Category Archives: public

>REACT: Daley plays the race card … and it’s a joker

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In his attempt to bully support for a new Grant Park location for the Children’s Museum, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley deals the race card from the bottom of the deck. He accuses the citizens living in the highrises adjacent to the proposed location of being racists, who do not want “black or brown” kiddies to be drawn to their Loop neighborhood.

How low can the mayor go?

He blatantly calls tens of thousands of his citizens “racists,” when in fact that region of the city is populated by some of the most tolerant individuals in Chicago, including a bunch of “black and brown” parents. I would remind the mayor that this is the 42nd ward, not the old 11th.

The Mayor fails to note that the new Museum site is adjacent to the Chicago Park District field house named after his father. It is a field house, which hosts summer camp and other events for thousands of children – including many of those black and brown youngsters. Far from protesting the interracial kids’ programs and events, the neighbors include their own children among the enrollees.

If Chicago is a racially confrontational city, it is largely due to the historic race baiting tactics of the political machine. Using concocted racism as a straw man, the mayor actually promotes what he feigns to oppose.

This baseless accusation comes from a man whose family has presided over the most racially divided city in America, whose early elections were advanced by engendering racial fears over the possibility of a second black mayor, and who has successfully driven the low economic black and brown people out of the city to be displaced by suburban yuppies.

This shameless effort is designed to divert public attention away from the very legitimate reasons to deny the Children’s Museum the proposed site. It is the long-standing Grant Park covenant of keeping the lakefront as open space for the benefit of all the people, and to resist the eroding imposition of commercial venues.

Ironically, it is the mayor who has sold out to the mostly white upper crust of Chicago society. The overly costly Millennium Park was an elitist concept that gave more than ample opportunity to provide “naming rights” to the hoi polloi. It is a “park” that maintains 24 hour security guards to make sure the common folk do not bicycle, skate, run, walk dogs or trod on the sod – pleasures usually associated with urban parks.

Under the civic delirium of Millennium Park, the mayor provided space for a commercial restaurant — and yet another opportunity for the politically favored. The Harris Theatre was then allowed to intrude into the people’s commons – again for the glory and entertainment of the Windy City elite.

Another issue is traffic and parking. The mayor flips off this legitimate concern over congestion with “this is a city” — what every the hell that means. Development in that section of town is already overtaxing the transportation infrastructure. Perhaps his motive in jamming more people-attractions in that small area is to help the Grant Park garage fulfill its failed mission to finance the park.

The Children’s Museum is a wonderful thing. My family has enjoyed it over many years. There are innumerable sites where it can serve the public. How about on the south edge of Grant Park, for example? Or, to the west of the McCormack complex? Or hey! How about on underused Northerly Island (see Meigs Field).

The new 42nd ward alderman, Brendan Reilly, opposes the site, and as tradition would have it, professional courtesy should prevail in the City Council. However, it appears that the mayor is willing to throw out that tradition along with the long-standing covenants and traditions protecting the lakefront. Reilly may get his toes stomped on by the compliant City Council, but in the long run, he will have been the voice in the wilderness.

>Blagojevich and Jones share “Toad” award

>A civic group with which I am associated, the Public Policy Caucuses, recently presented one of you dubious honor awards to Governor Rod Blagojevich and Senate President Emil Jones. I thought I would share the press release with you incase you missed the extensive coverage in the press.

Tammany Toad Award to Governor Blagojevich and Senator Jones

The Public Policy Caucuses has presented its dubious honor recognition, the Tammany Toad Award, to Governor Rod Blagojevich and Illinois Senate President Emil Jones. According to PPC President Larry Horist, the award is presented to public officials “for extraordinary disservice to the American political system and the tax-paying public.”

Horist said Blagojevich earned the derision of the public for abusing the line-item veto to slash almost $500 million dollars from the state budget, passed by the legislature, in order to fund his unlegislated and unauthorized healthcare plans.

