Conscience Laureate

Thursday, May 31, 2012


 Chicago is known not only for crooked politicians but also for a section on prestigious north Michigan Avenue known as the Magnificent Mile.  The 12 block stretch contains the city’s largest shopping district with approximately 3,100,000 sq. ft. of retails shops (460 stores), 275 restaurants, 51 hotels and many cultural attractions.  It is estimated that approximately 22,000,000 people visit the area annually.  To paraphrase bank robber Willie Sutton, “That’s where the money is.”  So besides shoppers and tourists, the area is a Mecca for panhandlers.  But are they allowed to beg there?  Is it their space also?

First some history.   In 1991 the city enacted a panhandling ordinance.  In 2001, on behalf of three beggars who had been arrested or ticketed over the years, Mark Weinberg, an attorney who represented the panhandlers, filed a suit in defense of their First Amendment right to beg.  He later got the suit certified as a class-action. That ordinance was repealed in 2002.

In 2003, The City of Chicago settled the suit and the $500,000 the city had to pay was divided up with $375,000 going to the attorneys with the meager rest to the panhandlers.  The nearly 5,000 members of the class-action were allowed to files claims for $400 if they had been arrested or $50 if they had been ticketed. 

In 2004, Chicago passed a new panhandling ordinance.  Under this version, panhandlers can be ticketed if they ask for money within 10 feet of bus stops, ATMs, currency exchanges or banks. They are barred from begging for money from people in restaurants, sidewalk cafes and gas stations.  They cannot be overly aggressive, rude, use profanity or touch the person from whom they are begging.  It also bars two or more panhandlers from soliciting money together.

The law does not place any geographic restriction on begging.  So when Chicago police attempted to tell panhandlers that it was illegal to beg on Michigan Avenue the panhandlers did the smart thing. They secretly taped police officers telling them to move on.

That video formed the basis for another federal class-action suit and an emergency injunction was filed this week seeking to defend the beggars’ rights. “The Chicago Police Department is presently engaged in a constitutionally abusive practice of illegally removing panhandlers from select portions of Michigan Avenue by fraudulently telling them that it is illegal to panhandle there and threatening to arrest them if they do not move," reads the complaint. 

And who is the civil rights attorney representing the panhandlers?  The same Mark Weinberg who collected $375,000 in fees from the panhandling suit he won in 2003.

"People do find panhandlers a nuisance," attorney Mark Weinberg told ABC Chicago.  "But, the question is, Do we sacrifice Constitution rights because we find them a nuisance? And my answer is no."

Panhandlers have the legal right to beg on Michigan Avenue, but should an attorney be allowed to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars if he wins a suit and the plaintiffs who were aggrieved basically get nothing?  Weinberg was the one who arranged for the undercover taping so he set up his own potential huge fee.

The real story shouldn’t be about the panhandler’s Constitutional right to beg on the Magnificent Mile but about who should protect them from an attorney who keeps all the money. Attorney Mark Weinberg might say that people find panhandlers a nuisance, but to him they are a gold mine.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Me looking smug!
During the last 18 months I questioned the methodology of how the State of Illinois was handing out “economic development” money to corporations. I used econometric (described by economist Paul Samuelson as, “the quantitative analysis of actual economic phenomena based on the concurrent development of theory and observation, related by appropriate methods of inference”) models to show that the math made no sense.  I am proud to announce that this  led to the passage last week of a business incentives transparency bill in Illinois.

On October 25, 2010, I wrote the first of many blogs questioning Governor Quinn's methodology in giving away economic development money.  That story dealt with Groupon receiving $3.5 million for supposed job creation.

On May 10, 2011, I wrote about the insanity of the $100 million that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn was giving Motorola Mobility over the next decade to stay in Illinois.  Motorola Mobility did not pay one penny in corporate income tax, so the incentive money partially came from allowing Motorola Mobility to keep their own employees’ income tax withholding-- instead of turning it over to the state coffers.  Quinn was able to do that deal with legislation that changed how the state’s Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax-credit program works.  

On May 19, 2011, 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).”  I then went on to explain how the CTA deal made no economic sense.”

