  And now feel Chicago not only has the stupidest pedestrians but the stupidest bureaucrats!
  
According to the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) :

“The Pedestrian Safety Campaign from the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is installing crossing flags at 10 uncontrolled intersections near schools, senior centers and hospitals throughout the city. The temporary, inexpensive flags are designed to make pedestrians more visible to motorists and raise awareness of the safety needs of the most vulnerable users of the public way.”

The way the program works is that plastic cylinders, with red flags in them,  are installed on sign posts on both sides of an intersection. Pedestrians are supposed to grab a flag, wave it in the air while they are crossing the street and then place the flag on the opposite side of the intersection for another pedestrian to use.

During the installation “ceremonies” of the cylinders, CDOT officials were on hand to teach pedestrians how to use the flags.  That probably took hours to explain-- how to take a flag, cross the street and put the flag on the other side.  Another example of tax payer money at hard work!

Ten intersections have received the flags:

71st and Spaulding, near Tarkington Elementary School; 
Central and Walton, near Brunson Elementary School; 
Belmont and Kilpatrick, near a senior housing building;
93rd and Oglesby, near Trinity Hospital; 
l63rd and Talman, near a senior center;
50th and Cottage Grove, near Hales Franciscan High School; 
Devon and Francisco, near the Croatian Cultural Center;
64th and Western, near Claremont Academy; 
79th and Throop, near a senior housing building; 
Elston, Grace and Bernard, near Murphy Elementary School.

I can hazard a guess that within 15 minutes of the red flags being put into the cylinders, students from the nearby schools will steal them.  It will become a game based on who can collect the most flags.  The city will keep replacing the flags and children will keep taking them. 

The grant for this program from the NHTSA better be large enough to include money for the city to be replacing the flags every day as it becomes a cat and mouse game with them being stolen.  I cannot think of a more stupid governmental plan; unless you count the urban streets that are being turned into bicycles lanes. Bikes and people don't belong on city streets, cars do.




Monday, December 12, 2011

REMINISCENT OF CHECKERS

(FOX CHICAGO)


Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s appearance last week, with his wife and children, at PAWS, an animal shelter in Chicago, immediately reminded me of a story about another politician and a dog.

 On September 23, 1952,  then Senator Richard Nixon, the Republican Vice Presidential nominee gave a speech  on radio and television defending himself against allegations of improprieties relating to a fund established by his backers to reimburse him for his political expenses.  During his speech, he did admit to receiving one gift after his election as Senator.  

“A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was. 

It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he'd sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl-Tricia, the 6-year old-named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it. “

His speech was heard by an estimated 60 million Americans and the Republican national Committee (RNC) received millions of telegrams and phone calls in support of retaining Nixon’s position on the ticket with Republican Presidential nominee General Dwight D. Eisenhower.  This put him on the road to his own election as president in 1968; a road that ended in disgrace with his resignation on August 9, 1974.

As anyone with any media savvy knows, animals and kids sell news.  If the dogs are shelter animals and the children sympathetic because they are the progeny of a man going to prison, the cameras and reporters will fill the room.  Blago is quite media savvy and he knew the story of taking his daughters to get a new puppy would engender warm feelings—at the expense of his young daughters.

Reporters have been staking out the Blagojevich home since his 14 year sentence was announced last week and Blago made sure the reporters knew where they were going when they left their home Friday evening.  If the former governor wanted privacy and quiet time with his family he did not have to announce their plans.  A decent man would not have posed for pictures holding the puppy or allowed his daughters to pose for pictures.  A decent man would not have held a press conference with the whole family and their current dog saying, "We feel these are tough times for our family and this little puppy and Skittles over here are comforting. And they are just something that our little girls can love and cuddle and get comfortable with."

Anyone questioning whether this was an unfair ambush by the media can watch this footage from CBS Chicago and easily see how Blago welcomed the attention.