“His action will result in a needless, prolonged and expensive legal battle that will in all likelihood support the overwhelming opinion that the money grabbing veto is not only brazen and contemptible, but unconstitutional. The Governor demonstrates a total lack of appreciation for the legislative process and an arrogance of action that is usually reserved for despots,” Horist charged. In what Horist described as “particularly egregious political crassness,” the governor appeared to target pet projects of his political enemies. “He is using his public office to engage in political warfare,” Horist added.

Jones shares the award for his support of the Governor’s scheme, promising to prevent an override of the veto in the Illinois Senate even though he concedes that the re-appropriation of the funds is probably unconstitutional. Horist said that the award for Jones is based solely on this issue. However, he added, “it appears the Governor is on his way to a life time achievement award in this category.”

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I feel very badly about this. So, I hereby apologize to all the pond-dwelling toads for any slander I may have committed by associating them with the recipients of this award.

>REACT: You can’t “fix” the CTA with money

>Governor Blagojevich has another “Dumbo” scheme to get money to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). I hate to tell Rod, but you cannot really affix wings to an elephant and make it fly.

The governor’s so-called $24 million “bailout” is supposed to prevent the CTA from making highly publicized (read that as politically harmful) cuts in service and increases in fares.

The problem is, it is not a bailout at all. The plan merely advances or loans money from next year’s budget subsidy from the Regional Transport Authority (RTA) to cover the current shortage. This means the fix is a borrowed-band-aid to cover a cancer.

It does not take a rocket scientist or a corporate accountant to figure out that the scheme will only create a $24 million problem for next year’s budget.

There is only one possible fix, but it is something for which government agencies have no talent. It requires cutting fat out of the budget and streamlining operations. It means using technology to reduce payroll. Increasing ridership. The system has to be made to run more efficiently. Yes, more service for less money. Not only is that possible, it is the ONLY way to solve the problem.

Financial “fixes” and “bailouts” are like narcotics. They alleviate the current pain with the foolish belief that some how the dependency and destructiveness will be miraculously resolved in the future In fact, the future problem will be worse.

The governor would believe that the laws of economics can be ignored like Disney’s elephant ignored the laws of physics. The only difference is that Dumbo is a cartoon, and Blago is a joke – a bad one.

>REACT: What’s next? An eleven-inch ruler

>If you do not believe government bureaucrats exist in a nether world of surrealism, then consider this.

The new contract between the Chicago public schools and the teachers’ union shortens the school year by approximately two weeks – essentially knocking off the June weeks.

At a time when America is losing the educational edge to the populous “backward” nations like China and India, the pressure is on to expand the school year. The most progressive education advocates talk of year-round schooling. Not only is this an educational advantage, but in today’s society, full time schooling conforms better to the career life of two-income families. The traditional school schedule is predicated on the anachronistic requirement to have the kids home for the summer farm chores.

Now cometh the Chicago Teachers’ Union and their cronies at the Board of Education. They have an explanation as to why less time at more money is better for the children – and the taxpayer.

This ought to get a really good belly laugh out of you.

By adding a marginal 15 minutes to each school day, the students will receive greater educational benefit than those two weeks on the eve of summer vacation. So, school administrator, Arne Duncan, suggests — with a straight face and I suspect crossed fingers – that the public school kids will get better quality time out of those few additional moments a day than two weeks of full time tutoring.

He proffers the idea that those two pesky weeks in June are really rather useless – not a lot of good quality education going on. After all, the kids are daydreaming of summer plans and the teachers are suffering from a form of “exit attitude.” Duncan does not explain why this same form of psychological meltdown would not occur in the last two weeks of May.

Also, the logic that a few minutes at the fudgey end of a school day can be equated with several full days of academic requirement is lost on me. How does that work? You add three minutes to each class? If you do the math, even those silly add-on minutes do not compensate for all the lost time.

(Hey, this gives me an idea. I am going to have my family add ten minutes to each meal, and then completely skip eating for a month or two.)

Furthermore, how professional are our Chicago teachers if they simply “lose it” when the weather warms up? My children were blessed with suburban public school educations or, in one case, a private school education. I do not recall a similar seasonal dysfunction in those institutions. Just this past June, we noted that our son’s teachers were pedal-to-the-metal within 24 hours of the close of the school year. It would appear the year-end malady is unique to Chicago public schools.