On June 24, 2011, I wrote about how the rest of the media caught up with me when the Chicago tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business revealed that the fine print in the EDGE contracts did not match the promises the corporations had given.

On December 28, 2011, I wrote that the amounts of money Quinn was giving away seemed to have no correlation with what the companies were promising to do in return.  Because I had been having many conversations with State Rep. Jack Franks on the subject, he decided to sponsor legislation calling for an oversight committee to give approval before Quinn can give away the money.

Franks said, “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.”

Last week, On May 25th, the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill that would require the Governor to post on-line details of any EDGE agreements including the dollar amounts of the incentives.  It is now awaiting the signature of Governor Quinn.

While I am very proud of my role in the business incentives transparency bill, another bit of business news deflated me greatly.  Motorola Mobility, who received $100 million from the state in corporate welfare,--read that as your taxpayer money-- just closed a deal to sell itself to Google for $12.9 BILLION.  CEO Sanjay Jha will be leaving the company because of the acquisition.  His golden parachute that was voted on last November?  It is $64.3 million!  Don’t we all look like fools now!

Monday, May 28, 2012


Right now legendary Sun-Times columnist Irv Kupcinet is rolling over in his grave to hide his face in shame so as not to view the list ( see some names below) of the latest “columnists” unveiled Monday by his beloved newspaper.

The definition of a columnist is a journalist who writes a regular feature in a newspaper.  The latest newly added crop of Sun-Times columnists are closer to being “D” List celebrities than journalists.

On Monday, in a front page wraparound, the newspaper proudly announced 30 new columnists who will write for a new daily feature called, The Daily Splash.  Newly installed Sun-Times chairman Michael Ferro, whose company bought the paper a few months ago, came up with the idea for the new columnists as described by Daily Splash Editor Susanna Negovan like this: It’s amazing what can happen at a party.

Shortly after acquiring the Sun-Times, our chairman Michael Ferro was at a dinner with Brad Bell — the Emmy Award-winning writer and producer of “The Bold and the Beautiful” and Wrapports director — and actor Jim Belushi. Brad suggested that Jim write a column, and Jim jokingly replied, “Sure!” It was a light-bulb moment that sparked the formation of a new Monday-through-Friday feature debuting today: the Daily Splash.

In the weeks that followed, our chairman put out recruitment calls to a dream-team list of contributors…”

Negovan also write that the “faux writers” (my words, not hers) will not be paid directly for writing the columns but instead will be donating the $1,000 fee from each column to their favorite causes.  That is great for charities, but I am sure the Newspaper Guild is holding meetings on what the rules are for outsiders to be contributing to the paper.

One also wonders how the Sun-Times will be able to continue unbiased political coverage of Mayor Rahm Emanuel now that he works for the paper.  And does anyone think that the mayor will actually be writing the column or will it be written by one of the many minions in his press department?

While the names of some of the new columnists are familiar, how many of you recognize these names and care what they write about-- Jaslene Gonzalez, a winner on the TV Show, “America’s Next Top Model;” Erin Heatherton, a Victoria’s Secret Model; Denise Richards, former wife of Charlie Sheen, Julie Latsko, owner of Table Fifty-Two, etc., etc.

Negovan wrote, “From CEOs to celebrities, politicians to musicians, and our new columnists are committed to weighing in on topics that will have the whole city talking.”  I agree that the city will be talking about the new columnists but the conversation around the water cooler will be more of disdain than excitement.

 My shock on learning about the new columnists reminds me of the legendary conversation that took place on September 28, 1920 when a young fan confronted Shoeless Joe Jackson after a Grand Jury hearing delving into the Black Sox baseball scandal.

A young man walked up to Jackson and said, “It ain't true, is it, Joe?"
"Yes, kid, I'm afraid it is," Jackson replied. The boy stood in silence until Jackson passed out of sight. "Well, I'd never have thought it," sighed the lad.

I’d never have thought this either.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


According to the US Census Bureau, the 2010 population in Chicago was  2,695,598 with about 210,000 teenagers aged 13-18. Finding activities for youth to do during the summer months is difficult in an urban area like Chicago.  I grew up in the suburbs of New York on a private lake with a huge back yard for baseball and other games.  The neighbors had a swimming pool and my cousins had ponies.  Being at home was just like being at camp.  My sister and I were very lucky.