After choosing a Maltese-poodle mix, Rod, wife Patti and 15-year-old Amy and 8-year-old Annie all appeared before reporters and television cameras with their new puppy.  If Rod really cared about helping his children get over “tough times,” why subject them to the glare of the cameras?  While Patti told reporters that they wanted to “get the girls’ minds on something fun and positive,” I question her motives also because I see nothing positive about having the children face the media.

Blago is treating his children like pawns in a game of chess, a game a lot more complicated than checkers.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"I have nobody to blame but myself for my stupidity."




By now, all those that care to know have learned that former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years for his conviction on 18 counts, including bribery and attempted extortion.  At his sentencing hearing he said, "I have nobody to blame but myself for my stupidity.”  While most people would think that his “stupidity” refers to his dastardly deeds, I view it completely differently. I think it should refer to his allowing a letter from his daughter begging for mercy to be read in court.  I blame him for that.

Blago’s daughter, Amy, 15, was not in court when her letter was read, but she and her younger sister had been in court during the trials.

She wrote:

“For the past three years, my world has been spinning out of control. But what has made it [bearable] has been that my father is home almost all of the time. He’s been here to teach me life lessons. 

“I will not be able to handle my father not being around. It’s too drastic a change. I need him here. I need him here for my high school graduation. I need him here if I do not get into college. I’ve wanted to go to Northwestern since I was in the 6th grade. 

“I’ll need him when my heart gets broken. I’ll need him here for my dog Skittles.  “I need my father in my life.”

Amy should not have been asking Judge Zagel for mercy, she should have been asking her Father why he risked their family life by committing those crimes. Blago would have put his family first---if they were that important to him. He was the person who took the right away from his children to have their father around, not Judge James Zagel who sentenced him. Or as Zagel said, he “allowed his family to accept a risk that he would be caught and punished.”

I was close to Amy’s age when my Father died suddenly of a heart attack while on a business trip.  My Father did not attend my high school graduation; he did not see me get accepted into college and was not there to hold me when my heart was broken.
  
My Father did nothing wrong, yet my sister and I were sentenced to a lifetime without a Dad. Amy should feel lucky that her father is only gone for 14 years and at some point will actually come home.

                             


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

SCROOGE




I have a somewhat locally famous huge walk-in closet in my bedroom that is called, “The Present Closet.”  It contains gifts running the gamut from a flat screen TV, espresso makers, a $300 bottle of champagne, jewelry and George Foreman grills to Jerry Springer t-shirts.  So it will shock most people to learn that I hate giving presents during the holiday season.

As I mathematically proved in a recent blog, holiday shopping has virtually no impact on the nation’s economy and it just a sham to trick people into shopping.  Other “holidays” are just as bad. Mother’s Day was basically invented by the greeting card industry to boost sales and I find it offensive that people think they have to have a reason to honor their Mother.  The same thing stands for Sweetheart’s Day, Secretary’s Day and all of those other bogus kind of manufactured holidays.

I am not saying that Chanukah and Christmas are fake celebrations, but they have turned into money grubbing, present opening bonanzas for greedy people.

It is not because I am selfish that I don’t like giving presents during the holiday season, I just hate that people EXPECT presents and cash bonuses.  I should be allowed to give a gift when I want to, not because it is a particular time of the year.

My theory for bestowing presents is that I want to give them when I WANT to, not because I HAVE to when the calendar page turns to December. Why do grown-up people think that just because it is the holiday season they are entitled to a gift?  Children, I understand, but adults?  Why?

So this is fair warning to everyone that they will not receive a holiday gift from me if they are more than 18 years old.  But this caveat does not include my sister because with her, we are still just kids.

Monday, December 5, 2011

TAKING A GRILLING


The City of Chicago is suing the Chicago Park District and the people who own the Park Grill in Millennium Park because the city feels  the Park District had no right to enter into a lease with the restaurant in the first place and the lease, “does not meet commercially reasonable standards.” The case complaint, calling for declaratory relief and filed on December 1st, is 16 pages long with 159 pages of exhibits.  The city’s Constitutional and Commercial Litigation Division of the Corporation Council signed the suit.  The background details of how the lease came to be play out like the machinations of a soap opera.  I replay the episodes below.

