On Friday I heard a new one: it's "a wash," financially speaking, for the Chicago Public Schools.
I found that conclusion in an editorial in my Sun-Times, home delivered as always. Reading this over my morning coffee was a truly disheartening way to start my weekend.
In any regard, the editorial ran under the headline "How CPS got into its financial mess."
The basic premise is that the schools have been broke, are broke, and probably always will be broke. At the moment, Mayor Rahm's dealing with this state of brokeness by closing schools, raising the maximum class size, firing teachers, and replacing older, higher-paid teachers with younger, lower-paid ones who can look forward to being fired just as soon as their salaries rise.
In short, the mayor's divesting in public education at the very moment that everyone—well, almost everyone—wants him to invest in it.
Back to the Sun-Times editorial.
Former president Bill Clinton heaped praise on things like social-impact bonds and infrastructure banks; guest speaker Rahm Emanuel said "we need private-sector resources" to help us get public projects done; and future presidential candidate Hillary Clinton warned that "we can't look to government to solve all our problems."
Then Bill gave his account of the Chobani, Inc., success story (the company founder was a panelist): Turkish guy goes to upstate New York, gets a government small-business loan, buys a 90-yr-old factory, makes Greek yogurt, goes to Idaho, builds another factory, "and that's what's great about this country!"
Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya noted that the government loan was critical.
CGI announced today that after three years in Chicago, its annual meeting will move to Denver in 2014.
But that's the catch, because aldermen don't get their way in Chicago unless the mayor lets them. And it's not clear if Mayor Rahm Emanuel will allow the bag ban to come up for a vote when a City Council committee considers it next Tuesday.
The chief sponsor of the proposal, First Ward alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno, says the measure has wide support and should easily pass the health and environment committee. "I have not spoken to one alderman on the committee who's said no."
Emanuel's position is less clear. Press aides won't say whether he backs the ban, which is strongly opposed by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and other business groups friendly with the mayor.
As you must know by now, the charter school empire known as UNO has been under the gun since February, when Dan Mihalopoulos, ace investigative reporter for the Sun-Times, broke the news that they'd awarded millions of dollars of construction contracts to companies owned by various brothers of UNO's chief operating officer.
I should say the former chief operating officer—because once the shit hit the fan the fellow had to step down.
That was just the start, as all the rats abandoned the sinking ship. There have been stern editorials by the charter-loving Tribune. Mayor Emanuel—once a big-time supporter—won't be caught dead near Juan Rangel, UNO's embattled CEO. Governor Patrick Quinn—a former UNO supporter—suspended payments on a state contract UNO needs to build a new high school.
Just last week, Quinn restored the contract, but only after Rangel stepped down from UNO's board.
Because the Blackhawks beat the Kings, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa owes Mayor Emanuel pastrami sandwiches, French dip sandwiches, mustard, burritos, chili sauce, cases of beer from L.A.'s Golden Rock and Eagle Rock breweries, and a DVD of YogaWorks for Everybody.
Coincidentally, the ACLU made headlines that same day with a report on the astounding volume of marijuana busts nationwide. In 2010 police across the country made more than 784,000 arrests for pot possession—one every 37 seconds.
On first glance the issues may appear unrelated. But you don't have to be smoking anything to see that they're actually intertwined, for the simple reason that the crackdown on small-time marijuana users has become staggeringly expensive.
Obviously, some things just take time.
It reminds me of when the U.S. Supreme Court made George Bush the president by stopping the recount in Florida, thus ushering in eight years of war, recession, apocalypse in New Orleans, and other assorted miseries.
As you can see, 13 years later and I'm still not over that one. Maybe by 2026, I'll have forgotten Mayor Emanuel's assault on public education. Then again, probably not.
By the way, there are a few parallels. As I recall, Justice Antonin Scalia—the brains behind that Supreme Court coup—famously told Democrats to "get over it."
Which is similar to what Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CEO of the schools, said in a speech last week. "Whatever has happened this past year, it's done. It is time to turn the page."
For the last four and a half years, Chicago aldermen have been admitting that they messed up. In retrospect, they said, the city's 2008 parking meter privatization deal was approved too hastily, for too little money, with too many costly provisions buried deep in hundreds of pages of legalese.
After hearing from angry constituents, one alderman after another declared that they'd learned to stay clear of long-term agreements whose consequences and costs weren't fully clear. Some even vowed to pursue every angle possible to retool or undo the deal, perhaps by buying back the street-parking system or challenging the contract in court. Rahm Emanuel made the same pledges as he took over the mayor's office.
Instead, at Emanuel's behest, the City Council voted 39 to 11 Wednesday to approve a slightly reworked version of the deal that locks in privatized street parking for the next seven decades.