About 18 years ago, the Mayor’s Office had a program to help find part time summer jobs for disadvantaged teenage Mothers.  Any company that participated would receive 40 hours of minimum wage credit towards the salary of anyone they hired.  If the company decided to keep the worker on, it was their own financial responsibility after the first 40 hours.

I was President of a small PR/Ad agency and had no need to hire a young worker, but I decided to participate in the program.  I interviewed a number of young ladies and was impressed with 16 year-old Trenesha.  Trenesha started working for the firm part time during the summer and I told her that she should learn skills that no one else in the office could do so she would become invaluable.  One of the things she studied was the copier, so when paper got stuck or ink needed replacing, Trenesha was the expert.  She also become incredibly efficient at creating news clip article books for our clients.

When school started that Fall, Trenesha would travel an hour each way after classes to be able to work for only a few hours.  I kept track of her school schedule, her tests, her days off, her homework etc.  She was an important part of the office staff.  There were times when she had to bring her baby D’Shawn with her, and I accepted that.  He was a doll! 

A year later, we discovered that Trenesha was the ONLY young lady who was still in the program.  The rest had quit their jobs.  She was honored at a ceremony at Harold Washington Library as part of a city-wide initiative.  I was so proud of her!

As with any teenager, she grew up.  We helped her find her first apartment, helped her with her continuing education and were proud when she left us to go work at Catholic Charities where she still is today.  I watched the growth also of her son D’Shawn who enters college this Fall.  So for the price of 40 hours at minimum wage back in 1994 or a stipend of $200, Trensha’s life changed.

Last week, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) Board approved a $330,000 contract to After School Matters to fund after school and summer programs for 315 public housing and Housing Choice Voucher youth ages 14-18 this summer. Youth that successfully complete an apprenticeship during the summer term will earn a $420 stipend and those that complete the fall apprenticeship program will earn an additional $100 stipend. It sounds like a great plan until one looks at the numbers.

(1)  If you divide $330,000 by 315 participants, you get a per person program cost of $1,047.

(2)  If every single child finishes the program, they will receive a total of $520 or $163,800.  But if my experience with Trenesha is any indication, I doubt if more than half will finish the program.

(3)  So even if every child completes the program, After School Matters receives $166,200 to administer the program.  The less children that finish, the more money After School Matters has to pay out.

(4)  The program administrative costs are as much as the money being given to the children and the fewer children that finish, the more money After School Matters gets to pocket.

It would seem to me that a plan that gives incentives for success should be used, not one that profits the agency the fewer that finish.

But what do I know about helping youth?  Just ask Trenesha.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


 Sometimes my anger towards the Machiavellian (the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct) machinations of a politician is so great that it is hard for me to write about it.  Such is the case with Illinois State Rep. Monique Davis where even fellow State Rep. Jack Franks was so disgusted that on the Don & Roma Show on WLS-AM he called the bill the House passed to specifically help her legal troubles, “improper, insiders getting special deals, rotten for the taxpayers and taking $500K from Chicago Public Schools.”  First some background.

On January 27, 2010, I wrote a blog, called, ”Two Scandals, One Politician.”
The blog dealt with a  life-sized sculpture, “misappropriated” from Chicago State University (CSU) that  ironically is named, “Defiance,” that she  had placed at her district office where she owed more than $500,000 in back rent, taxes and fines to the  landlord, the Chicago Board of Education.

Davis first rented the building in 1988 and for 14 years paid for it under the terms of a lease signed by the school board. She stopped paying rent in 2002 when her lease ran out. The school board asked her to vacate but did nothing when she did not leave.

Davis said the state, which pays rent for district offices, requires a lease agreement in order to make payments, and she was unable to obtain new lease papers from the school district despite numerous attempts. “I in no way attempted not to pay them rent,” said Davis. “But how are you going to pay rent without a lease?” Asked why she stayed in a building where she was not paying rent, Davis bristled. “Where would I go?” she said. “I looked for places to go. I’m not going to have a hole in the wall.”