In late 2001, Matthew A. O'Malley and James Horan proposed Park Grill and Park Cafe to "provide both white-tablecloth meals and picnic-hamper fare for visitors in Millennium Park".   O’Malley once worked for disgraced U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski and runs the Chicago Firehouse Restaurant where then Mayor Daley was a frequent diner.  Horan is president of Blue Plate Catering, which runs a café at Gallery 37, an after-school art program created by Maggie Daley, the former Mayor’s late wife.

Many of the investors, who bought shares in the restaurant partnership for $200,000, have names that read like a Christmas card list of former Mayor Daley.

(1)  Fred Barbara- nephew of the late Alderman Fred Roti who has ties to the Hired Truck Program scandal and the blue bag recycling controversy.

(2) Relatives of Daley’s former political advisor, Timothy Degnan.

(3) Two neighbors of Daley; Ray Chinn an O’Hare airport contractor and Rick Simon who runs a janitorial business with city ties and was former chairman of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Board.

(4) Former Congressman Morgan Murphy who had business dealings with convicted labor union official John Serpico.

Oh, by the way, the architectural metal company that did work on the structure of the restaurant was owned by the son of then Alderman Burton Natarus.

Three groups submitted proposals to the Park District to run the restaurant in September 2001. The Park Grill group's proposal was twice as long as the other two but promised the Park District the lowest revenues.  But guess who proposal was accepted?  O’Malley’s group won the rights to run the restaurant and souvenir and concession stands in Millennium Park.  

After 18 months of negotiating, on February 11, 2003, a 20-year contract was signed that included the Park District paying for water, gas and garbage collection.  The refuse pick up alone costs taxpayers about $245,000/annually.
With all of the previous information not being juicy enough, we now hear the soap opera’s ominous music playing.  During the time of the negotiations between the Park District and O’Malley’s investor group, Laura Foxgrover, a Park District official gave birth to O’Malley’s child!  It turns out she used to work for him as director of operations at his Chicago Firehouse Restaurant.

While she had written a letter in May 2002 recusing herself from the negotiations she never gave a reason and never told her superiors that her maternity leave was to give birth to O’Malley’s daughter born in September, 2002.

Even though Foxgrover recused herself from negotiations she testified before a Chicago City Council meeting in October 2003 in favor of the Park Grill getting a liquor license and on the same day testified for him to get a liquor license at his Clock Tower Café.

In July 2003, while she was acting director of park services, she sent an e-mail to O’Malley’s contractor which said she was the point person for the Park District if he had any questions.  What happened to her recusing herself?

So one would think that an ethics investigation of Foxgrover would result in her losing her job?  NO, this is Chicago.  The ruling was that she did not violate the district’s ethics ordinance and could keep her $90,000/year job as the Park District’s director of development.  She stayed a few years and then in 2008 left to work again for O’Malley’s restaurant management company. 
 
Park Grill opened on November 24, 2003 and in its first year of operations only paid $162,656.72 in rent.  The 2004/2005 Zagat Survey named the restaurant among the five "Top Newcomers" to Chicago. According to a Sun-Times story, The Park Grill began making money for its investors in its third year of operation, 2006, when investors split $527,250 in profits.  According to stories in Restaurants and Institutions magazine, in 2008 the Park Grill was named one of the top 100 highest-grossing independent restaurants in the US, serving approximately 300,000 meals and grossing approximately $12,000,000 in sales, making it the seventh largest independent restaurant in terms of sales in Chicago in 2007.