Basically, the new contact deal is grounded in the same philosophy that has produced all the old deals. It is very simple. The union fights for more money and less work – the children be damned.

Arguably, the group most responsible for the shameful and tragic decline of the Chicago school system is the union. With the complicity of weak or duplicitous administrators and cohort politicians, the union has been able to rape the public treasury of every well-intentioned new dollar the taxpayers coughed up. It is not about funding education. It is about funding union demands, and the political clout of billions of dollars in expenditures and pension investments – and those millions in campaign contributions.

As a person who was involved in several contract negotiations for both the Chicago and Detroit boards of education, I will tell without fear of refutation: I have never seen a time where the school unions placed the welfare of the student in the classroom above the narrow demands designed to strengthen the union. Never.

I like to remind people that the teachers’ union is not an educational institution. It is a private membership organization. Greater membership, more dues and growing pension funds are their objective. The public treasury is the means. Education is just the vehicle.

Once again, the school children of Chicago will be harmed for the sake of union peace – at any price.

>OBSERVATION: Labour Loves Lost

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While I owe the title of this blog item to Shakespeare — well, at least a bastardization of his “Love’s Labour Lost” — the subject is quite different from the Bard’s.

The week following our Labor Day celebration, I am still reading stories about the importance of unions … the need for unions… the power of unions … etc.

The power of unions depends entirely on the definition. In terms of real political power, they are paper tigers often claiming victories that are more coincidental than contrived. On the other hand, it is fair to say that they do exercise more power than their numbers and place in society deserves.

At this writing, they represent less than 12 percent of the American work force – and they continue to lose ground in the private sector. The only place where there is true union growth and excessive power is in the public sector. The dangerously powerful American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union is a threat to the democratic process. It is the vehicle that assures the continued growth and unaccountable power of the Fourth Branch of our government – the bureaucracy.

Many see unionism as a borderless expanse that covers both the private and public sectors. This is not the case. The issues that separate the public and private sectors on the business side generally apply at least as much to the union side.

Private sector unionism in America is a dying enterprise. This is due to the fact that American workers are treated pretty damn well, by world and historic standards. Credit trade unionism for the improvement, if you like. I will not counter the argument. But like the buggy whip, it has lost much of its purpose in modern society.

Only in the public sector, were “management” is the political Siamese twin of “labor,” is there growth. As special consultant to the Chicago and Detroit boards of education, I experienced the neutering effect of having union member sitting on the “management” board and public officials beholding to the raw power of union money and precinct workers. To this day, schools flounder under union dictate contract provisions and excessive union influence in policy and operations. It is no accident that the deterioration of the urban school systems tracks perfectly with the rise of union influence.

We need to look at unionism in two ways and with two responses. For the private sector, we should treat them to benign neglect. Despite the bellow of labor leaders, such as the ALF-CIO’s John Sweeney, they are more like the Wizard of Oz, attempting to enlarge their “roar” by public relations trickery.

Public sector unionism is a whole ‘nother game. The power of unions to shut down critical government services is a threat to the democracy. Because government is susceptible to acquiring of inordinate power, it is critical to prevent any all-powerful union to “control” our public sector.

If ever a group of workers did not need representation, it is government workers. Without union solidarity, they already created tenure, high wages, primo benefits and cushy retirement plans.

Personally, if I had my magic wand, I would make all public sector unions disappear – and outlaw strikes against the taxpaying public. A free society cannot endure the oppression of institutional power groups. Ronald Reagan was right. Air traffic controllers should not be afforded the right to shut down the world aviation system. There is not a teacher strike in America that EVER helped students. Police and firefighters, noble as is their profession, cannot be allowed to walk off the job.

The danger is not just to the obvious. Paper pushers in obscure bureaus can wreak havoc on individual lives by blocking the flow of their work through strikes and other “job actions.” A missed welfare check or a delay appointment at a public health clinic can be deadly.