Davis sent a letter to the school board in May 2002, requesting a lease extension. Davis was then sent a letter asking her to vacate the premises by July 1, 2002. Davis’ response was to send another letter asking the Board to sign a lease extension. The board did not respond. And for the next four years, nothing happened. Davis had no lease, had been requested to vacate but she did nothing and the Board did nothing. Imagine any other landlord allowing a tenant who was not paying rent to stay.

Then, in 2006, the school district again began sending letters to Davis. Letters in August and September requested that she enter into a new lease and pay the back-rent and taxes. In April 2008 and September 2008, the district sent letters stating the same issues. In July 2009, the Board of Education passed a resolution to retain a lawyer to handle the case. Three months later, the district sent a 20-day notice to Davis, terminating her tenancy. On Nov. 18 2009, the district filed a lawsuit against Davis seeking the money and her eviction.

She did not get evicted and she did not pay the rent.

How will she get out of paying the past due bill to the Board of Education?  If the Illinois Senate and then the Governor sign a bill the House passed last week that had a provision that would bar taxation on any property owned by a state or local government leased to another state or local government.  The measure was attached to another important taxation bill, so legislators would have to vote against the entire bill for the “Monique Measure” not to take effect.  They passed the bill by a 60-54 vote.

Not only was Rep. Franks upset about these Machiavellian   machinations but state Rep. Ed Sullivan said, ““By voting for this bill, you’ll undue a lease before the courts, one. And two, you’ll get rid of $450,000 owed to the Chicago Public Schools. Is that what you want to do? Do you want to cut education funding to the Chicago public schools to the tune of $450,000?”

Davis voted present on the legislation, and denied the bill benefitted her. “How could it benefit me? I mean seriously, how could it benefit me?” she asked the Chicago Sun-Times.

I can answer those questions for her as can anyone who has friends in the right places.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


(From left: “In Between Engagements” executive producer Jakov Sedlar; associate producer Ron Herrera; Johnny Arreola, Vision Films CEO and executive producer; Kathy Posner; Dominik Sedlar, producer/script writer.  Picture by Felicia Dechter)

Because I had some tests on Monday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital 
(everything went fine) I did not have a chance to write the blog I had planned on Illinois State Rep. Monique Davis and an insane bill the Illinois House just passed that benefits her.  I have pulled up so much research, I cannot write the story in five minutes.

Remember in elementary school when you got to watch a video instead of doing class work?  Well, I have a fun video for you!

Here is the link to the You Tube video of behind the scenes when a segment of the movie, “In BetweenEngagements,”  was shot at my home. Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012


Dear Blog Readers,

Clyde the dog is the "grandson" of my dear friend Felicia.  He needs help, so Felicia suggested that he contact me.  Below is Clyde's story.

Kathy P

Ain’t Too Proud To Beg…please help!

Hi, my name is Clyde, and  while I am 9-years-old, I still feel like a puppy!…I’m a lovable old guy who has been raised by kind and loving owners.

Anyway, I live in a North Side condo, a six-unit building, where the three person condo board got mad at my mommy for something totally unrelated to me and now they’ve made no bones about the fact that they want to get rid of me and change the building rules to not allow dogs. I didn’t even do anything wrong, and I’m still in the dog house!

They’re furious at my mommy because she called the city on the building (yes, that she lives in) after the condo board encouraged her to do so! There was charcoal grill blocking the back stairway, which was wooden, and it belonged to one of the other tenants and was blocking the back way. My mommy, who had lived in the building a year compared to the other neighbors being there 20-plus years, asked the grill owner and the board repeatedly to move the grill. But when she burned her leg on it going down the stairs one day, she got mad. Again, she complained to the condo board, and they told her to call the city, that the grill in the stairway was NOT a code violation. Well, she called the city and they came out, and when they did, they found the back porch was in violation of city codes and wrote that up too! 

When the board got wind of the write-ups, they held a special meeting and made no bones about the fact that they wanted revenge. They decided no more dogs since my mom was the only dog owner in the building. They never had any problem with me at all, just my mother. 