Now that Mayor Richard Daley has retired, his clout-heavy friends have lost their ability to get away with insider deals.  How sad for them but how lucky for the taxpayers of Chicago.  Now Mayor Rahm Emanuel‘s law department is looking to invalidate the restaurant’s contract with the law suit filed last week.
According to the Chicago Tribune  the city had to move quickly here because, “Corporation Counsel Steve Patton said in a statement that the city has been talking with the restaurant's owners about a settlement but felt it needed to act after recently receiving a letter saying the facility is being sold to a new owner, reportedly a company controlled by restaurateur Larry Levy.”

Just before the curtain drops on this latest episode of “Taking a Grilling,” it is important to know who the attorney for The Park Grill investor group is--none other than Michael Shakman!  The same attorney who is best known for the federal court Shakman Decrees, which enjoined patronage hiring and firing of public employees in Chicago and Illinois.

So he was against patronage when it came to employment, but is now defending a company that got its deal though political clout!  If you tried to sell this script as TV show, nobody would buy it because it is too unbelievable.  

The only grilling that really took place here was the one suffered by the taxpayers of Chicago who were denied millions of dollars in revenues because of this sweetheart deal.  They got no cake and did not get to eat it too.




Thursday, December 1, 2011

Coming Clean "Cajun Style" Updated


Herman Cain says he did not have an affair with that woman and it was exactly two years ago when golfer Tiger Woods got caught being a total sleazeball. It broke my Aunt Helaine’s heart because she loves Tiger. Cain she does not care about.


At that time, I decided to come clean about any transgressions in my past. I re-read the blog and there is nothing to add. I have been “clean” for the past two years.  Below is the blog from December 2009 where I reveal all.
Kathy and Lawrence Welk in Palm Springs



One of my favorite episodes of the television show 30 Rock involved some incidents where political consultant James Carville kept mysteriously popping up out of nowhere, to advise people how to deal with their problems, “Cajun Style.” This method involved getting in “front of a story” and spinning it your own way.

I have not written about the Tiger Woods car accident except to post a comment on Shia Kapos blog in Crain’s  in response to a story where sports agent Steve Zucker said Tiger should, “come forward, set the record straight about himself and not take questions.”  I wrote, “Tiger Woods has no obligation to share his personal life with the world. I applaud him for being private. He owes no one an explanation [for] his actions except [to] his wife and family.”

As I write this, 9:27 a.m. (CST), a CNN breaking news alert just came in with a report, “Golfer Tiger Woods said today that he regrets ‘transgressions’ that ‘let his family down.’” I am mad about the CNN alert for two reasons.  First, CNN should be breaking news of global importance and impact, not about a golfer cheating on his wife.  Second, because Tiger should not have had to share that information with anyone except his family.

I am not a famous person, but one can never tell what might happen in the future. When E! Television broadcasts my “True Hollywood Story,” I want to be in front of the narrative, “Cajun Style.”  If I air my own dirty laundry on my own terms, then I won’t have to see headlines in the National Enquirer or Star Magazines.

Let us start with when I was about 8 years old and I threw something at my sister at the bus stop and it cut her face. I don’t remember the details—the other students standing there that day 40 years ago might remember—but the incident was quite ugly and I regret it.  I am apologetic for that occurrence.  I swear that it will never happen again!


When I was 18 years old, I had the choice of staying at college and taking my midterm exams, or going to Palm Springs to play golf with Frank Sinatra and Lawrence Welk.  As the picture on this posting shows, I went to the desert!  I lied not only to my Mother about the trip, but to the nuns at Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart where I was a sophomore.  I am repentant about my misbehavior.  I swear that it will never happen again!

Through the years, I have had a number of affairs with married men. I cannot even remember their names because it was so long ago.  But since they probably remember me (Wouldn’t YOU?), once I become famous, I’d better fess up to those indiscretions as well. I am remorseful about those episodes.  I swear that it will never happen again!

Since I never cheated on a school exam (members of Mensa don’t have to do that), stole candy, shoplifted anything, misappropriated money or coveted my neighbor’s goods, I feel confident I have revealed here anything that might embarrass me in the future. 


Unless you count the fact that I know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.