But they’re barking up the wrong tree, because my owners love me and will fight for me. So far, the situation has cost nearly $1,000 in legal fees, and there is a lot more to come. So won’t you please help us? There will be two benefits, fundraising yard sales, to raise money for my legal defense, one on June 2 at 1321 W. Glenlake in Edgewater, and one June 9th and 10th at 4900 W. Catalpa St., in the Forest Glen neighborhood. 

I’m hoping some of you might have some items to donate, anything, to help save me from being homeless. We’ll pretty much take anything gently-used or new, please, clean out your closets!  And we’ll gladly accept event or show tix and gift certificates too!  And bake sale items would be great, we’re trying to raise money the old-fashioned way!

Please donate and/or come and buy something. Both yard sales to benefit me will be part of bigger, community-wide sales, so please come and make a day of it! 

I’m too young to be put to sleep and too old to try and find new folks to move in with, especially people that love me like my mommy and daddy do. I love my human family and I don’t ever want to have to leave them!

PLEASE HELP!  Contact write12@comcast.net. Thank you for hearing my story. Sincerely, Clyde

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Every time I read another story about the nation’s obesity epidemic and all the fat children in Chicago, I want to remind everyone that underage drinking is a  much bigger problem and it is all but being ignored.

Chicago just announced another citywide public education campaign to make the city a healthier place.  “Healthy Places” is a public education campaign focused on the policies, systems, and environments that shape individual health.  A joint project of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and its bona fide agent the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC), has launched this campaign as part of its total $5.8 million obesity prevention work funded by the CDC through the Affordable Care Act.

According to Healthy Places, 22% of children in Chicago are obese. But a survey by Monitoring the Future, reported that 37% of 8th graders and 72% of 12th graders had tried alcohol, and 15% of 8th graders and 44% of 12th graders drank during the past month.  The drinking numbers are worse than the eating numbers, so why aren’t we focusing on the boozers instead of the chewers?  Because fat people are looked at with disgust!

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a Youth Risk Behavior Survey and found that that among high school students, during the past 30 days:

•42% drank some amount of alcohol.
•24% binge drank.
•10% drove after drinking alcohol.
•28% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

The authors found that youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience:
·         School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
·         Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
·         Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
·         Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
·         Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
·         Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
·         Physical and sexual assault.
·         Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
·         Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
·         Memory problems.
·         Abuse of other drugs.
·         Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
·         Death from alcohol poisoning

And on average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers.
Upon studying the statistics, anyone can see that the effects of alcohol are much worse than eating too much food. But since Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he wanted Chicago to be the nation’s healthiest city, that is what municipal government will focus on.  But how healthy can the city be if the children are all drunk?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


The Chicago City Council’s Committee on Health and Environmental Protection started discussions last week on whether there should be an added citywide sales tax on soda, energy drinks and other sugar-laden beverages. The tax, sponsored by Ald. George Cardenas (12th), who chairs the committee, would equal about one penny per ounce of the beverage.

Both sides of the argument spouted off.


Dr. Bechara Choucair, commissioner of the city's Department of Public Health, said that soda is the leading source of added sugar to the American diet. Choucair also claimed that childhood obesity rates in Chicago are more than twice the national average and children that drink one or more soda per day are 60 percent more likely to be obese.


Tanya Triche of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association explained that a tax hike would not discourage Chicagoan's sugar habits, but would merely drive buyers to neighboring cities where the sugary drinks would be cheaper. "We are not going to tax our way out of obesity."

Lisa Katic, a registered dietician representing the beverage industry, said” States that have implemented [beverage] taxes have not seen decreases in obesity. Fat causes people to be overweight too. You can't just say it's sugar, because it's not."


I looked up the sugar in natural fruit juices and it is equal to or more than in soda!  The chart http://www.hookedonjuice.com/  below, compiled by journalist Dave Hall, lays it all out.  He describes himself as not with “the soda industry, not some big advocacy organization. Just me. I’m an editor at a newspaper that not too long ago published an article on the controversy over vending machines in schools and how parents want to get rid of soft drinks and replace them with “natural” beverages like fruit juice — but only “healthy” fruit juice, meaning juice with no sugar added. Unfortunately the article failed to point out that 100 percent fruit juice (orange, apple etc.), even with no sugar added, has just as much sugar (and just as many calories) as Coke or Pepsi! Duh. Anyway, I graduated from the University of Florida in 1986 with degrees in chemistry and journalism”

So if the City of Chicago wants to tax “sugary drinks” they will have to tax natural fruit juices also because otherwise it would be discriminatory. I don’t know why City Councilmen are panicking about the weight of the citizens of Chicago. Chicago did not make the 10 fattest cities list for 2012 but nearby Rockford did. They have an obesity rate of 35.5%. I should move there because I probably would be considered thin! 

JUST WHAT IS THE SUGAR CONTENT OF FRUIT JUICE? We’ll use orange, apple, cherry and grape juice as examples. Even with no sugar added, fruit juice contains about the same amount of sugar as the same amount of soft drink. Because apples, oranges and grapes are naturally full of sugar. (No surprise there: Processed sugar comes from plants, usually corn or sugar cane or sugar beets.) The table below compares the sugar in 12 ounces of juice (no sugar added) with 12 ounces (one can) of Coca-Cola. If you look at the nutrition label on a can of Coke or fruit juice, the “carbohydrate” is mostly sugar. Four grams of sugar carbs equal approximately 1 teaspoon of sugar.

12 ounces of >>>>>>> Coca-Cola Orange Juice Apple Juice Cherry Juice Grape Juice
Total carbohydrates 40 g 39 g 42 g 49.5 g 60 g
Carbs from sugar 40 g 33 g 39 g 37.5 g 58.5 g
Sugar (teaspoons) 10 tsp 8 tsp 10 tsp 9 tsp 15 tsp
Calories 145 165 165 210 240

WHAT DOES THE CHART TELL US? It tells us that no matter which juice you choose, they all have more calories than the same amount of Coke. It tells us that juice — 100 percent juice, no sugar added — contains about the same amount of sugar (or even more — 50 percent more for grape juice) as the same volume of Coke. For this comparison we used: Classic Coke, Tropicana HomeStyle Orange Juice, Walnut Acres Organic 100 Percent Apple Juice, Eden Organic Montmorency Cherry Juice (no sweetener added) and R.W. Knudsen Unsweetened Concord Grape Juice. The numbers in the chart were calculated from the nutrition labels on the containers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Today’s blog is a teaching lesson in how best to “fit in” when in Chicago.

Actual NATO  protestor

Workers in downtown Chicago offices and visitors  have been told to dress like NATO protestors so they can blend in on the streets during the NATO Summit.  I was able to obtain a picture of an actual NATO protestor when my friend Jason Baumann encountered one who was lost wandering the streets in his Midway neighborhood 12 miles from downtown Chicago on Monday night.  She happily posed for a picture in exchange for directions to the Summit.

I asked a three-year old friend to put together a similar outfit as a guide for the otherwise impeccably dressed La Street bankers.  She did a great job.

Simulated protestor
The wool hat is important because she can pull it down to hide her facial features making identification more difficult.  The bows on her skirt are distracting, giving her the opportunity to pull attention away from her face.  The bare feet are important for a quick get away if she needs to escape.  I have put together a similar outfit and it is what I will wear during the Summit.  Now I will be able to walk through the Chicago business district unnoticed.


Chicago Councilmen passed an ordinance last week banning single-serve “flavored malt  beverage ”pouches containing less than 16 ounces. According to the Sun-Times “Twenty years ago, the City Council prohibited the sale of cans and bottles of beer, malt liquor and ale sold in single-serving containers of 16 ounces or less. The goal was to discourage people from drinking outside liquor stores or on street corners.”

There was a loophole in the law because it prohibited the sale of cans and bottles and said nothing about pouches which did not exist at the time.  The wording of the 1992 ordinance was changed and the words. The words “can or bottle” were replaced by “container.”

Some aldermen wondered whether the ordinance change would actually have the opposite effect because now people would buy alcohol in a higher volume and drink more.  For some reason, that valid argument was ignored.
Chicago Liquor Commissioner Greg Steadman said that the liquor industry “agreed to sell these products in a package of two, instead of single-serve, which would abide by” the revised ordinance.

So now the bums can stand on a corner and legally drink two pouches of liquor instead of one.  Visitors do don’t want to risk arrest by having only one pouch of liquor when the new law says they have to have two--one for each hand.


There have been countless stories about how people in Chicago speak with a Midwestern drawl and mangle the language. The most famous of those speakers were Mayors Daley whose tautology, malapropisms and lapsus linguae were legendary. So to feel comfortable in Chicago, visitors need to relax the normal rules of elocution.

The use of grammar in Chicago is also an embarrassment. For example, I noticed a giant sign on the side of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) that is pictured on this page. The MCA is one of the nation’s largest facilities devoted to the art of our time. It has offered exhibitions of the most thought-provoking art created since 1945. The MCA documents contemporary visual culture through painting, sculpture, photography, video and film, and performance.
The mission of the MCA is to be an innovative and compelling center of contemporary art where the public can directly experience the work and ideas of living artists, and understand the historical, social, and cultural context of the art of our time. One trusts that museums are culturally correct.

To verify that the sign was grammatically incorrect I called Bob Manewith. His credentials are impeccable. Manewith holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, spent 37 years in news and public affairs at WGN Radio & Television, many of them as News Director and Editorial Director. He also taught Broadcast News writing labs as an adjunct professor at Northwestern for five years and taught news writing, editorial writing, and copy-editing at Columbia College.

I was right. The sign should say, “This WOULD HAVE been Art, Love and politics in the 1980’s.”

I guess whoever painted the sign must have been drinking one of those two packs of liquor that the City Council just approved.

Monday, May 14, 2012


My love for plastic bags has been documented many times in this blog in my fight to not have plastic bags banned in Chicago as other communities have done.  Heretofore my reasons have been totally selfish, but now I have scientific proof on the issue of cleanliness of reusable shopping bags.

Recently Oregon health official traced an outbreak of norovirus  infections to a reusable shopping bag.  According to the Mayo Clinic people get the virus “by ingesting material contaminated with small amounts of infected feces or fluids. Food and water may be contaminated during processing or handling.”

 “We wash our clothes when they’re dirty; we should wash our bags, too,” said Kimberly K. Repp, an epidemiologist with the Washington County Department of Health and Human Services in Hillsboro, Ore. Her work was published last week in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.   The study noted, "This also illustrates one of the less obvious hazards of reusable grocery bags."

According to the Center for Disease Control, Noroviruses are a group of viruses responsible for some 21 million cases of gastrointestinal illness a year, including 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths.

Norovirus is the leading cause of food borne illness in the United States. It is responsible for—
·         58% of domestically-acquired food borne illnesses, and
·         50% of food borne disease outbreaks due to known agents.
Each year, it costs about $2 billion in the United States for healthcare and lost productivity from food borne illness caused by norovirus. 
Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor in the Departments of Soil, Water and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona who conducts research about the transmission of pathogens through the environment, issued the following statement: 

"The latest outbreak of norovirus reinforces the research we have conducted about the propensity of reusable grocery bags to act as hosts for dangerous food borne bacteria and viruses. In reality, reusable bags are likely at fault much more often than we realize: cases often go unreported and uninvestigated.

"The cause of roughly 70 percent of food borne illness cases, the norovirus spreads very easily and symptoms include projectile vomiting and severe diarrhea. It can have such sweeping consequences as school and emergency room closures. This incident should serve as a warning bell: permitting shoppers to bring unwashed reusable bags into grocery and retail stores not only poses a health risk to baggers but also to the next shoppers in the checkout line."

Do you practice “safe sacks” and wash your reusable totes? Otherwise you can unwittingly spread an STD—sack transmitted disease. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012


(Dog Tag for the winner)

Last August I had lunch with Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza who asked me for an idea to promote reminding people of the importance to buy a dog license.  Luckily I still have some creative juices left me and instantly conceived The Dog of Distinction campaign.  The program would launch January 1st when the 2012 dog licenses went on-sale.
Not wanting to toot my own horn, ( that is a lie!), I will let the words of the Clerk from the  original press release announcing the program speak for me:

Chicago dog owners could be in the dog house come this spring when Chicago Animal Care and Control begins a focused effort on enforcing dog registration. To help increase city dog registration and drive awareness of the mandatory requirement, City Clerk Susana Mendoza is launching the first-ever City Clerk Dog of Distinction campaign.

‘The Dog of Distinction campaign was created by Chicago Civic leader Kathy Posner to provide an additional incentive to registering your dog with the city,’said Clerk Mendoza. ‘First, we believe many people are simply not aware of the requirement. But now, with the help of Chicago’s generous business community, we are giving dog owners a chance to comply with the law and also possibly win great prizes!’

‘Right now there are some estimates that put Chicago’s dog population at almost a half million dogs. We currently have about 30,000 dogs registered with the city. Clearly we have work to do to raise those registration numbers. It’s not just a matter of complying with the law, registration aids in public health and reunites stray dogs with their owners,’ continued Clerk Mendoza. 

Contest Details and Prizes
All dogs registered with the City Clerk’s office through March 31, 2011 are automatically entered into the Dog of Distinction campaign. On April 2, five dogs and their owners will be chosen at random to compete for Chicago’s first-ever Dog of Distinction. The public will then vote online in April for the dog they think best exemplifies Chicago’s spirit and is worthy of the Dog of Distinction title.

All finalists receive prize packages donated by Chicago’s pet-loving businesses. Chicago’s Dog of Distinction receives a custom-designed dog tag with real rubies created by the famous Goldsmith jewelers, an appearance on a ‘WCIU, the U’ TV ad and a feature story in Chicagoland Tails magazine. All finalists receive two tickets on a Shoreline Cruise dog-friendly architectural cruise, a reservation to the exclusive Palmer House Hilton Dog Tea Party, Urban Out sitter gift bag filled with the latest in dog treats and accessories and a Chicagoland Tails gift package created just for Chicago’s prize-winning dogs.

Today the five finalists were announced at a press conference at City Hall.  People can vote for their favorite dog on the Clerk’s web site, www.chicityclerk.com.  The descriptions of the dogs , by their owners, are below so you can study them before you vote.  This time I will tout my own horn and announce that dog license registration increased 122% because of my campaign!

Coco may be small but her distinct personality and attitude is that of a dog ten times her size. She is a three year old Chorkie mix and one of the cutest dogs in Chicago.  Coco loves the sights and smells of the city, watching Chicago sports, and playing fetch with a rope almost as big as she is! Coco melts the hearts of everyone she meets with her sweet demeanor and endearing eyes.

Lump (pronounced loomp) was born in Dresden Germany back in June 29th of 2005. He came over the Atlantic on Lufthansa Airline straight to Chicago at the age of 3 months. Lump’s favorite game is playing fetch on the lake front with tennis balls. He protects all our neighbor’s kids where we live by Wrigley Field. Every time a police car comes by the police stop and take a few moments to say hello to their local 4 legged friend. The lady’s in the neighborhood say he is so beautiful and ask if they can have his fur someday.  His name is a German word which means “rascal” but he is our local hero and we hope Chicago’s Dog of Distinction.

Margaret is an affenpinscher, also known as the monkey dog. This breed dates back from the 15th century. And a monkey she is. Whether it's dashing around the yard chasing squirrels, climbing on furniture, or dancing on her hind legs begging for treats, she always seems to be in motion. She's a high energy ambassador for Chicago, and definitely my very special "Dog of Distinction."

Trina Trina is loyal.  She participates in family conversations by vocalizing her opinions. When our sons wrestle she charges the room with her toy and tosses it on them, hoping to get in the action. Trina is protective. Once a stranger walked up our driveway towards our open garage, until her barking at the window scared him off running. Trina is more than we expected from a dog:  she’s family.

Wilma deserves the title of Chicago’s 1st Ever Dog of Distinction because she is a lovable chocolate lab who is full of spirit and energy. She enjoys long walks in bungalow-filled neighborhoods, playing catch with the frisbee at the local park district, and lying by the fireplace on a cold Chicago night.  Some of her additional hobbies are burying bones in the backyard and barking at garbage men in the alley.  Wilma is looking forward to a great summer and hanging out with her friends at the dog beach.